Using protein after workouts

Our retail store hosted a lecture for our customers where Dr. Edmund Burke Ph.D. gave his recommendation for this very question. He is a former coach of the 1980 and '84 U.S. Olympic cycling team and is the Director of the Exercise Science Program at a major university.

In summary, the latest research on muscle recovery after a workout applies to just about everybody from endurance athletes to bodybuilders. Within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, you need to boost your insulin levels. Insulin is your master recovery hormone. It boosts glycogen synthesis and stimulates its transport into the muscles. Glycogen (carbohydrates) is what your body uses for energy in a workout and is depleted during exercise. If you don't replenish it right away, it may take days to restore proper levels thereby reducing your energy and performance levels in the meantime.

Insulin also plays a role in blocking the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol breaks down your muscles for fuel. Cortisol levels usually rise after workouts which suppresses the immune system and can blunt the benefits of exercise.

You can raise insulin levels after a workout by eating high glycemic carbs like that found in rice or white potatoes or consume a sugary carbohydrate or endurance type drink. Take a ratio of about 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein, or about 100 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein. Dr. Burke prefers a shake to whole food since it simultaneously rehydrates you and digests faster than a whole food meal. The weight gain powders we sell have approximately this ratio of carbs-to-protein and are an excellent choice. Or whey protein mixed in water or juice works great since whey digests fast.

Stimulating insulin also increases the transport of amino acids (protein) from this recovery meal into muscle cells better which is critical for muscle repair after weight training. This is also an excellent time to add glutamine to reduce muscle and immune system damage. I take my creatine at this time since insulin is a transporter of creatine into muscle cells. Stay away from fat in this recovery drink since it will slow digestion and absorption.

If dieting, consume protein along with low glycemic carbs that do not spike insulin levels. Excess glycogen can get converted into fat.

So if you're having trouble gaining the muscle you want or don't have the endurance or stamina you think you should on a regular basis, examine the timing of your recovery meal and what it consists of. You just may find this is the key you've been missing.

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