A workout is only as good as the recovery that follows, and nutrition plays a vital role in the body’s ability to recover.
The intense training for strength, size, speed, and endurance heavily taxes the body’s energy reserves, depleting glycogen stores and breaking down muscle tissues. But proper nutrition intake immediately following a workout can quickly shift the body from breakdown to regeneration.
Research has shown that proper post workout nutrition strategies can increase muscle recovery and adaptations to training (American College of Sports Medicine 2000).
Training disturbs the body’s homeostasis, which results in different physiological changes. And in order to maximize the quality of performance and amplify the body’s adaptation to training, nutrient intake is key.
Nutrition timing plays a huge role as getting the right nutrition at the right time can increase recovery from training and exercise resulting in improved strength, power, and hypertrophic responses.
In further specifying nutrient timing, there are 3 nutrient posy workout intake phases that coincide with training: Energetic, Anabolic, and Adaptive.
Energetic Phase relates to the actual training session. Research has shown that during training, it is beneficial for athletes to consume a mix of simple carbohydrate (300-400 mg/kg of lean body mass) and “fast” protein like whey and or hydrolyzed protein, with a carb protein ration of 4 or 5 to 1.
This nutrient combo spares muscle glycogen, reduces muscle catabolism by limiting cortisol secretion, limits immune system suppression (occurring mainly because glutamine suppression), increases muscle endurance, and speeds post training recovery.
The Anabolic Phase is characterized by the window immediately after the workout. Essentially it is the same nutrient mix immediately after a workout with a slightly higher dosage (600-800mg/kg of lean body mass) and a lower ratio of carb to protein (3:1).
Immediate post workout ingestion helps sustain glycogen restoration, increasing the enzyme glycogen synthetase by 70 percent following a post workout insulin spike. Immediate post workout ingestion also aids in post workout synthesis and protein uptake.
The post workout period is the only period that and insulin spike does not suppress growth hormone levels.
The Adaptive Phase has two parts. The first phase lasts up to 4 hours after a workout and benefits from further carbohydrate intake (60-80mg/kg of lean body mass) and protein (200-300mg/kg of LBM).
The second part of the Adaptive phase window goes back to the norm of the default intake of carbohydrates and protein, which hovers around 55 percent carb, 30 percent protein, and the remaining 15 percent fats.
Delaying post workout meals further exhausts the body, delays compensation (the positive responses to training), and insufficiently prepares the athlete for the next training session that oftentimes happens within the next 24 hours.
The common thought is that only training is responsible for the physical changes that occur as a result from training sessions.
While this is without a doubt the main catalyst for physiological change, nutrition and timing play a key role in amplifying the effects from training by preventing excessive muscle breakdown and promoting cellular replenishment, better protein synthesis, and the anabolic effect from training.
Proper nutrition strategy on top of training is key.