Friday, 25 November 2011

Post Workout Nutrition

         Post workout nutrition is an element of bodybuilding that must be understood in order to start the muscles ability to recover as quickly as possible. The consumption of nutrients immediately post-workout is absolutely essential. It helps the body recover from a grueling workout, replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, reduces post-workout soreness, raises testosterone and growth hormone levels, and reduces cortisol levels.

        And the sooner nutrients are consumed and absorbed, the sooner the body can go from a catabolic (muscle destroying) state to an anabolic (muscle building) state. For post workout nutrition a liquid meal is preferred to solid food. With a drink, one can put the dry ingredients into a bottle, and mix it with water and drink it immediately after a workout. And a liquid meal is digested and absorbed quicker than a solid foods meal.

       But what should the post-workout drink contain? There are many commercial "recovery" drinks available. But I have never found one that I particularly like. So I have spent a lot of time researching and experimenting on myself as to what ingredients are best for the post-workout drink. So in this article, I will discuss the post workout nutrition I have found works best.

Carbohydrate Source

      The body's main priority post-workout is to replenish glycogen stores. The body stores glycogen in two places: in the liver and in muscle tissue. Of these two, the muscles can store a far greater amount, 250 to 400 grams, while the liver can only store about 100 grams. Moreover, it is primarily muscle glycogen that is depleted during a workout.

       So the goal post-workout more specifically is to restore muscle glycogen. The body will even break down muscle tissue for this purpose if carbohydrates are not available. For this reason, it is vital to include carbohydrates in the post-workout drink. But what form of carbs is best for this purpose?

       Post-workout is the one time that high-glycemic carbs are preferred. This term refers to carbs that are high on the glycemic index. This is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar and hence insulin levels. Normally, it is best to eat lower glycemic foods so as not to initiate an insulin spike. But post-workout, the exact opposite is true. The elevated insulin levels will help to drive nutrients into the muscle cells.

      Moreover, speed is of the essence. It is vital to get the carbs to the muscle cells as quickly as possible. And again, high-glycemic carbs are preferred to lower glycemic carbs for this purpose.

      Usually, when one thinks of high-glycemic carbs one thinks of simple sugars. However, most simple sugars would not be beneficial to consume post-workout. Non-beneficial sugars would include fructose, sucrose, and lactose.

      As for the first, fructose ("fruit sugar") is very low-glycemic as compared to other sugars. So it is not digested quickly and does not significantly raise insulin levels. Moreover, fructose cannot be used by the body to restore muscle glycogen. What this means is that fruit juice is not a good source of carbs for the post-workout drink.
As for sucrose ("table sugar"), it is a disaccharide consisting of one molecule of fructose and one of glucose. So sucrose is half fructose. And again, fructose cannot be used to restore muscle glycogen. And half of your carbs from fructose would not be beneficial.

      So foods high in sugar (sucrose) content or high in high fructose corn syrup content like soda would not be beneficial for post workout nutrition. So the need for high glycemic carbs post-workout does not give the exerciser an excuse to consume junk food post-workout. You won't be doing your body any good, nor will you be giving it what it needs.

       So what would be good sources of post workout nutrition? Complex carbs like those found in breads and cereals can be used to restore muscle glycogen. And at other times, complex carbs are the best source of carbs. However, post-workout, healthy carb containing foods like whole grain breads and cereals would not be good.

      The fiber in such foods would delay digestion. For this reason, the glycemic rating of unrefined complex carb foods is usually low to moderate. And even refined breads and cereals, with their moderate glycemic rating, would take too long to digest. And again, a liquid post-workout drink would be better than solid foods.

       So what that leaves as the main options are dextrose and maltodextrin. Dextrose is simply the name for glucose that has been derived from corn. Glucose is the body's primary energy source, and the form in which carbs must be converted into to be used to create glycogen.

      Moreover, dextrose can be absorbed directly through the gut into the bloodstream. And with this rapid absorption, it raises blood sugar and insulin levels faster than any other carb. And since it is already in the form the body requires, it can be used immediately for glycogen replenishment.

      Maltodextrin, on the other hand, is actually a complex carb. But its molecular chain is shorter than other complex carbs. Moreover, it is consists of loosely bonded glucose molecules. And like dextrose, maltodextrin is absorbed directly through the gut. So it raises blood sugar and insulin levels as much as dextrose does.

        However, before maltodextrin can be utilized, it must first pass through the liver for the bonds between the glucose molecules to be broken down. So the rate at which it is used for glycogen replenishment is slower than with dextrose. However, because it is metabolized slower, there will not be as quick of a drop of insulin and blood sugar levels as with dextrose.

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Protein Source

       After carbs, the next most important  ingredient to include in a post workout nutrition drink is protein, for a couple of reasons. First off, the consumption of protein with the carbs actually increases the rate of glycogen formation. And secondly, the body's second priority post-workout is to begin to repair the muscle tissue that was torn down during the workout. And for this, the body needs amino acids.

       And again, the quicker the protein can be deliver to the muscles cells the sooner this repair process can begin. So again, whole food sources of protein would not be ideal. It simply takes too long for the body to break down foods like meat or chicken. So the ideal protein source would be a protein powder. Mixed with water, this liquid protein source will be digested quickly.

        However, different types of protein powders are digested at different rates. Casein is digested at a very slow rate, while egg and soy proteins are digested at a moderately slow rate. So none of these would be ideal. However, whey protein is digested at a very fast rate. So whey is the ideal protein to be used post-workout. That's simple enough.

        However, there are different kinds of whey. And each is digested at a different rate. Whey concentrate is the slowest, whey isolate is next, while hydrolyzed whey is digested the quickest. So hydrolyzed whey would sound like it would be the best to use. And yes, it would be wise to include some hydrolyzed whey to start the repair process as a quickly as possible. However, using all hydrolyzed whey would not be so wise.

       The reason would be similar to my experience with the dextrose above. The amino acids would get into the system all at once and thus too quickly to be fully utilized. So a mixture of hydrolyzed whey, whey isolate, and whey concentrate would be best. In this way, some protein would get into the system very quickly, but then more would be relapsed over a period of time.

        Specifically, hydrolyzed whey is digested within 10-30 minutes; whey isolates are digested within about 30-50 minutes, and whey concentrate in about 50-80 minutes.

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Fat Source

        Most authorities recommend that only carbs and protein should be consumed for post workout nutrition; fat should be avoided. The reason for this recommendation is that fat can slow digestion, but the body needs the carbs and protein as soon as possible.

        However, this recommendation ignores one simple fact--fat is needed by the body to produce testosterone and other hormones. And post-workout, the body is scrambling to keep testosterone levels from dropping too low due to the rise in cortisol levels (the two hormones exist in a see-saw fashion; as one rises the other drops, and vice-a-versa). So providing fat to the body post-workout will aid in keeping testosterone levels from dropping too much and cortisol levels from rising too much.

       But not just any kind of fat will do. Only saturated fatty acids (SFA) and monounsaturated fats acids (MUFA) raise testosterone levels. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) do not. Also, as with carbs and protein, fat in a liquid form will be easier to digest than fat in solid form. So the best form of fat to consume post-workout would be one in liquid form that contains SFA and/ or MUFA, but a minimum of PUFA.

       Heavy whipping cream would fit this bill. It contains about twice as much SFA as MUFA and only negligible amounts of PUFA. Olive oil would be another possibility. It contains mostly MUFA and only small amounts of SFA and PUFA.

        Similar to this is high oleic safflower oil and high oleic sunflower oil. Both are also mostly MUFA. But be sure they are the high oleic versions. More commonly available for both (especially sunflower oil) are the high linoleic versions, which are mostly PUFA. Canola oil and peanut oil would be two additional possibilities. Both also contain mostly MUFA, but they contain somewhat higher levels of both SFA and PUFA than olive oil. Almond oil, hazelnut oil, macadamia nut oil, and avocado oil are other possibilities. These are mostly MUFA, but these are hard to find and more expensive.

        So which of these is best? The heavy whipping cream contains fat almost solely in the forms that aid in testosterone production. And without a doubt, it tastes the best in a post-workout drink. Using it makes the post-workout drink taste like a milkshake. However, despite being beneficial for testosterone levels, SFA have a major drawback; excessive amounts can raise the risk of heart disease.

        Olive oil would be almost as good as cream for raising testosterone levels. Its levels of PUFA is only slightly higher than that of cream. And its high MUFA means it reduces the risk of heart disease. However, olive oil does not taste good in a post-workout drink, unless you can "cover-up" the taste with the other ingredients. Both canola oil and peanut oil taste pretty good in a post-workout drink But their higher amounts of PUFA leaves them less desirable for raising testosterone levels. But canola oil is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce cortisol levels. This indirectly can lead to higher testosterone levels.

         Almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut, and avocado oil are all good, but as indicated, expensive and hard to find. The high oleic versions of safflower and sunflower oil would work well, if you can find them. Moreover, any of these oils would have an advantage over cream in that they do not require refrigeration.

          Another good option is Nature’s Way MacNut Oil. This is macadamia nut oil. It is higher in healthy, testosterone-raising monounsaturated fats than any of the other oils listed above. Plus it is unrefined. This means it still contains all of the naturally occurring antioxidants in the oil. This will further aid in recovery. And it is organic to boot. Unfortunately, unrefined nut oils tend to be rather expensive.

          Another option would be to use natural peanut or almond butter. But this requires the use of a blender or Vitamix. So if you can only use a shaker cup, then one of the above oils will have to do.

                                      Tom from Miami

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