My Two favorite protein powders:
Body Fortress Whey protein (Wal-mart or Target)
Hammer Nutrition Whey
(I'm a vanilla girl but every now and then I'll tough it up and get chocolate)
We go through a lot of whey protein (at least 1/2-1 scoop a day for me and 1 scoop for Karel) in an effort to properly recover after our workouts. I rarely have a smoothie for a "meal" (ex. breakfast smoothie) but if I do, I always add in some type of carb choice like cooked oatmeal or toast w/ a little PB to go along with my nutrient-filled smoothie. Since I add lots of ingredients to my smoothie (ex. fruit, yogurt, milk, flax, dark chocolate, etc.) sometimes I just top my smoothie with a handful of dry cereal for an extra crunch.
If you have another type of protein that you enjoy, I recommend that you get at least 18-24g of protein per scoop in your protein powder. To use your protein powder as a recovery drink, I recommend that you add in other yummies to a smoothie (or as a side to protein + water/milk) to give your body a good mix of carbs and protein (I suggest at least 40-60g of carbohydrates as an estimate). Although this would be a great recovery snack after an intense or long-ish workout, I still encourage a "real" meal to add in more nutrients to your diet and properly refuel.
Because whey protein is a complete, quality protein, providing your body with the essential amino acids that you may be missing in your diet and to support performance/fitness gains, you can add it to your daily diet (ex. mixed with water/milk with your morning or afternoon snack) to help meet protein recommendations of 1-1.4g/kg/d for active individuals).
Although there are other great protein sources out there (eggs, milk, fish, lean meat), whey protein will give the body the necessary building blocks (amino acids) that are used for building muscle tissue. Because exercise puts your body in a catabolic state (especially intense/endurance exercise) it is most important that you look for a quick and easy-to-digest protein (in addition to carbs) to help your muscles recover.
Because I believe in having a "real" wholesome meal after a recovery drink, I only recommend a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of Carbohydrates (grams) to protein for your recovery drink. No need to have a 52g protein drink alongside 150g of carbohydrates. I strongly encourage low fat protein and healthy fat to be added to a recovery meal, rich in complex carbohydrates, which should follow the recovery snack.
Of course, a recovery drink is most advantageous after an intense workout when your body is in need of repair but because of the length of an endurance workout, it is not necessary to gorge yourself with thousands of calories following a recovery drink. Whereas intense workouts are short, thus quickly depleting stored carbs, you may find it more beneficial to have a 3:1 (carb:protein) recovery drink. For longer workouts, when a balanced meal is on the menu, a 2:1 (carb:protein) drink will help you quickly recover as well as help you prevent overeating when the "real" meal is served.
In my opinion, real food is going to give your body a wide range of nutrients, more so than a pre-mixed "recovery" drink. However, a recovery drink in the form of whey protein, immediately following a workout, is going to jump-start the recovery process much more so than having a coke and power bar after a workout and then an hour later having a turkey sandwich w/ chips. Because the timing of nutrition is most important in ensuring proper recovery after workouts, the athlete who tends to over or undereat following a workout (in addition to not "craving" the most healthiest food options) may miss a vital opportunity to repair and refuel. Considering that the most beneficial time to recover is within the 45 min. immediately following the end of the activity (to stimulate the transport of glucose and glycogen synthase activity thus promoting faster muscle glycogen resynthesis), combining high-quality protein with the carbohydrates, will result in more stored glycogen as well as providing the muscles with the necessary amino acids needed to rebuild muscle tissue and build a stronger immune system.
Although fruits and whole grain foods are rich in carbohydrates and can be used for recovery, I find that many athletes tend to crave "sweets" following a workout. In this case, rather than having a 400 calorie sugary recovery drink and a high sugar treat/breakfast, my recommendation is to start with 1 scoop whey protein mixed with water/milk (or as a smoothie mixed with fruit, milk, yogurt, etc.) and have your sweet treat (ex. 20-30g of carbs from the sweet treat) alongside a more nutritious carb (ex. watermelon, banana, granola) with the protein. This way you are able to curb your cravings all while controlling blood sugar with the protein. Sure, fruit would be a more nutritious choice but if you find yourself indulging in a large bowl of ice cream or enjoying a chocolate cookie on the evening of a morning long bike/run/brick, your body will have an easier time "using" the sugars immediately following the workout as opposed to late in the evening before bed.
1 scoop vanilla Whey protein (Body Fortress)
1 tbsp wheat germ (I'll be writing about this in a later blog post)
Cinnamon (I probably use a tsp or two)
3 ounces low fat strawberry yogurt
3 BIG strawberries (washed, top removed - best if fresh and then frozen ahead of time)
1/4 cup skim milk
4-6 dark chocolate chips
Ice (5-7 cubes)
Water (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
1. Put all ingredients in blender, except water. Pulse until ice cubes are crushed.
2. Slowly add water as you blend on low and stop blending until the smoothie meets your consistency needs.
*I like my smoothies like a milkshake so I don't add a lot of water.
Depending on my workout length/intensity, I love warm oatmeal with a cold smoothie (while my oatmeal is cooking I put my smoothie in the freezer).
1/2 gala apple (chopped)
1/4-1/3 cup oats
Spoonful of peanuts and raisins
Small spoonful of wheat germ
Optional topping: drizzle of honey or a little chopped dark chocolate when oatmeal is warm