As of right now, there is generally a standard for Post Workout Nutrition (PWO Nutrition). Most people recommend consuming whey or casein protein with simple carbs. Now, that is not very specific, and I am not going to give you a blanket statement of what or how much you should eat. Instead, I will inform you of the effects of different types of nutrients on your body PWO and leave it to you to choose what is best for your goals… with some recommendations.
Generally, most of your carbs throughout the day should come from complex, starchy, and nutritious carbs.
During your workout, you will normally use ATP, creatine phosphate and a lesser amount of glycogen (the storage form of glucose). After your workout, if it was intense, you will (or should) be worried about two things:
- Maximizing protein synthesis (so that you can gain muscle mass)
- Minimizing protein breakdown (so that you do not have to re-build lost muscle)
Also, you can replenish glycogen the easiest and fastest in the hours post-workout. However, unless you are training twice a day or are involved in some type of fatiguing endurance activity later on, there will be no need to really worry about glycogen replenishment. It will eventually get replenished anyway if you have enough carbs from that workout to the next. Thus, it is not normally a priority for post-workout nutrition.
Insulin is produced when you eat carbs, and it is a hormone that helps transport nutrients. Carbs with a higher GI (glycemic index) produces a higher insulin spike for a shorter amount of time, while low GI foods produce a smaller spike for a longer amount of time. In the long run, it really does not matter whether you choose high- or low-GI carbs after you lift. However, it would be wise to allocate a good amount of carbs to the hours after you lift as insulin is also anti-catabolic, stopping muscle breakdown (goal #2).
So which type of carb should we consume? Glucose (dextrose) and starchy carbs, would normally be better than fructose if you were to choose one, but you do not need to worry about eating fruit either. The reason is that fructose goes to the liver first and does not increase blood sugar levels as much. It is mainly used to replenish liver glycogen. Glucose goes to the muscle cells and starts replenishing their glycogen right away.
In simple terms, protein increases anabolism while carbohydrates decrease catabolism. Studies have shown that 20-50g of carbs is enough to stop catabolism. Other studies also state that TONS of protein will also be anti-catabolic, with the best anti-catabolic protein being casein due to the long amount of time it takes to digest. Whey is known as the most anabolic protein because of it’s fast digestion, however it is almost as anti-catabolic as casein due to the high amount of the amino acid leucine. Personally, I think that a mix of both is optimal (Milk, anyone?).
PS: When I am on a cutting phase (diet), I focus more on decreasing catabolism than I do anabolism because it’s VERY hard to gain muscle on a decreased calorie diet. However, if you choose to go on a very low carb diet, I would recommend having massive amounts of protein PWO as this will probably decrease catabolism too. Regardless, it is always a good idea to allocate a good percentage of your day’s worth of carbs to your post-workout meal.