Post-workout? Bad idea? What should I do on workout days?


#1

I’ve read mixed stuff online about whether or not Soylent is a bad idea post-workout. Specifically, I’ve read that it’s a bad idea because the fat prevents your body from absorbing the protein as quickly as you’d want, and that it’s better to drink a normal whey protein shake. But it does seem like lots of people drink it post-workout. Just wanted to clarify what’s true.

I’m currently going 100% Soylent on most days (2000 calories, 2.0, 5 per day), and I’d love to know what to do when it’s a gym day. Protein shakes and/or solid food are acceptable if that’s the best option, but ideally, I’d love to stick with the simplicity, convenience, and consistency that I drink Soylent for. What’s my best move? An extra Soylent or two? Same amount of Soylent but add whey protein powder? Food?

Today, I followed up my workout with a store-bought protein shake, a grilled chicken sandwich, and an RX Bar. But I’m skeptical that that’s the right move all around.

And I guess I should say: my main goal right now is weight loss and my secondary goal is building muscle. And I’m probably (hopefully) a couple of months away from not needing to lose any more weight, assuming I stick to what I’ve been doing.

Thanks!


#2

As much as I’m not a fan of the minimalist approach to protein, you really don’t need that much protein as a post-workout snack. If I had to guess, it was something like 50 grams? Not necessary. Something like 25-40 grams would be good.

The idea behind post-workout protein is to take advantage of the “anabolic window” a state that actually lasts for a while after working out. The idea behind a typical protein shake specifically is to have protein sources that are more quickly absorbed by the body. Protein from eggs or steak (both by virtue of being solid and their type of protein) will be absorbed slower, and sometimes you want slower, but that’s not what you are looking for post-workout. For post-workout, you want the synergy of the anabolic window and a quickly absorbed protein (like a standard protein shake).

Fat slows down how quickly protein will be absorbed, but that won’t destroy your gains. Honestly it’s likely a marginal difference, but whether that difference matters to you or not is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Is Soylent ideal for a post-workout shake? No. Is it feesable? Sure, you would want to add some protein powder to it though as Soylent isn’t particularly protein dense (you would want to consume an entire Soylent meal).



#3

Thanks. So would you recommend that my post-workout meal be Soylent with protein powder added? If so, how much powder? (I’m sure that depends on variables, but I don’t know which variables.)

And if that’s what I’m doing, should I maybe throw in an extra Soylent on those days to prevent my calorie intake from being too low? (Obviously my goal is to lose weight, but I’m sure there’s such a thing as too few calories-- although, again, I really don’t know.)


#4

Ideally, just a non-soylent protein shake. Then whatever meal comes next in the day for you. If you really want to do it with Soylent though, yeah, just add protein powder. As far as eating enough, you should try to eat the same amount every day with consideration of weekly exercise, but regardless of daily variances.

https://tdeecalculator.net/

^ Using that will give you a good starting point. In general, men tend to average around 2500 a day while women tend to average around 2000 a day. Your size and activity are the main factors that change that, while height, age, and bodyfat are lesser (but still useful) factors.


#5

It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the best idea, either. Soylent is designed as daily food, not performance food. After a workout, you’re generally looking for two things:

  1. Replenish Glycogen Stores. The carbohydrates you eat get stored in your body as glycogen. During exercise, glycogen is broken down into glucose and used as fuel. Consuming carbohydates post-workout helps to replenish your glycogen stores, speeding up your recovery and letting you exercise again with less down time. Note: this is more relevant to endurance athletes.

  2. Assist Muscle Protein Synthesis. Muscle growth doesn’t happen during a workout, but in the ~48 hours afterward. Assisting this process with protein that’s high in BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) will likely give you greater gains in muscle size.

The carbohydrate and protein sources used in Soylent are great for daily needs, but there are better post-workout options. My preferred source of carbohydrates after a workout is the elaborately named Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin. It absorbs more quickly than any other form of carbohydrate that I’m aware of, but its branched structure allows for a sustained release (rather than a huge spike). It’s one of the main ingredients in my post-workout drink and I wouldn’t go without it now.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, pea protein is a good option. Otherwise, whey protein isolate is the usual recommendation. I use pea protein with a small amount of supplemental BCAAs.

There’s also a decent amount of research on the negative effects of high supplemental antioxidants on exercise performance (for example, here and here), so I try to hedge my bets and avoid antioxidants before and immediately after my workouts. The amount of Vitamin C and E (the two antioxidants studied in those experiments) in Soylent is negligible compared to those studies, but I still try to be mindful. To that end, I have my post-workout drink (with the carb and protein sources I mentioned above) immediately after exercise, and then usually have a Soylent about an hour later.

One final note, the advantages of performance nutrition are real but they may not be important to you depending on your goals. If you’re exercising for general health, you’re probably fine just having a Soylent afterwards. But if you’re looking for a competitive edge, or looking to bulk up, or looking to reduce your recovery time to allow for more bouts of exercise per week—than performance nutrition will be worth your time.


#6

Thanks! (And my primary goal is general health, but I would like to build muscle.)

I’m still a little bit confused: is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin something I can conveniently (and affordably) go buy in a health food store? I’m not familiar with it. Is it a powder?

Is your post-workout drink water + whey protein isolate + HBCD? And if so, how much of everything?

(I know this isn’t rocket science, but I don’t really have a frame of reference for things like how much protein powder should go into a post-workout drink. Thanks!)


#7

HBCD usually comes in powdered form. Some health food stores might carry it, but it’s a newer ingredient so I wouldn’t count on it. I get mine through True Nutrition (here).

Co-ingestion of carbohydrates and protein increases glycogen resynthesis (for example, source and source), so I always aim to have both in my mix. But the ratios depend on the kind of exercise I just finished.

After a run, I generally aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. I use True Nutrition’s custom protein blend generator, and my current formula looks like this:

60% Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin, 25% Pea Protein Isolate, 15% ModCarb, Electrolytes Boost (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide), Protein Enzyme Boost (Protease), Branched Chain Aminos Boost (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine)

Carbs: 21g
Protein: 6.9g

After HIIT or resistance training, I generally aim for a 1.5:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. My current formula looks like this:

35% Pea Protein Isolate, 35% Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin, 15% ModCarb, 10% Hemp Protein Powder, 5% MCT - Medium Chain Triglycerides Powder, Electrolytes Boost (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide), Protein Enzyme Boost (Protease), Branched Chain Aminos Boost (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine)

Carbs: 15.4g
Protein: 10.5g

I’ll usually add 5g of Creatine and 4g of Beta-Alanine to those drinks, mainly because I’m vegetarian and those are two common deficiencies in active vegetarians (they’re found mostly in meat products). Examine.com has more information here if you’re interested.

Also, these drinks usually land around ~120 calories, which is somewhere in the middle compared to other recovery/post-workout drinks. I’ve found it to be exactly what my body wants after a workout. I don’t feel drained in the hours after a very intense workout, I recover quickly, and I don’t have any digestive complaints. That wasn’t the case with the off-the-shelf recovery drinks/powders I’ve tried.

I ultimately went the route of these customized powders because I couldn’t find anything on the market that fit with what I wanted (plant-based protein, high quality carbohydrate sources, no added sugar, no added antioxidants or other low-evidence trendy ingredients).

If you’re primarily lifting weights, you could customize a blend with a lot more protein and then throw in some HBCD to help replenish your glycogen stores. Whatever the case, I’d recommend having a Soylent (or whatever you generally eat for dinner) 30 minutes to 1 hour after you finish exercising. I usually finish my workout, drink my recovery drink, shower, then have a Soylent or some kind of meal (usually lands around 45 minutes after I finished my workout).

You definitely need more carbohydrates and protein than what’s in the drinks I listed above, but that’s what Soylent does throughout the day. I view the post-workout drink as a targeted mixture of ingredients that support the body immediately after exercise.


#8

Thanks!

To be completely honest, I’m unlikely to do that because, well, it seems a bit too complicated. What I’d really like is either a pre-made drink I can buy or something as simple as “mix X amount of protein powder into a glass of water”. For the sake of convenience, I’d rather go with a decent but less-than-ideal store-bought drink than a perfect drink that’s a hassle to make.

Any suggestions of what might fit that bill?


#9

If you don’t mind sharing: how much do you weigh, and what’s your target weight? I can give you a better suggestion with that information.

Also, creating a custom mix is definitely complicated. But it’s not a hassle once you’ve figured out what percentages you want. They do all the mixing. I just scoop it into a blender bottle. Wasn’t sure if that was clear in my previous post.


#10

Wait a minute-- True Nutrition allows you to buy custom pre-mixed powders? That’s really cool and I’ll probably do that if it’s not crazy expensive. Thanks! If it’s affordable, that’s perfect.

I weigh around 179 and I’m 5’8". I’m never sure how to answer questions about my target weight because my answer is really just “whatever’s healthy and appropriate”, but for now, let’s say 163 (which is my all-time adult low). I work out probably about three times a week on average (although I recently took a few weeks off and am now getting back into the swing of things).


#11

A good and easy option for post workout carbs is a banana, but the HBCD powder is probably a great option too.

The main advantages of a banana post workout include being cheap, being full of “fast acting” carbs to restore glycogen stores, and being full of potassium to help you recover and avoid cramping. You can also easily blend a banana into a shake or take it with you somewhere.


#12

I would like to add one thing here: You mention that replenishing glycogen stores is more relevant to endurance athletes, and this is right on, but the OP mentioned that weight loss is the main goal. If weight loss is the main goal, replenishing glycogen stores by consuming carbs is the last thing you want to do. Weight loss is achieved by allowing the body to replenish the glycogen stores by breaking down fat stores. If you replenish them by consuming carbs, then it is no longer necessary to break down the fat, and weight loss is hindered.

This does come at a cost. You will be more tired after exercise for longer, because the fat takes more time to break down. Your body will get faster at it with practice, but it will never get as fast as consuming some carbs, so recovery time will always take longer.