protein, powder, workout, nutrition, pre-workout, post-workout

Post-workout Nutrition

This article looks at what to take post-workout. If you want to find out what to take pre-workout then check out my article for

Post-workout nutrition

So you’ve just finished your workout and you’re wondering what you should be doing next? Well to be honest getting a good night’s sleep would be the absolute best thing you could possibly do [1][2][3][4], but I’m here to talk about the nutrition side of it!

Whilst we’re on the subject of sleep though, a study by Res et al (2012) found that taking Casein (a popular protein supplement) immediately before bed helped increase muscle protein synthesis [5]. If you’re currently scratching your head wondering what muscle protein synthesis is then I’ll sum it up now. You exercise, your muscles will form micro-tears during the exercise, then blood flow to the area increases and the tears are repaired via protein synthesis which leads to your muscles growing (hypertrophy) and getting stronger [6]. It’s a very good thing.


The debate on whether there is an anabolic window will rage on for a while, but what is not up for debate is whether protein should be taken at some point after training (the anabolic window argument discusses what exact time frame it should be consumed within). Now personally, I don’t hold with the “You need to take protein within 10 minutes of a workout or all of your strength training will have been for naught” argument.

But, I feel that taking a protein shake after a workout is an excellent habit to get into. Just like brushing your teeth before bed, make it an unconscious action and you will never forget to do it (something that cannot be said for taking it randomly throughout the day).

And as Aragon and Schoenfeld stated in their study on nutrient timing (2012)  “Exceeding this [protein] would be have minimal detriment if any, whereas significantly under-shooting or neglecting it altogether would not maximize the anabolic response.” [7]. In other words, why wouldn’t you take protein after a workout?


A lot of people tell you that you need to take your protein combined with a carbohydrate source post-workout, interestingly the science doesn’t really support this. In a study by Hulmi et al (2015) it was found that whey protein on its own increased fat loss when compared to a combination of protein and carbs [8]. The same study found no significant difference between protein and protein + carbs when it came to hypertrophy or strength. So save your money on those fast-acting carbs, unless you’re looking to bulk in which case you’ll need to add the calories somehow!


There are too many benefits to taking creatine to write down at once, but here are a few: improves muscle size, improves performance, prevents premature muscular fatigue, enhances mental performance [9] and productivity [10] and basically helps people generate energy for exercise [11]. People who would perhaps most benefit from creatine supplementation are vegetarians and vegans, as almost all dietary creatine comes from meat sources these populations tend to have much lower stores of creatine in the body. Supplementing with creatine will actually benefit them more than it would omnivores [12][13].

And to make life even easier for you, a study by Kersick et al (2007) found that combining creatine with whey protein (or colostrum – but we’ll ignore this) provided greater improvements in fat-free mass [14]. So add Creatine to your post-workout shake and you’ll be golden!

Finally, a study Antonio & Ciccone (2013) found that creatine taken post-workout was more effective than when taken pre-workout [15].

Avoiding Alchohol

Avoid alcohol post-workout, your body needs to restore glycogen stores in the liver and muscles whilst also replacing lost fluid and electrolytes. It will not be able to do this if you are drinking alcohol (a diuretic) in fact it will just make things worse [16]. Alcohol will also inhibit protein synthesis (which I described at the beginning of this article) [17] and alcohol drinkers are more likely to suffer sports-related injury in the future, and suffer from poorer performance [18]. Although, I will say this; I love alcohol and enjoy it responsibly (most of the time). The point here is to discourage boozing straight after a workout, not to discourage boozing full stop!

Hope you enjoyed this bad-ass article on post-workout nutrition, check out my previous article for on pre-workout nutrition and you should have all basis covered!

Post-workout nutrition References

[1] Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., Dement, W. 2011. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep 34(7): 943-950

[2] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2007. The Effects of Extra Sleep on Mood and Athletic Performance amongst Collegiate Athletes. Sleep 30[suppl]

[3] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2008. Extended Sleep and the Effects on Mood and Athletic Performance in Collegiate Swimmers. Sleep 31[Suppl]

[4] Born, J., Fehm, H. 2000. The neuroendocrine recovery function of sleep. Noise Health 2(7): 25-37

[5] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9

[6] Atherton, P., Smith, K. 2012. Muscle Protein Synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of Physiology 590(part 5): 1049-1057

[7] Aragon, A., Schoenfeld, B. 2012. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(5)

[8] Hulmi, J., Laakso, M., Mero, A., Hakkinen, K., Ahtiainen, J., Peltonen, H. 2015. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 16(12): 48

[9] Rae, C., Digney, A., McEwan, S., & Bates, T. 2006. Oral Creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society London. B. 270: 2147-2150

[10] McNaughton, L., Dalton, B., & Tarr, J. 1998. The effects of creatine supplementation on high-intensity exercise performance in elite performers. European Journal of Applied Physiology & Occupational Physiology 78(3): 236-40

[11] Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. 2012. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9: 33

[12]Lukaszuk, J., Robertson, R., Arch, J., & Moyna, N. 2005. Effect of a defined Lacto-ovo-Vegetarian diet and oral Creatine Monohydrate supplementation on Plasma Creatine concentration. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19(4)

[13]Burke, D., Candow, D., Chilibeck, P., MacNeil, L., Roy, B., Tarnapolsky, M., Ziegenfuss, T. 2008. Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 18(4): 389-98

[14] Kerksick, CM., Rasmussen, C., Lancaster, S., Starks, M., Smith, P., Melton, C., Greenwood, M., Almada, A., Krieder, R. 2007. Impact of differing protein sources and a creatine containing nutritional formula after 12 weeks of resistance training. Nutrition 23(9): 647-56

[15] Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. 2013. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(36)

[16] Burke, L. 1997. Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. Australian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport 29(1): 3-10

[17] Lang, C., Wu, D., Frost, R., Jefferson, L., Kimball, S., Vary, T. 1999. Inhibition of muscle protein synthesis by alcohol is associated with modulation of eIF2B and eIF4E. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism 277(2): E268-E276

[18] El-Sayed, M., Ali, N., El-Sayed Ali, Z. 2012. Interaction between Alcohol and Exercise. Sports Medicine 35(3): 257-269


About the Author Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.

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