Consuming a protein shake around the time of exercise, especially strength training, enhances muscle growth and repair. Shakes often include whey protein, derived from milk, and egg protein because these options contain all the necessary amino acids in the right ratios in an easily digested form. Not everyone wants whey or egg protein, however. If you avoid these animal-derived sources of protein for ethical, health or personal preferences, you can still find a protein shake that supports your fitness efforts.
Why Shake at All
Protein shakes post-workout help you get important nutrition into your system. According to the January 2013 issue of the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition," approximately 0.2 grams of high-quality protein per pound of lean body mass before and after a strength-training workout maximizes muscle building. Protein shakes consumed apart from workouts can also be an easy way to get your daily requirements of protein, an essential macronutrient, especially if you limit your intake of meats, fish, poultry and eggs.
If you're avoiding whey, but don't mind a dairy component, you can add casein protein powder to to your shakes. Casein is a slower-digesting form of high-quality protein also derived from milk. If you consume a shake made with this protein before bed, for example, you can promote recovery for up to 48 hours after a workout.
Hemp, soy, pea and brown rice proteins are vegan protein powder options you can blend into a protein shake; they are commonly available at natural food stores. Hemp offers omega-3 fatty acids along with protein, but doesn't offer all the essential amino acids. Brown rice and pea proteins tend to be easy on the digestive tract, but these too are not complete in that they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Soy is the only complete vegetable protein found in powder form. Soy is nearly as effective as whey in promoting muscle growth post-workout. If you purchase a non-whey, non-egg premade protein drink, chances are it is made with soy.
What Else to Add?
You don't want to add milk to a whey-free, egg-free smoothie because it contains whey. Soy, almond, coconut and hemp milk are options. Liquids such as water, coconut water and juice work in a shake, too. Fresh or frozen fruit, nut butters and oats can thicken and add flavor to your shake. To get even more nutritional benefit from your shake, add chia, flax or pumpkin seeds.