Are you giving your body what it needs to recover after every workout?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to step up your post-workout nutrition game.
Research has made it clear that one of the most important times to perfect your nutrition is the post-workout timeframe.
After an intense training session, the body is depleted and in desperate need of specific nutrients to make a quick and full recovery.
Often, people are confused about which nutrients and ingredients are best to facilitate maximum recovery.
Here, I outline five nutrients which are critical post-workout to help repair and build muscle.
1. Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate is the first essential post workout must-have to aid in maximum recovery. This type of protein provides the necessary amino acids to ignite protein synthesis, protecting your muscles from catabolism (break down), which you're prone to after an intense training session.
Using a high quality 100% whey protein isolate is superior to a generic whey protein concentrate due to the fact that it offers up more of the muscle-building protein your body needs. Whey protein isolate offers up about 90% protein whereas a concentrate only gives you about 80% protein. Protein concentrates also tend to have more fat, cholesterol, lactose, carbohydrates, and calories than isolates.
A quality whey protein isolate generally contains about 1 gram or less of lactose per serving and is more easily digested, and therefore is assimilated faster in your body. After training, cortisol levels are elevated, which can cause digestion to be significantly more difficult for your gut. For this reason, using a premium, fast digesting form of whey protein isolate is critical.
2. Creatine HCl
Creatine supplementation has been proven time and time again to be an effective ergogenic aid for athletes. Improving ATP resynthesis allows the working muscles to perform better for longer.
In addition to consuming creatine before training, it is wise to consume some after exercise to help replenish what has been utilized. After ingesting your whey protein isolate, there will be a natural elevation in insulin (due to its insulinogenic properties), this will help with the transportation and absorption of creatine.
It is worth noting that most generic varieties of creatine can cause gastric discomfort and bloating due to the harsh acidic environment within the gut, and because the large particle size can be difficult to digest. This is why the type of creatine you use post-workout is essential.
Using creatine hydrochloride (HCl) is your best choice. Research demonstrates that it is more absorbable than other forms of creatine. By attaching a hydrochloride group to the creatine, the creatine becomes more stable. Nutrient stability is crucial, especially in the acidic environment of the gut, if you want maximum results.
Some experts also note that it doesn't cause the usual gastric upset, nor does it require the typical "loading phase" because it is so easily digested, and is highly concentrated and only requires micro dosing.
3. Digestive Support
We’ve already discussed the importance of the use of easily digestible nutrients in the post-workout window as the gut is compromised due to heightened cortisol levels. For this reason, having an effective digestive aid in your post-workout shake is beneficial to ensure better nutrient assimilation, yielding better recovery and less stomach disturbance.
Digestive enzymes are crucial in helping break down (hydrolyze) protein into even smaller, easier to digest particles. Hydrolyzing the protein helps shuttle the important, anabolic ingredients through the gut and into the muscles more easily and faster – exactly what you’re looking for at this time – while simultaneously helping to alleviate any bloating or digestive discomfort. After an intense workout the last thing you want is a stomach ache!
Certain digestive enzymes, such as ProHydrolase, hydrolyzes the protein in real-time, as you mix your powder with water and drink it. Most hydrolyzed proteins on the market are treated with heat and chemicals during the manufacturing process, which can result in the protein being damaged (denatured).
Anhydrous betaine has been shown to help improve strength, power, and muscular endurance. It does this in part by promoting better hydration as well as fighting cell stress.
Utilizing anhydrous betaine in the post-workout window can not only help with recovery, but it will also prepare your body for the next intense workout.
5. Amino Acids
Amino acids are clearly essential for muscle recovery and growth. For maximal impact in the post-workout window, my recommendation isn't to solely rely on whey protein isolate alone, but to also take in additional amino acids that help facilitate maximum recovery.
Specifically, I recommend consuming glutamine for its proven recovery support.
Many post-workout protein powders only include BCAAs, which are great for the pre and intra workout window because they provide your muscles with a source of energy; however, after training you require a full spectrum of amino acids to recover properly.
With the whey protein isolate giving you a full spectrum of essential amino acids (EAAs) and added glutamine, your muscles have the tools they need to help repair damaged muscle tissue and grow.
While I don't recommend fast-digesting carbohydrates such as dextrose, sugar, etc. in your post-workout protein shake, some industry ‘experts’ do. For decades the bodybuilding community has focused on the necessity of using carbohydrates immediately post-workout for two reasons.
The first is to spike insulin to improve nutrient transportation and to harness its anabolic properties. The second reason is to replenish lost muscle glycogen.
Consuming a fast digesting high quality whey protein isolate following your workout will spike insulin levels sufficiently, without the inclusion of carbohydrates which nullifies this angle of reasoning.
Typical weight training workouts might last for up to 90 minutes, with less than half of this time actually working against resistance. This workload won't cause significant muscle glycogen depletion, therefore it isn't necessary to panic about glycogen replenishment.
Having a diet which provides a steady source of complex carbohydrates throughout the day means that the body will have sufficient muscle and liver glycogen stores. The only time muscle glycogen replenishment becomes urgent is following prolonged endurance events, lasting for hours at a time.
To summarize, taking your post-workout nutrition seriously is one of the most important things you can do for your continued progress. Evolution of the body and performance only begins once it has successfully recovered from training. This process begins immediately after your workout finishes which is why good post-workout nutrition is absolutely crucial.