Best Post Workout Drinks For Women

The Best Post-Workout Drinks For Women

Right after lifting weights, your muscles are primed for growth. You just gave them a stimulus to grow, there is heightened blood flow to the area, and the body has already started the recovery process. 

Getting in some protein and calories not too long after your workout is the key to a great recovery. Great recovery equals great muscle growth. You show up to the next stronger, and you keep this process up. Over time, you’ll see muscle gains. 

Inside, we’ll take a look at some solid post-workout drink options for women interested in maximizing their muscle gain.

Post-Workout Drink Overview


Like all things, this is just information on the internet—it is not advice. Not everybody does well with supplements (we do include some whole food drink options below), and they should always talk to their medical professional first before making any changes.

The importance of protein for muscle gain after lifting

If you want to build your body bigger, curvier, and stronger, it first needs a stimulus to get stronger, like lifting weights.

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Then your body needs new materials from outside your body to repair with. That’s going to come from the food that you eat. Your muscles are made out of protein, and while most people eat some protein, they’re not eating enough. And consuming even more protein is necessary once you start lifting weights and stressing your muscles more than normal.

After a workout, your body is already sending lots of blood to the muscles to help repair. This is why the area becomes a bit red and warm. More blood flow brings nutrients and carries away waste. 

Increasing protein intake post-workout can help your muscle recovery improve while the blood flow is high, allowing you to get stronger for your next workout.

Benefits of extra calories for muscle gain

The recovery process is intense in terms of energy requirements. Aside from recovery needs, your body already spent a lot of energy with the workout by fueling muscle contractions, focus, effort, etc. Your body has already burnt through a lot of sugars/glycogen and needs replenishing. If you’re planning on working out again soon (you’re an athlete who’s training, etc.), you might benefit from more carbs, but in general, your body just needs calories. 

If you’re a skinny-fat woman trying to lean out through lifting weights, you might not need extra calories from carbs/fats and instead just want to focus on getting enough protein so that your muscles can recover and you can burn through your body’s fat stores for energy.

Muscle Repair Post-Workout Begins Fast

Here’s an image of muscle cells being repaired after a workout. The nuclei are shown in purple, and they are moving toward the microscopic tears in the muscle fibres to repair them.

Muscle Repair Nuclei
Image Credit: William Roman

The nuclei are in place and doing their work quickly, within a few hours. And the muscle repair is largely done within 24 hours. (Untrained lifters will have their muscle repair process spanning a longer timeframe.)

What this means is that you don’t need to smash a post-workout shake in the locker room. You’ve got some time to get your protein and calories in.

However, you shouldn’t let the post-workout opportunity pass you by. You will want to eat a solid, high-protein and nutritious meal within an hour or two of lifting. 

If you can’t do that, then at the very least, you should consume a post-workout drink to buy you some time until you can have a proper meal.

Post-Workout Drinks Are Easy On The Appetite

Most women don’t feel hungry after intense exercise like lifting weights. Drinking your calories and protein is an easy way to get in extra nutrition at a time when you’re not really hungry anyways.

This is great for naturally skinny women who struggle with eating enough calories every day. A post-workout drink could be an easy way to cross out 30 grams of protein and 600-1000 calories—depending on what else you add—no problem.

Blanket Recommendation For Macros & Calories

For most women, if you want a blanket recommendation, 30g of protein and 60g of carbs would be appropriate for most women trying to build muscle (and would contribute around 320 calories towards your daily totals). 

If that drink is too intense, that’s okay. You can start with 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs (180 calories). If you need more calories, go up to 60 grams of protein and 120 grams of carbs (720 calories).

If you’re trying to lean out a bit, you can just keep the protein powder and ease off the carbs/fats. In fact, you may not even want a post-workout drink—you may want to eat a full meal as it’ll be more satiating and make you feel fuller and more satisfied.

You Don’t Need A Post-Workout Shake—A Post-Workout Meal Works Too

The main thing we’re after during this anabolic post-workout window is protein, carbs and calories.

This means that you can skip the post-workout shake entirely and have a pre-workout coffee and eat a post-workout meal instead. 

For the most optimized results, you could keep the fat low and the carbs and protein high. Those carbs can come from fruit, berries, raw honey, white rice, oatmeal, potatoes—whatever you like. And then a protein source—lean ground meat, steaks, chicken, eggs, fish, etc.

The rules here are loose, have a post-workout shake or eat a post-workout meal that’s high in protein and calories. But make no mistake, optimizing your post-workout nutrition is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your results.

Dairy Post-Workout Drinks

If you can handle pasteurized dairy with no issues, that unlocks a whole bunch of post-workout drink options because dairy is one of the best options because it’s high in proteins, carbs, and electrolytes. Whey powders are also the cheapest and most convenient sources of protein as well.

  • Whey-based weight-gainers. These pre-made weight gainers will combine whey protein with some sort of processed carb powder. Maltodextrin, dextrose, or things like powdered oats. They’re cheap, taste decent, effective, and convenient, but not exactly the healthiest in the long run.
  • Whey isolates protein powders. You can buy your own whey isolate and mix it with carbs yourself. This allows you to control the ratio of protein to carbs if you need to tweak your weight gain (or weight loss if you’re cutting). You can also have control over the types of carbs and other additives.
  • Milk. Milk is high in calories and protein and is relatively easy to find in a lot of places, such as convenience stores and even vending machines. So if your stomach agrees with milk, this can be an easy and convenient option.
  • Chocolate Milk. Chocolate milk has all the nutrition of regular milk, but it adds in some carbs via sugar and some extra nutrition from cocoa powder. This can make it even more effective than regular post-workout if your gut agrees with it.
Milk As a Post-Workout Drink

Side note: Can’t Handle Dairy?

If you can’t handle dairy, some people who have difficulty digesting it have found success drinking raw dairy as it still has the active enzymes needed to digest the proteins. It could also be that the living good bacteria crowd out bad stomach bacteria. You could skip the processed powders and think about trying raw milk. Raw milk mixed with cocoa powder and maple syrup is delicious, whole-food, and great for muscle gaining. If you don’t have access to raw milk, I’ve seen a number of stories of people who have difficulty consuming dairy and have also reported good effects with kefir (made with pasteurized milk). Perhaps the living bacteria in the kefir changes the way it interacts with the microbiome. We’ve had members get good results using Lactaid pills alongside dairy, so perhaps including a chewable pill with a whey shake could work. So those are some other options to consider aside from choosing a non-dairy option (covered further below.)

Example: Whey Classic

  • 30 grams of flavoured protein powder
  • 60 grams of maltodextrin
  • 2 grams of creatine monohydrate.

The protein powder will help you hit your daily protein goals while guaranteeing that you maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. The maltodextrin will help you hit your daily carb goals, and it will also create a beneficial carb/calorie cycling situation. 

Not every woman wants to use creatine, but if you do, creatine can be taken at any time, but its especially well absorbed when taken alongside quickly digested protein or carbs. These ingredients all work together synergistically, combining into something that’s more powerful than each taken individually.

Example: The High-Schooler

  • 500ml of low-fat chocolate milk. 

This gets you 400 calories and 16 grams of protein. Admittedly not as fancy as a bunch of supplements. It’s also not super high in calories, but it’s decent. It is still effective—especially if your mother buys your groceries.

Example: The Lazy Option

Illustration of a weight gainer supplement for women.

You can buy a weight-gainer powder and use it as a post-workout shake. It won’t be as healthy in the long run due to processed ingredients and additives. It might cost a little more and not be quite as customizable, but it’ll taste a little better and reduce your kitchen clutter. It’s easy to bring as a powder in a car or backpack with a bottle of water for easy mixing when you need it.

Here are three weight gainer supplements with decent ingredients that you could investigate further:

Example: Shane’s Swamp Beast Shake

This post-workout drink is from Bony to Bombshell co-founder Shane Duquette, so it’s a bit bigger in servings. If this is too big, you could start with half the recipe.

  • 60 grams of unflavoured whey
  • 120 grams of maltodextrin
  • 5 grams of creatine
  • 10 grams of spirulina

This tastes awful—like a swamp that a Sasquatch just finished bathing in. The spirulina adds some extremely nutritious micronutrients that can help fill in some gaps from the processed maltodextrin.

Spirulina Workout Shake Female Muscle Gain

Note: like all things, in some circumstances, allergic reactions can happen, such as in response to eating algae like spirulina. Consult with a medical professional to know if you’re allergic to greens, green powders, etc.

At-Home Smoothie Post-Workout Drink

As we covered earlier, there’s a window of a couple of hours to maximize post-workout nutrition— so you don’t need to chug a workout drink in the gym parking lot. If you’re heading home (or you’re working out from home), you can make a post-workout drink smoothie.

A smoothie will taste better and be more nutritious for you because it’ll be using mainly real food. (This is what I lean more towards these days.)

Example—The Daily Smoothie As A Post-Workout Drink

Bulking Smoothie For Females

Here’s a sample muscle-gain smoothie you can use:

  • 225ml of milk (ideally tested grass-fed raw milk) or plant-based milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 4 frozen strawberries
  • 1 scoop of unflavoured whey isolate protein powder (or a powder of your choice)
  • Optional: a handful of fresh spinach (if uncooked greens agree with your stomach)

Once it’s blended fully and smooth, add one scoop of whey isolate powder or plant-based protein powder if you’d like to boost the protein.

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The Clean Post-Workout Smoothie Drink—All Natural Ingredients

One of our Bony to Bombshell members, Aomi, wasn’t able to do well with dairy or grains. She didn’t like supplemental protein powders either. So that cut out doing things like whey, powdered oats, etc.

So she made a big workout smoothie made out of every high-calorie food she could find:

  • raw eggs
  • bananas
  • cherries
  • raw cocoa powder
  • almond butter
  • half an avocado
  • can of full-fat coconut milk

Maybe you’d have to play with the ratios to find something that tastes good, but it certainly worked for her.

Butt Before And After Glutes Lifting Skinny Female

Example: Reeves Power Drink

Back in the 1950s, a famous bodybuilder, Steve Reeves, made a homemade power drink in his blender. It is made out of clean ingredients that would work perfectly as a post-workout drink.

  • 14oz (415ml) of raw, freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of Knox gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon of raw honey
  • 1 banana
  • 2-4 raw eggs

He was a big guy, so as a woman, halving that recipe could be a good start to see how it fits into your daily protein/calorie needs. Perhaps something like one cup of raw orange juice, some honey, bananas, and an egg or two. And if you wanted to add a powder, a scoop of collagen powder as a tasteless modern update away from the gelatin powder.

The Plant-Based Post-Workout Drink

In our plant-based protein article, we cover the pros and cons of plant-based proteins. Each source has slightly different digestibility and amino acid balance. 

You will want to get a plant-based protein powder that has a blend of sources, and you might want to investigate some that include digestive enzymes so your body can utilize them better.

Example: The Vega-Bombshell

  • 30 grams of pea/rice protein blend
  • 60 grams of maltodextrin
  • 2 grams of creatine. 

Vegetarian protein powder is usually a little more expensive, bulky and processed, but it’s still effective. Even if you consume animal products, plant-based protein powders might be a good option to consider if you don’t do well with dairy-based whey protein powders.

The Dietary Restrictions & Allergy Post-Workout Drink

There are some women who don’t do well with protein powders—no matter if it’s whey powder (dairy) or rice (plant-based) protein powder. They might have trouble digesting powdered grains like oats or processed foods like maltodextrin.

In those cases, you can still get the carbs needed in a post-workout drink to help the recovery process while you work on warming up or preparing a protein source to eat.

For example, you could put 2-3 tablespoons of raw honey into a cup, fill it up with warm water, mix, and drink that. Raw honey can provide lots of carbs in a wholesome way and has been found to help just like other carb sources, but it may also have long-term benefits on the immune system and bone formation. 

Honey And Lifting Weights
  • 3 tablespoons of raw honey
  • One cup of warm water
  • + Eat a high-protein meal

You could also drink a big glass of raw orange juice or make a fruit smoothie. Blend up some bananas, strawberries, almond butter, vanilla, and sweeten a bit, if needed, with maple syrup.

That’ll buy you some time as you warm up some chicken wings, grill a steak, fry fish, cook bacon and eggs, or prepare some muscle-building picadillo or chili. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a post-workout drink, you can just have a higher protein post-workout meal.

What Next?

If you liked this article, you’d love our muscle-building newsletterWe’ll keep you up to date on all the latest muscle-building information for women. Or, if you want us to walk you through the process of gaining muscle and strength, including teaching you the exercises, giving you a structured 5-month workout program, a complete diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching/customization, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

Jared Polowick, BDes, CPT, has a degree in design from York University and is a certified personal trainer. He co-founded Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlive.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's also a certified trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and performance, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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