The average gym attendee doesn’t often require additional fuel while they train, especially if they’ve hit their pre-workout nutrition needs. Depleted dieters however, like those who are preparing for physique competitions, may benefit from extra fuel. One of the primary concerns for dieting physique athletes is muscle loss as they diet down to mid-single-digit body-fat levels. In this state, protein turnover is increased. Their bodies actually need more protein in a depleted state than they do when they’re trying to gain muscle mass.
If the above scenario describes your present situation, then branched chain amino acids are a great for intra-workout nutrition. The amino acids provide some protection from catabolism for those who are deep into a calorie restricted diet. Increased blood amino acid levels during training may also help to elevate net protein synthesis. It probably would also benefit the same physique athlete to keep additional BCAA’s flowing throughout the day.
Those of you who have unusually long training sessions, or burn up extreme amounts of energy doing crazy circuits and extremely intense intervals, may also need intra-workout fuel. This isn’t very many people. Most people drinking sports drinks don’t actually need the extra fuel for their training routine. Extra workout fuel is necessary for the most part for those who train at a high intensity, for beyond an hour.
An intra-workout cocktail for these individuals should include water, electrolytes, BCAA’s, or whey protein, and carbohydrates. There are other possibilities, but this is a solid baseline.
Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair. Since the body is continuously breaking down proteins, our diet must provide sufficient quantities. Although recommended intakes vary and depend on body size and activity, in post-workout nutrition it is extremely helpful to begin muscle repair, which leads to recovery and growth.
Whey protein is incredibly popular because it is rich in BCAA’s, digests quickly, and is highly bio-available. It also has a perfect Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score. While whey is excellent after a workout, recent research suggests that a combination of fast and slow-digesting proteins, like whey and casein,may provide the ultimate post-workout protein nutrition.
Most sources agree that at least 20 grams of whey is necessary to boost muscle repair and recovery. Hydrolyzed whey protein may spike blood amino acid levels faster than regular whey, but won’t provide a long-term protein source. To cover your bases, consume a shake containing 40 grams of mixed protein like whey and casein after your workouts. I personally use whey concentrate because it is still fast digesting, but not as immediately available as the more refined forms of whey. This is another option if you don’t want to combine powders.
In cases of calorie restriction or during periods of long or intense exercise, catabolism of muscle tissue could occur when glycogen and blood sugar are not present in sufficient quantities to fuel activity. Amino acids via dietary protein becomes very important for any athlete. This is especially true of the BCAA’s leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which studies have shown muscles prefer as a source for fuel.
Including BCAA’s after training may provide a fast boost to blood amino levels. At least 10 grams of BCAA’s after your lifting session, especially if you are in a caloric deficit, is recommended.
After a training hard, your availability of glycogen should be low. You may have even tapped into reserves to complete your training, especially if you are dieting. Most of us understand the need for protein after training, but many overlook the benefits of fast acting carbohydrates.
From a physiological perspective, your body’s first priority is correcting blood sugar balance and replenishing glycogen, not making your muscles grow. Consuming fast-digesting carbohydrates in order to spare protein, replenish glycogen, spike insulin, and speed recovery are all very convincing reasons to include carbs post training. Everyone’s suggestions on how many to consume will vary, but a safe number is 50 grams.