It probably comes as no surprise that resistance exercise like crossfit and weightlifting has a big impact on muscle growth and development. But did you know that muscle growth only happens when muscle protein synthesis (the cells rebuilding) is greater than muscle protein breakdown (cells breaking down in a workout).
To speed the muscle recovery process and facilitate muscle growth (e.g., gains), it’s important to consume protein that digests quickly so it can get to your muscles fast where the shift from muscle breakdown to muscle growth is happening.
So we need protein to feed our muscles, but what’s the deal with carbs, right?
Generally speaking protein mixed with some quick digesting carbohydrates can increase muscle anabolism (growth), leading to faster recovery from each day’s exercise so that you can hit the next day’s workout with as much intensity as you did the day before.
Taking protein by itself is good, but taking protein with a fast digesting carb is even better. Why? If you were starving for a meal, would you want to ride a bike to get to the nearest restaurant or drive a Ferrari? Post workout, your muscles are starving for protein so they can rebuild and grow.
High quality fast digesting carbs are the Ferrari for the protein. If you were to take protein by itself, think of it as being better than nothing at all, but paired with the right carb, now that’s the perfect combination!
What qualifies as quick digesting carbs? Baked sweet potatoes are great but not always ideal post workout so I often opt for really ripe bananas (the browner the better, more glucose!) or baby food pouches of fruit purees. There are also very high quality carb supplements such as Vitargo or multi cyclic dextrin that are very handy for the post workout shake.
(Last week we went over smart snacking options, and I mentioned that for weight loss, you don’t want to be snacking on fruit all the time. However, post workout is the best time for a piece of fruit!)
What about Fat?
Skip the fat! When trying to lose weight or stay lean its best to keep your fat consumption to a minimum for about an hour post workout. So, pizza would be a really bad choice immediately post workout if you’re trying to avoid weight gain. Using our Ferrari example above, fat would be like a 4 car pile up on the 405. Fat slows down the entire digestive process, making it difficult for those crucial proteins to find their way to the muscles that are starving!
Getting the Right Combination
Quality counts and the recipe for success is different depending on the type of exercise.
Lets say all we did today was a 1 rep max on back squat; the requirement of carbohydrates would be about equal to protein so a shake that was equal parts protein and carb would be ideal.
Then the next day we have a crazy hard cellular workout (burning, lots of lactic acid) like Fran, :30 assault sprints or even a longer bout such as Cindy then we would want a higher ratio of carbs to replenish the muscle glycogen used for that activity. I’d suggest a 2:1 carbs to protein ratio for something like that.
Just like everything that goes in your body, quality here is important. You wouldn’t fuel up a Ferrari with bargain basement fuel would you? The supplement industry is highly unregulated, which means they don’t have to tell you everything that is used as an ingredient.
This is why I only use products like SFH and Vitargo where the ingredients are transparent, the product is independently tested, listed ingredients verified, and the product is of high quality. Quality in food and supplementation is a topic worthy of it’s own post, so stay tuned!