The post-exercise anabolic window occurs immediately following a training session and lasts for several hours thereafter. During this time you can strategize your supplement regimen dosing and timing to exploit and bolster protein synthesis and recovery. In this second installment of postworkout supplementation we describe 5 key supplements and their dosing to get the most from every workout; thereby maximizing muscular growth and minimizing recovery time.
What is it? Synthesized in the liver from arginine, methionine, and glycine and found in high concentrations in meat and fish, creatine is the ideal supplement for strength and power athletes. Creatine supplements have stood the test of time and the rigor of science with about a quarter century of clinical testing in the lab and field-testing gyms around the world. During exercise, it plays a fundamental role in energy production by forming the ATP needed for muscle contractions. After exercise, it acts an anabolic activator to promote protein synthesis and recovery.
How does it help you refuel and recover? From a refueling perspective, taking creatine after training helps to quickly restore muscle creatine to preworkout levels— so you can be “locked and loaded” for the next exercise session. Beyond refueling, loading your muscles with creatine after training creates an osmotic gradient in muscle cells, which promotes cell volumization by driving water into muscle cells. This not only makes creatine-loaded muscles appear larger, but the “stretching” of muscle cells also turns on anabolism and protein synthesis—resulting in increased muscle growth. Additonally, a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that creatine supplementation increases growth-promoting insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) content in resistance-trained skeletal muscle—setting up an environment that boosts protein synthesis, recovery, and muscular growth. As well, a study published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, illustrated that subjects who weight-trained while using creatine had twice the reduction in post-workout myostatin than to those training with the placebo! Myostatin is a potent catabolic regulator of muscle mass, and consequently acts as a growth inhibitor —when there is less of it around, there is more muscle growth.
Dose: Although creatine monohydrate dosing is body weight and tolerance dependent, a good starting point is to first complete a loading phase of 5g, 4 to 6 times per day for a week. After a week take 5 g 30 minutes before and immediately after training. On rest days take 5 grams with breakfast and 5 grams later in the day.
What is it? A non-proteinogenic amino acid, meaning that it is not involved in synthesizing proteins. In skeletal muscle, beta-alanine and histidine form the di-peptide carnosine—where the level of beta-alanine limits carnosine production. As such, when beta-alanine is available in excess (i.e., supplemented) it leads to elevated muscle carnosine levels.
How does it help you refuel? As we described in our preworkout supplement series (a few months back), beta alanine’s major effects are noticed during workouts—-as it promotes increased muscle performance during high intensity exercise. However it is important to use beta alanine postworkout to refuel your body and keep muscle carnosine elevated for subsequent workouts. The postworkout period is ideal for refueling because the body has enhanced absorption of nutrients during this time.
Dose: Take 2-3 grams of beta alanine immediately after intense training.
What is it? Also known as trimethylglycine or TMG, betaine was first discovered in the juice of sugar beets (Beta vulgaris) in the 19th century and was subsequently found in several other organisms. It is a derivative of the amino acid glycine and exists in foods like wheat, beets, spinach, and shellfish. The principal physiologic role of betaine is as an osmolyte and methyl donor (transmethylation)—more on this below.
How does it help you refuel and recover? Most of betaine’s important roles occur because it is a methyl donor. As such, betaine promotes the methylation of homocysteine in the body to form methionine, which aids in creatine production and boosts protein synthesis for greater muscular gains. Although we recommend taking betaine preworkout for its strength enhancing effects, we also recommend taking it after training to refuel the body and boost protein synthesis when you need it most. As a bonus, taking betaine also keeps the body’s homocysteine levels down (which can become elevated with high protein diets)—this is good because high homocysteine is linked to poor cardiovascular health.
Dose: Studies show that as little as 2.5g per day can be effective, but some people work up to a maximum of 6g per day. We always recommend that you split the daily dose and take one 30-90 minutes before training (or first thing in the morning on rest days) and another postworkout (or right before bed on rest days).
What is it? ? Carnitine is a compound synthesized by the liver and kidneys from the amino acids methionine and lysine. The blend of L-carnitine and L-tartrate produces a highly stable and bioavailable form of carnitine.
How does it help you refuel and recover? From postworkout perspective, LCLT has been shown to improve recovery and regeneration in trained muscle. Research published in the American Journal of Physiology (Endocrinology and Metabolism) illustrated that LCLT supplementation was effective in boosting recovery responses from high-repetition squat exercise. One possible mechanism for increased recovery is that carnitine boosts nitric oxide levels to promote increased blood flow in fatigued muscle—thereby providing nutrients and flushing out metabolites. Furthermore, LCLT can increase potentiate the “anabolic testosterone system” in response to exercise. A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, concluded that 21-days of LCLT supplementation upregulated androgen (testosterone) receptor content in skeletal muscle and augmented luteinizing hormone secretion (a signaling hormone for testosterone production) in resistance-trained men. This augmented androgenic state sets up an environment for increased protein synthesis and enhanced recovery.
Dose: Take 2g immediately after training
What is it? The name taurine is derived from the Latin word Taurus (meaning OX), because it was first extracted from OX bile; but today it is made synthetically. Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid derivative of the sulfur containing amino acid cysteine and is chemically described as 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid. It is considered conditionally essential because it is depleted under conditions of heavy physical stress (e.g., during training). Next to glutamine, taurine is the second most abundant amino acid found in skeletal muscle (especially in fast twitch fibers)
How does it help you refuel and recover? Intense exercise rapidly depletes taurine, so it makes sense to refuel it immediately after training. There are a number of reasons that you don’t want to keep your muscles in a taurine depleted state. First, as explained in an article in Physiological Reviews (2009), taurine optimizes cellular hydration and maximize muscle function. Thus, taurine has been implicated to be a potent cell volumizer. Not only does this make the muscle belly appear more full, but also provides an indirect stimulus for anabolism. Second, taurine is anti-catabolic, as it has been shown to exhibit significant reductions in muscle breakdown by decreasing catabolic 3-methylhistidine by 20% after intense treadmill running. In the same study, post-exercise urinary excretion of creatinine and creatine were significantly reduced with taurine supplementation, further illustrating its abililty to blunt muscle break down. Third, taurine is a powerful antioxidant and membrane-stabilizing agent. Exercise stress destabilizes and damages muscle cells by a number of different mechanisms, including oxidative stress; the antioxidant properties of taurine can ameliorate these adverse effects. Based on taurine’s protective properties, research has shown that this supplement can defend against exercise induced muscle damage and speed recovery
Dose: Take 1 to 5 g immediately after training.