There’s almost nothing more frustrating than busting your butt at the gym, sweating like a pig, and then…
NOT GETTING RESULTS!
Because of this fact, post workout nutrition is one of the most important parts of building muscle.
At any point in the day, our bodies are either in an anabolic or catabolic state.
Whenever you hear the word anabolic, I want you to think “good”.
It’s during the anabolic state that our bodies are able to build new muscle tissue.
On the other hand, a catabolic state involves breaking down things down for energy, which is what happens during your workout.
The easiest ways to think of these two processes is as deposits and withdrawals from your bank account.
If you deposit more than you withdrawal, then your bank account grows… if you withdraw more than you deposit, then your bank account shrinks.
Likewise, if your body is in an anabolic state more than a catabolic state, then your muscles will grow… and that’s our number one goal.
The way your body knows it’s in a catabolic or anabolic state is based on hormone levels.
Hormones are basically signaling molecules that tell your body to do different things depending on its needs.
Catabolic hormones are hormones that tell the body to breakdown nutrients for energy.
Specifically, these hormones tell your body to breakdown glycogen for energy.
Glycogen is a really important word when it comes to talking about post workout nutrition, so I want to make sure you understand what it is.
You’re probably more familiar with the word glucose, especially if you know anyone with diabetes.
Glucose is another word for sugar, and it’s our body’s main energy supply.
Glycogen is stored glucose.
So once your body runs out of glucose, which happens pretty quickly, it starts burning glycogen for energy.
Eventually, your body will run out of both glucose and glycogen, so it’ll need to find another source of energy.
And guess what it chooses?
Once all the glycogen is used up, your body starts to breakdown the protein in muscles for energy.
So during a workout, you’re not actually in an anabolic or muscle building state, but rather a catabolic or breakdown state.
It’s after your workout, by eating the right nutrients that you can shift your body to the good, anabolic state.
Lets run that back again…
During exercise our bodies release catabolic hormones that breakdown glycogen and protein to provide energy for our cells.
So during a workout, we’re not actually building muscles.
It’s the time after a workout … during rest and recovery when you achieve your gains.
After a workout, the number one goal is to provide your body with the right nutrients in order to shift it to an anabolic state and stop the breakdown of muscle tissue.
One hormone that plays a huge role in this switch is insulin.
Insulin is the most widely known anabolic hormone… it’s “THE” building hormone.
The goal after your workout is to increase insulin levels, which will help shift your body to the anabolic state.
In fact, after a workout, there are basically two things you’re trying to accomplish by eating the right nutrients. They are:
- Increase Insulin levels
- Replace Glycogen Stores
Insulin is basically the Uber driver that helps move amino acids and simple sugars into your muscle tissue.
Once insulin levels increase, then your body is able to accomplish its second goal of relishing glycogen levels.
This is all done by providing your body with the right nutrients after your workout.
Unfortunately, there are so many different recommendations and schools of thought about what and when to eat that this topic becomes very confusing.
The key takeaway (for those who don’t want any more details) is that you should be eating both protein and simple carbohydrates within 30-45 minutes after your workout to achieve the best results possible
And for those who are hungry for more, let’s do a quick refresher first…
During exercise, especially weight training sessions, the following happens:
- Anabolic hormone levels decrease (including insulin)
- Catabolic hormone levels increase
- Glycogen is used up for energy
- Muscle tissue is broken down for energy
The goal of your post workout nutrition is to flip all of these scenarios, and this can be accomplished by eating both carbohydrates and protein after your workout.
Yes, both macronutrients are important – not just protein!
Both carbohydrates and protein are needed to set the stage for successful muscle rebuilding.
Studies have shown that eating a combination of protein plus carbs after a workout is more beneficial than just eating one nutrient alone.
As we learned, carbs are not only used to replace used up glycogen stores, but also causes insulin levels to spike.
Most trainers advocate for the use of simple carbs since it produces a faster, more significant insulin response compared to slower digesting complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates come in different forms, such as candy, like gummy bears or fruit snacks, whole fruit, and even as a simple sugar supplement (called IGNITION).
Now back to protein…
One of the cool things about whey protein is that there are actually studies to support its use after a workout.
Whey protein has been shown to aid in muscle building after exercise, most likely due to the characteristics we talked about earlier, including rapid digestion and a high concentration of amino acids.
Now to get the most out of your workout, it’s not just what you eat that matters, but also how much and when you eat certain foods that’s important.
The amount of macronutrients and timing of you post workout meal matters, so let’s talk specifics.
As for the amounts of carbs vs protein…
Research supports eating a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, aka three times more carbs than protein after your workout.
Since I usually opt for 20–25 g of whey protein, this would mean about 60-75g of carb. That’s a little high for most women, so many athletes drop down to a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein (meaning 20g protein and 40g carbs).
Now onto meal timing…
After a workout, studies have shown that time is muscle.
This means that once you’re done your weight training session, there is an “anabolic window” of about 30–45 minutes when you should be eating.
Even studies that looked at the difference between immediately eating and waiting just 2 hours after a workout showed that those who immediately consumed protein gained significantly more muscle size and strength.
This recommendation is also aligned with the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s suggestion to eat a meal containing carbs and protein within 30 minutes post-exercise.
Since there are studies to support eating specific foods in specific amounts in a specific time frame after a workout, supplements come in handy.
For most people, it can take 20-30 minutes just to drive home from the gym. Now imagine trying to cook and get everything done within a 45-minute window.
It’s not always possible!
You also need to consider that most people do not have an appetite after training, which makes eating a full meal a difficult task.
For all of these reasons, I use supplements to meet my post workout protein and carb requirements.
I’ll combine 25 grams (1 scoop) of Phormula-1 100% hydrolyzed whey protein, with a 1/2 scoop of the simple sugar supplement, called Ignition.
Personally, I use Ignition, which again is a pure form of glucose, to creates an insulin spike and quickly replenish glycogen stores.
Remember, these are the two main goals of your post workout nutrition, as well as providing your body with the amino acids needed to form muscle.
To sum it all up, a protein-carb post workout shake is something that is easy to make, easy to digest, easy to stomach after training, and it contains all of the amino acids and glucose your muscles need.
Honestly, what else could you ask for?!
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