There is a huge misconception about what you should consume pre, intra, and post workout to optimize muscle performance and recovery. I could discuss this topic at length, but for this post I will just review the post-workout portion of diet.
I realize that most people are under the assumption that it is beneficial to have as much protein as possible post workout. I don’t want to be too critical of supplement companies, but there is a massive initiative by these brands to convince people to consume as much protein as quickly as possible after a workout, hence the ‘need to buy protein shakes’. So for this post, I hope that you lay all previous assumptions to the side for now, and keep an open mind.
Current findings, according to the California State University (Fresno), show that the key component to muscle protein synthesis pre and post workout is not due to protein timing, but due to a positive nitrogen balance in the bloodstream. As long as you have adequate protein consumption throughout the day (“protein intakes between 1.4 – 2.4 g/kg/day keep resistance trained athletes in a positive N balance”), there is little evidence to support the need of a post workout supplement- “current evidence indicates that protein and amino acid supplements are no more or no less effective than food when energy is adequate for gaining lean body mass.”
What is in fact important, however, is the consumption of quality carbohydrates (this is also the main factor contributing to a pre-workout meal). According to Cal State Fresno, “following an intense bout, CHO intake post exercise will 1) increase insulin sensitivity 2) glycogen synthase activity increases (for up to 2 hours into recovery)”. This response is optimized as the glycemic index of said food is higher… simple carbs are better. I am not claiming that you should only take carbs post workout, but carb intake is crucial for a proper hormonal and metabolic response.
Indeed, protein is the raw material needed for muscle repair, so if you are going to take it post workout, how much should you take?
A study by Moore et al. (2009) examined “post-exercise drinks containing 0, 5, 10, 20, or 40g of Protein-“. It was shown that any consumption past 20g will not further increase muscle protein synthesis. There is no need to take massive amounts of a protein supplement post workout; a piece of chicken or eggs is plenty.
Protein, especially BCAAs, have been shown to increase anabolic activity when consumed pre and intraworkout. But this topic will be discussed in a different post.
In closing, what I would suggest for a post workout meal is any food or drink that has 20g of protein and 20g of simple carbs.
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