For avid exercisers or anyone who exercises with the hopes of seeing results, post-workout nutrition is one of the essential parts of your daily intake.
Most already know that you should be or are taking a protein shake after a workout. We do this because exercise is catabolic, which essentially means that we are breaking down muscle. We stop catabolism by replenishing our bodies with amino acids to help repair and build muscle rather than break it down. So you are not wasting a workout without a protein shake, but you are not helping it either.
I recommend taking a whey protein powder and mixing it with water. Whey protein is very high in amino acids, particularly the amino acid leucine, which is the most crucial amino acid for building muscle and is an amino acid missing from plant-based proteins. In addition, because of how it is processed, whey protein, in particular, is very fast-digesting and gets through your system very quickly and gets those amino acids into your bloodstream.
So protein helps us repair the damaged muscles, but it does not replenish the fuel that your muscles need to work well. For that, we need carbohydrates. Your muscles preferred fuel source is called glycogen, and it is used to help us power through tough workouts or heavy working sets. It allows your muscles to recover faster and allows muscles to grow. We replenish these depleted stores by intaking carbohydrates post-workout along with our protein shake or in our protein shake.
So for most people, we think post-workout protein-filled fruit smoothies are perfect, but it isn’t. Most carbohydrate sources are taken in by the body and processed through the digestive system, turning into blood glucose. So when you take in simple or starchy carbs post-workout, your body will break them down quickly and turn them into blood glucose, which will then be taken to the muscles for repair and glycogen storage.
Most people understand that fruits are carb sources. The difference between fruit and simple or starchy carbs is that fruit is converted into fructose and then into blood glucose. Fructose has an extra stop at the liver to be processed there before entering into the bloodstream as glucose. This means that it will take a little longer to get into the bloodstream, which, post-workout, is not something that we want. Also, with high consumption of fructose daily or just a high intake of calories daily, your liver may get overloaded. So instead of converting fructose to glucose, it turns it into fat and sends it into the bloodstream, not what we want post-workout, or anytime really.
Lastly, besides not being calorically dense foods, fruits typically do not cause an insulin spike. Post-workout carbs need to be higher on the glycemic index. This means it needs to have a glycemic index of 70 or higher. A higher glycemic index presumably creates a post-workout insulin spike. Postworkout is a good thing because insulin is an anabolic hormone, which means it will rebuild and repair.
I love fruit, and I think that it should be a part of everyone’s diet. They are packed with micronutrients, and I think most are great snacks in moderation. However, I do not like that many people will stop at the local smoothie shop post-workout and get a smoothie on their way home. Although it is better than nothing, you could have something better at the gym, and it would be less expensive, but if it is your only option or your preferred option, make sure of a few things.
- That they are using 100% whey protein. Most shops will use a soy-based protein because it is cheaper, and they can still say, “25g of protein.”
- Ensure that you are not getting one with tons of fruit. Stick to the smaller size to limit the fruit and the calories.
- If it is post-workout, do not add peanut butter. Although it tastes great, it slows down the digestion of everything else, and this is not what we want post-workout.
I also think that too many people who regularly drink smoothies believe that they are a meal when they are not. Fruit smoothies are a snack or a treat, and to consume them regularly as a meal replacement is not ideal. Instead, save the smoothies for a post-dinner treat with the family; they are a better option than Dairy Queen but fall into the same category.
If you have questions on what post-workout protein and carb sources I recommend, send me an email with the title. “What’s Up Rich!”