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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2009 (Minneapolis, MN) with: Kevin VanBeurden
Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2009 (Minneapolis, MN) with: Kevin VanBeurden

The Science Of Optimal Post-Exercise Nutrition

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When it comes to nutrition in general, there's always a debate going on as to what is best; they're several different food pyramids, many different eating lifestyles, and about a million different diets. When it comes to what kind of nutrition is optimal for athletes, especially for strength athletes, the debate is almost emotional. Is it protein grams per gram of body weight or per kilogram of body weight? Should you eat before, during, or after your workout, or a combination of the three? Is it worth waking up at 2AM for a late night feeding? For bodybuilders especially, when who you are as a person depends heavily on what you look like, optimal nutrition is not just about health, it's about happiness and self-esteem.

The August 2007 issue of Muscular Development magazine has a fantastic and very informative article titled Science Of Post-Exercise Supplementation: Maximize The Post-Exercise Muscle Anabolism. While it does not address questions of overall nutrition, it certainly puts to bed a lot confusion surrounding if and what you need to eat after a workout in order promote the most amount of muscle growth (anabolism) as well as inhibiting the most about of muscle breakdown (catabolism).

The article is more of a literature review of many papers that have studied the effects of different types of post-workout nutrition. As a whole, the studies seem to indicate that a post workout drink should be high in protein and have a good amount of high-glycemic carbohydrates. The protein consumption does a good deal to promote muscle building after a workout, but it has been demonstrated that protein plus carbs increases this effect greatly. The high-glycemic carbs help to increase the blood levels of insulin. This higher level of insulin then works in conjunction with the high levels of protein to help build muscle while simultaneously slowing the breakdown of muscle that accompanies working out.

As this is blueberry season, and blueberries to me are almost erotically satisfying, I usually grab a carton on the way home from the gym, eating it as I walk (I am a busy man). At first, I thought that this was a good thing (according to the article); however, after having checked out a glycemic index, it would appear that blueberries are actually a low-glycemic food. I guess I will switch over to having a banana, classified as a medium/high glycemic food, on the way home, to help boost muscle anabolism as much as possible.

It's funny, on that glycemic index above, one of the only high glycemic foods is papaya. If anyone has seen Nasser El Sonbaty's workout video, Nasser On The Pay: Part I (yes, I own it), you would see that Nasser eats papaya after his workouts. I think he even called it his secret weapon. That's good enough for me :) Oh, and incase you don't know who Nasser el Sonbaty is, here is a photo of him squatting:


Huge Nasser El Sonbaty  

It seems that hydrolyzed protein is the way to go since it mimics the protein breakdown carried out by our own digestion system and allows for the protein to be absorbed more rapidly. My current protein of choice is the Optimum Nutrition Whey. It seems to have partially hydrolyzed whey peptides, so I think that I am in the clear. Plus, it mixes really easy and it tastes pretty decent (which is especially meaningful to me since I am a super taster).

Now, when I read an article like this, especially in a magazine, I have to think to myself, "Are they selling anything?" Overall, I think Muscular Development has fantastic nutrition articles that offer valid advice without selling anything. Rarely do they ever talk about any products advertised in their magainze or otherwise. This article is the same. No metion of creatine products; no mention of protein products. I always come away from their nutritional articles feeling like I genuinely learned something.

The following are exceprts from the Muscular Development, August 2007 issue:

It's now as clear as a bottle of Finlandia Vodka that both increased insulin and increased availability of amino acids are important to maximize muscle protein anabolism. The importance of the availability of amino acids for the stimulatory effects of insulin to be evident has highlighted by Bennet and colleagues, who reported that insulin, given with sufficient amino acids, can significantly stimulate protein anabolism via stimulation of protein synthesis and inhibition of protein breakdown. This is in line with the recent data by Borsheim and co-workers, who showed that protein balance over the muscle remains negative after resistance exercise, when only carbs are ingested, so traditional sports drinks (eg. Gatorade) are absolutely useless in terms of muscle protein anabolism. (MD 204)

In sharp contrast, amino acid ingestion alone significantly increases muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. However, consumption of both amino acids and carbs result in much greater effects on muscle protein anabolism, suggesting an interactive effect between insulin, amino acid availability and resistance exercise. Also, it's well-established that the stimulatory effect of amino acids after exercise is greater than the effect of amino acids on muscle protein synthesis when given at rest. Thus, nutrient timing is also an important consideration. (MD 204)

... According to MD's own guru William Llewellyn, insulin injections can produce rapid and noticeable muscle growth... almost immediately after starting insulin therapy. (MD 204)

Following resistance exercise, the subjects consumed either a high-glycemic carb, an essential amino acid, a combined high-glycemic carb plus essential amino acid supplement or a placebo containing only aspartame and citrus flavoring. The results revealed that carb plus essential amino acid supplementation enhances muscular and hormonal adaptations to a greater extent than either carbs or essential amino aids consumed independently. Specifically, carbs plus essential amino acid ingestion demonstrated the greatest relative increase in type I muscle fiber cross-sectional area. Changes in type II muscle fibers exhibited a similar trend. (MD 208)

In addition, it's very likely that chronic reductions in the exercise-induced cortisol response associated with post-exercise carb-amino acid ingestion also positively impact the skeletal muscle hypertrophic adaptation to resistance training via reductions in hormone-mediated protein degradation. (MD 208)

More recently, Dr. Folch and colleagues reported that de novo lipogenesis (the metabolic route by which mammals convert excessive dietary carbs into fat) is totally suppressed following exercise, even when a very large carb load is ingested, and that fat burning remained high in subjects who had exercised following both the low-a and high-carp meal. Finally, Bird and co-workers observed that post-exericse ingestion of high-glycemic carbs doesn't inhibit resistance training-induced fat loss. In summary, it seems to me that the guys who are afraid of fat gain as a result of post-exercise high-glycemic carb ingestion are worrying about a nonissue. (MD 212)

The investigators concluded that the ingestion of creatine, in conjunction with about 50 grams of protein and about 50 grams of high-glycemic cabs is as effective in stimulating insuline release and whole-body creatine retention as ingesting creatine in combination with almost 100 grams of carbohydrates. So, I recommend that you mix your daily creatine dose in a post-exercise protein-carbohydrate drink. By the way, creatine monohydrate is the only proven form of creatine supplementation. (MD 214)

Contrary to some beliefs, a higher protein intake in an otherwise healthy adult has no adverse effects on hhealthy kidneys, fluid status or bone in otherwise hhealthy individuals. In fact, proteins appear to have a positive effects on bone health, as they increase circulating insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which plays an important role in bone formation.... In addition, IGF-1 plays a critical role in development, growth, repair and maintenance of skeletal muscle. Thus, IGF-1 may partially explain why many strength-power athletes (especially bodybuilders) feel that a very high-protein intake is beneficial for skeletal muscle hypertrophy. (MD 214)

Reader Comments


Good post. Based on what you learned fron that can you recommend a post workout and suppliments. It's hard to understand how that all translates into what I should buy/eat from the gear store and grocery. All natural of course.

It would be great to learn the optimal sequence and amount of cosumables I need to choke down after a good pump and sqeeze to maximize my buff multiplier.



I am not sure exactly. I am still digesting this information myself. From the article, they were very straightforward about having a post workout drink that was high in protein and high-glycemic sugars. I guess you could mix fruit or some other "fuel" type drink into a protein shake.

However, I am all about convenience, so I am not about to break out the blender. Right now, I am just of the mindset that it all goes in the same place, it doesn't have to blended. Therefore, on the walk home from the gym, I eat a banana (high glycemic sugar) and then when I get home (a few minutes later), I mix up a high protein shake.

Now, the article talks about hydrolyzed whey as being the best source of whey protein. A quick Google search for that:

... reveals that a lot of different mixes contains that type of Whey. So, I guess it comes down to finding one that doesn't disgust you (as some protein tastes are bound to do). You might want to even look for one that has the sugars already mixed in.

Additionally, the articles talked about the effects being even greater if the protein contains "Leucine". So, you might want to take a look for a hydrolyzed whey protein containing a good amount of Leucine as well.

The one thing I wasn't very clear on in the article was him talking about creatine. He mentioned mixing creatine in with a workout protein shake. To help absorbtion. Now, I didn't know if he was talking about a post-workout shake or just a shake when you the creatine (regardless of workout time). Traditionally, I take creatine a while before my workout, but I might very well be taking it at the incorrect time.

Sorry I don't have any real *good* advice at this point, but like I said, I am just learning about better nutrition myself :)


I am 36 years old. And I am trying to keep fit as much as I can. But I don't know what to follow. Reading those health magazines just made me more confusing.



I would recommend subscribing to the newsletter at It's really good and had a very no-BS approach to weight training.


children of this age eat very less vegetables so u can opt for salads they will like it also carrot ,cucumber,onion and as far as pulses are concerned u can boil them ,give him along with mashed rice.