Whether you're building muscle for strength or bulk, what and when you eat matters. The best post-exercise drink for muscle building requires the right balance of carbs and protein and varies for endurance athletes and bodybuilders.
Endurance vs. Bodybuilding
After exercising, endurance athletes need to replenish glycogen stores, in addition to repairing and building muscle, which means a drink that contains 3 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bodybuilders need more protein after their workout, according to a 2014 report published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. For them, a post-workout drink should provide 0.4 to 0.5 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 27 to 34 grams of protein for a 150-pound person. The amount of carbs bodybuilders need with their post-workout drink varies, but may range from 1 to 2 grams for every gram of protein.
Chocolate Milk for Endurance Athletes
A 2012 article published in Medicine and Sport Science noted that drinking low-fat chocolate milk immediately after exercising improved recovery and muscle repair. Chocolate milk does not have the exact carb-to-protein ratio as recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, but it is close. With a ratio of 4-to-1, it is still considered a good post-workout drink. In addition to the carbs and protein, chocolate milk also helps replace fluids and electrolytes.
High-Protein Drinks for Bodybuilders
The best post-workout drink for bodybuilders needs to be high in protein, so a simple drink like chocolate milk may not cut it; you may need a dietary supplement. A good drink supplement should contain both carbs and protein to maximize muscle recovery. A supplement with added creatine may also be beneficial for muscle building and recovery, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition review article. Whey protein supplements may improve muscle gains more than soy protein supplements, according to 2009 article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
The best post-workout drink for muscle building may be the one you create yourself. This way you have control over the ingredients and can create the right balance of carbs and protein to fit your needs. Fruit smoothies made with milk or yogurt provide both carbs and protein. To up the protein content for bodybuilders, use Greek yogurt, which has three times the amount of protein as regular yogurt, tofu or nut butter.