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Post Workout Recovery 101

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I feel this is an area that needs some clarification because there is alot of wrong and outdated information going around on what a person needs to consume immediately following their workout for maximum recovery. The old school of thought is – LOTS OF WHEY PROTEIN! (or a weight gainer shake). Let me explain why this will never give you the results you want:

1) Insulin is your friend: The most anabolic hormone you should be concerned with after you workout is insulin. Insulin is considered 5 times more anabolic than testosterone and the only way to release insulin is carbs….fast digesting ones. So you want to make sure your post workout recovery shake is rich in fast digesting carbs such as Dextrose (sometimes listed as D-glucose which stands for detrorotary glucose).

2) Glucagon is your enemy: If you slam just dextrose after a workout chances are you will release so much insulin that you will drop your blood sugar too low and then your body will release glucagon and leech glycogen from your muscles to recoup your blood sugar. However, L-Leucine inhibits glucagon secretion.

3) Digestion is key: The faster your post workout nutrients digest, the faster they get assimilated by the muscles. Digestion is slow down by two things – FAT and FIBER. You want NEITHER of these in your post workout meal. So as long as your post workout recovery shake has no fat or fiber, what protein do you want it to contain? Casein is the slowest digesting so thats out. Egg protein digests in about an hour. Whey protein isolate digests in about 40 minutes so does that mean whey isolate is ideal? Well….almost. The only protein that digests faster than a whey isolate is a HYDROLYZED protein. A hydrolyzed protein is one that has been enzymatically pre-digested from its long protein chain to short lengths of 3-4 amino acids called peptides. Peptides are known to digest faster than whole proteins and even faster than individual free form amino acids. So that leaves either a casein or whey hydrolysate as the superior form of protein post workout and both digest in about 20 minutes.

4) Combatting ammonia – Are you familiar with D.O.M.S. (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)? It’s that soreness that seems to last for days after your workout. Most people think this is caused by lactic acid but lactic acid is water soluble and out of your body shortly following the end of your workout. D.O.M.S. is caused mostly by ammonia, which is the second byproduct of exercise, and is not water soluble so stays in the muscle for a long time. You can get rid of ammonia though, the most well known ammonia scavengers are L-Glutamine and L-Citrulline. For proper recovery and to ensure that you don’t mistake D.O.M.S. caused by ammonia build up for true muscle damage when deciding when to work the same muscle again, you want to make sure your post workout formula is loaded with Glutamine and/or Citrulline.

So in summary, here are some (but not all) of the most essential ingredients in a corrent post workout recovery drink. Compare this to what you are currently consuming following your workout:

- Fast digesting carbs such as Dextrose
- Branch Chain Aminos such as Leucine
- MINIMAL Fat and Fiber
- Hydrolyzed protein such as Whey Hydrolysate or Casein Hydrolysate
- Glutamine and/or Citrulline as ammonia scavengers