When it comes to recovery I believe most people only think about the protein powders, and how many grams of protein to get in and that’s all that really matters. Although, I believe the most critical ingredient for post workout recovery is carbohydrates with protein. When it comes to training, the body is using glycogen as energy to perform weight training or cardio. Glycogen is stored carbohydrate in the muscle, now for optimal recovery you need to replace the glycogen that has been used in order to recover and grow, if that is one the goals as well. Insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the body, more anabolic than testosterone. If your goal is hypertrophy or you’re an athlete recovering from strenuous exercise you can increase your insulin response post workout to rush carbohydrates back into the muscle.
Usually high glycemic foods tend to spike your insulin, and there are two different reactions that can happen. One is your body will store fat for later use, or this can be used to rebuild muscle and replace the lost glycogen from the workout. There is a way to trigger the muscle growth and recovery response, and that is to pair a carbohydrate with protein. The intake of a carb with the help of protein will help shuttle the carbohydrates into the muscle. When you intake protein and a carbohydrate, insulin is released from the pancreas into the blood. Now when you pair a high glycemic carb with a protein such as whey protein powder, your insulin levels spike which can be great for muscle growth. Once insulin is in the bloodstreams it travels to tissues including muscle cells. Muscle cells have receptors, and when the insulin reaches these receptors of the muscle cells, it signals the muscle cells to open up and allow amino acids and glucose and all the goodies to enter the muscle for repair and growth. Which is why I believe a high glycemic index carbohydrate is essential to post workout for maximal muscle growth and recovery. The high glycemic index causes more of insulin spike, so if you’re looking for size go high GI with an whey isolate. When I was training for hypertrophy (muscle gain) my go to post workout snack was a whey protein shake and a strawberry unfrosted poptart. The strawberry poptart had roughly 300 grams of carbs and is extremely high GI.
Writer: Nick Brandt, Head Trainer @ Nu-U Fitness San Antonio Personal Training and Medical Fitness
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