Q: Dear Tom: I came across a piece of muscle-building advice writtenon a white board at a Bally’s fitness club, posted outside the “advanced” personal training station. I took a pictureand attached it to this email. As you can see, it said to ingest whey protein and 60-70 grams of *simple sugars* 30-45 minutes after your workout.
Is there any truth at all to this advice? I take particular exception to point #1… I can’t believe eating 60-70 gramsof simple sugar at any time can be good for you! If this is indeed bad advice, I will write Bally’s corporateand tell them to stop hurting the public with bad advice from their personal trainers. What do you think? thanks,
A: It does seem counter intuitive, but believe it or not, that is standard,and science-based advice for post workout nutrition.
Post workout nutrition has been well researched and there isevidence that taking in simple carbs – usually glucose or dextrosewith maltodextrin (plus whey protein) in the form of a post workoutdrink – is an ideal post workout recovery “meal.”
The part about “waiting” 30-45 minutes is the part thatis questionable, but that may have been a simple oversight…I think what they meant was to ingest it “within” 30-45 minutes.
Most of the research says that the sooner after the workoutyou take post workout nutrition, the better (which is why yousee so many people these days chugging down workout drinkswhile still at the gym… in the locker room, etc.)
That said, here is where I will get controversial, becausealmost everything you read and everyone you talk to these daystries to convince you that if you’re not drinking a post workoutshake, all the time, regardless of your goals, you are some kindof nut case with a “death wish” for muscle loss.
Post-workout nutrition is very important, no question about that.
The debatable part is whether it’s a must to get it in the form ofliquid sugar or simple carbs + whey and especially when your goal ismaximum fat loss.
After reviewing the research and taking into account real worldresults (on myself and my clients), my opinion is that a large wholefood meal does the job just fine, especially in the context of a6 meals a day bodybuilding style nutrition program.
I think you could use whole food or a drink and get great resultseither way.
How you approach post-workout nutrition is going to dependa lot on what your goal is at any given time. If your goal is gainingmuscle mass or maximizing endurance training or sports performance,you might approach it differently than if you were on a strict fat-lossprogram (such as preparing for a fitness or bodybuilding competition).
On a muscle growth program, I would say it’s a great idea to takeadvantage of the commercial post-workout drinks available to youbecause it’s hard to eat enough calories to gain lean body weight.
Among a list of other benefits like increased protein synthesis,decreased exercise-induced cortisol, glycogen replenishment, and improvedrecovery, post workout drinks provide a convenient and easy way to getmore calories and that indeed may help muscle growth.
On endurance programs, recovering from workouts and keeping glycogenstores topped off are important objectives, so again a post workoutdrink with plenty of carbs – yes, the simple variety – is beneficial.
Where I suggest caution is when you’re shifting gears frommuscle gain into fat loss.
My personal preference is to continue focusing on the importance ofa good post workout meal, but to take my post workout nutrition inthe form of solid food with the same complex and natural carbs I eatin all my other meals.
A principle that I always live by is:
“Don’t compromise your primary objective.”
If your primary objective is fat loss, I can’t see taking in a largeamount of pure sugar post-workout as a good strategy to maximize yourfat loss. It might assist muscle growth enhance recovery, or helprestore your glycogen, but it won’t enhance your fat loss.
Keep in mind, however, that you’re very unlikely to store calories consumedafter intense training as body fat, because your muscles are “hungry”and like sponges for soaking up carbs and protein after the workout,so you don’t need to worry about that.
But I can tell you from personal experience as a competitive bodybuilderand fat loss coach that you will almost always get leaner, faster withwhole food (especially people with an endomorph body type who are carbsensitive).
This is probably due to the thermogenic nature of whole food and theobvious fact that refined sugar is simply not fat loss food.
Because post workout nutrition is so important and because commercialpost workout drinks can be so beneficial in so many ways, one way totackle this fat loss issue if you’re already using a drink, is to leaveyour post workout drink in during the early stages of your fat lossprogram and then if your fat loss slows down or you plateau, the drinkis the first thing to get cut as you make your fat lossDiet stricter.
As always, adjust your approach NOT by the information you read inthe magazines or by the conventional wisdom you hear in the gym,but by the actual results you are getting in the real world.
Also remember that you must adjust your approach according toyour goals and slant everything towards achieving your primaryobjective with maximum efficiency.
You can learn more about nutrition techniques that are designedspecifically to maximize fat loss in the Burn The Fat program: