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I started to consume protein shakes (about 25g with milk and water) after hitting the gym to help me gain muscles. I also play flag football two times a week, where the training is more focused on endurance and agility. Does it make sense to consume protein shakes after the flag football training (which is basically cardio) as well or is it enough to consume extra protein after lifting weights (bodybuilding)?

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Once And For All Time: Protein Shakes Are Not Magical

We get a lot of protein shake questions. What should I put in it? and when should I drink it? and will my spleen explode if there's ice in it? The mysteries of protein shakes are many, and the science is weak.

Protein Shakes Are Just Protein...In Shake Form

Here's the deal: don't overcomplicate protein shakes. It's just protein. In a shake.

Put another way, it's just liquid protein.

One might say that it's just a form of protein that doesn't require a knife and fork or de-shelling an egg. Because it's liquid. If you don't need your protein in liquid form, just eat some meat.

The Complex Part, Which Isn't Really Important

Protein shakes can be optimized (made as useful as possible) by making sure they hit a couple milestones. (But to be clear: it's just protein that you drink. It's not that special.) Here's what I keep in mind for myself:

  • The best protein comes from animals. Animal proteins are easily digestible and complete. There's good science behind that, but the take-home message is just this: milk, eggs, meat. Whey powder is animal protein and is great.
  • It's good to have protein right after a workout. If you have to wait twenty or forty minutes, that might be a couple percent less efficient. It barely matters, and some people think it's good to fast after workouts anyway. Shakes are nice because it's easier to drink protein right after a workout than to eat a steak. For instance, my gym doesn't have a stove.
  • Protein shakes are a supplement. That just means that you should eat normal food if possible, and drink the shake only when a full meal is inconvenient or impossible. Like, say, right after a workout. But still eat a meal later.
  • It doesn't really matter what kind of workout it was. Because it's just protein. Protein in a shake.

Other Questions

See also How and When to Shake, The Right Protein Shake, Whey Isolate vs Whey Concentrate, and remember that there are crappy whey powders that have bad stuff in them.

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+1 It's just protein. Only thing missing is a mention of the possible waste of trying to take in too much protein at one time, but otherwise perfect. –  Christopher Bibbs Sep 30 '11 at 17:12
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This would be a good topic for the fitness blog. –  Matt Chan Sep 30 '11 at 17:17
    
@ChristopherBibbs, could you edit my answer to add that info? I know the gist but am not familiar with specific evidence. Another bullet on "not overdoing it" would be great. –  Dave Liepmann Sep 30 '11 at 17:37
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