Optimum Post-Workout Nutrition

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Post-Workout Nutrition – What Should You Eat After A Workout?

Research shows that your body craves nutrients after lifting. Your muscles are uniquely receptive to nutrient immediately after a workout. In humans, the essential amino acids that you get from foods stimulate protein synthesis – and more protein in the blood means better muscle repair and greater potential increases in size.

In addition, the combination of carbohydrates and protein, eaten after lifting, stimulates insulin release. Post-workout insulin decreases the breakdown of muscle proteins. In other words, by using carbohydrates post-workout, we stimulate the hormone insulin to act as the protein shield. This helps to ensure that all of your high quality protein is utilized for the repair and synthesis of muscle. As an added bonus, the insulin also helps to stimulate amino acid entry into muscle, which further enhances the anabolic effect. Finally, although it is not necessary at this stage, the insulin assists carbohydrate entry into muscle, which facilitates glycogen replenishment.

It is important to understand that the body’s carbohydrate tolerance is greatly enhanced following physical activity. This means that any carbohydrates provided by subsequent meals will be sucked up by muscle, rather than deposited as fat.

So, It can be concluded beyond any doubt that combining carbohydrate with protein is far more effective strategy for replenishing glycogen than consuming carbohydrate alone. Protein combined with carbohydrate stimulates a greater release of insulin, which promotes faster uptake of glucose by the muscle cells and faster glycogen storage. Protein-only drinks fail to increase muscle glycogen, so save them until later or, better still, add some carbohydrate to them to make them more useful.

Optimal Post-Workout Nutrition Timing

Two different time spans have to be considered when it comes to post-workout nutrition:

  • (1) Nutrition directly (immediately) after training
  • (2) Nutrition within 60 minutes after training

Between those two times of food intake following your workout, there are some differences regarding food choices and the amount of consumed carbohydrates, protein and fat.

(1) Nutrition directly (immediately) after training

Scientific study has shown that if you consume protein and carbohydrate immediately after training, you can gain more muscle mass than if you wait an hour or two after the workout. Immediately after your workout, your body is a sponge for soaking up nutrients, so there is a window of anabolic opportunity. Every muscle fiber within the attacked muscle group was aching under the heavy load of iron. Now that this high intensity workout has ended, it is time to refuel the energy stores in your body and to supply your muscles with desperately needed building materials.

This is a goof time to add a supplemental drink (quick-acting liquid nutrients rather than a solid meal) to your diet. Studies show that a protein – carb shake, taken right after exercise is optimal for serious bodybuilders. Your body will absorb this pre-digested drink better than solid food, thus facilitating the physiological uptake of nutrients. What’s more, drinking liquid after you workout is essential for rehydrating and replenishing body fluids. Because your muscles consist of around 70 percent water, maintaining your body’s hydration ensures maximum muscle cell volume and promotes muscular growth.

Example 1: Whey protein (30 grams) + dextrose (fast digesting carbohydrate)
Example 2: Whey protein (30 grams) + couple handfuls of fruit (banana, strawberries etc.)
Example 3: Whey protein (30 grams) + organic raisins (1/4 to 1/2 cup) + creatine (3-5 grams)
Example 4: Whey protein (30 grams) + organic grape juice (4-8 ounces) + water (4 ounces) + creatine (3-5 grams)

Whey and Dextrose - Post-Workout Liquid Snack

Whey and Dextrose – Post-Workout Liquid Snack

Your exclusive post-workout protein source should be a high-quality whey protein mixed with water. Whey protein, mixed with water, digest faster (entering the bloodstream within half an hour) than whole-milk proteins, which include a mix of whey and casein. Also, it has high concentrations of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the proteins that are the most valuable for building muscle.

Prepare yourself a nutritious whey protein shake, mixed with some high glycemic carbohydrates in the form of one banana and/or a handful of dried fruits like dates or banana pieces (or you can use pure dextrose supplement instead). Bananas and dates both contain a good portion of fast acting carbs that quickly refill muscle glycogen stores. If you like to try out eating a banana and some dried fruit in conjunction with whey protein isolate directly after training, you can choose whether you want to put the fruit in a shaker or to eat it out of your hand.

Within 30-45 minutes of consuming whey protein, the amino acids enter the bloodstream. This assures that your muscles get a quick supply of high quality building materials within a short time after finishing your workout.

Post-weight training carbohydrates should have no fibre or fat to slow down fast digestion and absorption. Post-weight training protein should never be slow-absorbed protein such as paneer (or casein) and should never be second-class protein. Intake of slower absorbed protein such as paneer and casein powder or lower quality protein such as soya post-workout will compromise muscle repair.

It must be noted that dextrose (or other fast acting – high GI carbohydrate)  intake is reserved only for the immediate post-weight training meal. After that, all other meals throughout the day must have slow-absorbed carbohydrates to re-fill the glycogen. The dextrose serves merely to jump-start glycogen storage but after that only slow-absorbed carbohydrates can give a steady sustained glucose supply to continue the glycogen storage for 24 hours of the day.

(2) Nutrition within 60 minutes after training

Equally important as the consumed snack directly after training is the post-workout meal that should follow 60 minutes after a workout. The so called “anabolic window (window of opportunity)” is still wide open and you should use this kind of metabolic state for feeding and filling your muscles with energy, as well as muscle growth stimulating nutrients. It’s time for a solid meal.

Depending on the time of day, the best food choices for carbohydrate intake within the post-workout meal are oatmeal (oats), grains, whole-grain brown rice, boiled potatoes, whole-wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals, low GI fruits and green leafy vegetables. Protein intake should include eggs whites, lean beef, skinless chicken breast, skinless turkey breast, low-fat cottage cheese, organic nonfat milk, or low-fat fish (salmon, tuna). Fat intake should include cold pressed vegetable oil, sunflower seeds and/or nuts.

Depending on the time of day you train and your body type, you should measure your amount of consume carbohydrates. If you work out late at night and/or your body type is more of an endomorph, the restriction of consumed carbs together with a post-workout meal is recommended. This will control your percentage of body fat storage.

In contrast, if you work out in the early morning and/or your body type is more an ectomorph, you can consume higher amounts of complex carbs together with your post-workout meal.

Post-Workout Solid Meal

Post-Workout Solid Meal

Post-Workout Nutrition Benefits

The goals of post-workout nutrition is minimizing post-workout muscle breakdown, and stimulating protein synthesis. These two effects result in greater total muscle growth.

The primary benefits of post-workout nutrition are as follows:

    • Prevents Muscle Breakdown. Eating protein after exercise prevents protein breakdown and stimulates synthesis, leading to increased or maintained muscle tissue. Resistance training works by causing microscopic damage or tears to the muscle cells. If adequate nutrients are not supplied before and/or after the workout, these muscle tears can lead to further muscle breakdown. This means that your body will start to use it’s own muscle tissue for energy.
    • Increases Protein Synthesis. After a serious workout the receptors on the body’s cells are more sensitive to insulin and therefore will accept the nutrients you eat more efficiently. Insulin is a storage hormone that has a bad reputation because it is integrally involved in fat storage. After a workout, however, any carbohydrates provided by subsequent meals will be sucked up by muscle, rather than deposited as fat.
    • Faster recovery. Your post-workout meal is one of the most important meals you can have all day. A properly timed post-workout meal with the right nutrients can help decrease soreness in your muscles for a given amount of training. For example, if you are able to recover in only a day as opposed to 2-3 days, that means you can train harder and more frequently, which will lead to better and faster results. This is why what you as an athlete consume in the minutes and hours after your training or competition is so crucial to both performance and recovery.
    • Glycogen Replenishment. If you are working out intensely, your body will use glycogen as dominant fuel. Glycogen, which is stored in your muscles and liver is best described as your body’s preferred fuel source for workouts. Depending on the duration, type, and intensity of exercise, glycogen stores can become depleted. Your muscles are most receptive to producing new glycogen within the first hour after your workout. That’s when blood flow to muscles is much greater, a condition that makes muscle cells practically sop up glucose like a sponge. Eating ample carbs after a workout can not only promote protein synthesis, but also help replenish energy stores to keep you feeling energetic the rest of the day.

Closing thoughts

Because post-workout nutrition is so important for replenishing glycogen and fluid stores, the sooner an athlete can take in nutrition after a quality training session, the better. The best way to execute this is to plan ahead. Athletes should bring a small snack with them if they have to travel to a training session or prepare the post-workout snack ahead of time if working out at home so they do not have to find the motivation to make something afterward.

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