Post-Workout Nutrition - Does It Matter?


A somewhat recent development in sports nutrition is the idea that a post-workout shake isn’t important. In other words, you can wait several hours after your workout before consuming anything, be it a shake or a meal. The research is somewhat inconclusive but seems to point in that direction. In this article, we’ll ask the question: Post-Workout Nutrition - Does It Matter? Keep reading and find out the answer!

Why Drink A Post-Workout Shake?

When we talk about post-workout nutrition, we’re talking about having a shake first, then following it up with a meal a little while later. Some benefits of a post-workout shake include:

  • Optimal Protein Synthesis Stimulation
  • Enhanced Muscle Repair & Recovery
  • Faster Glycogen Replenishment
  • Reduced Muscle Soreness

When you work out, you damage muscle tissue and use up glycogen stores. During the recovery process, which technically begins as soon as your last set ends, your body repairs and rebuilds muscle. Your body will break down old, damaged proteins and then build new proteins.

That means we need to make sure we have enough protein available for protein synthesis to occur. Since stored carbohydrates are also depleted, ingesting a shake consisting of fast-digesting protein and primarily fast-digesting carbs right after a workout supplies needed protein and helps replenish carbohydrate stores. 

The Post-Workout “Anabolic Window”

This is a theory that suggests you only have a limited time, or “window” to ingest your post-workout shake for maximum benefit. In other words, your timeframe to fully absorb and benefit from your post-workout nutrition is limited. 

While not a proven theory by any means, it may be easy to understand where this idea came from. First, training is catabolic and leaves you in a glycogen-depleted state. It also leaves your muscles in need of rest and repair. Yet, with the advent of intra-workouts such as All Day You May, this situation can be at least partially avoided. Besides, there is controversy over whether or not the anabolic window theory is true. One look at the International Society of Sports Nutrition's position stand regarding nutrient timing shows that - their stance is that post-workout nutrition matters. No surprise there. They define this as immediately post-workout up to 2 hours after.(1,2)

But here’s the thing. Following current thinking, why would you want to wait at least 2 hours after a brutal workout to have a shake or eat a quality meal? No doubt you’re training with Rich Piana level intensity. When you’re done, you’re physically drained and hungry. Even if it’s ok to wait, why wouldn’t you want to get those post-workout macronutrients in right now? It’s not going to hurt anything, right? Not to mention, Rich was a big believer in post-workout nutrition, to the point he’d have a shake as soon as his last set was over. 

The Ideal Post-Workout Shake

With that in mind, what’s the perfect post-workout shake? Back in the day, Rich would have Real Carbs with egg whites, and sometimes extra fast-digesting carbs from food sources (one example: cocoa krispies!). Fast-forward to the present day and 5% Nutrition provides some fantastic options. First, you can still go with Real Carbs, but now you can add Shake Time for an exceptional and delicious shake. One scoop provides 26g of fast, medium, and slower-digesting proteins. Or, you can go with Real Carbs + Protein, which uses a protein blend that’s very similar to Shake Time. All of these products use only whole food sources of protein and carbohydrates, just like Rich believed. He wasn’t a fan of whey protein powders, and you can be sure you won’t find any of that here! But wait, what if a shake doesn’t work for you? Then go with Snack Time! Delicious, portable, and super easy!


While the answer to post-workout nutrition is a little murky, what’s clear is that it’s not going to be a big deal to have your post-workout shake right now. Maybe you can wait, and in certain extenuating circumstances, that might be a good thing. Yet under normal circumstances, go ahead and do what Rich did. Have your shake right after your last set. Wait an hour or so, then sit down to a quality meal. It worked for Rich, it will work for you!


  1. Kerksick, C. M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B. J., Stout, J. R., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C. D., Taylor, L., Kalman, D., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Kreider, R. B., Willoughby, D., Arciero, P. J., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Ormsbee, M. J., Wildman, R., Greenwood, M., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Aragon, A. A., & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 33.
  2. Levenhagen, D. K., Gresham, J. D., Carlson, M. G., Maron, D. J., Borel, M. J., & Flakoll, P. J. (2001). Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 280(6), E982–E993.
Leaderboard (AD)