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Coach's Corner: Should I be drinking protein shakes after my weight-lifting workout?

man's hand holding a Protein Shake in a plastic ContainerQ. I started weight lifting again and am seeing a lot of other guys drinking protein shakes. Should I?

A. Protein shakes are not a post-workout necessity. While it’s true your protein needs increase slightly when you start exercising, chances are you are already eating enough to keep pace with your body’s muscle building requirements. Let’s do the math.

A recreational adult athlete requires 0.5 – 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight (compared to 0.4 grams for someone who isn’t working out). That means if you weigh 165-pounds, you’ll need between 83 and 124 grams of protein per day. Compare that to the amount of protein in the foods you’re already eating on a typical day (check out the chart below), and you’ll probably find that your new workout regimen doesn’t require you to pack any more protein into your diet. As an added benefit, meeting your daily protein needs with food (as opposed to protein powders) offers you a complete package of health-promoting nutrients along with the protein. 

Food SourceWeight/AmountGrams of protein
per standard serving
Tuna 6 oz 40
Chicken breast 4 oz 35
Hambuger (broiled) 4 oz 30
Yogurt 1 cup 11
1% Milk 8 oz 8
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 6

One thing you should consider including in your routine is a carbohydrate-rich post-workout snack. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates (not protein) are primarily what your body needs to refuel after any workout - even weight lifting -because carbs are your muscles main source of fuel during exercise. Look for something with approximately a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio.  Chocolate milk, yogurt and fruit smoothies are all great options. Just be sure to keep an eye on the calorie count; even though you did exercise, post-workout snacks still count toward your daily calorie intake.  

Mary Kennedy, MS, is a Health Fitness Specialist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine


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