Should My Post-Workout Supplement Have Carbs?
You might ask yourself–WHY would I eat carbs right after my workout? Isn’t that negating all that sweat I donated to the gym gods? Well, negative ghost rider. Nutrient timing is a science. Science shows you definitely want carbs post-workout. Read on, curious soul.
What is Nutrient Timing?
Nutrient timing is the fancy word for consuming a combo of nutrients at specific times to maximize your gains. When done correctly it promotes lean mass growth, enhance endurance, nutrient absorption, increase metabolism and expedite recovery.
Some studies suggest that the actual time you take supplements or nutrients may be more important than the absolute daily intake of nutrients. Several researchers also reference an anabolic (building) “window of opportunity.”
As we review how you can benefit from carbs and protein post-workout, we’ll be peering through this window of opportunity often.
What is Glycogen?
Now, to start—if you didn’t already know, when you train, your body calls on glycogen stores for energy needed to workout. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles and is the stowed form of carbs.
During exercise, the body converts glycogen into glucose which fuels muscle contractions, organ function and even brain function.
Studies show training depletes glycogen (well, any activity uses it, training uses it more quickly). Glycogen not only provides energy, but it also regulates blood-glucose levels, thus, replenishing it is essential.
Depleting glycogen can happen quickly with intense training and can have adverse effects on performance and results.
When your storage of glycogen is depleted, blood glucose levels drop and fatigue sets in. This is referred to as hypoglycemia.
How the Body Responds to Glycogen Depletion
The body produces catabolic hormones. Catabolic means a state of breaking down molecules into smaller parts. In training, this is often associated with muscle protein breakdown. Aka—your body starts munching on muscles to get energy. Gross.
So, how does this all relate? Well, if you already put together that consuming carbs post-workout restores depleted glycogen, your brain is so big your neck is probably begging for a break from holding it up.
Get a brace for it and let’s add some weight to it.
Post-Workout Supplements Must Be Taken During the Window of Opportunity
The post-exercise period is widely considered the most critical part of nutrient timing. Nutrients consumed during this window not only triggers the rebuilding of damaged muscle tissue and restoration of energy reserves, but it expedites it so your results can be expedited, too.
The nutrient timing strategy is intended to maximize exercise-induced muscular adaptations and aid in the repair of damaged tissue. Some studies show it can even produce intense improvements in body composition, particularly with increases in fat-free mass.
Research also shows the consumption of carbs during the window of opportunity promotes an increase in protein net balances, and increases the availability of intra-cellular amino acids.
The window isn’t really a window—for optimum results-take your post-workout immediately. If not, take it within 30-45 minutes of working out. Here’s why:
Post-Workout Supplements Replenish Glycogen and Stimulate MPS
A primary goal of post-workout nutrient timing is to replenish glycogen storage, like we’ve said since the start, right?
Post-workout supplements also promote muscular adaptations, which assists in reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass.
Another uber touted benefit of post-workout supplements is that it improves muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
In one study, protein synthesis of the legs and whole body was increased threefold when a post-workout supplement was taken immediately after exercise, as compared to just 12 percent when consumption was delayed.
See that window of opportunity we talked about? But it’s not only about timing–it’s about what you’re putting in your body that matters, too.
Studies prove that post-exercise carbohydrate ingestion improves exercise recovery by increasing glycogen re-synthesis. This means glycogen stores are replenished.
There is also evidence that protein as part of your post-workout consumption can enhance glycogen re-synthesis and promote a more prominent insulin response, which means our bodies process sugars more effectively.
It’s not just about eating ‘something’ after working out. It’s about consuming fast-acting carbohydrates and protein to aid in glycogen replenishment.
Carbs and Protein
The type of carbs you eat matters. You want a quick digesting carb to quickly restore glycogen before your body starts feasting on itself. Therefore, research shows you should choose one with a high glycemic index, which is a marker that identifies how quickly and how much a carb impacts blood sugar levels. Targeting 70 or above is recommended to replenish glycogen stores quickly.
For your carb, dextrose also known as glucose, with its GI rating of 96, is often used in post-workout supplements. It is popular because, in its simple form, it is almost immediately absorbed by the bloodstream. Which is what you want—a quick acting sugar to be available to your body so it can replenish glycogen stores.
Additionally, to assist in muscle protein synthesis and rebuilding/recovery, you want a fast-digesting protein source to aid your ailing muscles when fatigued.
Whey protein isolate is our recommended choice. You can why, as well as all the available protein types here.
It is important to have both.
One study showed the consumption of a carb and protein post-workout meal after a 2 hour training session increased glycogen significantly more than if just a protein or carb post-workout meal was consumed alone.
Another study showed nutrient timing increases lean muscle mass gains significantly more when taken immediately after training.
Okay with the science! Sheesh—what does it all mean?
Consume Carbs & Protein Immediately Post-Workout
It means when consuming post-workout supplements with carbs and protein, the fast-digesting and quick absorption of amino building proteins and energy restoring sugar gets to your muscles faster. This helps your muscles build and grow at a greater rate. It prevents breakdown of your muscle tissue, it aids in muscle building and boosts your recovery and results.
The more muscle you have, the more calories that muscle burns, the stronger you become, and the more exercise you can endure over time.
So when you get finished with your workout—grab a post-workout supplement or protein product with dextrose to get you closer to your finish line faster. Boom.