The Importance of Post-Workout Carbohydrates

14 Dec

spaghetti[1]Most athletes know that post-workout protein is essential to the muscle recovery and repair process. As a strength and conditioning professional who works with hundreds of athletes, I can tell you that the importance of post-workout carbohydrate consumption is not necessarily as widely known or understood.

Post-workout carbs are also essential to your muscles’ recovery process. Ideally, you want to aim for 30-90 grams of carbs — depending on the intensity and duration of your workout — within about 30 minutes of training. This is when your muscles are most “receptive” to glycogen (see next paragraph). Within a few hours, your muscles are no longer able to recapture glycogen. Consuming carbohydrates after a workout not only “feeds” your muscles; it also prepares them for the next day’s workout, practice, or game.

Here’s how the process works: You already know that your body breaks carbs down into glucose, your primary energy source. Glycogen is the form of glucose that’s stored in your muscle tissue (some glucose is stored as fat). When you workout, you deplete muscle glycogen stores but you also effectively increase your muscle demand for glucose, meaning you need more (pre-workout) and have the ability to store more (post-workout). That’s why replenishing your muscles’ glycogen stores — via carbohydrate consumption — is an important part of your recovery process.

For best results, your post-workout carbs should be combined with protein. Research indicates the optimal carb-protein ratio to be 3:1 or 4:1, or approximately 20 to 25g protein per 80g carbs. Studies also show that carb-protein consumption, after a workout, increased glycogen reloading by 38 percent over carbs-only (Journal of Applied Physiology). Lowfat chocolate milk has this “magic” formula: a 3:1 carb-protein ratio and quality whey protein.

If you want to get your carbs from whole foods, what should you eat? Well, quality is important but any carb is better than no carb at all, given the importance of carbs to the post-workout recovery process. Fruits, including dried fruits, are good choices (think apples, oranges, bananas, raisins, and craisins). Whole grains — including bread, bagels, cereals, pasta, and rice — are nutritious and beneficial.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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