At the end of every workout the muscle fibers you trained are in a state of disarray. They’re literally torn up from the torture you subjected them to in the gym. Their levels of glycogen (the stored form of carbs) have been depleted, and they’re quickly breaking down the protein that they’re made of. The good news is they’re primed to take up whatever nutrients you throw at them and turn this state of disarray into an anabolic state of recovery and muscle growth. But you’d better hurry. Research suggests there’s a 45-minute window after workouts when muscles will take up higher amounts of nutrients. Miss this window and your recovery and muscle growth will be compromised. After workouts, down these six ingredients ASAP.
-Whey Protein: That short post-workout window doesn’t refer to when you consume those nutrients, it refers to when those nutrients get to your muscles. The only protein fast enough for the job is whey protein. That’s just one reason why it’s always good to finish with a whey shake.
-Casein Protein: Whey’s counterpart in milk protein is quite the opposite of whey in regard to digestion; casein breaks down very slowly. So why bother with it? Research shows that while whey spikes muscle protein synthesis, which builds muscle, adding casein keeps it going for longer and further enhances muscle growth. A good option is to look for a protein powder that combines whey and casein.
-BCAAs: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—are the most critical aminos for muscle growth. Studies now point to leucine as being the master switch that starts up the process of protein synthesis.
-Fast-Digesting Carbs: As with protein, you also need a quick shot of carbs to get to your muscles. Slower-digesting carbs like fruit or oatmeal won’t get there within the short window. Your muscles need a quick dose to replenish glycogen levels for adequate energy in the next workout. Good choices are dextrose and maltodextrin, which may already be in your protein powder or creatine product.
-Creatine: You need to keep creatine levels high inside muscle cells for optimal strength and energy. After workouts is the best time to maximize creatine uptake, especially when it gets a boost from carbs.
-Beta-alanine: This amino acid is now known to be critical for maintaining muscle strength and endurance. Studies suggest that it further aids creatine’s benefits, including muscle growth.