In recent months, many clients have had increased discussions with their Exercise Physiologist about protein powder and post workout nutrition. Clients are now encouraged to take protein powder drinks as well as apples after their workouts, both provided complimentary by Optimum, to aid in muscle growth and repair. Here I would like to delve further into this subject, to explain the process in a more detailed fashion.
Gaining muscle, losing fat, and getting stronger are best achieved by planning your post-workout nutrition to meet your training goals. We’ve learnt that you need amino acids after training, but do you know how much? Are straight amino acids better than a protein powder for repairing tissue? And what about carbohydrates? Do you need them or will they blunt fat burning?
New research provides some answers. First, after working out you need to achieve a threshold dose of at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) to support protein synthesis. That 10 grams of EAAs can be obtained from a straight amino acid supplement or from whey protein.
There is some evidence that taking whey protein will maintain protein synthesis after training for the longest period. A study that compared protein synthesis during the 5 hours post-workout found that a 25-gram dose of whey, which provides about 13 grams of EAAs, was more effective than taking 6.25 grams of whey with added amino acids. However, the difference was undramatic, so if you are allergic to whey, taking straight amino acids is a smart choice.
Secondly, are carbs necessary? Theoretically, taking a high-quality carbohydrate supplement with protein can be beneficial because it will produce the greatest release of insulin for optimal muscle building. However, studies suggest that this insulin spike will only pay off if you are very sensitive to insulin.
If you are extremely sensitive to insulin, have moderate to low body fat, and your primary goal is gaining strength and muscle, carbs can be used to enhance results and produce a lower cortisol (a good thing) response to training. For example, in a group of untrained men, results showed that taking a post-workout supplement of 6 percent glucose and 0.2 g/kg/bodyweight of whey protein after hypertrophy-style training for 12 weeks produced a better anabolic (muscle building) response than only taking protein. Total testosterone was similar, but cortisol was significantly lower in the group that took carbs and protein than the group that took only protein.
The protein-carb group also gained slightly more maximal strength in the leg and bench press exercises than the protein group. As expected, insulin was much higher in response to the carb-protein supplement than the protein supplement group.
Finally, the protein group had a small but significant increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 and growth hormone compared to the carb-protein group. This suggests if your primary goal is fat loss, ditch the carbs and stick with protein. If you’re super sensitive to insulin and trying to put on muscle mass, doing a supplement cycle with quality carbs and protein is the way to go.
Still unsure about how this applies for your situation? Please don’t hesitate to further discuss your individual protein needs with your Optimum Exercise Physiologist.