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Maximize Post-Workout Recovery

By Carmen Grange

post-workout recovery

By now you probably know that protein shakes are a great source of skeletal muscle replenishment prior to a workout, but especially following a workout.  Research says that protein supplementation no longer than 30 minutes after your workout greatly increases protein synthesis and resynthesis and replenishes glycogen.  Both of these things are necessary for muscle growth and muscular strength gains.  It has also been shown that protein supplementation coupled with carbohydrate consumption immediately post-workout further increase protein and glycogen resynthesis and greatly assists in Post-Workout Recovery.  


The amount of protein powder you need after your workout depends on your body: it depends on your size and the results that you are trying to yield.  Some people will supplement with only one scoop of protein which, if you’re using whey, typically ranges from about 21g to 25g of protein per scoop.  Others (larger individuals), may supplement with two scoops of protein after a workout, depending on how much actual protein they are getting throughout the day.  But it makes sense, protein consumption increases protein synthesis, and that means bigger and/or stronger muscles.


What about glycogen replenishment?  There’s a really long, technical series of physiological events that occurs to describe why glycogen replenishes energy in the body, in a nutshell, carbohydrates fuel this glycogen chain causing energy replenishment, which is what we need to be able to move heavy weight, in addition to being able to complete activities of daily living without feeling extremely fatigued.  Since we use energy to lift weights, working out uses up a bunch of energy, so because of this glycogen phenomenon, we need to consume carbohydrates to restore energy throughout our bodies, and that includes in our muscles.  

post-workout recovery


Good carbohydrate sources come in many forms, but after a workout, we want to consume carbs that are high on glycemic index.  Typically, when you hear the words “high glycemic index” you want to stay away from that food item, but after a workout, those foods are exactly what you need.  Why?  Well, carbs high on the glycemic index provide your body with more blood glucose (aka blood sugar).  This is bad when your life is sedentary and you don’t put your muscles to work, but after a workout you want carbs that have more blood glucose so that your body can put that glucose to work immediately.  The more glucose sitting in your blood stream when you haven’t done anything, the more fat you will gain, but if you consume carbohydrates with more glucose after a workout, your body uses that sugar immediately for energy replenishment, instead of fat storage.  


You may have been in the gym and seen people eating a banana or two after a workout: have you ever wondered why?  The answer is because bananas are high on the glycemic index and they contain potassium.  Not only does your body deplete your glycogen stores during an intense workout, but you’re also losing valuable nutrients (i.e. potassium, calcium, and sodium).  Calcium plays a major role in the way the muscles contract.  Without calcium, our muscles don’t have the ability to relax (this is what happens during rigor mortis in death).  If your body is calcium depleted, you may experience difficulty releasing your contracted muscles.  Potassium and sodium play much of the same role in our body’s function.  They work in contrast with one another and ultimately provide for the flow of electricity to and from the muscles to allow contraction and relaxation to occur.  With these key nutrients depleted, you will more than likely experience rigid muscular contraction and a decreased ability to do work.  Not to mention, sodium holds water and since our bodies are largely made up of water, we need to hold onto water, not release it.  While bananas contain no calcium and very little sodium, they do have quite a bit of potassium (approximately 420mg per fruit), and they contain about 27g of carbs, which means that they are the perfect source of glycogen replenishment after a workout in addition to that protein shake.  Bananas make glucose uptake rapid and they deliver potassium back into the blood stream to provide for that electrical exchange of activity to allow energy to be resynthesized.  

post-workout recovery


At the bare minimum, after a workout, you should definitely consume protein.  Many people will use protein powder as their source of protein after a workout because it is quick, easy, and contains valuable nutrients such as potassium, sodium, and calcium.  You should also consume a carbohydrate high on the glycemic index.  While bananas are a great source for glucose they are not the only source.  If you don’t like bananas, there are other options; however, just like protein powder, bananas are fast and easy and they contain that very important mineral (potassium) that we need to make our muscles work: and not just our skeletal muscle, but cardiac muscles as well.  

post-workout recovery