Is post workout the best time for maximum growth?
We have heard it for years in the world of bodybuilding, the post workout is the most important time of the day for huge increases in lean muscle mass.
Ivy and Portman refer to this time as “The Anabolic Phase” and hypothesize that this time presents a set of conditions where the body is extremely sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin and the ingestion of the appropriate combination of nutrients at this time accelerates the repair of damaged muscle tissue and the replenishment of muscle glycogen (Ivy & Portman, 2004).
This is the time when we should all be consuming our post-workout shake combining a fast digesting protein source such as whey protein and an insulin spiking carbohydrate source such as dextrose or waxy maize.
We have all tried numerous combinations of protein plus creatine, protein and carbohydrates together, high carb, low carb and more.
But were our efforts in vein? Before choosing the optimal source we must first identify whether or not this ‘post workout window’ really is the optimal time for rapidly enhancing gains in lean muscle mass.
This next statement is expected to shock and disgust many: the post-workout ‘window of opportunity’ only exists because the required nutrients weren’t there in the first place.
Let’s take a more logical approach to the situation. During the course of a workout you deplete your glycogen stores and break down the muscle tissue. Now in order to determine the best approach to workout nutrition we must remember our initial goal: maximum gains in muscle tissue.
If you were a builder would you tear down a room of a house and then re-build that room all over again? The overwhelmingly obvious answer would be no. Who in their right mind would build a wonderful foundation just to tear it all down and rebuilt it again?
These same principles apply to the human body and the process that occurs every time you go to train at the gym. You lift weights, push the limits to create to maximum amount of stress and overload on the muscle and then go home and consumer a combination of protein and carbohydrates to repair the damage you just inflicted.
But you may say “I am building the muscle, every time I breakdown the muscle it adapts and becomes bigger and stronger”. There is no denying this is theoretically true, but what is the point of taking ten steps forward if you are just going to take another nine steps back? Why not just go forward?
Ingestion of the exact same nutrients prior to training we have all been told to consume after our workout can buffer against the catabolic effects of weight training and dramatically enhance muscle recovery and growth.
The concept to remember here is that we are ‘loading the blood’ with the nutrients required to avoid the muscle becoming overly damaged during the course of our workout. This means ingestion of a readily absorbed protein source such as whey protein isolate or BCAA’s and a source of glucose such as waxy maize starch or dextrose (we recommend waxy maize, reasoning for which requires another article entirely).
Blood delivers nutrients to the muscles and the only time when blood flow to the muscles is notable is during training so having the blood loaded with the required nutrients means they can be rapidly delivered to the muscles.
Does that mean I should only consume a pre-workout shake?
No. As mentioned the post-workout window only exists because the required nutrients were not there to begin with, but this is not to say a post-workout shake cannot still be of benefit. If you had a choice between pre and post-workout shake, the pre-workout would be the better option. But as bodybuilders we are always looking to what will produce optimal, not adequate results. So split the difference and consumer a slightly smaller shake before and after your workout to ensure optimal conditions for growth and recovery.
Written by Patrick Dickson
President Ultimate Whey
BA Exercise Science
BA Business Management
Ivy, John., and Portman, Robert. (2004). Nutrient Timing: The future of sports nutrition. Basic Health Publications, NJ.