Choosing the right carbs to take after a hard workout is essential for maximizing muscle growth potential and full body. After a hard work-out session, your body would have used up a good amount of both glucose (available energy) and glycogen (stored energy).
Eating the correct type of carbs after a hard workout will prevent muscle loss caused by the gluconeogenesis process. Gluconeogenesis happens when blood glucose levels and glycogen levels get extremely low to the point that triggers stress hormone cortisol to be released. To make-up for the lack of sugar in the blood, cortisol extracts protein from muscle to be converted into glucose for fuel. Therefore, a hard workout means muscle loss if glucose stores are not readily replenished.
To prevent muscle loss, you’ll need to get fast absorbing sugars into the blood stream as fast as possible. If whey is the best post workout protein, then the best post workout carbs to take will be simple carbohydrates or fast carbs. Simple carbs with a higher glycemic index of 70 and above are ideal for post workout as they get digested and hit the bloodstream faster than complex carbohydrates.
Normally, you would want to eat carbs with a lower glycemic index to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable. During post workout, your body is in an catabolic state where it requires nutrients to rebuild muscles.
This is the perfect time to indulge in all those sinful simple carbs treats you have been holding yourself back from: donuts, cakes, pastries, macaroons, chocolate, ice cream, etc. These ‘bad’ foods are ideal post workout carb sources that will help raise insulin levels needed for muscle building. Raised insulin levels will signal the body to transport amino acids and nutrients to the muscles in need of replenishing. However, there is a one hour window before your body shuts down the fuel route to starving muscles. The raised insulin threshold then returns to its normal metabolism.
The optimal post workout carb to protein ratio is 2:1, e.g. 40 of carbs to 20g of protein depending on your weight. You can take a post workout carb supplement with whey protein or plan your meals to hit the optimal post workout carb to protein ratio.
Here are some post workout meal plans to try: chicken fried rice, rice pudding or kheer, grilled meat gyros/burritos, muffins, butter pound cakes, cereal and milk, salmon pasta salad, flavored milk, spinach/ salmon quiche.
Fruits should not be your choice of post workout carb as frutose, fruit sugar takes longer to get to your muscles. Frutose has to be broken down in the liver before it can be used as fuel. Choose white rice or pastry instead to feed your hungry muscles within the one hour window.