Summer is upon us! It’s bathing suit season and time to hit the beach to show off those chiseled abs and massive biceps. You have started your new workout regimen that you vowed to begin at the first of the year, but you haven't seen the results that those gym salespeople promised. "Just $19 a month to a brand new you", and "start now for the body you have always wanted." Any of these ring a bell? What those salespeople didn't tell you is that all the blood, sweat, and tears that you put in pushing their dirty weights would do nothing for you without proper nutrition. 75% of your physique is a result of what you eat. Ever heard the saying "You are what you eat"? It's true, if you eat an abundance of fatty, calorie dense foods, you will be a fat, calorie dense person. Not only will you be overweight and gooey, but you will likely have all of the health risks associated with it such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, an increased risk for cancer, high cholesterol, the list goes on and on. Why would you waste all that time and money spent in the gym to totally erase any positive effects that exercise has on your body? Everyone knows that exercise will decrease your risk for all the above stated health concerns as well as just simply make you look better.
First of all, what happens to your body while exercising? You are breaking down muscle for growth. Muscle is made up of protein, so in reality, you are causing protein degradation. Whether you are partaking in aerobic or anaerobic activity you are still breaking down protein. The only way to reap any benefits from exercise is to allow repair of the muscle that you just tore apart during that hour-long session at the gym.
Most people believe that your body begins repairing itself during rest. This isn’t the case. One thing that many people may not know is that your body actually begins repairing itself from your first rep. Think about it: you are about to do your first set of bicep curls, do you think your biceps are going to wait until you are asleep to begin repairing itself, or is it going to begin rushing blood to the damaged tissue ASAP? Your muscle gets that "pumped" feeling because all of the blood is rushing to the damaged area, and what is carried with your blood that is known to heal? White Blood Cells! Also carried in your blood are amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Like mentioned previously, you need protein to build & repair muscle; what this means is that you need amino acids! So if your muscle begins repairing itself immediately during your workout, don't you think the best time to feed your muscle is during and immediately following your workout (within one hour to be specific)? Studies show that resistance exercise increases muscle protein breakdown for up to 3 hours after exercise. What studies also show is that protein synthesis (the building of protein) is rapidly increased post-workout. But this can only be utilized with proper post-workout nutrition. If you do not take advantage of that one-hour window of opportunity to make some massive gains, you may be doing your body more harm than good.
Now that you know you have a one-hour window of opportunity to feed your body, here is what you need to fill that window with. There are three key ingredients in this recovery cocktail recipe:
1. Rapidly replace glycogen stores
2. Rapidly prevent further protein breakdown
3. Rapidly replace protein stores
- Notice how all ingredients began with the word 'Rapid' thus emphasizing the importance of eating within that one-hour window of opportunity.
Glycogen is the energy source utilized by the muscle. Mostly stored in the liver, but also stored in muscle tissue. Glycogen transports glucose (sugar) through the muscle for energy. You use your glycogen stores to perform your workout, therefore it is essential for repair to replace those glycogen stores. Glycogen is not produced by the body therefore it must be consumed. Glycogen is derived from carbohydrate, or sugar, which is found in the food you eat. The ideal source of glycogen post-workout would be to consume something in liquid form that is high on the glycemic index (such as Power Shock during a workout). Consuming sugar in liquid form makes it readily available; just make sure it is the right kinds of sugar. Something high in maltodextrin, such as an apple-juice, cranberry juice, sports drink, or powdered supplement would suffice.
You may be wondering about "rapidly preventing further protein breakdown." After a workout, you must increase your insulin levels to stop the breakdown of proteins in the muscle. Insulin facilitates the entry of glucose (glycogen) into the muscle. Controlling blood glucose is essential in weight management and muscle repair. Too much insulin will cause you to no longer be insulin sensitive and therefore will cause an increase in weight. We consume insulin in the form of carbohydrates, or sugar. Controlling the amounts and types of carbs you eat on a daily basis will keep your body insulin sensitive, and thus will keep you in shape. This is exactly why obese people are at such high risk for diabetes, or insulin resistance. They eat so many complex carbs and simple sugars that their body no longer reacts to the beneficial qualities of insulin and their blood just simply carries all the extra sugar to be stored as fat.
Consuming protein post-workout is extremely important, particularly whey protein because it is readily absorbed into the body. Other proteins will suffice but do not absorb as quickly as whey protein; therefore, finding a whey protein supplement to take post workout is a great idea. Studies have shown that consumption of protein post-workout will significantly increase protein synthesis (building of protein) in the muscle.
There are so many great protein supplements out there, and what better way to make sure you are eating your post-workout recovery meal within that one-hour window than to bring it with you to the gym? Who knows how long it might take you to get from the gym to your house before you can eat your meal? Bring a shaker cup, a couple scoops of whey, and a great source of carbohydrates like juice or a powdered carb supplement. My advice to you is to try one of these quick, easy recipes that won't put a dent in your wallet or add an inch to your waist.
Some simple "recovery cocktail" recipes are:
- 1 Scoop “Power Shock” Intra Workout with 16oz. of water
- 2 scoops “ZeroCarb” Protein with 12-16oz. of regular apple-juice
- 3 scoops “Stealth” (for added benefit of a mass building creatine) with 16-32 oz. water
- 2 scoops “ZeroCarb” Protein blend with handful of frozen blueberries with 12-16 oz. water
- 2 scoops “ZeroCarb” Protein with 12-16oz. of cranberry juice and/or pineapple juice.
Oh, and don't worry….this conversation is not over. This article is only Phase I of our Recovery Series! We have way more details to discuss in regards to the topic of Recovery. I just wanted to get some of the basics out of the way. Until next time, stay fit!