What should you eat after a workout? Is there a difference between drinking a protein shake versus eating a high protein snack like cottage cheese?
There are a few things to consider before understanding the answer to this question.
Why Protein After a Workout?
When you workout, you break your muscles down. It’s sometimes strange to think about, but working out actually makes you weaker (for a short-period of time). You become stronger after your workout when your body is trying to recover.
Therefore, what you put in your body and how you rest after workouts will ultimately determine how strong you become.
The easy-to-understand science is that your muscles are made of proteins. They need amino acids and oxygen in order to repair themselves. The most credible research has proven that feeding your body carbohydrates and a small amount of protein 30-minutes after a workout is the most effective way to recover.
Muscles Are Apart of the Body; Not the Other Way Around
It’s important to remember, however, that your body is made up of more things than just muscle. Therefore, focusing on feeding what is good for the body is better than feeding what is good for your muscles.
This is why I believe the optimal post-workout solution is real food. Dietitians suggest having between 10 to 20 grams of protein with as many grams of carbs equal to half your weight in pounds after you exercise for recovery. But make sure those proteins and carbs come from “green” or “yellow” foods.
A Final Consideration
Your body needs to produce cortisol in order to break down muscle tissue. Too much protein after your workout can block the production of cortisol, prolonging post-exercise soreness.
Recovering fast enough to train hard again the next day is essential to muscle growth. Therefore, you want to flush out as much soreness as you can.
One trick around this is to not worry about eating too much protein, but instead eating enough carbs.
So should you do a protein shake or eat cottage cheese after a workout? The answer is simple, but probably not what you are looking for.
I personally don’t like cottage cheese, so I don’t eat it. My routine consists of drinking a protein shake as I drive away from the gym in the car. I then eat an apple, banana, or half of a sandwich on wheat bread when I get out of the car.
But eating something like cottage cheese kills two birds with one stone. You consume a lot of protein with a decent amount of carbohydrates.
So the answer is both! Either are great options.