When you walk out of the gym after your workout, you’re in a catabolic state. That means your muscles are in danger of getting smaller and weaker, and that’s the exact opposite of what you want! So, how do you flip the switch to start getting bigger and stronger?
The answer is protein! Getting protein into your body after your workout will infuse your muscle cells with the amino acids and other nutrients that it needs to rebuild, repair, and grow.
Choosing a great post-workout protein powder, then, is vital to your training success. In this article, we go deep within the protein market to bring you the best of the best.
TL; DR: What You Need to Know
Post-workout protein powder is a high protein blend of powder that is generally also quite high in carbohydrates in the form of dextrose or some other simple carb. Its carb count is designed to replenish the glycogen levels that have been used up during the course of your workout. Post-workout protein mixtures will contain such fast digesting protein sources as whey in order to fast track their amino acids to the muscle cell.
There are three types of proteins used in post-workout protein powder. They are:
- Whey Protein Concentrate, Isolate or Hydrolysate
- Egg Protein
- Plant-Based Protein
Casein protein is not generally taken as a post-workout supplement because it is a slow-digesting protein that is better suited for use at night time.
When you work out with weights, you cause micro-tears to occur in your muscle fibers. This makes the muscle weaker. When you take protein powder after your workout, you provide your body with the building blocks that the muscles need to repair, rebuild, and regrow your muscle fibers. 
Comparison of the 5 Best Post-Workout Protein Powders
What is Post-Workout Protein Powder?
Post-workout protein powder is a protein powder that is designed to be taken after a resistance workout. It is most often based on dairy-based whey protein.
Whey protein is preferred because it is one of the fastest digesting proteins, allowing it to get to the weakened and stressed muscle fibers as quickly as possible.
Many post-workout protein powders also have a moderately high amount of carbohydrates. This is often in the form of maltose or dextrose. This is in order to replace the glucose that had been used up during the workout. 
Why Use Post-Workout Protein Powder?
When you work out with weights, you place a lot of stress upon your muscles. This makes them weaker and potentially smaller, actually causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers.
When you leave the gym after your workout, you are actually in a catabolic (muscle-depleting) state. To get yourself back to an anabolic state, you need to get protein into your body. 
Taking a fast-digesting protein powder, such as whey, will direct amino acids to the stressed muscle cells. These amino acids are the building blocks that will undertake the repair of the muscle fibers. The muscle fibers will build back slightly larger in order to handle the next stress-inducing workout.
Who Should Use Post-Workout Protein Powder?
Post-workout protein powder should be taken by anyone who works out with weights. It is especially beneficial for people who are training with the goal of building muscle and getting stronger.
People who are exercising to lose weight can also benefit from taking post-workout protein powder as it will help them to control binging and speed up their metabolism. Post-workout protein powder can be used as a meal replacement by people who are trying to lose weight.
When To Take Post-Workout Protein Powder
There has been a lot of debate about just when to take post-workout protein powder. For many years it was believed that there existed what became known as an ‘anabolic window’, during which time you had better get your protein into your system. If you failed to do so, you would risk losing out on the muscle-building gains of post-workout protein.
This idea was widely accepted despite their being no actual solid scientific research to back it up. The anabolic window was variously described as being between 15 and 60 minutes after the workout was finished.
Recent research has debunked the anabolic window theory. It has been shown that the level of muscle breakdown that results from a workout is not as pronounced as had been previously thought.
Also, protein that is taken into the body earlier in the day contributes to post-workout muscle fiber repair and protein synthesis. As a result, it is now believed that, so long as you get a quality source of protein into your body within a couple of hours of your workout, you will be in an anabolic state. 
Most people tend to take their post-workout protein powder about an hour after their workout.
Types of Protein in Post-Workout Protein Powder
Whey protein is by far the most popular source of post-workout protein powders. It is an extremely bioavailable form of protein that has very fast absorbability. There are various types of whey protein, which are differentiated by the level of processing that they go through.
Whey protein concentrate is the least processed form of whey. It is the least expensive form of whey protein powder.
There is a lot of variation in the quality of the whey protein concentrate brands on the market. The amount of protein by weight can actually vary from 29% to 89%.
Whey concentrate retains the milk sugars (lactose) and milk fats. Around 67% of the population is lactose intolerant, so they may end up with stomach upset after taking whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein isolate has gone through an extra step of purification in order to remove the vast majority of the lactose and milk fats. This dramatically lowers the carb count of the finished product.
However, it also makes the powder less palatable. As a result, a large number of manufacturers will add artificial flavors and enhancers in order to make the shake taste better.
You need to check the ingredient list to make sure that you aren’t unwittingly putting harmful compounds in your body.
Whey protein hydrolysate is the most processed form of whey protein. It is also the most expensive and the one that has the least appealing natural taste.
Through the process of microfiltration, it is pre-digested so that it is processed and absorbed faster than any of the other versions. Whey protein hydrolysate is 80-90% protein by weight.
Egg-based protein powders can be found in both liquid and powder form. The powder form consists of dehydrated egg whites with added albumin.
This is a great source of extremely high protein. In fact, egg protein is regarded as the most bioavailable that exists. You also benefit from added nutrients with egg-based protein. 
Egg-based protein does take a little longer than whey to be absorbed in the body. It is also generally more expensive.
The protein derived from the yellow split pea has a surprisingly large amount of protein. This is a good option for people who are lactose intolerant.
It is popular among vegans because it contains all of the essential amino acids. This form of protein is about as close to nature as it gets.
It also tastes better than you probably think, especially when it is naturally flavored. 
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein was shown in a 2013 study to be just as effective as whey protein in delivering muscle gain and exercise performance benefits. In addition, brown rice protein is packed with antioxidants and other nutrients that help with weight loss.
An average scoop provides you with 20 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs. 
How Much Protein Should be in Post-Workout Protein Powder?
A high-quality post-workout protein powder should provide you with around 25 grams of protein per serving. That’s a great amount to provide your muscles with the amino acid content that it needs post-workout in order to rebuild your stressed muscle tissue as well as promote muscle growth.
Benefits of Using Post-Workout Protein Powder
- Promotes Protein Synthesis – Protein synthesis is the process by which amino acids repair and rebuild muscle tissue. It is initiated through the infusion of essential amino acids into your muscles which will start the rebuilding and repair process to helo bring your muscles back bigger and stronger than they were before your workout. 
- Replaces Glucose – When you work out, you deplete your body’s very limited stores of glycogen. This is your body’s main form of energy. Taking a protein powder that includes a decent amount of carbohydrate will allow you to recover your post-workout energy
- Faster Recovery – Taking a post-workout protein powder that has a 4:1 protein, carbohydrate ratio has been shown to improve post-workout recovery. Post-workout protein powder allows you to get the nutrition into your body that you need in a highly concentrated form. This means that you are satisfying your body’s needs for a relatively low-calorie cost.
- Weight Loss – Taking a post-workout protein shake can help with weight loss. Protein has a power satiating effect, so taking a protein shake after your exercise session can go a long way toward staving off those post-exercise food cravings that many people experience. It will also increase your metabolism due to the thermic effect of protein. The more muscle you add to your frame, the higher your resting metabolism will be also.  You may also choose to take post-workout protein powder as a meal replacement, which will help to keep your daily caloric countdown.
Side Effects of Using Post-Workout Protein Powder
- Acne – Some studies have shown that taking a protein powder supplement may increase the incidence of acne in some people. That is because whey protein powder contains peptides and hormones that have been shown to increase the production of sebum in the body. This oily, waxy substance is linked to acne.
- Nutrient Imbalance – A number of dietitians are opposed to protein powders because they provide what they consider to be an imbalance of the three macronutrients. Protein powders are naturally very high in protein content and much lower in carbohydrates and fats.
- Upset Stomach – People who are lactose intolerant are likely to end up with gastrointestinal upset after taking a whey protein concentrate, as it does not have the lactose removed.
What to Look for in Post-Workout Protein Powder
- Taste – With post-workout protein powder being such an important element of the whole training for muscle equation, it is essential to take it regularly and it’s much easier to do so if you actually like the taste. The trick is to find a brand and flavor that tastes great without having to put up with artificial flavors and sweeteners.
- Protein Content – Look for a protein powder that provides you with around 25 grams of protein per serving.
- Carb Count – The post-workout period is one of the few times that your body will benefit from taking in simple carbohydrates. That’s when it will absorb them into your muscle cells in order to replace the glycogen that was used up during your training session. Look for a product that provides you with a 4:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.
- Purity – The purer your protein is, the more amino acids will actually get to your muscle tissue. The purity of your post-workout protein will largely depend on the amount of money you spend. You should also check to see that the product does not include harmful ingredients or unnecessary additives that are typically included to enhance the flavor, taste, and mixability.
Ingredients to Avoid in Post-Workout Protein Powder?
When you are buying your post-workout protein powder, you should look for a brand that states great without the addition of artificial sweeteners. Here are three sweeteners to especially look out for:
As well as artificial sweeteners you need to be wary of protein powders that include vegetable oils and fats. You should also avoid post-workout protein powders that include milk solids and milk fats.
How Did We Research the Best Post-Workout Protein Powder?
In order to bring you this best post-workout protein powder review, we brought more than 50 years of fitness, training, and supplementation to the subject. We conducted extensive online and offline research to identify the most popular post-workout powders on the market today and then narrowed down our list to the top 5 products based on specific categories and major health benefits.
Supplements to Take with Post-Workout Protein Powder
There are several other supplements that should be taken along with post-workout protein powder to enhance protein synthesis and promote greater recovery.
The use of protein powder is certainly essential for proper muscle repair and growth, but its effects can be enhanced through the use of multivitamins and pre-workout supplements. Other specific supplements that aid both growth and recovery include creatine for increasing overall cellular energy, nitric oxide supplements for shuttling key nutrients and oxygen to muscles, and melatonin for promoting better sleep.
Post-workout protein powder is the bridge between your workouts and gains in terms of muscle and strength improvement and/or fat loss. A high-quality post-workout protein shake will infuse your muscle cells with essential amino acids.
These will provide the building blocks which will repair and rebuild your damaged muscle fiber. It will also speed up your post-workout recovery and help you to lose body fat.
We’ve laid out in this article the very best post-workout protein powders in each category. Choose the one that best suits your specific need and take it with two hours of your workout.
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