Post Workout Shakes? Not If Fat Loss is Your Goal!

March 30, 2009

I have been avoiding post workout shakes for quite a few years now. In fact, I typically wait 1-2 hours after working out before I eat any type of calories. This flies in the face of the standard “science based” idea of post workout nutrition. Why do I wait so long, when others are rushing to the locker room to chug down protein shakes? It is actually pretty simple.

surfers in puerto vallarta
[A brilliant picture of two surfers in Puerto Vallarta continuing to catch waves as the sun goes down. Surfers go hours and hours without food after periods of tough effort, breaking the “fitness rules” while maintaining outstanding physiques.]

Here is the Traditional Advice to Post Workout Nutrition

Ingest whey protein and 60-70 grams of simple carbs within 30-45 minutes of finishing your workout. What happens is that your muscles are “hungry” to replenish the glycogen stores and basically “soak up” the sugars and protein. It enhances recovery time and helps build lean mass.

So Why Am I Suggesting for You to Wait a Bit?

Drinking a post workout shake leads to an insulin spike. Any time you spike your insulin, you are shutting down HGH output. So a lot of the benefit derived from your intense workout is cut short. The negatives caused by the insulin spike outweigh the positives. You are adding a lot of unnecessary calories and shutting down a bit of fat burning activity.

Insulin is Antagonistic to HGH

When you are trying to lose body fat, you want to avoid insulin spikes. When your insulin level is high, you will stop your body’s ability to burn body fat. Although I’m not a fan of the Atkins diet, it works because it ensures that insulin levels are kept low at all times. Again, maintaining low levels of insulin is a big key to getting ultra-lean. I like keeping insulin levels low by eating protein, healthy fats, and vegetables together.

What to do Instead?

I recommend waiting an hour after working out before eating. If you are really serious about weight loss, then eat a balanced meal with protein, fat and a lot of vegetables. I used to allow myself to eat “loose” after working out, but this small adjustment to a clean meal has made fat loss easier than ever. Another benefit that whole food has over shakes is the added thermogenic effect of food.

Note: I realize this post is shorter than normal, but the resulting fat loss you get by following this advice is big.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Curt May 24, 2009 at 8:39 pm


I agree with your points but think that there are supplements that can benefit you post-workout without blunting the GH response, etc. Studies show you don’t necessarily need complete proteins and carbs post-workout to see benefits. Simply drinking a mixture of essential amino acids in the right amounts can do the trick.

If I remember correctly, the subjects in one study drinking EAA gained muscle even if they weren’t lifting weights.

shelly June 5, 2009 at 11:40 am

it is great.your article is my need article

John July 7, 2009 at 3:49 am

Great post Rusty..
This is something that has a great impact on losing weight..
But there’s something that I’m not sure about though… what should you then be eating after workingout ? If fat loss was the goal, wouldn’t it be bad to eat fats because of the mucles need energy?

Ian August 4, 2009 at 9:46 am

I love this post and I agree with Rusty that you do not need to drink a post workout protein shake. I have experimented with shakes, tuna and chicken breasts, and taking honey and other simple carbs after workouts. the conclusion i came to was that it does not make any difference as long as you eat a good healthy meal an hour or two later. What a lot of people do not understand, however is that building lean muscle and burning body fat are two sides of the same coin. If you build muscle, fat will disappear without effort and your metabolism will increase so that you will burn body fat without effort-even while your sleeping. I will have to respectfully disagree with the idea of working out in a fasted state. Although it sounds good in theory and probably mimics how our paleolithic ancestors lived I am from the camp that it will undermine your workout intensity. INTENSITY(followed by rest and recovery) is the most important concept in all fitness endeavors and the lack of it is the #1 true reason why many people do not achieve their fitness goals. Our own negative subconcious thoughts and emotional baggage around our bodies is usually the #2 reason. Thanks for the post, cutting edge and controversial. Ian out

Hotta August 4, 2009 at 7:47 pm

now lets say i do cardio right after my weight training, will that affect my HGH?and what will be the best type of cardio to do(HIIT or Low)?and do i wait 30 minutes after my cardio for my POW shake?

David - The Fat Loss Authority August 14, 2009 at 9:32 pm


Quick question because I just finished a workout:

What if your ingesting a protein shake with straight water (0 carbs)? Does the waiting still apply? I consider the insulin spike to be influenced directly by the sugars and carbs, not really by the protein.


JOEY June 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hi Great site, love your advice.. Im 9% body fat and goal is to be 6/7% Ive been 9/11% for ages and cant get lower…I train first thing in the morning upon waking(1hour heavy lifting followed by 10-20mins HIIT and then 20mins steady) Should I consume a whey shake before training ? My last meal other wise would have been a slow realease shake before bed around 9.30 pm!! I just cant seem to get any leaner and I dont know weather to even stop the shake before bed?? your help would be amazing!!

Josh August 3, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I’m glad I ran into this site by accident… Iv’e learned so much from it. There are so many magazines out there that provide poor information. There still preaching side bends and biased nutritional advice.

Bigtransformation January 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Hmmm. Interesting. Do you think perhaps that in your example of surfers they actually do experience a bit of muscle loss but not enough obviously that they would look “skinny”? Body builders especially harp on about the “15 minute window” post exercise, even when cutting.

Cheyenne March 4, 2012 at 7:49 am

Most of these posts seem to be about losing weight and the importance ,or lack of, for the PW insulin spike. I am 6’1″ and very thin. I want to gain muscle but not bulk up. My body won’t support bulking up anyway, it’s just too thin framed. So should I be avoiding the insulin spike with my whey shake after workout or not? This is a very confusing issue for there are so many different reports. I eat low GI foods the rest of the day.

Pond guy April 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

Check out the book Protirn Power by Michael Eades,M.D. Backs up this post with medical studies

Pond guy April 1, 2012 at 9:49 am


mcell May 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm

OH NO!!!! this article not good news for me!!! Arghhhhhhhhhh! There goes my excuse to eat jelly beans, grape juice, bananas and angel food cake post workout. lol! in addition to that , ive been Intermittent fasting for a week so i only have 4 to 6 hour feeding window and now i cant even have my favorite carbs doing that short period. oh crap!!! I cut all of this out of my diet during the earlier 2000 because i was trying to lose weight and experts said that these high carb items were making us fat, then a wonderful thing happened , toward the end of the decade, i started reading that dextrose, waxey maize and these other favorite goodies that i gave up were actually ok to eat BUT ONLY during post workout, that was the only time, so i was so happy that i could kill 2 birds with one stone, get aminos to my muscles and enjoy my old time favorites and not get fat. Ive been losing weight steady so this has been working for me. now reading this article my head hurts!!!!! First the experts say you gotta have whey protein and fast carbs within 30-45 minutes of finishing your workout to replenish the glycogen, now i’m reading (if FAT LOSS is the goal) the opposite. Now I’m totally confused .

Sheryl September 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

..Ugggg…. I hate to see so many people working out in a ‘fasted’ state…. this increases cortisol levels – stress hormone in the body – we dont eat before bed..but we SHOULD absolutely eat before a workout….and I tend to agree with other’s who’ve posted that postworkout carb/protein shake 1:1 ratio is best for muscle development – remember – gain and maintain muscle at all cost – keep carbs ‘slow’ and low every other meal/snack and you’ll get great results…. I’m a low body fat woman for yrs and do no workouts on cardio machines..just weight training, deadlift, press, squats and chin ups and get amazing results… keep it simple, never starve yourself and live life with energy!

superbadkitty November 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

FINALLY! Logical, no-nonsense information. What a breeze finding a site that doesn’t parrot-on about the same things from other websites! And the bonus – this is actually from someone who gives advice from personal experience. Unfortunately, most of the rubbish out there actually gets fed down the line through personal trainers to ordinary, non-fitness people like me. I’ve had advice over the years from personal trainers to down shakes after my workout (also seen women at the gym do it), to eat a hamburger loaded with cheese if I felt like one “because I’m now training”, and to always eat breakfast before I train and to eat immediately after my workout. The truth was, I got better results from waiting an hour or two before I ate anything after my workout and it’s great to read about this here and not have to worry in the back of my mind about whether I’m doing the right thing because so many fitness sites and personal trainers say don’t do it!
Thank you!!

Bellerophont November 27, 2012 at 1:41 am


I usually eat 7 egg whites 45 minutes after my resistance workout. And about 1 hour later I eat my dinner which is cottage cheese(2,2%) with flax seed oil and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Is it ok?

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