The more I read about training and hear the doctor on the infomercial at the end of several of my P90X workouts, the more I have been hearing of the importance of the fueling your body with the proper post-workout nutrition within 30-60 minutes of an intense workout. Mike and I tend to do P90X in the mornings and run at night (or Saturday mornings for long runs). For morning workouts, we typically eat breakfast (this used to be high protein but now it’s high carbs since we are in Phase 3) about 30 minutes post-workout and then we make our delicious recovery drink for the road to work. Lately I’ve been realizing that I’m not getting my recovery drink until about 1 hr -1 hr 15 minutes post-workout since obviously I have to go through my morning routine before I get in the car. I really enjoy having my shake after my breakfast, rather than right after the workout, but I’m also wondering if I’m diminishing the return I’m getting on that shake by eating it over an hour after my workout. I decided to do some research on post-workout replenishment and share it with you.
The Magical 1 Hour Window
The abundant opinion in the body building and endurance athletics world is that there is a key window of time post-workout where the muscles are primed and ready to accept nutrients to both help build muscle and reduce fatigue and soreness. The length of this window, however, is debatable. It is typical to hear of a 30 – 60 minute window. It seems, however, that this window is particularly useful for glycogen replenishment (related to endurance training), not necessarily for muscle building. When strength training, the body has a larger window to work with when it comes to glycogen replacement, as glycogen isn’t as depleted and isn’t as critical in weight training as it is in endurance training. According to an article I found on t-nation.com, “Comparing research that used drinks consumed immediately after a workout (Tipton et al., 2001) versus those ingested an hour after training (Rasmussen et al., 2000), the results are surprising: it seems that post workout meal ingestion actually results in 30% lower protein synthesis rates than when we wait!” The article even states that the window for post-workout nutrition is actually 24 hours. So it seems that it’s actually better to wait a little while after a weight lifting workout to ingest post-workout miracle shakes than grabbing one as soon as you put down your last set of weights.
All research I found related to endurance training, (and running specifically) indicates that post-run nutrition for runs over 60 minutes is critical. It seems that the consensus is that the ratio of carbs to protein of 4:1 is ideal. For runs under 60 minutes, this ratio is less important, but the snack or meal should contain both carbs and protein. Usually I hear that same 30-60 minute window as well, but a study I found in thesportsjournal.org (which sounds pretty legit) indicates a 2 hour window. “There also appears to be a two-hour optimal window immediately after the cessation of exercise for the administration of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates appear to be the preferred replacement during this replenishment period. Normally, 2% of glycogen is resynthesized per hour after the initial 2 hours immediately after exercise. With administration of 50 grams of carbohydrate every 2 hours, the rate rose to 5% per hour, but did not rise when additional carbohydrate was administered. Administration of .7grams per kg body weight every two hours is another strategy that appears to maximize the rate of glycogen resynthesis. There is also some evidence that even smaller loads (28 grams every 15 minutes) may induce even greater repletion rates.”
Breakfast followed by recovery OR recovery drink and then breakfast?
So based on my research, drinking my recovery drink about 1 hour post-workout is ok and I could even stretch it to 2 hours. But what about the fact that the first thing to hit my lips post-workout is actually my breakfast (which is carb-loaded, protein-less oatmeal) rather than the perfect ratio of carbs-to-protein recovery drink? After a lot of research, it was very difficult to find an answer to this question so I posted the question to the Twitter world. Immediately a BeachBody coach replied that I should have the recovery drink right after workout. I also asked a friend who has trained for fitness competitions and she said it makes more sense to have the recovery drink before breakfast, since it has the right ratio of protein to carbs. So now I’m more confused than ever. I found a Beachbody chat forum (questions asked by P90X and other fitness program users to Beachbody coaches), that responded to a similar question this way: “[take your recovery drink immediately after workout] unless you’re eating a meal after your workout. Then do the meal 1 hour after your workout, and then the shake whenever after that.” So many conflicting opinions! Based on my instinct, I’d say that I should take the recovery drink first and then eat breakfast, but I like doing it the other way around. Now does it really matter? I’m not so sure it will even make a difference as long as I’m fueling my body with healthy food.
Best Strategy for Hard Endurance Training
According to Dr. John Berardi (Ph.D. in Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry), his best strategy for hard training endurance athletes is to double up on the post-workout recovery drink. He has the endurance athletes that he trains take two post exercise recovery drinks, one immediately after training and one an hour later. John says “My research has shown that this strategy (especially with the inclusion of the protein) can improve muscle glycogen recovery by 22% when compared to carbohydrate only ingestion. But even more importantly, when endurance athletes come back to exercise on the same day, they perform over twice as well when protein and carbohydrate drinks are ingested when compared to when carbohydrate only drinks are ingested or food meals are eaten later in recovery.”
Seems that the PHD thinks you should have your shake immediately afterward. I think I’m going to give that a try and see if I can tell a difference!