It seems like everybody approaches post-workout recovery differently. For example, Rich didn’t take extended recovery time. Yet, most of us don’t have his genetics. For all of us mere mortals, proper recovery might be as important as our workouts. In this 2-Part Series, we will look at the best foods and supplements that boost that recovery.
It Begins With Real Food
Rich always made sure of two things after a workout. One is that he had a post-workout shake immediately. Two, he didn’t wait long to eat. One of the things that guided Rich, and still guides 5% Nutrition to this day, is the idea of real food. As great as premium quality 5% Nutrition supplements are, real food should come first.
Well-timed meals that consist of high-quality protein, quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats are essential for complete recovery. Every meal you eat after a workout is setting you up for your next training session. That means glycogen replenishment and muscle repair.
Breaking Down Your Post-Workout Shake
When you work out, your hard-working muscles use glycogen to produce ATP. Depending on workout intensity and length, this will severely deplete your glycogen stores. As this happens, the fuel for muscular contractions will grind to a halt, ending your workout.
Also, in response to the body’s perceived stress from the workout, the body will release the catabolic hormone cortisol. The amount of cortisol released depends on workout intensity.
What cortisol does in this scenario is eat up muscle tissue for protein and convert it into glucose for energy. A process called gluconeogenesis ensues, producing glucose from the protein taken from your muscles. The net result is a negative protein balance and a loss of muscle tissue. (1, 2)
Both your intra-workout and post-workout shakes prevent this. The post-workout shake especially allows insulin to be released because of the simple carbs a post-workout shake should contain. The elevated insulin levels will help to drive nutrients into the muscle cells.
Going back to Rich’s post-workout shake, he would use Real Carbs, a real food source of simple carbs, and egg whites for protein. We make it easy with Real Carbs + Protein, or any combination of Real Carbs and 5% Protein formulas. Just add some fast-absorbing carbs, and you're right there!
As noted, he would drink this immediately after his workout. That’s because you need fast absorption of carbs and protein to get recovery going.
As you can see, getting carbs and protein into the muscle cells as fast as possible is important. This is why Rich added simple carbs, and it’s also why he drank his Real Carbs shake literally as soon as he finished his last set.
When you add simple carbs to your Real Carbs shake, choose high-glycemic carbohydrates. Your carb choices should rate 70 or higher on the Glycemic Index. (3)
The Glycemic Index measures how fast foods raise blood sugar, and therefore, insulin levels. For the most part, it is best to eat lower glycemic foods to avoid insulin spikes (55 and under rates as low). But as we have seen, after a workout, the opposite is true.
Carb To Protein Ratio
What is the optimal ratio of carbs to protein? They should be in a ratio of 2 to 1, so if you weigh, for example, 170 lb, you would consume 85 grams of carbs and 43 grams of protein.
High protein foods mean mTOR activation and protein synthesis. Of course, for full recovery, your meals should consist of protein, carbs, and healthy fat. For example, the lean meat or poultry of your choice, and quality carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes. You’ll find that fat tends to take care of itself. As noted, you should pick plenty of foods naturally high in leucine. (4)
With that in mind, here are your best choices for foods high in leucine.
- Eggs - 1 large egg provides .6g leucine
- Peanuts - 1oz provides .5 grams
- Steak - A 3oz steak provides 2500mg of leucine
- Chicken - A typical drumstick provides 1700mg of leucine
- Milk - A cup of milk gives you 782mg of leucine
Many of these foods fit Rich’s idea of what real food should be. 5% Nutrition certainly understands the importance of these foods. Our real food protein sources in both Shake Time and Real Carbs + Protein come from chicken, beef, egg, and peanuts. Of course, we also have our legendary Egg White Crystals and delicious Snack Time packets featuring egg protein.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in Part 1. In Part 2, we look at DOMS and omega fatty acids, then we’ll check out the best 5% Nutrition supplements for optimal recovery!
- Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes | Nutrition Reviews | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Cortisol in Concurrent Training (unm.edu)
- Glycemic index chart - Complete (600+) list from all sources. (foodstruct.com)
- Leucine Health benefits, dosage, safety, side-effects, and more | Supplements - Examine