Post - Workout
The Extra Edge
By Phil Kaplan
Do you want an athletic edge? Do
you want to better prepare your body to have exceptional workouts?
Do you want to increase the likelihood of muscle growth? Sure
you do, and that makes you a prime target for the sellers
of supplements willing to mislead and entice you by making
absurd claims. Is there a product that can really help you
optimize results? Yes! But before I get into it, I want to
take a step back and prevent you from believing it is going
to be a magic elixir with the power to instantly transform
you into your favorite super hero.
Every once in awhile I devote an
article to the topic of supplementation. It's not my favorite
topic. I cringe when I'm faced with a writing assignment that
involves supplementation because people seem to read selectively.
It's not their fault. They've been conditioned. It's almost
comical when you examine the vast number of nutritional supplements
that promise to rejuvenate your sex life, reshape your physique,
trim your tummy, shape your thighs, reduce your butt, re-grow
lost hair, and eliminate everything from gum disease to nearsightedness,
from memory loss to cellulite. I've spent hours upon hours
educating trainers and regular people alike in a simple but
very important fact. Supplements are THE EXTRA! No "supplement"
can "cure," "transform," "melt," or "rejuvenate," regardless
of what ads tell you "the research has proven."
The reality is this. Supplements,
if integrated carefully into a well-designed nutrition and
exercise program, can play a small role in facilitating improvement.
If you recognize that small positive changes, stacked upon
each other, over time, lead to dramatic improvement, while
you won't over-expect from the supplements you take, you won't
miss out on the opportunity to use all resources to achieve
In the past I've covered fat burners
and Growth Hormone products. In upcoming articles I'll address
the newest supplements that promise explosive muscle growth.
Right now I'd like to focus on the rare opportunity we have
to supplement for benefit immediately following exercise.
While the potential of a post workout recovery drink is far
from miraculous, it is significant, and can give you the edge
Here comes a little science regarding
vital post workout recovery factors. It is intended to provide
you with enough information about the actual science behind
these products so you can search your favorite nutritional
websites or visit the neighborhood health food store and make
an educated and valuable selection.
First Vital Concern: Glycogen
If you exercise intensely, and
you eat a balance of protein and carbs throughout the day,
you are efficiently storing and releasing glycogen which might
simply be called "muscle fuel." Glycogen is to muscle as gasoline
is to your car. Where does the stored glycogen come from?
From the carbohydrates that you ingest. After those carbs
are broken down into their simplest form, glucose, they can
either be used for immediate fuel, or if all fuel needs are
being met, can be stored as glycogen to be used for future
movement and activity. When it's time for a workout, your
physiology changes in such a way that you move into a state,
not of glycogen storage, but of enhanced glycogen release.
Your body accesses that stored fuel in order to meet the heightened
energy demand. It's amazing how the human body is designed
to maintain balance (homeostasis). Immediately after an intense
workout, when glycogen stores are depleted, production of
the enzymes that convert glucose into glycogen is increased
offering an ideal opportunity to replenish fuel supply. The
enzyme levels only remain elevated for about 30-45 minutes,
allowing you a unique opportunity to consume sugar (glucose)
and rush it into muscles to be used as fuel.
Second Vital Concern: Water
Glycogen repletion is only one
primary concern post workout. The second would be re-hydrating.
During exercise, you sweat and of course lose water. For optimal
performance and recovery that water needs to be replaced.
The newest guidelines put out by sports training coaches and
physiologists suggest that in the 6 hours following exercise,
24 ounces of fluid should be consumed for every pound lost
during exercise. An endurance athlete who loses five pounds
during a workout would therefore need to consume 120 ounces
of fluid. Bottled water is most often sold in 20-ounce bottles
to give you a sense of the amount of water that is. Of course,
most recreational exercisers will not lose five pounds, but
might lose 1-2 requiring 24-48 ounces of liquid over the next
Third Vital Concern: Minerals
The third primary concern would
be replenishing the electrolytes, sodium and potassium, minerals
heavily involved in energy production and lost during periods
of fluid release (sweating). Ingesting sodium and potassium
immediately post workout facilitates faster and more complete
Water is not "best"
Since, in looking at the entire
picture, re-hydration is just a piece of the overall recovery
puzzle, water is not the best recovery drink immediately post
workout. Yes, water can be sipped throughout the exercise
session, and yes, over the next six hours it is important
that you consume enough water to re-hydrate, but that 30-45
minute post-exercise window of opportunity is a rare period
that you should take advantage of. Blood flow to muscles is
greatly increased. The body needs to replenish glycogen, water,
and electrolytes, thus, the most valuable post-exercise recovery
aid would be a dilute liquid containing the necessary electrolytes
and simple sugars. Gatorade was developed on that premise,
but we now know we can do even better. There are some other
ingredients that would optimize your post-workout concoction.
While these are not as vital as the first three concerns,
they can all contribute to getting the most rewarding outcome
from your intense exercise sessions.
While glucose is preferentially
rushed back into muscles in the post workout state, fructose
has a tendency to work its way into replenishing liver glycogen
stores. The liver, when called upon, acts as a "glucose pump,"
releasing glycogen for conversion into glucose to meet blood
sugar needs. Fructose, therefore, should also be included
in the post-workout drink.
Athletes placing their bodies under
greater stress than the average person incurs, will have greater
need for L-Glutamine. Glutamine is the most abundant amino
acid in muscle and in the bloodstream. If we seek to build
muscle, or retain muscle under periods of stress (exercise
is a stress), Glutamine becomes one of the most vital amino
acids. In addition to its role in muscle, Glutamine is also
called upon to meet intestinal stress and immune system function.
If you're harboring a cold, you're under emotional stress
at work, or your worries are causing an "upset" stomach, you
run the risk of the body "robbing" L-Glutamine needed for
muscle maintenance. Since we know muscle's all-important role
in maintaining or improving metabolism, supplemental L-Glutamine
moves to the top of the "valuable supplements for athletes
and exercisers" list. Here's the challenge. L-Glutamine, in
substantial amounts, can in itself lead to stomach upset.
Secondly, when stomach acids meet L-Glutamine, much of it
is destroyed. This process is slowed when L-Glutamine is ingested
as a component of food, but in supplemental form, you'll get
better transport with Glutamine Peptides.
If muscle strength or increase
is a goal, creatine monohydrate can indisputably play a role.
Sodium and glucose are involved in creatine transport, thus,
if you are consuming a post-workout drink with sugars and
electrolytes, you have a rare opportunity to expedite creatine
transport. So, when considering an optimal post workout formula,
you should seek out or create a liquid mix of glucose and
fructose, sodium and potassium, L-glutamine (or glutamine
peptides) and creatine monohydrate. You can add L-glutamine
and creatine to a post-workout Gatorade or Powerade and you'd
be on the right track . . . . but there's more. During exercise,
cortisol production is increased. Cortisol facilitates muscle
breakdown, thus, during exercise, you are breaking down muscle
tissue. In order to repair and replace the muscle, now broken
down into amino acids by cortisol, you must take in a complete
array of essential amino acids. Complete proteins are not
going to be ideal post workout. They'll take too long to work
their way through the digestive tract, and since amino acids
can be transported into the bloodstream along with glucose,
you'll miss out on the enhanced transport post-workout opportunity.
Amino acids are absorbed in chains.
Small chains. Proteins are broken down by digestive enzymes
into di and tri-peptides (chains of two and three amino acids).
That's the form in which they're ultimately absorbed. If part
of the goal is to build muscle, than this rare post workout
opportunity can be even more enhanced by including a complete
array of amino acids in the form of protein hydrolyzed (broken
down) into di and tri-peptides. Add amino acids into the liquid
glucose, fructose, electrolyte, glutamine, creatine mix and
you've assembled a valuable product.
At this point, to benefit from
this information, you must become one of two things. You must
become either a label-reading detective, or a mad scientist.
Why a mad scientist? Well that's what I felt like when I used
to concoct my own post-workout formulas. I'd mix a glucose-fructose
drink with liquid predigested amino acids (yuck), some powdered
L-glutamine, creatine monohydrate, and a couple of multi mineral
caps. You can concoct your own formula by buying a combination
of products, or you can explore the labels, see through the
claims, and find a product that really stands up to the science.
Will this require a little effort? Sure, but what gratifying
rewards have you ever achieved without a bit of effort? With
a foundation of science, a bit of effort, and a consistent
willingness to train, eat, and supplement supportively, attaining
the edge you seek is in your control!
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