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In order to achieve muscle growth, the body requires a positive protein/nitrogen balance. After exercise or while fasting, the body goes into a negative protein/nitrogen balance. However, you can bring the body quickly back to an anabolic state, where it is primed to build muscle, by drinking a protein shake after your workout. As protein and carb requirements differ among people and workouts, you might want to get a protein powder without carbs, so that you can modify it to suit your own needs.
Use whey protein powder in your shakes. Whey increases protein synthesis (the process leading to muscle growth) 31 percent more effectively than soy protein. Avoid soy protein generally; although it tends to be cheaper than whey, it is less effective than fat-free milk.
Measure out a serving of around 30 to 50 grams of protein for use in your protein shake. The more intensely you plan your work out, the closer to 50 grams of protein you should put in your shake. For lighter workouts, use closer to 30 grams.
Add carbohydrates to your shake. Carbs trigger an insulin release which helps your body shuttle the protein to the muscles, where it's needed, and replenish glycogen stores. Strength coach Jimmy Smith recommends that you take a quarter of your daily carb intake in your shake and have a maximum daily limit of 150 grams. The best carbs to use are quick-digesting varieties like glucose or dextrose, as these trigger a greater insulin release.
Drink your shake immediately following your workout. You're more likely to achieve muscle growth in doing so than if there's a delay before you drink the protein shake.