Power Cocktail for Your Recovery Hour: Part 2

Now that you are clear on what to expect, we will bestow upon you our tips of building some kick-butt post-exercise elixirs.


Ingredient 1: Start with a Base of Ample Carbohydrates

Before you start cursing us for even attempting to put carbs at the top of our recovery nutrient menu, hear us out. We placed carbs first and foremost because it allows us to clear the air on one of the most ridiculous nutritional aberrations to date. You know, the thinly-veiled concept of ultra-low carbohydrate intake as an all-around solution for just about every fitness and health concern imaginable. We hate to break the news to all those “carbophobics” out there, but athletes can alleviate nearly all of the ills associated with carbohydrate intake, such as increased body fat storage, simply by getting a handle on timing and selection, not by eliminating them altogether. Further and most annoying is that the zero-carb gurus seem to always forget to tell unsuspecting fitness buffs that carbohydrates are the fuel for intense exercise and, not to mention, the wellness of your brain.

Their arguments are further discredited when it comes to post-exercise nutrition. This is because waiting just two hours to eat a healthy dose of carbs after a workout can severely hamper your ability to replenish your muscles’ primary energy source, glycogen. If you are having doubts, consider this: If you are restricting carbohydrates, the most likely missing nutrient in your muscle cells is stored glycogen. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose (blood sugar), of which two-thirds of total glycogen stores are found in skeletal muscle (the other one-third being found in the liver). The glycogen found in muscle is generally used for the muscle only and not to maintain blood sugar levels.

Several movement studies have shown that anaerobic threshold and power output are markedly decreased in muscles that are glycogen depleted. In addition, each particle of stored glycogen dramatically increases water content inside your muscle cells, which researchers believe is part of an osmotic (water balance) signalling mechanism to regulate whole-body protein metabolism. Furthermore, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, lab animals did exhausting running exercises, leaving them with low rates of muscle-protein synthesis and low glycogen levels (similar to good old-fashioned exhaustive weight training). A follow-up meal of amino acids from a high-protein liquid and carbohydrates (a sugar solution) allowed the animal subjects to recover normal rates of muscle protein synthesis in less than an hour.

We suggest that you consume at least 25 percent of your daily intake of carbs in the first one to two meals following your workout. In other words, take advantage of your body’s need for carbohydrates and enjoy it, this will foster enhanced glycogen storage and recovery, and make it nearly impossible to store those carbs in your fat cells — that is, if your training workload is sufficient.

All you need for this Carbs Straight Up cocktail is 35-100 grams of carbohydrates that can come in the form of maltodextrin, sucrose and fructose, among others. Alternatively, you can vary it by mixing 3-10 grams of creatine with 35-100 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrates.

Ingredient 2:  Create an Insulin Shooter with Specific Amino Acids

Carbohydrates are not the only tools we have at our disposal to amplify the level of insulin we produce post exercise. Research has shown that specific amino acids called insulinogenic amino acids, such as arginine, phenylalanine, leucine and glutamine peptides from hydrolysed wheat gluten, can boost insulin levels higher than carbohydrates alone. In fact, when one or more of these specific amino acids are combined with easily digested carbohydrates, glycogen synthesis — one of the primary goals for recovery — can be accelerated. It is important to note that because amino acids compete for absorption, it is best to take them only with carbs, then wait about 15 minutes to ingest a large amount of protein and additional carbs. Staggered this way, you may be able to extend the time that insulin levels remain heightened in the blood. The net result is that you may be able to drive more muscle-building nutrients into your targeted muscle cells.

From the literature that we have reviewed, it appears that at least three grams of each of these single amino acids would be needed to boost insulin production. Remember that it is not necessary to add all of these specific amino acids to get a desirable anabolic insulin kick; one or two will do the trick. Several companies are now adding one or more of these insulinogenic amino acids to their recovery products, so putting these ingredients into the mix should be an easy fit.

Here is what you need for this Nutrient Shooter: Specific Amino and Carbs cocktail — 10 grams of creatine, 20-50 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrates, 5-10 grams of glutamine and 3 grams of arginine, phenylalanine and/or leucine.