When it comes to building muscle, cutting fat, or even strength training, post workout recovery is a vital part to your success in the gym. Muscles are broken down during the workout, and – depending on the intensity, volume, and length of the workout – post-workout nutrition needs to be accounted for. Without post-workout recovery, you have a very good chance of becoming catabolic (muscle being used as energy). Glycogen stores are depleted, proteins are broken down, and muscles are being torn, so why wouldn’t you fill those holes in with carbs, protein, creatine, and some L-glutamine? I’m going to explain each one in detail so you can further understand.
Carbohydrates are stored in muscle tissue and the liver, and this energy source is known as glycogen. When intense training is brought about, glycogen stores are rapidly depleted. Glycogen is used every time you perform a rep, and contract the muscle that you are using, therefore it is essential to take in post workout carbs. The type of carbs you take in plays a very important role as well. Directly after your workout, you need a fast-acting carbohydrate so that they are digested and sent directly to the muscle tissue within that 30-minute anabolic window.
Opt for a simple carb source after your workout – many keep dextrose or maltodextrin powder on hand for this very reason. Dextrose is basically a powdered form of glucose, which is what complex carbs are converted into in the bloodstream, so by taking dextrose, you are skipping a few steps of digestion and the absorption rate and GI index is very high when it comes to this carbohydrate. Other sources will work as well like some candies, Gatorade, and even chocolate. Taking in a low-GI source such as rice, pasta, or oatmeal will absorb, but not fast enough to stay within that anabolic window.
Protein and BCAAs
Another important factor is your protein intake. When you get done with a workout, your muscles are begging for you to shuttle nutrients into your body for quick recovery purposes. When you workout, your muscle proteins are torn down, and therefore to optimize the rebuilding and recovery of those muscles a quick protein source needs to be taken in. The obvious answer is whey protein, or hydrolyzed whey protein – the latter being the better option because it is already pre-digested for you, therefore only takes about 4-5 minutes for your body to process! Now that is fast recovery. Hydrolyzed whey protein can be expensive though, so the typical gym-goer will opt for a scoop of just regular whey protein with 20-25 grams of protein in it. As far as BCAAs go, most whey proteins have a pretty good BCAA profile already in them, but BCAAs can be taken in during a workout too to prevent muscle breakdown.
Without taking in a protein source, you are basically digging a trench, and not filling it back up. So what happens when you don’t take in protein after a workout? Picture it this way: Your body needs energy after the workout to compensate for the hard work you just put in, so what is your body going to use for energy if you don’t take in protein? Your muscles. Chances are you will go catabolic if you do not take in a good amount of protein after your workout, so go with a whey protein powder so your body will process it within that 30 minute anabolic window.
L-Glutamine is an essential amino acid, meaning that we do not get enough of it just from simply eating, and L-Glutamine’s main purpose is recovery. Every amino acid has it’s purpose, so if L-Glutamine’s purpose is recovery, then take it with your shake directly after your workout. Some whey proteins have L-Glutamine in them, but most do not, or not enough.
The recommended amount of L-Glutamine to take directly after your workout is 3-5g. People usually notice a huge difference when taking L-Glutamine – it will boost recovery and will also help with soreness and muscle aching. Many users report less soreness of their muscles after a workout when supplementing with pure L-Glutamine.
Last but not least, creatine is very important factor for recovery. Our muscles need creatine for energy and hydration purposes: creatine pulls water into the muscle cell keeping your muscles hydrated and therefore keeping them strong as well. When you workout, creatine is used as cellular energy (ATP-PC) to perform a high number of sets and reps (volume), and more recovery between sets. When creatine stores are diminished, you need to take in creatine post workout to rejuvenate and rehydrate your muscles after a long, intense workout.
Creatine will also help you to keep your strength levels up even after a workout. A lot of people think creatine is useless, and a “myth.” Obviously these people have not done their research, and believes what the media has told them or what other people have told them! The fact is that creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market, and has been for years because of its strength, endurance, and recovery purposes. Most users will take 3-5 grams pre-workout, and another 3-5 grams post-workout.
Whether you are a bodybuilder, athlete, marathon runner, or just want to gain some muscle, post-workout supplementation is vital. Without it, you will become weak, your muscles will be sore, torn down, and achey all the time. You will not grow. Although I provided the best supplements to take for proper recovery, there are other options to boost recovery as well: L-Leucine, HMB, and beta alanine are other options to add into your recovery formula. They are not required, but it will help the process of your recovery for sure.
One more thing to add into your recovery formula is stretching. Stretching after a workout increases blood flow and decreases the amount of lactic acid in your muscle tissue which leads to soreness and tightness after your workout. Low intensity cardio will help as well.
Stick to those 4 basic supplements, and watch your recovery and growth skyrocket from here on out!