The 'gym buddy' network might be murky on the subject, but the science is clear...
Peri-workout nutrition (specifically-timed nutrient intake around your weight training workout) WORKS.
And if done right, it WILL help you build more lean muscle and strip more body fat, in less time...and improve workout recovery dramatically.
So forget everything you've heard about this topic from your buddies at the gym, and allow me to answer, once and for all, what a solid, science-backed peri-workout plan looks like.
Okay, first things first... It's important that you understand the 3 components of peri-workout nutrition:
- Pre-workout: what you'll ingest just before you begin your workout
- Intra-workout: this is the nutrition you'll down during a workout
- Post-workout: you guessed it - this is what you'll consume in the 30 minutes following a workout
Now let's get down to it...
T-minus 45 (45 minutes out from your workout):
You'll want to consume a relatively complete meal of protein, carbs and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which will provide "fuel" during your training. More specifically, shoot for:
- Protein: 30-45 grams of whey or (even better) whey plus micellar casein
- Carbs: 30-50 grams of medium- to high-glycemic (GI) carbohydrates (to learn more about the glycemic index, click here)
- 2.5-5 grams of BCAAs
Scientific study concludes that protein and BCAAs before a workout will help build more muscle through two avenues:
- Their positive effect on protein synthesis (it'll help your body manufacture new muscle)
- Their ability to ward off the catabolic effects of the workout (the amount of muscle breakdown produced by the training)
Those two benefits will result in greater gains in lean muscle.
As for the carbs...
The medium- and high-GI carbohydrates will serve as fuel during the workout, but also stimulate insulin, which the body releases after carb-ingestion to remove the glucose (what carbs are reduced to) from your bloodstream and taxi it to various glucose-dependent systems throughout your body.
Why is insulin important?
Because it's very anti-catabolic.
Like protein and BCAAs, it will ward off much of the muscle breakdown caused by the training, resulting in more net muscle gain over time.
T-minus 0 (during the workout):
The nutrition goal during the workout will be to continue consuming nutrients that will (1) stimulate protein synthesis and (2) reduce muscle catabolism.
To do this, you'll want to consume:
- More BCAAs: 5 grams
- Optional: 30 grams of high-GI carbs (I recommend dextrose, which you can mix into your water/electrolytes drink)
- Optional: amino acids beta-alanine, citrulline malate, glutamine and glycine
Again, the BCAAs will stimulate the manufacturing of muscle proteins, while the electrolytes (delivered either with a Gatorade-style sports drink, or through a homemade recipe that I use) will help hydrate and 'volumize' muscle cells to reduce muscle breakdown, as well as improve gym performance by fighting fatigue.
The optional carbs and amino acids would also assist in reducing muscle breakdown, and enhancing gym performance.
[NOTE: If you decide to use a sports drink to get your electrolytes, then you won't need to add carbs...virtually all mainstream sports drinks contain sugar.]
T-plus 30 (within 30 minutes after your workout):
Now is the time to ensure your muscle-building and fat-burning efforts in the gym reap rewards well in to the subsequent hours.
The protocol should be as follows:
- Protein: 30 grams of whey or (even better) whey plus micellar casein
- BCAAs: 2.5-5 grams
- Optional: 30 grams of high-GI carbohydrates (such as dextrose, or if you're more inclined to eat something, a banana)
Before I address the carbs-being-optional part (which almost certainly runs counter to what your gym buddies or the average 'internet expert' will say), let me first address the protein and BCAAs...
While probably somewhat obvious at this point, their important role is to (1) kick-start the post-workout muscle building and recovery process by stimulating protein synthesis, and (2) thwart post-workout muscle protein breakdown.
Incidentally, contrary to conventional wisdom, whey alone is not optimal for post-workout nutrition.
Scientific research demonstrates fairly conclusively that whey protein plus micellar casein is a much more effective protein supplement for building lean muscle.
Okay, now on to the carbs...
This can be complicated, but it doesn't have to be for our purposes.
The reason I deem the carbs optional at this time is because holding off on the carbs for a bit (until your second post-workout meal) will result in greater fat loss.
Prolonging the carb intake will continue to improve insulin sensitivity (which the workout starts), increased 'fatty acid oxidation' and stimulate an enzyme called AMPK, which plays an important role in fat-burning.
Also, the whey protein will produce enough of an insulin response that the carbs won't be needed to produce an anti-catabolic effect.
You WILL, however, want to include carbs in your next post-workout meal, which could simply be your regularly scheduled breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc, depending on your workout timing.
Your Grocery ListNow that you're clear on what to consume and when, here's a list of what you'll need:
- High-quality whey or whey plus micellar casein protein blend (such as SYNERGY-XP)
- BCAAs (such as BCAA-XL)
- Dextrose (particularly for optional intra-workout carbs)
- Electrolyte powder (to be mixed in water):
- sugar (ordinary table sugar works, or you can use dextrose)
- salt (ordinary table salt works, or for less processing, you can use sea salt)
- baking soda
So, there you have it!
Follow the above guidelines, and you WILL build more lean muscle and shed more body fat, faster...
(Want a killer workout program?: Click below to access a free 12-week program that's designed to build maximum lean muscle and strength, in just 90 minutes a week!)