I get this question all the time from readers:
"Do I have to drink a whey protein shake right after my weight-training workout, like you recommend in your books, or can I eat a whole food meal containing protein and get the same benefits?"
Well, the truth is that you don't HAVE to drink a whey protein shake after each and every workout, but there are benefits. The reason why whey is recommended before and after each workout is because of the special amino acid profile (amino acids are the building blocks of protein and each protein has a different profile) it contains. Whey is very high in the amino acid Leucine, (containing about 12% leucine) which is one of the essential branch chain amino acids primarily responsible for prompting muscle protein synthesis.
Following your weight workout, initiating muscle protein synthesis is important because, if you worked your muscles hard enough, you purposefully damaged them. This damage and repair process following a workout is exactly how you develop more muscle tissue and in turn, melt away unsightly body fat.
So, your goal after your workout is to help your muscles repair as quickly as possible so you can:
a) return to the gym sooner than later and continue your fat-burning, muscle-building process
b) prevent your muscles from feeling so sore that you never want to lift again
Drinking a whey protein shake will definitely help you do this, but what if you workout just before dinner and you'd rather eat your protein than drink it? (Also, so you can enjoy a dinner with your family instead of sitting on the sidelines enjoying the view).
Well, you can absolutely enjoy a whole meal instead of a shake and still reap the benefits of leucine.
Certain whole proteins are particularly rich in leucine, so following your workout, make sure you have at least a 3 oz serving of these particular proteins:
- Whole Eggs (the yolks have more leucine than whites)
Also, new research is coming out about the benefits of eating eggs and a powerful workout food:
Eggs Pack Protein, Power and Strength
As an example, a good way to support your muscles after your workout with a whole meal is to have a glass of milk with a 2 egg omelet and 2 extra whites, steamed veggies (carrots and corn, in addition to dark green veggies would be good post-workout), and fresh fruit (pineapple would be a good choice due to it's greater sugar content and anti-inflammatory properties). Your family will probably go for this as well, and you won't go broke in the process!
So, if you're watching what you eat and you'd rather eat a whole meal following your workout than drink a shake, go right ahead. Just make sure you include a good portion of the proteins listed above and your muscles will thank you.