Post-Workout Nutrition: Carbohydrates

Post-Workout Nutrition: Carbohydrates

When it comes to post-workout nutrition and supplements it seems that protein always steals the spotlight, and for good reason. There is no doubting the importance of protein in helping muscles grow and recover, however, it shouldn’t overshadow the another major player in muscle repair—carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, are often misunderstood and have gotten a bad reputation of being fattening and unhealthy—but the truth is we need them, and if they are used correctly they can greatly improve health and performance. Carbohydrates are stored in our muscles as glycogen to later be used as energy, but when dietary carbohydrate intake is restricted or low, the muscle glycogen slowly becomes depleted from exercising. When these glycogen stores are not replenished it can lead chronic fatigue and poor recovery, making workouts and exercise harder and less productive. In order to avoid this, the glycogen that has been used up must be replaced, and post-workout carbohydrates are the key to doing that.

After working out the body is pumping anabolic hormones such as insulin, priming the body’s cells to take in the nutrients it needs to recover and grow. When insulin is released in response to high blood sugar it causes glucose to be absorbed into the cells of the liver and muscles to be stored as glycogen for later use. Insulin also plays an important role in increasing amino acid uptake, and in this way it also aids in protein synthesis. Taking in extra simple carbohydrates after a workout will help to quickly boost the levels of insulin causing more glucose and amino acids to be absorbed up into the cell where they can be used to help repair and rebuild.

Take Away:
- Add simple sugars in with your post-workout protein; try using a 3:1 or 4:1, carb to protein, ratio for post workout shakes or meals. Taking in both these nutrients together after a workout will help aid in greater muscle protein synthesis and glycogen storage leaving you fueled and ready for the next workout .

3 Responses to Post-Workout Nutrition: Carbohydrates

  1. jim says:

    So, is adding a serving of fruit juice or fruits adequate? or do we need something with more sugar or more servings? And it should be simple sugars? not complex like grains?? or granola bar? are fruits and fruit juices more ideal?

    • jim says:

      If we are talking about 20g of protein – then we need about 2- 3 glasses or oj? is this correct?

      • Yes, during the day and your other meals the focus should be on complex carbs, but simple sugars are ideal for after your workout as this is one of the times that fast acting sugars are beneficial. Fruits and juices are a great choice, and even adding table sugar or dextrose (glucose) to a protein shake will work.

        Personally I like to just add sucrose or dextrose to a shake, I find that after a workout it’s hard for me to get down a meal and liquids are typically faster absorbing. That said if you can stomach a small meal, grabbing some fruit will work just fine, I’ve even talked to people who prefer oatmeal with sugar and peanut butter or a banana afterwards. If you are shooting for that 20-30g of protein then try and get 60-90 g of carbs with it. I know it seems like a lot, but try it out for a while and you can see how your body reacts and just how much works best for you.

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