Post-Workout Nutrition and Supplementation: A Practical Look
You work hard every trip you take to the gym. You would never want your hard-earned efforts to go to waste would you? Gaining muscle and losing fat is hard enough without the confusion of trying to ingest the right formula of post-training foods and supplements. The choices you make immediately after training can make or break your quest to reach the next level which can put you on the right track to progress or down a dead end road.
We all know we need protein to not only help us build muscle, but also increase metabolism which will in-turn help burn body fat. The types of protein are just as crucial as the amounts regarding benefits and effectiveness. Whey protein has the distinct advantage to being absorbed rapidly so it has the opportunity to flush your starving muscles with a healthy and abundant dose of amino acids (the building blocks of new muscle growth). 30-40 grams should do the trick.
Another type of protein to consider is casein protein. This is a slower digesting protein which is normally recommended in between meals and late-night intake. Recent studies have shown a small amount of casein combined with your post-training shake can be advantageous to your physique goals. It’s slower pace of digestion will ensure that once the whey protein has been used, casein will still be around to feed the muscle until you are able to get in a solid complex carbohydrate and protein-rich meal. Try 10-15 grams.
Just as important as protein is carbohydrate intake post-training. Ingesting carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars raise insulin levels in the body which will help shuttle nutrients (namely protein) in to muscle cells to start the recovery and growth processes. This is also the best time for your glycogen stores, which were severely depleted during training, to be replenished. The amount of carbohydrate will vary with bodyweight and goals such as muscle gain or fat loss, but this process is crucial not only for recovery from the previous workout, but also sets the stage for the next session. Depending on your goals anywhere from 20 to 80 grams of a sports recovery drink, white potatoes without the skin or white bread with jelly will suffice.
Now is the most crucial time to take in the most popular supplement to date: creatine. Creatine will be shuttled into the muscle with protein and carbohydrate and aid in the rapid recovery process and will be stored in the cells for a better workout tomorrow. Creatine has been shown to not only help with strength and mass gains, but also with fat loss and recovery between and during workouts. 3-5 grams is all it takes for creatine to be effective.
- Whey protein - 30-40 grams
- Casein protein - 10-15 grams
- Simple sugars - 60-80 grams for mass, 20-30 grams for fat loss
- Creatine - 3-5 grams
Note: The post-training meal should be taken within 30 minutes upon completion of your workout. Amounts are estimated for a 180-200lb male trainer.
Q&A With Brad Borland
Should I eat a large whole foods meal soon after my PWO meal, or should I wait another 2 to 3 hours before eating again?
The best practice after ingesting a post-workout (PWO) recovery meal consisting of whey or whey/casein protein mix and a form of simple carb for replenishing glycogen stores is to eat a solid protein/carb meal shortly after. How long do you wait? For the best progress possible eat a solid meal within 1 to 1 1/2 hours after the PWO. This meal should consist of a moderately easy to digest protein such as fish, chicken or eggs and a complex carb with a moderate amount of fiber. Keep the healthy fat to a minimum as you still want to get the amino acids in pretty quickly. Waiting too long to eat a solid meal will result in catabolism to set in and your precious muscle to be used as fuel for recovery.
Where do BCAAs and glutamine fit with PWO nutrition? I take Scivation Xtend and don't know to take it before or after my protein shake? Does it matter?
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) and glutamine are great additions to PWO nutrition. BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) aid immensely in recovery and have also been shown to increase muscle mass and strength than just carbs alone. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid pooled in muscle cells which helps recovery by boosting the immune system and speeds recovery. In turn, this will help you recover quicker so you can get back in the gym stronger. Take both supplements according to manufacturer's guidelines along with your PWO shake. This will ensure all PWO supplements are shuttled into the muscle when they need it most; within 30 minutes after training.
Brad, I read your article "60 Rules For A Better Physique". Where does the mind-muscle connection fit in with muscle building? Should I just lift heavy weights on compound exercises, or should I go lighter and concentrate on contraction and feel?
As with most things in life, the answer is: middle. You definitely want to lift heavy and utilize compound lifts such as bench presses, military presses, barbell rows, chins, deadlifts, squats, etc., but you also will want to always develop that mind-muscle link. If you are new to this, try going a little lighter and focus on the muscle, not the weight. Over time you will develop such a connection that you may add weight slowly while keeping that link. This will have a synergistic effect. The more you focus, the stronger you will get. Getting in touch with those nerve endings (innervations) is the key to muscle performance (mass, strength, etc.). As I always say: go to the gym to work your muscles, not to lift weights.