For a few hours after a heavy bout of training, the body undergoes noteworthy alterations in metabolic rate and protein synthesis. During this time, with a little well thought out supplementation/refueling, you can significantly boost and extend anabolism—leading to faster recovery and greater muscular gains. In part 1 of our postworkout supplement series we have honed in on 4 key supplement strategies to ensure you get refuel and recover quickly to get the most out of your training.
Sustained release protein blend
What is it? This is a supplement that contains a blend of high biological value proteins isolated from different sources with differing absorption rates. The best products contain fast digesting whey protein isolate and/or whey hydrolysate, medium digesting egg and milk isolates, and the slowest digesting micellar casein protein. The result is a product that can rapidly replenish the amino acids lost during training, while also providing a sustained source of blood amino acids (for up to 8 hours).
How does it help you refuel and recover? Intense training leads to muscle damage and breakdown, which leeches amino acids from your hard earned muscle. Immediately after training, if adequate nutrition is provided, the body goes into a hyper-anabolic state—deemed the anabolic window. Refueling with a blended protein supplement immediately after training exploits and extends the anabolic window—leading to heightened protein synthesis, faster recovery, and increased muscle growth.
Dose: 25-50 g of high quality blended protein within 30 minutes postworkout.
What is it? This is the D-form of glucose and is a monosaccharide or simple sugar. Being one of the simplest sugars (highest on the glycemic index), it gets readily digested high up in the gastrointestinal tract.
How does it help you refuel and recover? The fast absorption of dextrose makes it an ideal post-workout carbohydrate supplement that can rapidly elevate insulin levels and refuel your fatigued muscles with glycogen. Glycogen (stored carbohydrates) is a major source of muscle energy that is used under sustained high-intensity exercise performances. Thus, it stands to reason that keeping glycogen levels topped up immediately after exercise will shorten recovery time and reenergize your muscles for the next training session. Since insulin is highly anabolic, dextrose can promote muscle gain and recovery without fat accumulation when taken right after training.
Dose: Mix 25–40 grams of dextrose into your postworkout protein shake.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
What are they? The BCAAs are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are share a unique branched chain structure (hence their name) and are stored in muscles. They are considered “essential” because our bodies cannot produce them, so they must be taken in through the diet.
How do they help you refuel and recover? During heavy training the body depletes BCAA storage in active muscles to be used as energy—a catabolic process. Refueling with BCAAs immediately after exercise boosts blood levels and shuts down catabolism. As well, taking BCAAs provides the body with surplus leucine, which turns on anabolism and supports heightened protein synthesis. The anti-catabolic and anabolic support offered from BCAAs help to speed recovery and boost muscle growth.
Dose: Mix 5 to 10g of BCAAs into your postworkout protein shake. Use a formulation with an leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio of at least 2:1:1 (i.e., there should be at least twice as much leucine compared to the others), most high quality BCAA products will have taken this into consideration for you.
What is it? Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids within skeletal muscle and is the most prevalent amino acid found in the blood.
How does it help you refuel and recover? Glutamine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid. It is “conditionally” essential because the body can produce it, but glutamine production may not meet needs under conditions of heavy exercise or dieting. Since heavy training can deplete glutamine levels, it’s important to refuel your body with this stuff after each training session. Loading muscle glutamine levels immediately after training is important for recovery because it is a primary regulator of protein synthesis. Glutamine also helps muscle cells load with glycogen, which is critical for muscle size (glycogen pulls water into muscle cells) and energy storage to fuel subsequent workouts.
Dose: Take 5 grams of glutamine with your postworkout protein shake.