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The Importance of Post-Workout Carbs for Recovery

Posted by VPX Sports on Jun 27, 2011 9:45:00 AM

Eat high Glycemic Index carbs post-workout!(Phase II: Recovery Series)

So now you have the basics down and have hopefully tried some of the cocktail recipes in Phase I of this Recovery series. You are starting to reap the benefits of your post-workout meal, but yet you are still thinking to yourself, "I just busted my butt on the treadmill 10 minutes longer than usual just to burn an extra 30 calories, eating sugar seems like the last thing I should do right now!" It sounds counter-productive doesn't it? But as explained previously, when used correctly, sugar (in the form of carbohydrates) is the best thing for your body right after you exercise. I know you have been mixing your shakes with juice post-workout so I am sure you know we aren't talking about candy or cake when I use the word 'sugar'…right? Good, you are learning!

First of all, let's take a look at the science behind the secret. Glucose, commonly known as blood sugar, is the #1 energy source for the body's activities. Glucose is a monosaccharide (simple sugars that make up di- and polysaccharides) and is almost exclusively part of the makeup of every polysaccharide (or starch), which provides energy to the entire population. Glycogen is also a polysaccharide and, as you know, is a major source of energy stores in the body. Glycogen is stored in the muscle and liver and is vital to physical activity. During physical activity, glycogen is broken down by the liver and releases glucose into the bloodstream. The muscles in turn, use this glucose and its own private glycogen stores as fuel. Because glycogen stores are limited, they can easily support everyday activity, but may run short during physical activity, unless you provide your muscles with enough glycogen to store for fuel to last throughout your entire workout. This is done by replenishing your muscle glycogen stores after the conclusion of your training session (i.e. your post-workout meal). Not only are you aiding in recovery, but your muscles will look healthy and full!

Now that we have moved past the science, let's apply this to our everyday lives. You already know that consuming carbohydrates post-workout aids in muscle recovery, but what types of carbohydrates are best?

As stated in the previous article, it is important that these carbohydrates rate high on the glycemic index. What is the glycemic index you ask? The glycemic index is a method used to classify foods according to their potential for raising blood glucose. Foods high on the glycemic index are known to raise your blood glucose at a significantly higher rate than those foods lower on the scale. The quick insulin spike is what replenishes your muscles with glycogen and thus results in immediate glycogen replacement. So by consuming carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index we have accomplished our goal of replacing any glycogen lost during exercise. Foods with a glycemic index (GI) of 55 or less are considered to be low, medium GI is between 56-69, and high GI is considered to be a rating of 70 or greater. Any foods high in maltodextrin will be considered a high GI rating. Consuming liquid forms of maltodextrin is the best way to get your carbohydrate fix post-workout because it is readily and quickly absorbed into the body. A convenient way to get a dose of these carbs is to use Stealth as part of your post-workout meal.

A simple way to determine just about how many carbohydrates you should be consuming post-workout is as follows:

For every kg of lean body mass (LBM) your post-workout meal should contain 2g of quality carbohydrate (CHO).

*2g CHO x LBM(kg) = grams of CHO per post-workout meal

For example: A LBM of 187 lbs. divided by 2.2 = 85 kg LBM
85kg x 2g of CHO = 170g CHO per post-workout meal.

(To find lean body mass in kg - find out your %body fat and multiply that number by your actual weight, subtract that number from your actual weight, then divide that by 2.2)

We discussed before some easy and delicious recipes that you were supposed to have been putting to use. Some of you need the added benefit of some fiber with your meal, therefore; eating an apple rather than mixing a shake with apple juice is beneficial. Alternatively, you could add a fiber supplement, such as Fiberteq, to your shake as well. A little extra fiber in the diet never hurt anyone. In fact, that is a completely different article that we will get into later. The point is no matter where you get your carbs from, just make sure they are high on the glycemic index to ensure you are getting the most out of your post-workout meal.


1. S.R. Rolfes and E.N. Whitney, Understanding Nutrition, 9th ed. (Belmont, CA, 2002) pg.472-276.

2. John Berardi, “Solving the Post Workout Puzzle: Part Two” 23 February 2007. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/berardi78.htm

Topics: training tips, nutrition, recovery

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