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What are Recovery/Post-Workout Supplements?
Post-workout supplements are used by regular exercisers and bodybuilders to support the speedy recovery of muscles after a hard workout. Post-workout supplements are chock full of vital nutrients to transition the body from catabolic to anabolic mode; simply put, a post-workout supplement will shift the body from a state of muscle breakdown into a state of muscle growth.
Most popularly, post-workout supplements are used to:
- Boost exercise performance
- Enhance recovery time
- Decrease muscle soreness
Depending upon specific workout goals and individual needs, post-workout supplements may be broken down into the following categories:
- Carbohydrates: Consuming carbohydrates directly after a workout is critical. It will support quick muscle recovery after intense exercise, repair damaged tissue, decrease soreness, balance levels of testosterone and growth hormone, reduce cortisol, and replenish glycogen storages
- Creatine: Using a creatine supplement directly after a workout will noticeably improve how quickly creatine is absorbed by muscle cells. Creatine supplements intended for post-workout use often contain supporting active ingredients like amino acids, simple carbohydrates, BCAAs, vitamins, and minerals.
- Protein: Using a post-workout protein supplement will jumpstart the muscle recovery process and greatly increase nutrient absorption. Most protein powders used after exercise are made with a fast absorbing whey protein blend that includes active ingredients like amino acids, creatine, simple carbohydrates, and vitamins.
To understand how post-workout supplements work, it helps to remember one important principle: Pre and post-workout nutrition are vital to achieve optimal results in muscle growth and recovery from exercise.
Taking the right post-workout supplement will quickly supply your muscles with the fuel they need after a rigorous workout. Your muscles will also receive the nutrients they crave from the many active ingredients listed above to quickly rebuild for increased strength and mass.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why you should take a post-workout supplement instead of drinking water and eating a healthy snack after exercise. Excellent question! First and foremost, consider the fact that you are likely to be fatigued after intense exercise. You may not be able to muster up the energy to prepare a well-rounded snack to support muscles that have undergone extreme training.
For both convenience and nutrition purposes, a post-workout supplement will decrease exhaustion by replenishing muscle energy storage. A post-workout supplement can also be used to provide healthy calories for balanced weight gain, often needed to support weight training and bodybuilding.
As summarized in Peak Performance, proactive recovery is key after any type of physical activity.1 The use of a post-workout supplement can meet the following criteria to support complex bodily functions in the recovery process:
- Refuel muscles and liver of depleted energy.
- Replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
- Support immune system repair of internal damage and destruction from exercise.
- Produce new red blood cells, proteins, and cellular components.
What are the benefits of taking Recovery/Post-Workout Supplements?
Making post-workout nutrition a priority can make a world of difference in the results that you receive from your next exercise session. Here are some of the many benefits that you can expect from taking a Genesis Nutrition post-workout supplement:
- Increase insulin levels. Taking a post-workout supplement rich in carbohydrates directly after a workout will serve two primary purposes: create a spike in insulin and refill muscle glycogen storages.
For this reason, high glycaemic carbohydrates are recommended in a supplement since they will absorb quickly to elevated blood sugar levels, creating an insulin spike. This process will make it easier for the body to draw sugar from the bloodstream to store it in muscle and tissue so that it can be efficiently used as fuel.2
- Increase protein synthesis. Protein synthesis will rise by 50% just four hours after exercise. Within 24 hours, it increases by 109%.3 Taking a protein-rich post-workout supplement can support the creation of new protein in the body, a.k.a. protein synthesis; the amount of protein produced after exercise will depend directly on how protein breakdown and building are balanced.
Although testosterone and growth hormone in the body play a role in protein synthesis, nutrition can make or break results. The key role of protein in a post-workout supplement is to maximize protein synthesis while minimizing protein breakdown to support strength training.
- Prevent dehydration. Post-workout dehydration is more common than you may think. Taking a post-workout supplement as a drink or meal replacement can support necessary daily fluid intake.
As a baseline goal, it’s ideal to replenish the amount of fluid that was lost through exercise; for each pound of fluid lost, 720 ml of liquid should be consumed. To achieve adequate hydration, the team at Genesis Nutrition recommends drinking to thirst and beyond since thirst is a sign that dehydration has already occurred
Common ingredients found in Recovery/Post-Workout Products:
Ingredients found in a post-workout supplement can range greatly, depending upon its goal and purpose. Popular ingredients found in post-workout supplements may include:
- Beta-Alanine: Non-essential amino acid that will convert into carnosine to increase strength, stamina, and muscle development.
- Creatine: Reduces muscular fatigue and improves recovery rate after each workout.
- Carbohydrates: When used with protein in a supplement, low-glycaemic carbohydrates will effectively stabilize insulin; high-glycaemic carbohydrates can be used to quickly convert sugar into energy.
- Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids often derived from sunflower oil, fish oil, and coconut oil to reduce inflammation.
- Protein: Ingredients like whey protein isolate can provide a pure source of protein for recovery.
- Taurine: Amino acid to support cell hydration, metabolism, and protein synthesis.
Post-Workout Supplements: Timing and Dosage
Depending upon manufacturer’s directions, a post-workout supplement may be taken once per day after exercise, often with a meal. Or, specific instructions may apply for the same purpose, such as taking one capsule of a supplement per 45 kg of body weight after a workout.
Post-workout supplements that contain protein are often blended with water to drink after a workout; protein supplements can be taken at up to four servings per day, between meals and before and after exercise. A typical serving of protein powder may start at 30 g to meet daily protein recommendations.
On recovery days, a post-workout supplement can be taken with the largest meal of the day to provide continual support for muscle recovery.
1. Hawley, J., and L. Burke. Eating for recovery. In: Peak Performance: training and nutritional strategies for sport by J. Hawley and L. Burke. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998, p. 313-334
2 "Post-Workout Meals Make Difference - CBS News." Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News - CBS News. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
3. MacDougall, J.D. et al. (1995). The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can. J. App. Physiol. 20: 480-486. 269:E309-315.
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