The post-workout snack may be one of the most important meals of the day if you're trying to lose weight. After a workout your body is primed for repairing and building muscle tissue, which requires energy. As a source of fluid, carbs and protein, a post-workout shake makes a good choice as long as you keep calories in check. You can find store-bought shakes that are ready-to-go or make them yourself. Always talk to your doctor before going on a weight-loss diet or starting a new exercise program.
Benefits of Post-Workout Shake
A good workout causes you to sweat, burn energy and wear out your muscles. Within 30 minutes of completing your workout, you need to rehydrate, replenish your energy stores and provide the protein necessary for repairing and growing muscle. Even though you're trying to lose weight, you want to build muscle, so eating enough protein, including at your post-workout meal, is crucial. You may feel like skipping it because you aren't hungry or can't make something, which is why a shake makes a convenient choice for refueling after exercise.
Nutritional Make-Up of Your Weight-Loss Shakes
Although the post-workout meal is an important one, calories still count when you're trying to lose weight. Be sure to count the calories from your shake in your total daily intake and try to limit your shake to no more than 300 calories. You want a healthy mix of both carbs and protein to get the most benefits. Ideally, your post-workout shake should contain about 3 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You also want your shake to be low in fat to help keep calories low and limit stomach discomfort.
Ready-to-drink shakes that can be easily tossed in your gym bag make a convenient option for your post-workout meal. Read the label to make sure it provides the right amount of calories, carbs and protein.
Review the ingredients list, too. A good ready-to-drink shake for weight loss shouldn't contain any added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, or sugars derived from starch, such as dextrin or maltodextrin. You also want to stay away from drinks that say they'll help you gain muscle. Though that might be your goal, these drinks might contain branch-chained amino acids, which are known to not only promote muscle gain, but weight gain, too, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Creating Your Own Shake
To get more control over your post-workout shake, make your own using whole foods. A whole-food shake is free of additives and unnecessary ingredients, such as sugar, and filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you can't get in a bottle. Plus, you can control the ingredients, and therefore, the calorie content.
Chocolate milk is a classic post-workout drink, according to the Colorado State University Extension. One cup of low-fat chocolate milk has 180 calories, 8 grams of protein and 31 grams of carbs. If it's more convenient, you could enjoy a cup of plain chocolate milk instead of a shake. To whip up your own healthy milkshake, blend a cup of nonfat milk with a small banana and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for 270-calorie shake with 16 grams of protein and 42 grams of carbs. Greek yogurt is high in protein and makes a good base for a post-workout smoothie, too. Blend a 6-ounce container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 cup of blueberries and 1/2 cup of 100-percent orange juice to make a thick, satisfying shake with 245 calories, 18 grams of protein and 42 grams of carbs.
For non-milk drinkers, blend 1 cup of soy milk with 1/2 cup of tofu and 1 cup of fresh cut mango for a 300-calorie drink with 16 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs.
No matter what flavor of after-workout shake you mix up, be sure to count the calories in your daily total.