Good morning Milly’s Meals,
I have something VERY different for you this morning! I was approached by Andrew Beatty (the author of the article below) a while back about the potential of writing articles for one another. I thought would be a great opportunity for our readers to see what else is out there in the health and nutrition blogisphere. Andrew is a personal trainer who writes a blog about the benefits of getting strong and healthy through diet and exercise. I was not sure what to expect when I first ventured over to his blog but once I started to actually read his articles, I realized they were spot on and full of great advice. Obviously his blog is tailored more towards the “work-out fanatic” than mine, which focuses mainly on food, but I love the idea of offering up different insight on health whenever I get the chance. I know a lot of my readers are big into working out (and some not so much :) ) and they might really enjoy Andrew’s blog. His post is a definiately more educational/factual based then my posts but for some, this may be exactly what they want. Please check out his website Strength Is Health and read some of his recent articles. P.S. he is from Ireland which may help explain some of the Irish dialect!
The Post-Workout Protein Shake Is Dead
By Andrew Beatty, author of the blog Strength is Health
I often wonder what made everyone think that a protein shake after training is all you ever needed. It seems that almost anyone that works out insists on buying a big tub of protein the minute you start a gym based program. The problem is that very few have any rationale to support coughing up €50 ($67) for that well marketed tub. For Emily’s American readers, I do hope it’s not that expensive for you.
As I am sure you can tell there is much misconception regarding protein. As an athletic population many of you may believe protein is key around your training for growth and repair. On the other hand, many of you may think carbohydrates are the answer. Workout nutrition is a highly debated topic and with a world population of almost 7.2 billion people there are bound to be differing opinions. However, workout nutrition is not an opinion based topic rather it is an evidence based science.
Those of you getting protein in to your system after your workout weren’t too far wrong, but those of you getting shovelling pasta in to your mouths for carbohydrates also didn’t have it too far wrong. What most don’t understand is that protein actually has minimal effect on protein synthesis (muscle growth) and protein degradation (muscle breakdown). However, when you combine proteins with certain carbohydrates the effects on muscle breakdown and muscle growth are profound. They act synergistically to give you incredible results.
Insulin must be present in order for your body to grow, recover and in fact do anything with food. Insulin is your body’s storage hormone. This is a very important hormone that must be on your side if you want to remain healthy, be athletic or even look good naked. It is important to note that all foods result in insulin secretion from the pancreas, however, the level of insulin released is not the same across the board. Eating protein alone results in an insulin response that is almost negligible when compared to supplementing with a carbohydrate source. Carbohydrates have been shown to induce an insulin response of 43 uU/ml in comparison to 10 uU/ml from protein (Zawadki et al. 1992). These measures probably mean nothing to you so what you should take from this is that carbohydrates are going to move the nutrients from the food in to your blood and in to your muscles approximately 4 times more effectively than protein will.
So just take carbohydrates after you train, right?
Not necessarily. Protein and carbohydrates have a synergistic effect when combined. Using carbohydrates and protein in place of either on their own results in an insulin response of approximately 62 uU/ml (Zawadki et al. 1992). This is a whopping difference when compared to using just protein or just carbohydrates.
For those of you wondering why you would eat after your workout at all the reasons are quite extensive. You are not undoing all your hard work at the gym (Ivy & Portman, 2004).
- Restore fluids
- Replenish your muscles energy stores (glycogen)
- Stimulate protein synthesis (muscle growth)
- Increase amino acid uptake (super proteins)
- Prevent protein breakdown (muscle breakdown)
- Blunt cortisol (your stress hormone)
- Stimulate insulin (you can learn more here)
- Boost immune system (do you like being sick?)
- Reduce muscle breakdown
The above effects of post-workout nutrition are nowhere near as extensive if you take protein or carbohydrates on their own.
No doubt some of you are thinking that this food is going to be stored as fat if it gets in to your system quicker. Again this is another misconception. Assuming you have just worked out almost all of this energy will be shuttled to your muscles or your muscles energy stores. You see science has proven that after you workout your body’s ability to use the food you ingest to fuel your muscles stores rather than your fat stores is approximately 150% its normal rate (Ivy & Portman, 2004).
Sounds amazing right? That’s because it is.
Assuming your body’s hormonal system is in tack and you’re not being ridiculous with your food throughout the day then it is almost impossible to store fat with a post-workout drink.
The next thing to consider is the timing of this drink. To optimise the effectiveness of the carbohydrate-protein drink you must take it immediately after your workout regardless of where you work out or what type of workout you do. Pay attention now, this could get tricky; although your body is still more effective at using the food you ingest for a number of hours, it begins to drop immediately after your workout. Looking at the table below you will see what happens when you take your post-workout drink directly after your workout or if you wait for 3 hours (Levenhagen et al. 2002). The differences are striking. If you remember back to when I said that after a workout your body’s ability to shuttle energy to your muscles and your muscles energy stores (glycogen synthesis) is 150% its normal rate; this only lasts for approximately 20 minutes at which point this elevated rate of glycogen synthesis begins to diminish.
From this table you should note again that net balance is the difference between protein breakdown and protein synthesis. So, if you wait for 3 hours to eat after you work out then you will likely experience some muscle loss but if you eat immediately after your workout the result will be much more favourable with a difference of almost 70%.
Although it is still beneficial to get protein and carbohydrates in to your system within a few hours of your workout, you will notice far better changes and results in your body if you do not wait. For now don’t worry too much about what sources you get your protein and carbohydrates from. Do however ensure you get them in liquid form. You can either buy them in liquid form or blend up your own concoction. Two examples of post-workout shakes would be;
- Scoop of protein powder, glucose sweets, water
- Fruit, pumpkin seeds, spinach, water.
Feel free to experiment with your own mixtures. The most important thing in this situation is to get something into your system rather than worrying about the particulars. It is not all about the protein shake. You must consider how your body functions and give it what it needs which in this case are carbohydrate and protein mixes.
Ivy J. & Portman R. Nutrient Timing. Basic Health Publications: California. 2004.
Levenhagen DK. Carr C. Carlson MG. et al. Post Exercise Protein Intake enhances whole body leg protein accretion in humans. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2002; 34:825-837.
Zawadski KM. Yaspelkis BB & Ivy JL. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1992; 72: 1854-1859.
Thanks so much for the post Andrew! Also, just wanted to note that the picture is actually a delicious green smoothie NOT a protein shake :). Probably great for after a workout, just saying. Anyways, I will be publishing an article on Stength is Health this afternoon so please head on over to check it out!
Have a great day.