Post Workout: Whole Foods or Drink a Protein Shake?

So I workout in the mornings, I like having a protein shake in the morning first thing before I eat breakfast, just always liked how I feel in the gym when having a protein shake before. However I’m on a cut now so not drinking any intra workout, I’ve been finishing my workout and having a whole meal like chicken over cream of rice with veggies with a scoop of creatine. Would it be more beneficial if I drank a protein shake after then had a meal later on?

FWIW only time I have a protein shake now is 1 scoop upon waking and 1 scoop of casein before bed.

Whole foods are better, protein shakes are just good as an convenient & quick way to make sure you are getting in enough protein.

On a cut you generally want to calm your insulin down, yet, after the training you want your macronutrients to help you recover and preserve muscle.

So the solution I found working perfectly for me is that immediately after training I drink a protein shake, then go shower, come back home, make my meal (what all in all takes me around 1 hour) and then I eat my true post-workout meal containing whole foods and all macros.

This way:

  1. You have a source of quickly ingesting protein immediately after workout to work for your muscles
  2. You prevent a huge insulin spike from your “real” meal, by having a protein only one approximately one hour before the one with carbs.

Working for me at least.


Why wouldn’t you want to stimulate insulin post-workout though?

I lift at 6am and don’t eat until 12PM (lunch time).

Never has affected me. Just make sure you get in your total protein/calories requirements by bedtime.

I don’t have protein shakes either, I just eat real food. No drop off in strength and actually feel better because I’m getting all those micronutrients.

That’s because you’re putting the workout nutrition to use. A shake during training is even more effective. That would also tide you over until a solid food meal anytime after training.

Mistake. When cutting, it’s even more important to fuel training properly and preserve muscle. Pre-contest bodybuilders keep using workout nutrition for just that reason.

Not really. Shake during training, then the meal after. This explains why.


This is 100% not a knock on you, but aren’t you training for performance, not fat loss? Have you gotten noticeably leaner with your approach? (Genuine question, not a callout).

Simply getting the total calories whenever can compensate for a lot when we’re looking to move weight, but more attention detail is necessary when we’re focused on losing fat optimally.

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Chris - I always eat for performance! But I’ve gotten leaner for sure! My abs are defined and show at all times. Even though I’ve gained ~10lbs in the last 14 weeks my abs have not lost any definition really.

I guess if we are talking about losing fat optimally probably not best approach, but I’ve gained muscle and lost fat by just eating for performance (quality of foods) and busting my ass in the gym. I mean I condition, lift heavy, eat well, and sleep well so the fat has sorta just melted off over the years.

I’ve never “tried” to lose weight really so I can’t speak on losing weight optimally. I would say in the past 5 years my body has truly only gained “10lbs” (started this journey at ~170), but obviously I look completely different.

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Ah great article, thanks for sharing. I think what I’m doing then is correct and if I want to benefit even more I could throw in an intra-workout shake. I know for cutting I definitely like whole foods after because I’m more hungry - typically when I’m adding muscle I’ll sip on karbolyn/vitargo with some creatine then have a shake after then wait to eat mainly because I feel nauseous if I eat right after. Wonder if for adding muscle I should just mix karbolyn/creatine/protein for my intra shake

Because you dont grow in a deficit either way. I mean it’s not bad, I just find more benefits from drinking shake soon after or even during the training, then waiting with your protein till your “proper” meal just for insulin factor, when it doesnt do much for you on a cut either way

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So that’s what you get from shake. I explained myself poorly - it’s not like you want to decrease insuling post workout. You want to decrease it in general, and post workout, while it is nice to have it elevated, you don’t really care/ Another thing is is if you eat majority of your carbs post workout + considering the effect of the workout itself, your insulin will be higher than normal, regardless if you drink some protein before the meal or not.

Definitely. There’s no reason to avoid fast-acting protein and fast-acting carbs during training. Get them in there and you can improve growth, performance, and recovery moreso than just having carbs without protein.

Everyone that complains about Biotest ads should also have to read this thread where you didn’t mention the products you sell for exactly this purpose once, even though other brands were specifically discussed.


Thanks for the info here, so if I’m having fast acting carbs+protein Intra workout during a muscle building phase would I then just eat a whole food meal after my workout?

Yep. Pretty common approach. The workout nutrition has you covered at the highest priority time, so a solid post-workout meal is fine.

The classic old school approach used to be more like, “water during training, post-workout protein-carb shake, then post-workout meal a while after that” (which could be 90 minutes-2 hours after training). The intra-workout shake gets the good stuff into you sooner when it can be even better utilized, so you can dive into the post-workout meal whenever’s convenient.


Wanted to come back to this thread Chris to ask you a quick question. One thing that confuses me is the talk of BCAA’s being pointless if you’re getting enough protein etc. so my question is for a intra workout wouldn’t it be better to supplement say Plazma/creatine with BCAA’s as opposed to quickly digesting protein because the BCAA’s are already broken down and digested faster or would Plazma/creatine/quick digesting protein be the better choice because its adding protein+a fuller amino acid profile?

Thanks in advance.

Postponing it immediately post w/o allows fat burning to continue. Maybe wait 30 min to an hour.

The full amino spectrum/being a complete protein source is one benefit. The other thing is that Plazma and Mag-10 were specifically made using hydrolyzed casein in di- and tri-peptide form, which means they’re already basically broken down and are absorbed stupid-fast. BCAAs deliver no additional benefits on top of that.

I kinda see BCAAs vs protein like egg whites vs eggs. Yes, some people do use them on their own because they are a little bit different and have some very specific conditions when they might be be the better choice, but 9 times out of 10, you get more benefits overall when using the whole thing.

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