We all know how important our diets are to progress.
As a matter of fact, diet is probably around 70% of the equation!
If you’re not paying attention to your diet, you’re leaving mad gainz on the table 😉
Although ALL times are important for gaining muscle, losing fat, and performing better, post-workout is a time that we need to pay particular attention to if we want to kick some ass and take some names!
After an intense workout session, your body is spent.
Sets upon sets of grueling lifting tears down and damages the muscle fibers and grinding cardio sessions use up lots of free and stored carbohydrate (glycogen) while stressing the cardiovascular system.
Both forms of exercise put your body into a net catabolic state (breaking down more than building up).
This is necessary and we can’t avoid it, but we don’t want to be in this state for very long.
We quickly want to get into a net anabolic state (building up more than breaking down) and jumpstart recovery.
All this means that after workouts, we need to give our muscles something to replenish and build with, pronto!
Well we could just eat some carbs all by their lonesome to stop catabolism, but it would pretty much do nothing for muscle protein synthesis.
Another option is that we could just down some protein by itself and kickstart muscle protein synthesis to a degree, but this really wouldn’t help replenish glycogen stores.
Boy, I sure wish there was a way we could get the best of both worlds.
Wait a second… I think there is!
Combine both carbs and protein within one hour of ending your workout to KICKSTART and SUPERCHARGE recovery!
See what happens when we put our thinking caps on?
The key is to spike Insulin with simple carbs, while also consuming a good amount of protein. A sizable Insulin response will help drive these nutrients straight to the muscle, repairing it and restoring glycogen on the double!
The whole point of body BUILDING is to be as anabolic as possible. The quicker we can get back into an anabolic state after a workout, the better. The faster we get our muscles repaired bigger and stronger, the better. The sooner we can replenish our glycogen stores – say it with me – the better!
Carbohydrate and protein combined kickstarts and enhances the recovery process and gives you a headstart for the next session.
Note: This is mostly for the natural lifter or athlete that eats a mostly clean diet. If you already eat a bunch of sugar, I don’t recommend adding more sugar, I don’t care if it’s post workout. If this is the case, I recommend only protein post-workout (and try to cut down on the sugar!).
What TYPE of protein should you use?
Whey protein seems to be the best option post-workout.
- Because it’s fast. Whey protein digests quickly, therefore getting to your muscles and sparking protein synthesis faster than other proteins.
- Whey protein has all of the Essential Amino Acids (including Leucine, which could be a major driver in protein synthesis).
- Whey protein shakes are convenient, you can just mix one up and take it anywhere.
- It can be cost effective. When you look at the cost per gram of protein, whey can be one of the most affordable options.
- No excess calories. A good whey protein is mostly just protein, and usually very low in carbs and fat.
Protein quality: looking at the PDCAAS of whey.
The Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score is a way to evaluate the quality of proteins based on human amino acid requirements and digestibility.
Whey comes in at the highest score (1), which should be no surprise. Whey is an incredibly high quality protein, along with cow’s milk, casein (which along with whey comes from cow’s milk), eggs, and beef.
However, like I said above, whey has an advantage over all of these other sources of protein in that it digests quicker and it’s virtually pure protein.
Whey seems to be the way, at least post-workout!
Simple carbs: what are they? (and which ones to use)
Simple carbs are simply carbs that are simple.
Simple enough, right? 🙂
Simple sugars are just monosaccharides or single sugar molecules.
Glucose (or Dextrose, which is commonly found in nature) is the ideal simple sugar to use post-workout, as it is the preferred sugar (and energy source) of the body and is pretty much available for use right after ingestion (it’s absorbed right into the bloodstream from the small intestine).
Fructose, or fruit sugar, would be a distant second choice. Fructose takes longer to digest because it needs to be processed by the liver to be converted to glucose. Despite this, it’s better than nothing at all.
Good food sources of Glucose for our purposes:
Glucose tablets, packets, or Dextrose powders
Dried fruit: dates, raisins, plums, apricots, figs
Sports Drinks and sports bars
How much protein and carbs post-workout?
Go for a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This means at least 0.2 g of protein per 1 LB of bodyweight (or 0.4 grams per 1 KG) in the form of whey, and 0.4 g of carbohydrate per 1 LB of bodyweight (0.8 grams per 1 KG) of fast digesting carbs within an hour of your training session. This should be sufficient to shuttle vital fuel into your muscles and spark them to start building up.
You’ll also want to adjust the dose based on workout intensity and duration, obviously going for a little more if the workout is very intense and long, and less if it’s shorter and less intense.
As an example, a 180 lb male would ingest around 36 grams of protein and around 72 grams of carbs within an hour of working out.
After this they would continue with regular meals.
Which brand of whey is the best?
I’ve used several different kinds of whey, but I really have no horse in this race.
Just make sure the protein you do choose adheres to the following:
It’s cold processed. Heat and light destroy the molecular bonds.
It’s independent third-party tested. Some whey proteins have been found to contain heavy metals.
It’s isolate, or concentrate. Stick with the basics, these are tried and true.
It’s grass-Fed and non-GMO. Cows evolved to eat grass, not corn. GMO’s are weird.
It contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors
It contains no junk like maltodextrin, corn syrup, sugar, “proprietary blends” (supp slang for bullsh*t), or other filler crap.
Is there anything else you can use post-workout?
Creatine, used post-workout, could help improve overall body composition and strength when an optimal dose is taken consistently (source).
It might be something to look into and experiment with if you’re looking for an extra edge.
My thought on it is that if you’ve got some extra dough to spare, it can’t hurt to try (just be sure to find a reputable company that makes a quality product).
To sum it all up:
- Fast digesting protein and simple carbohydrate post-workout helps stop catabolism, spark protein synthesis, and replenish glycogen.
- Whey seems to be the best protein option post-workout because it digests rather quickly and has a good amino acid profile.
- Simple carbs are monosaccharides (simple sugars) that digest rapidly. Glucose is the king of simple carbs.
- You could try Creatine to further enhance your post-workout stack.
Alright, hopefully you just read the post, and actually learned a few things.
Let’s check your knowledge, shall we? (the answer key is at the end of the quiz)
1. What two things can we consume post-workout to help stimulate protein synthesis and restore glycogen most effectively?
a. muffins and donuts.
b. a scoop of whey protein powder and two servings of raisins.
c. casein protein powder and a handful of almonds.
d. a smoke and a pancake.
2. What is glycogen?
a. a small town on the Gold Coast of Australia
b. a company that makes and sells bodybuilding gear
c. stored carbohydrate
d. stored protein
3. Anabolic means breaking down
4. _________ is the body’s key energy source.
d. hot sauce
5. You WILL make GAINZ in the gym
POP QUIZ Answer Key
How’d ya score?
3+ correct: you’re gonna go far, kid.
1-2 correct: you’re getting there, sport! Read the post over, and check out the bodybuilding/physique archives!
0 correct: I’ve failed you. We both might might just want to take up knitting.
Note: If you’re interested in diving deeper into sports nutrition, I suggest Sports Nutrition: Enhancing Athletic Performance (affiliate link) by Bill I. Campbell. It’s spendy, but it’s an exhaustive read on sports nutrition with tons of sources.
Note: This article contains a couple affiliate links. These affiliate links help keep this site up and running. Thanks!
Medical disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Consult a doctor before changing your diet, or starting or modifying an exercise program.
Liked this? Also check out: Protein Quality and Optimal Daily Protein Intake