Protein shake masterclass: tips, timings and recipes

Shakes are ideal for efficiently and easily absorbing muscle-repairing protein after training, but for the very best results choosing the right ingredients for your personal goals is essentials. Here is the ultimate guide to tailoring smoothies, timings, quantities and how to distinguish casein from whey.

When is the best time to take protein?

A protein shake is ideally taken straight after workouts, when it can be quickly absorbed by the body.

It’s not essential to take protein within 30 minutes of exercise (known as the ‘recovery window’), but it is important to absorb enough for your personal training goals.

Consume protein throughout the day so that it’s easier for your body to absorb it.

How much protein do I need?

That depends on whether you want to increase muscle mass or simply replenish them for recovery.

As a general rule, your body needs 1.4-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight. Introducing higher levels of protein into your diet will be a waste because the body cannot absorb it.

Start at the lower end of the protein scale and adjust accordingly. If you ache days after training, for example, increase your protein intake.

Whether you’re cutting (losing weight) or bulking up (gaining muscle), your protein intake should be about the same.

The difference to your shakes when building lean muscle is the addition of carbs like oats and honey.

Honey (which is a simple, fast-acting sugar) is great for enhancing recovery as well as adding flavor.

What is the best protein powder for me?

While we recommend avoiding ‘gendered’ protein and gimmicky diet or low carb whey, consider the following options:

Casein for overnight recovery

Casein is a slow-releasing protein which is perfect for post-workout recovery in evenings and before bed (sleep is primetime for muscle growth and recovery).

Whey for building muscle mass

Whey protein comes in two forms: concentrate and isolate.

The main difference between the two is that whey isolate provides more protein with less carbs, fat, lactose and cholesterol. This makes isolate more expensive than concentrate.

Whey protein can also be ‘hydrolyzed’. This process breaks down the pre-mixed protein so that your body can absorb it faster. This can, however, make your shake taste slightly bitter, so be sure to add some flavor. Naturally, hydrolyzed protein is more expensive than concentrate and isolate protein.

If you’re trying to increase muscle mass, we advise drinking your protein with milk instead of water.

Soy protein for energy and recovery (and vegans and the lactose intolerant)

Made from soybeans which are packed with amino acids (an essential source of energy for exercise), scientific studies suggest that a mixture of soy and whey protein is brilliant for training and recovery.

Soy protein, as well as hydrolyzed whey or egg and plant protein, is a good alternative for the lactose intolerant too. If you’re searching for plant-based protein, The Vegan Society is a great place to start.

If you want to bulk up the vegan way, simply use almond milk instead of water or dairy products.

5 healthy and tasty homemade protein recipes

While we recommend keeping your protein powder intake consistent, experiment and add the other ingredients to taste.

For iron and antioxidants…

  • Spinach
  • Spirulina
  • Cacao
  • Chocolate whey (25g)
  • Hazelnut milk

What are the benefits?

Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron, offering 40x more antioxidants than blueberries.

Spirulina (an algae) has 3,900% more iron than spinach as well as vitamins A, K1, K2, B12, manganese and chromium (recipe: Green and Black’s).

For post-workout recovery…

  • Vanilla whey (25g)
  • Cinnamon
  • Peanut butter (20g)
  • Banana
  • Water and ice cubes

What are the benefits?

Cinnamon has antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory benefits.

For building lean body mass…

  • Instant oats (50g)
  • Honey
  • Creatine (5g)
  • Whey (25g)
  • Water

What are the benefits?

A 5g serving of creatine aids strength and power while honey is a fast-acting sugar and the oats offer complex, slow-releasing carbs and high levels of fiber.

For avoiding post-evening training soreness…

  • Chia seeds
  • Casein (25g)
  • Cashews
  • Quark
  • Strawberries
  • Milk

What are the benefits?

A combo of high quality fats and slow-releasing protein helps combat delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after training.

For slow metabolism bulking…

  • Full fat milk
  • Snickers (small bar)
  • 2 scoops whey (50g)
  • Almonds
  • Nutella

What are the benefits?

Perfect for someone with fast metabolism struggling to build muscle. With 9 calories per gram of fat and 4 calories per gram of carbs and protein respectively, this shake is ideal for hitting calorific goals.

This sort of shake should only be consumed when a structured diet is in place, like the IIFYM diet.

How can I improve the taste of my protein shake?

If you have a sweet tooth, mix chocolate flavored protein with hazelnut milk (you won’t regret it).

If you’re blending your own protein smoothies, use healthy ingredients like low fat yoghurt, chia and flax seeds for protein, calorie-dense foods like avocado for bulking up and nuts and bananas to boost the flavor.

In the winter, you can also try warming up your shake in the microwave and sprinkling cinnamon on the top. In warmer weather, water and ice is often a better choice than milk for flavor.

What else can I do to achieve the best results?

For the best results compliment exercise and post-workout shakes with healthy eating, 2-4L of water every day and plenty of rest after workouts for maximum recovery.

You can also add a Slendertone abs belt to your training plan to improve core strength and tone your abdominal muscles. Clinical trials (Porcari, 2005 and 2009) found that from 4 weeks, Slendertone can enhance abdominal endurance by an average of 72%, plus abdominal strength by an average of 49%.

What are you favorite protein shake recipes?

Share your top blends with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so that we can improve our blog.

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