After a grueling workout, there are three main components that we should be chasing with our post-workout nutrition. The first is a process called ‘Muscle Protein Synthesis’, which is a fancy way of explaining the battle between muscle breakdown through resistance training and the rate at which we combat that breakdown to grow during recovery. Our second goal is to put back what we used during exercise through hydration and ‘Glycogen Resynthesis’, which refers to the rate at which we fill our glycogen stores with dietary carbohydrates. Last but not least is the magic of supplying a large insulin spike that tells our muscles it is time to stop breaking down tissue and start building it back up, stronger than before. These ideas are all well and good in their scientific bubble but can be rendered useless in the real world without also keeping a close eye on their digestibility. Below are the seven ingredients we believe belong in everyone’s post-workout nutrition strategy, with explanations of the science to back them up.
1. Whey Protein IsolateThe backbone of any post-workout solution, and the undisputed king of Muscle Protein Synthesis, is Whey Protein that has been processed to improve digestibility as Whey Protein Isolate. When a highly mixable form of Whey Protein is consumed in shake form, the liquid creates a surface area that is easily absorbed by the body. This not only creates a faster, more convenient solution than other protein sources, but it also gets the job done with fewer grams of actual protein. Additional benefits include but are not limited to decreased muscle loss on low-calorie diets, limited fat gain during periods of excessive calorie intake, appetite suppression, and glutathione (the master antioxidant) production.
2. LeucineBranched Chain Amino Acids, commonly referred to as BCAAs, have long been a go-to supplement for strength athletes. While their place as a full group remains valid, recent research tells us that it is Leucine, now commonly referred to as the ‘Primary BCAA’, that packs the real punch via our friend Muscle Protein Synthesis. Whey Protein has naturally occurring BCAAs, but additional Leucine specifically can boost the rate at which we fight muscle breakdown. This mechanism comes from Leucine’s ability to activate a protein known as mTOR, which is responsible for Muscle Protein Synthesis. Because Leucine does this job much better than the other two BCAAs, we know that adding 3g of additional Leucine will outperform 3g of the traditional mix of BCAAs.
3. DextroseAs we move onto ingredients that help us refuel and hit the stop button on muscle breakdown, we enlist the help of a fast-digesting form of glucose. Upcoming ingredients in this list will lend a big hand in ushering the glucose into muscle tissue in the form of glycogen for future workouts, but without the Dextrose itself, that job would not be possible. The other side of this coin is how Dextrose helps Whey Protein stop muscle protein breakdown dead in its tracks. The two ingredients come together to produce a short yet large insulin spike which triggers the anabolic processes needed to combat the catabolic nature of exercise, while simultaneously preventing those catabolic processes from being harmful long term.
4. CreatineThe first ingredient in an effective glycogen absorption complex also happens to be one of the safest, most affordable, and beneficial supplements on the market: Creatine. Consuming Creatine alongside Dextrose, and some other key ingredients we’ll learn about soon enhances our ability to put the Dextrose back to in muscle cells rather than be stored as body fat. What makes it such a standout addition to a post-workout shake is the remarkable list of benefits that would also give it a place in any athlete's rotation. The following list of additional benefits is intentionally long to drive this point home: increased power output, increased anaerobic running capacity, lean mass building properties, decreased fatigue, decreased blood glucose, increased bone density, decreased muscle damage, increased muscular endurance, increased testosterone, increased VO2 max, decreased depression symptoms, decreased myostatin, increased cognition, decreased DNA damage, increased functionality in the elderly and injured, decreased homocysteine, and the list goes on.
5. Fenugreek ExtractThe second ingredient in an effective glycogen absorption complex is an extract of the fenugreek seed in the form of 4-Hydroxyisoleucine. Combining this extract with Creatine and Leucine creates a synergistic effect through the manipulation of our digestive and endocrine systems. When it comes to the role insulin plays in recovery, it is important to find ways to enhance insulin sensitivity while decreasing glucose intolerance. These pathways lead to a consistent ability to grow and refuel due in large part to Fenugreek Extract.
6. Himalayan Pink SaltPost-workout hydration plays a much larger role in this whole conversation than just putting back what we’ve taken out. Dehydration can stop recovery dead in its tracks in two very serious ways. The first is our body's inability to switch over to “rest and digest” mode due to our core temperature remaining elevated, a common side effect of dehydration. The second is intense and prolonged muscle soreness due to dried out tissues. Both of these concepts are centered around the body being too stressed to carry out its basic recovery functions. The salt comes in to play largely by balancing the intake of water with its key electrolytes. When our bodies detect an imbalance that favors water consumed without salt, it remedies the situation by signaling urination until adequate balancing takes place.
7. Digestive Enzymes
With the topic of digestion, we come full circle on the post-workout nutrition ecosystem. Without a highly mixable and digestible product, your body has its work cut out for it when it comes to utilizing the ingredients you ingest after exercise. A complete digestive enzyme blend centered around Protease, Amylase, and Lactase gives our body enhanced absorption of Protein, Carbohydrate, and any leftover lactose in Whey Protein. If you’re going to take your post-workout nutrition seriously enough to dig into an article like this, be sure that your body agrees with what you ingest.
This list is the culmination of digging through peer-reviewed research for years in an effort to turn down the ’noise’ that makes the supplement industry such a tough marketplace to navigate. It is also the basis for the blend we used to create Proper Recovery. Our goal was to deliver on the three main components of post-workout nutrition in a convenient and affordable package.
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