We know that we need to eat real food for life. But what about workouts? I get questions all the time about peri-workout nutrition. Strength training depletes muscle glycogen (stored energy in muscles), increases protein degradation and causes muscle damage. We need to be able to counteract this if we’re going to be Strong Girls.
Before I go any further, be certain that you’re eating enough in general to fuel your workouts. If you’re feeling drained, lethargic and your recovery is slow, you’re probably not eating enough to support the stress of your exercise.
That being said, let’s delve into some specifics.
Immediately prior to your workout chow down on some sort of combination of protein (P) and carbohydrates (CHO), with a ratio of about 3:1 (CHO:P), anywhere from 1 hour to 10 minutes before your workout. This will help increase muscular endurance as well as blunt the catabolic (break down) effects of strength training. A lot of supplement companies will proclaim that their beverage/powder will give you the bestworkouteverandhowcouldyoupossiblyworkoutwithoutthis?! Can we say false advertising??
Really, you can get by with some Gatorade with protein powder in it, a small turkey sandwich, chocolate milk… anything that won’t upset your stomach and that you enjoy eating. The same rules apply for during your workout, a 3:1 ratio beverage to sip on throughout the workout. Honestly though, unless you have multiple strenuous workouts a day (like an elite track athlete) or workouts longer than 60 minutes (like a triathlete) most folks are just fine without intraworkout supplementation.
Post-workout (within 45 minutes) nutrition is vitally important!! (imprint that on your brain, if you remember nothing else, remember that) Immediately post-workout the body is in a catabolic frenzy! ATP is depleted, glycogen levels are low, cortisol (stress hormone) is on the rise, free radicals are attacking muscle cells… cats and dogs living together, it’s chaos!
Who will save your muscles from utter destruction?? (drum roll please)…. INSULIN!!!!
Yes folks, insulin is the Anabolic Advocate. See, immediately post-workout, your cells are most receptive to insulin’s influence. Insulin opens the doors for glucose uptake (to replenish the muscle glycogen), encourage amino acid (protein building blocks) uptake into the cell by increasing protein synthesis and blunting protein degradation. All this taken together speeds up the muscle repair process and in turn increases your strength.
How does one unleash our muscle-building Anabolic Advocate? By ingesting a combo of CHO/P beverage with about 3:1 ratio. The general recommendations is anywhere between 45-60g CHO and 15-20g P. Liquids are recommended over solid foods as the digestion of liquid is much more rapid and can start that anabolic (building) process sooner.
My personal preference for PWO is 1 scoop of protein powder (20g) + 12-14oz apple juice (55-60-ish g carb). That’s what I find the most palatable and digestible. Find what you like best and get that PWO nutrition in!.
I can’t emphasize enough how crucial nutrition is during this 45 minute window. The post-workout drink is like Link from Zelda to Ganandorf:
The insulin response helps increase blood flow to the muscles to aid in nutrient delivery and waste elimination, replenish glycogen stores, initiate tissue repair and reduce muscle inflammation. Should you miss this window, your whole workout would, at best, be for naught, and at worse, cause more harm than good.
That’s periworkout nutrition in a nutshell. One last thing, make sure you eat a whole food meal within 2 hours of your workout to continue the anabolic processes. Keep it simple, drink your shake and grow strong to fight another day!