The benefits of a good post-workout snack or meal, for just about all body composition and performance goals, are well established. Fortunately, the guidelines for post-training nutrition are very much the same as those for pre-training. So before you read on, refer back to the previous article on pre-training nutrition and supplementation. This article is going to focus more on post-training carbohydrate consumption.
The importance of including a carbohydrate in that snack or meal is just as well established. Fruit is often the go-to source of carbs for post-workout nutrition because it’s convenient and is a whole food. But not all carbs are the same and the body metabolises each type of carbohydrate differently. Because of the way fruit is metabolised, it may not be the best source of post-workout carbs.
Why do you need carbs after training?
During training, working muscles use up blood glucose and stored glucose (glycogen) in muscle or from the liver to fuel energy for movement. Blood glucose and glycogen levels need to be restored for basic bodily functions.
Muscle glycogen also needs to be replenished in preparation for your next bout of training, and glucose is essential (along with protein) for protein sparing and synthesis. So you need the carbs to stay healthy, recover from and fuel your training, and to fuel your metabolism.
Not all carbs are the same.
Almost all carbohydrates you consume (fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers, grains) end up as glucose to be used for energy immediately (by organs and muscles) or are stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver for later use. All types of carbs follow a different route after digestion to become glucose or glycogen.
Unlike other carbohydrates, fructose is metabolised in the liver. This means that it takes much longer than other carbs to be turned into glucose. With regards to post-workout nutrition, the macronutrient sources need to be easily digestible and the carb source in particular needs to replenish blood glucose and glycogen levels quick for optimal health and performance.
Moreover, liver glycogen is a small glucose storage unit. Excess fructose is therefore stored as fat. So fructose doesn’t give you the carbs you need when you need them after training, and it’s also more likely to signal fat storage.
Fruit is not at all bad for you. But how much you eat should be based on your body composition, health and physical activity needs. Fruit also comes along with a host of minerals and nutrients, and fibre. So don’t avoid it entirely, just look for better carb sources pre and post training.
Easily digestible protein sources, including BCAAs and glutamine, post-training have the same benefits as when consumed pre-training: Lower markers of stress, increased absolute strength, enhanced recovery, improved body composition and greater caloric expenditure at rest.
A convenient method of getting a good pre and post training snack in is to make a shake, and consume half before and the rest after training.
Creatine has been shown to increase strength, sprint performance and work capacity. While there are studies showing benefits of creatine supplementation in endurance athletes, most of the significant results are for strength and power based sports such as weightlifting, and track and field. Its use has also been associated with improvements in body composition.
Simplicity and convenience are important in maintaining good dietary habits. Without that you are less likely to sustain good habits. To keep your pre and post training nutrition simple, make each snack look similar!