Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Importance of Post Workout Nutrition

The Recovery Drink and how it is Related to Results

Over the past year, I’ve heard complaints from some new clients that can basically be summed up like this: “I’ve done 90 days non-stop of P90X (or 60 days of Insanity), and while I’ve had some success, why don’t I have the ripped look? Where are my RESULTS? Where are my ABS?!?!”

After extensive talks, I found one thing they all had in common. What was missing from their first round was always the same – lack of a recovery drink. I explain that a recovery drink is so important that without it, people are not really maximizing their time and effort spent in intense workouts. The problem is not with the workout, it’s with the diet - or the supplements to be more precise.

The Post Workout Period

If you’re a guitar player, you know that in the beginning, learning chords, is the hardest part. The tips of your fingers get very sore and in some cases can even bleed. But as you keep practicing, within a month or so, calluses start to build up, your fingers get strong, and you no longer feel any discomfort. This is exactly how your muscles work as well. When you workout, especially doing endurance or strength training exercises, the muscles will become depleted and damaged. You’re stripping down weaker muscles but as time goes by, you’re begining to build bigger, stronger muscles.

In all cases, exercise essentially tears down old, less adapted muscle in order to rebuild more functional muscle. This phenomenon is called remodeling. However, remodeling can only takes place if the muscle has the needed raw materials available.

Imagine this: you’re renovating your house for an addition. First, you would have to knock out an old wall to open up a room. Next, you’d have to frame the new addition by adding studs and, finally, you would place drywall over the frame for the new walls. But imagine if you tried to skip the studs or the drywall. Without framing, the new addition would be blown over in a high wind, and without the drywall the room might be a little drafty!

For our body, the studs are carbs and the drywall is protein. During exercise (and immediately afterwards), our muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen) and our muscle protein structures break down. The immune system then comes in to clean up the mess. Finally, signals are generated to tell the body to rebuild. However, as I hope you’re now beginning to understand, without the proper protein and carbohydrate raw materials in your bloodstream, this rebuilding can't take place. You'll be left with starved muscles that never reached their real potential.

Feeding Hungry Muscles

Research shows a post-workout meal high in carbohydrates is required to refill muscle glycogen/energy stores. However, you need to consume enough high glycemic carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling carbohydrates and amino acids into the muscle. By consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, you will promote a large insulin release, increase glycogen storage, and increase protein repair.

While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should also be fat free. Fat slows down transit through the stomach and so eating fat after a workout essentially slows digestion and absorption of the good carbohydrates and proteins. That’s not what you want. And, yes, that means NO CHOCOLATE!

Window Of Opportunity

It is absolutely crucial that you consume your post-workout meal immediately after exercise. After exercise, the muscles are depleted and require an abundance of protein and carbohydrate. The muscles are biochemically "primed" for nutrient uptake.

This phenomenon is commonly known as the "window of opportunity". Over the course of the recovery period, this window gradually closes and by failing to eat immediately after exercise, you diminish your chances of promoting full recovery. If you wait too long, glycogen replenishment and protein repair will be completely compromised.

Another simple analogy: You have a dried up sponge that has been sitting in the sun for days. In order to fully restore the sponge, the best and quickest way would be to soak the sponge in a bucket of water right away. If you just sprinkled water on it periodically, the sponge might bounce back somewhat - in 2 or 3 days!

It’s the same case for your muscles. The best way to “bounce back” your muscle is by drenching the cells with a high sugar/carb content immediately after workout. Failure to do so would make the recovery process take days or even weeks, and muscle soreness would be inevitable. How are you supposed to work out the next day or the next 2 days when your muscles are still tired and sore?

Remember the previous analogy on house addition? You have to do the framing with studs first before putting on any drywall, and as I mentioned that the studs are carbohydrate and drywalls are protein. In muscle repair, you want to get the “studs” fix first, before the “drywall”. Right after workout, your body would be on carb-mode - it wants to absorb as many simple carb as possible to replace/replenish the glycogen in the muscles. Only after that, your body would be on protein-mode – that’s when the muscle recovery/building takes place. For guys who are more interested to build lean muscle mass, it is recommended to take an additional whey protein about 30-60 min after consumption of a high-simple-carb recovery drink.

Whole Food vs Nutritional Supplementation

While it is true that, in general, a whole food diet (unbleached, untreated, unprocessed food) is best, there are times when supplements can actually be SUPERIOR to whole foods. Specifically, for post-exercise nutrition, I believe that liquid supplemental nutrition is better than eating whole foods for the following reasons.

1. Liquid meals are palatable and digestable:

Liquid is structurally more simple which makes absorption faster. (Liquid meals have a fast absorption profile; whole foods relatively slow.) To put this into perspective, a liquid post-exercise formula may be fully absorbed within 30 to 60 minutes, providing much needed muscle nourishment by this time. However, a slower digesting solid food meal may take 2 to 3 hours to fully reach the muscle.

2. Liquid meals take advantage of the “Window of Opportunity”; Whole Foods May Miss it:

The faster the protein and carbohydrates get to the muscle, the better your chances for muscle building and recovery. The recovery takes enormous amount of energy, which mainly comes from bodyfat. Therefore, you’re burning fat while building muscles. Don’t worry, at the end of the day, with only the natural amount of testosterone in your body (i.e., without hormone enhancements) no guy will end up looking like the Governator and no lady will end up looking like a man.

3. Liquid Meals are better for Nutrient Targeting:

During the post exercise period, specific nutrients maximize your recovery. These nutrients, in addition to an abundance of water, are mostly high glycemic index carbohydrates and certain amino acids (in specific ratios). As previously discussed, It's also best to AVOID FAT during this time. The best way to ensure that these nutrients are present in the right amounts is to formulate a specific liquid blend. Whole foods, while great, may miss the mark.

Luckily for us, Beachbody has its very own recovery drink “P90X® Results and Recovery” (P90X RD), created by Mark Sisson, a world class nutritionist and founder of Primal Blueprint Diet. It’s what I use exclusively now, more details by hitting the SHOP button above at Team Beachbody. The RD has 40 g of simple carb and 10 gram of protein. The RD formula also has other ingredients like:

1 - Glutamine: a major role in protein synthesis

2 - Arginine: plays an important role in cell division, the healing of wounds, immune function, and the release of hormones

For intense workouts like Insanity, P90X, Chalean Extreme, Rev Abs, etc: take 2 scoops of P90X RD

For moderate routines like Power 90, Slim in 6, Yoga, 10 min trainer, etc: take 1 scoop of P90X RD

There are other recovery drinks out there and I’ve tried some of them, but none of them has given me the results that I wanted, unlike P90X RD. I believe the “magic” behind the RD is the 4:1 carb-protein ratio. There are alternatives for a cheaper home-made recovery drink such as Chocolate Milk, but it is almost impossible to get the 4:1 ratio, while keeping the fat content almost zero (there’s always fat in chocolate). That is why when comparing users of RD to users of Chocolate Milk, the users or RD always have better results.

So with this newsletter, I hope to impress on everyone that this post-workout period is not a time to take lightly. Recovery Drink is not just a supplement, in fact, IT IS KEY to real success. Remember, you spend a significant amount of time working out to break down muscle for a good reason: you want it to be better adapted to future demands. You can’t expect your body to get stronger if you’re starving it of the resources it needs to build and grow.


John Berardi – “The Importance of Post Workout Nutrition”

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