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Your feeling a bit sick and are all trembley, you find a bench to sit on so you can gather yourself, your veins bulging with blood after completing your last rep, the burn of lactic acid in your muscle fibres and the trained muscle groups pumped and hard, your workout is over. Or is it?

The manual part of the session is done but immediately after it comes the time that really depends upon how much muscular hypertrophy we can actually achieve. This is one of the most important parts of any workout session, the open window of opportunity.

Most people have the misconception muscles grow during the workout, WRONG! The truth is muscles grow after the workout, when we are sleeping and recovering in the next few days following that physically draining session. The most important part of that recovery being directly linked to what you put into your mouth, or I should say your nutritional habits. After you finished that last rep your body is in desperate need of many nutrients to allow optimum recovery and to get the recovery process underway as swiftly as possible. I am going to explain to you which are necessary, which aren’t, are and roughly how much is actually needed.

Poor post workout nutrition can cause a wide array of negative effects on an athlete. Muscle soreness that last for days as well as fatigue. Poor performance on and off the field is also a result of poor post workout nutrition. Negligible gains in lean body mass, even with great training programs are an effect. Poor nutrition can lead to lethargy, depression, poor workouts, no gains, bingeing and plateaus which seem insurmountable.

So what exactly happens to the human body during a resistance training workout? After an intense workout the human body is in a large energy demand. The body’s first source of energy is ATP or Adenosine Tri Phosphate. As one trains the ATP stores are lowered and the body switches to glycogen and glucose as its primary source of energy. Glycogen is the main source for moderate to high intensity exercise.

The longer duration of exercise the more glycogen that is essentially burned. In order for an athlete to be able to expand their muscular endurance one must enhance their ability to store carbohydrates in their muscles (also known as glycogen). After a workout muscle glycogen stores are depleted, and muscle proteins have began to break down. That leaves the body in a shortage for both of these vital nutrients. As the body burns glycogen and glucose for energy, the blood sugar levels start to drop.

That then causes the insulin levels to drop severely. The drop in insulin then in turn causes a rise in the catabolic hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a nasty hormone that turns muscle proteins into glucose. That is the way your body produces energy when all other sources have been depleted. To make up for the depletion, the human body starts a process known as gluconeogenesis. This is how the body produces glucose from amino acids. This puts the body under a lot of stress and in need of many things.

For an athlete to get the most of their workout they must reverse the deficits in protein and glycogen to surpluses very soon after a workout. This is a very time sensitive for the body, the sooner they are replenished the better.

Right after an intense workout the restorative process known as “biochemical super-compensation” occurs. Protein synthesis will be impeded if the supply of energy and proteins is too little or too slow. By ingesting the right amount of carbohydrates post workout the body will increase production of growth hormone as well as insulin-growth factor. That will also put a stop to gluconeogenesis, helping the body return to a positive nitrogen balance.

What is the best way to turn the body back into an anabolic state? Suppressing cortisol as soon as possible will play a major part of reversing catabolism. For an athlete wanting to gain or maintain lean muscle mass, replenish glycogen levels and increasing anabolic hormones suppressing coritsol is a must. The fastest way to suppress cortisol is from the insulin spike cause only by a high glycemic carbohydrate. The faster the spike the faster proteins and carbohydrates get into the system to begin recovery. The faster the absorption of these macronutrients the better.

Carbohydrates are a source of fuel for the human body. Carbohydrates can be classified as simple sugars (monosaccharides), strands of two to ten simple sugars (oligosaccharides), and large polymers or glucose and other sugars (polysaccharides). After a workout is important to consume simple sugars, it is in that time that the body is in a hypo-glycemic state. Insulin along with blood sugar has dropped. High glycemic carbohydrates will give the body an instantaneous rise of blood glucose levels.

That in turn will force an immediate increase in insulin production. The now higher concentration of glucose in the blood will push the glucose and amino acids into the muscle cell much faster. This will also cause secretion of growth hormone. An increase in insulin also causes vasodilation or opening of the vessels. This means more nutrients, along with blood can be carried to the cells.

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It is very important to stick with high glycemic carbohydrates after a workout. They absorb faster and spike insulin very quick. The faster glucose hits the bloodstream, the less protein breakdown and more storing of glycogen. Fat is one macronutrient that is not welcomed in the post workout period. Fat slows digestion severely. This is because metabolically the human body has to go through more processes to break down fat.

Protein is vital post workout; it is the building blocks of the human body. Protein ingestion, combined with high glycemic carbohydrates is the best way to return to an anabolic state. It is also important that this high glycemic and protein formula be consumed in liquid form. That is because liquid is more quickly digested as well as absorbed. The best form of protein post workout would have to be whey.

Water is very important if an athlete’s best performance to be attained. Being hydrated is vital for many human bodily functions. Any imbalance will cause many unwanted side effects which are counterproductive to intense exercise and muscular gains.

The essential amino acid l-glutamine is great following an intense workout. It enhances protein syntheses. It greatly reduces the risk of overtraining. It also enhances glycogen storage. It reduces exercise induced oxidative stress, as well as strengthens the immune system. Over 60% of human muscle tissue is l-glutamine.

Creatine is a great addition to athletes post workout nutrition. Occurring naturally creatine is the formation of the three amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. The human body’s liver combines those three and the formation is creatine. Creatine increases the human body’s creatine phosphate system. In other words when the human body produces energy or ATP (adenosine tri phosphate) it breaks off one phosphate leaving ADP (adenosine di phosphate).

The body breaks off a phosphate molecule from the creatine, re-attaching it with the ADP to once again have ATP. That provides an athlete 10 up to 20 seconds of energy to perform an exercise.

For an athlete with the primary goal being muscular hypertrophy should consume approximately 0.8 g of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight. They should also consume 0.4 g of protein per kg of bodyweight as well. So for example a NFL football player that weighs 220 should consume 80 grams of carbohydrates and 40 grams of protein. This should be consumed in liquid form immediately following their workout. A whole food meal consisting of complex carbohydrates along with protein and minimal fat should be consumed an hour or so afterward.

Ideally this athlete would consume the carbohydrates from a mix of dextrose and maltodextrin mixed with whey protein in at least 16oz. of water. Also scooped out and placed in the shake should be 3-5g creatine along with 5-10 grams of l-glutamine.

As you can see this post workout “window of opportunity” is very vital to any athlete’s success. It is much more complex that one may think. Those who take advantage of it could benefit greatly. For years I have seen many athletes finish up a workout, walk to their car, and eat junk, or even worse nothing at all. Their progress is hindered by their lack of post workout knowledge, or even worse laziness. Many athletes ignore post workout nutrition and in doing so put a restriction on their performance in training and on the field.

Any athlete who wants to be at the top of their game should pay very close attention to their post workout nutrition. If you are playing rugby, cycling, boxing or weight training, you are using your muscles to a high degree. If you want to improve, which we all do, you must make the effort to cater for your post workout nutrition. We at Extreme feel we have all of the above covered in our Build & Recover product which also contains 50% of your daily requirements of vitamins and minerals along with 3g of creatine.

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