While the idea of carbohydrate-laden post-workout nutrition is a sexy sell to athletes and physique enthusiasts alike, where does it come from, and what does it mean?
[one_half]Post-exercise carbohydrate recommendations are rooted in the endurance community and in isolated situations where the subjects were doing slow eccentric contractions, the sort unlikely to be replicated in a typical training session1-7.
Yet those findings have come to be accepted as dogma across the exercise universe, including among resistance trainees.[/one_half]
Pretty much everyone who works out shares three basic post-workout recovery goals:
Those apply pretty much across the board, but different people have different goals, and their post-workout carbohydrate needs also differ. Whether your primary goal is physique enhancement, improved health, or better performance, here are specific refueling recommendations.
Goal 1: Physique Enhancement using post workout nutrition
For many people your goals are to optimize fat burning and muscle building alike.
What’s the one thing that everyone can agree on when it comes to losing fat and building muscle? Our hormones need to help.
On the top of that list is the issue of insulin sensitivity; that is, the body’s ability to preferentially store those carbs we’re eating postworkout in muscle tissue instead of as fat stores. Training heightens your insulin sensitivity. That simply means you’ll need fewer carbs after your workout to do what you needed more carbs to do before your workout.
In truth, if we “top off” our carb stores, as some recommend, we’ll effectively shut down any fat burning that we could have had during the day.
The first place your body looks to store the massive carb load you’re eating is in your liver. Whatever can’t be stored there converts to palmitic acid, which floats around the body until it’s stored as body fat.
Add all that to the fact that post-exercise, we see a heightening of a mechanism called “non-insulin-mediated glucose uptake,” which allows amino acids to replenish glycogen by themselves; and that our liver has enough glycogen to sustain us for 48 hours; and we see a need for a lower-carb approach for our physique purposes10.
Roughly a quarter of your daily carbohydrates should be consumed post-workout.
Goal 2: Health Goals
Combined with everything from the “physique” category, we also see benefits of eating low carbs post-workout when our health is our goal. That’s because of the role that carbohydrates and insulin play in tumor development, cholesterol issues, diabetes, and various other factors11. Stick with the same recommendation from the physique category.
Goal 3: Performance Goals
Individuals who engage in lengthy, even multiple workouts during the course of the day–like triathletes or endurance athletes who train for long distances–are the only ones who need a high-carbohydrate intake daily. They need to quickly replenish their glycogen stores for repeated bouts of activities during the course of the day. Those of us who train once a day for less time don’t need that.
If you’re an endurance athlete, half of your daily carbs should be consumed instead of just a quarter post-exercise. Assuming you’re training for a upcoming endurance event, it’s recomended for you to consume 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates per pound of your bodyweight. For example, a 180-pound triathlete preparing for a event would consume 540 grams of carbs throughout the day, with 270 grams consumed post-exercise.
To sum it all up, if you want to optimize your physique and health, follow a strict low-carbohydrate approach post-workout for a few days, followed by a large refeed meal.