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I am very big on post-workout recovery drinks. Why? Because my commute back home from the track is 20-30 minutes. And by the time dinner is ready, we are looking at up to 2 hours from the end of the workout to sitting down at the dinner table. Certainly not good for the Glycogen synthase window of 30 minutes.
For a different perspective, here’s a Q&A with bodybuilder Tom Venuto from Burn the Fat.
I came across a piece of muscle-building advice written on a white board at a Bally’s fitness club, posted outside the “advanced” personal training station. It said to ingest whey protein and 60-70 grams of *simple sugars* 30-45 minutes after your workout.
Is there any truth at all to this advice? I take particular exception to point #1… I can’t believe eating 60-70 grams of simple sugar at any time can be good for you!
One scoop of Gatorade with 2 cups (500ml) of water is 31 grams of sugar.
If this is indeed bad advice, I will write Bally’s corporate and tell them to stop hurting the public with bad advice from their personal trainers.
What do you think?
It does seem counter intuitive, but believe it or not, that is standard, and science-based advice for post workout nutrition.
Post workout nutrition has been well researched and there is evidence that taking in simple carbs – usually glucose or dextrose with maltodextrin (plus whey protein) in the form of a post workout drink – is an ideal post workout recovery “meal.”
The part about “waiting” 30-45 minutes is the part that is questionable, but that may have been a simple oversight… I think what they meant was to ingest it “within” 30-45 minutes.
Most of the research says that the sooner after the workout you take post workout nutrition, the better (which is why you see so many people these days chugging down workout drinks while still at the gym… in the locker room, etc.)
That said, here is where I will get controversial, because almost everything you read and everyone you talk to these days tries to convince you that if you’re not drinking a post workout shake, all the time, regardless of your goals, you are some kind of nut case with a “death wish” for muscle loss.
Post-workout nutrition is very important, no question about that.
The debatable part is whether it’s a must to get it in the form of liquid sugar or simple carbs + whey and especially when your goal is maximum fat loss.
After reviewing the research and taking into account real world results (on myself and my clients), my opinion is that a large whole food meal does the job just fine, especially in the context of a 6 meals a day bodybuilding style nutrition program.
I think you could use whole food or a drink and get great results either way.
How you approach post-workout nutrition is going to depend a lot on what your goal is at any given time. If your goal is gaining muscle mass or maximizing endurance training or sports performance, you might approach it differently than if you were on a strict fat-loss program (such as preparing for a fitness or bodybuilding competition).
On a muscle growth program, I would say it’s a great idea to take advantage of the commercial post-workout drinks available to you because it’s hard to eat enough calories to gain lean body weight.
Among a list of other benefits like increased protein synthesis, decreased exercise-induced cortisol, glycogen replenishment, and improved recovery, post workout drinks provide a convenient and easy way to get more calories and that indeed may help muscle growth.
On endurance programs, recovering from workouts and keeping glycogen stores topped off are important objectives, so again a post workout drink with plenty of carbs – yes, the simple variety – is beneficial.
Where I suggest caution is when you’re shifting gears from muscle gain into fat loss.
My personal preference is to continue focusing on the importance of a good post workout meal, but to take my post workout nutrition in the form of solid food with the same complex and natural carbs I eat in all my other meals.
A nutrition and training principle you should always live by is:
“Don’t compromise your primary objective.”
If your primary objective is fat loss, I can’t see taking in a large amount of pure sugar post-workout as a good strategy to maximize your fat loss. It might assist muscle growth, enhance recovery, or help restore your glycogen, but it won’t enhance your fat loss.
Keep in mind, however, that you’re very unlikely to store calories consumed after intense training as body fat, because your muscles are “hungry” and like sponges for soaking up carbs and protein after the workout, so you don’t need to worry about that.
But I can tell you from personal experience as a competitive bodybuilder and fat loss coach that you will almost always get leaner, faster with whole food (especially people with an endomorph body type who are carb sensitive).
This is probably due to the thermogenic nature of whole food and the obvious fact that refined sugar is simply not fat loss food.
Because post workout nutrition is so important and because commercial post workout drinks can be so beneficial in so many ways, one way to tackle this fat loss issue if you’re already using a drink, is to leave your post workout drink in during the early stages of your fat loss program and then if your fat loss slows down or you plateau, the drink is the first thing to get cut as you make your fat loss Diet stricter.
As always, adjust your approach NOT by the information you read in the magazines or by the conventional wisdom you hear in the gym, but by the actual results you are getting in the real world.
Also remember that you must adjust your approach according to your goals and slant everything towards achieving your primary objective with maximum efficiency.
You can learn more about nutrition techniques that are designed specifically to maximize fat loss in the Burn The Fat program:
About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, an NSCA-certified personal trainer (CPT), certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS), and author of the #1 best-selling e-book, “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle”. Tom has written more than 200 articles and has been featured in print magazines such as IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise, as well as on hundreds of websites worldwide. For information on Tom’s Fat Loss program, visit: www.burnthefat.com