A post workout protein shake is a tried and true way of helping you pack on lean muscle mass. Protein is the main essential nutrient required by your body for muscle growth, and there’s some evidence that ingesting it shortly after a workout is more effective than waiting too long.
While any complete protein can do the trick, some proteins are better than others post workout–you’ll want a high quality protein that is quick to absorb. Not only that, you don’t want to force yourself to down a disgusting mixture of protein, artificial tasting flavor, and water: taste matters. Lastly, you may have certain dietary restrictions which can also impact your choice. Without further ado, here are our favorites:
As the name suggestions, Optimum Nutrition is truly the gold standard when it comes to whey protein. A tried and true popular product that’s both tasty (our favorite is the double rich chocolate flavor pictured above) and nutritious.
Each serving has 24 grams of Whey protein, one of the highest quality proteins that’s also more quickly absorbed by the body. Furthermore, 5.5g of the 24 are BCAAs. These extremely important Branch Chain Amino Acids are amino acids your body cannot produce on it’s own–you need to get them from diet– and crucial for muscle recovery post workout.
Many Whey protein options exist, but the price / quality ratio of Optimum is hard to beat. The chemical differences are not large between one brand to the next, which makes price and taste more important determinants of what to go with in our opinion. With that said, while Whey protein is fast absorbing, if you’re an advanced lifter looking for maximal absorption speed, you may want to consider hydrolyzed Whey, such as our second place pick:
Advanced bodybuilders consider hydrolyzed whey to be the fastest absorbing protein for shakes. We don’t disagree. If you’re at an advanced level and really want to fine tune your body, consider the Dymatize ISO100 Hydrolyzed Protein Powder.
With a virtually identical amino acid profile to the Optimum Nutrition options, similar price, but in faster absorbing hydrolyzed form, the Dymatize ISO100 would have taken the number one spot if it weren’t for taste that is, in our opinion, inferior to the Optimum offerings. However, if you’re mixing your protein with fruits, fruit juice, or other tasty things, and the powders “natural” flavor is of secondary concern, Dymatize ISO100 would be your best bet.
While whey is the premiere post workout protein, it’s made from milk by product. For vegans or strict vegetarians, that’s not going to fly. If you are interested in bulking up with a complete protein, non Soy based, that’s also Vegan, go with the Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder.
Using a mix of rice, peas, and chia seeds, Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein manages to build an amino acid profile not dissimilar from that of Whey. At 21g of protein for 150 calories, it’s a bit less calorie efficient than Whey protein (Optimum’s double rich cholocate gives you 24g of protein for 120 calories), but not too bad especially compared to other vegetarian or vegan food options.
The taste also leaves a little to be desired, but Orgain Creamy Chocolate Fudge version does a great job relative to some other truly awful tasting vegan proteins.
If you’re looking to get down to brass tacks, Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein Powder is for you. This is one of the lowest cost Whey protein options that has decent flavor.
The protein itself is high quality, but you are getting a little bit less efficient protein / calorie with the Body Fortress versus some of our higher ranked options: 30 grams for 210 calories. This is a problem if you’re looking to lean out, but if you’re just trying to add muscle mass, the extra calories per gram of protein aren’t likely to post much of a problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a complete protein?
A complete protein is a dietary protein that contains all of the nine essential amino acids, Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine+Cystine, Phenylalanine+Tyrosine, Valine, and Histadine. Most animal meat sources are complete proteins (including milk and eggs). Less plant sources are considered complete, though Soy is, and combinations of plant proteins can be used to make complete proteins.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs stand for Branch Chain Amino Acids. They refer to three of the nine essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Some research has linked these three amino acids specifically to a large portion of the muscle growth and recovery chemistry of the body.