A protein shake after a workout is increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders, as a recovery drink.
But I have to admit, I felt silly and pretentious when I started using a shake after my endurance training and hiking exercises, on my fitness instructor’s and doctor’s recommendation.
A little research made me change my mind. Here are my reasons to use protein powder after walking or exercising;
Our body needs Protein to Maintain our Health
Protein is the primary building block for all our cells. Our internal organs, muscles, hairs, and skin (technically an organ too) are made of protein. Everybody needs daily protein, even if you are a couch potato with a desk job.
We need protein for muscle recovery, growth, repair, energy, and other important internal processes.
While there is no discussion about the importance of protein for our bodies, opinions about how much protein per day is optimal differ greatly.
As a rule of thumb, most experts provide meal plans with 0.8 gram to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for healthy people with a ‘low-impact-exercise’ lifestyle; think of office jobs, regular leisurely 30-minute walks, some housecleaning, lot of Netflix, nothing too strenuous.
We need Extra Protein for Recovery
In which circumstances do we need more protein than the average 0,8 – 1 gram per kilo?
When our bodies are working hard for us, for instance in the following situations:
- recovering from a virus infection, the flu, or another illness – to support our immune system
- recovering from surgery or radiation therapy – to support the repair of our tissues, plus our immune system
- when we do physical labor for multiple hours a day – to maintain our strength and energy levels
- when we are losing weight – to make sure we lose fat tissue instead of muscles
- when we work out intensely several times a week – to make sure our growing muscles don’t get the extra protein they need from other important processes or structures in our bodies!
How many Extra Grams of Protein per Day do we need?
My doctor recommends at least 1,5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day.
There is no exact number that is optimal for all of us of course, but most experts recommend between 1,5 – 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
If you are obese, you need more protein to maintain your body, but there is an ongoing discourse about how many kilos you take into consideration while doing your ‘protein intake-math’. If your current weight is 250 kilos, it’s absurd and almost impossible to eat 375 grams of protein per day!
Most dieticians and doctors tell their obese clients to use a healthy weight or slightly more, to calculate their extra protein intake. So if your weight is 250 kilos, but your healthy weight is around 85 kilos, the calculation for your daily dose would be:
85 (healthy body weight in kilos) x 1.5 (grams of protein) = minimum 127,5 grams of protein per day.
Which is quite a challenge to achieve, especially if you eat sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, as customary in the Netherlands.
It is doable though, with smart choices and animal protein and/or dairy in every meal.
Why I use Protein Shakes to Help Me with Muscle Recovery
I need extra protein, my doctor is very clear about that. I am overweight, recovering from a virus, walking a lot, and last but not least preparing myself for major surgery. Plenty of reasons to carefully count my intake.
I aim for 130 grams of protein a day. But there is a challenge in reaching my goal:
I don’t want to eat big servings of animal protein on a daily basis. I am convinced that a more plant-based diet is better for myself and the world.
Here is where protein powder comes to the rescue. My 130 grams goal is easier achieved when I make a breakfast smoothie with a scoop of vegan protein powder that provides me with 20 grams of protein, and/or a simple shake (made with the same vegan powder) after a workout or during a long hike.
I found a Dutch brand of vegan protein powder, with great taste, that I can easily take with me in my backpack or to the gym. Their pea protein shake with no artificial ingredients is perfect for me. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it also has no sugar, no soy, no lactose, and no gluten.
Since this brand is only available in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, and I travel a lot, I am constantly looking for acceptable alternatives with broader availability.
I found a peanut butter-flavored shake on Amazon, that lives up to my standards (plant-based, sugar-free, gluten-free, GMO-free).
Careful: it obviously contains peanuts.
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Delicious Smoothie Ideas with Protein Powder
When I am away from home, I just add water and shake my vanilla shake, but at home or with access to a kitchen, I add all kinds of seeds, fruits, or veggies.
A few of my favorite smoothie combinations are:
- banana – blueberry – oatmeal flakes- sunflower seeds – smoothie ( I always have frozen blueberries in stock)
- mango – spinach – fresh cilantro – smoothie
- pear – cucumber – peanut butter- smoothie
The Importance of Whole Foods in Addition to Protein Shakes
Protein powder is a convenient way to add some extra protein to my diet, but the majority of my meals have ample portions of vegetables, legumes, raw nuts, whole grains, and so on.
Research tells us we shouldn’t drink all our meals. It is important to chew on food, for better digestion and more satisfaction after our meal. It is also vital to have variety in the food we eat. This way, we add different kinds of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals to our nutrition plans in a natural way.
My Goals for a Healthy Diet are Variety, Non Processed Foods, and Portion Control
What about you? Do you have trouble achieving your protein intake goal? What are your favorite protein sources? Do you use a protein shake or protein bar after a workout?
I love to hear about the choices you make!