A couple of years ago, my husband tried to get me to drink a protein shake after our workout. It was an awful experience. Not only did it taste terrible, but the ingredients were unrecognizable and I felt like a total gym bro chugging it. Although I knew that protein post-workout was good for me, I still had a mental hang up about consuming calories after I'd worked so hard to burn them off.
Soon after, I got my health coaching certification and it became really clear to me that post-workout protein was crucial, but my clients were still confused -- just like I had been!
Among women, there appears to be a stigma around eating or drinking protein post-workout. We are worried about calories in vs. calories out and not to mention, the "bulk and biceps" that we assume come along with an imbalance. The truth is that post-workout recovery isn't a game of math, and contrary to popular belief, protein won't give you a football neck.
This thinking sound familiar? If so, here are three reasons to upgrade your current thinking around post-workout protein:
1. You'll get stronger and speed up your metabolism: Whether you just finished a HIIT class or a pilates sequence, your workout breaks down your muscles. These muscles will either grow back stronger than they were before or break down even more. It all depends on how and when you feed them. Within the first 30 minutes of completing your workout, your muscles are best primed to absorb nutrients, especially protein. When your muscles are properly fed, they grow back stronger than they did before. Stronger muscles improve your metabolic rate which helps burn more calories throughout the day (1). Let's be clear though, strong muscles don't necessarily mean bigger, bulkier muscles. Unless you start taking testosterone supplements and consistently eat more calories than you expend each day, it's practically impossible for women to bulk up in the way we often fear.
2. You won't be hAngry 2 hours later: You just burned 400 calories in your workout - why put calories back into your body right away? It can seem counterintuitive, but when you eat the right post-workout snack not only are you fueling your muscles, but you're substituting fewer current calories in place of more in the future. Protein helps control ghrelin, your hunger hormone (2), so try consuming between 10-20 grams of protein post-workout to keep you full, energized and out of the office snack drawer.
3. Your hair will thank you: As they say, you are what you eat. Your hair is made of proteins, so when you don't eat enough, your locks suffer. Plus (as you already know!) your body is ready to absorb more protein and nutrition than usual after a workout, so drink up! We especially love a plant protein like hemp because it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3's contain GLA or gamma linolenic acid which can help your hair grow faster.
We get that it can be hard to think about consuming calories post-workout after you've worked so hard to burn them off, but it's time to change that thinking. Protein has so many benefits outside of the ones we just mentioned. It's also great for skin and nails, keeps you energized and can even help you think more clearly. When you don't consume protein immediately post workout, you're doing more harm than good. So, give back to your body and sip on that protein shake with style :)
Nowadays, our social feeds are dominated by beautiful images of artisanal acai bowls, sponsored ads for home delivery services offering fresh, organic produce, and an endless stream of influencers dishing out advice on the latest and greatest diet.