Eating well, getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated are all essential concerns for athletes – regardless of their fitness level – as they prepare for their exercise routines. Now, experts researching the science of diet and nutrition are coming up with better and more effective ways to help those athletes with the final part of a strong exercise regimen – the post-workout recovery time, when the muscles are in need of specific nutrients to rebuild stronger and more resilient tissues. [This article, “6 great ways to improve your post-workout strategy using nutrition and training: Finding the best way to recover after the workout” was originally published in NewsHealthWatch]
How the body’s natural fuel sources are used and replenished during post-workout recovery strategies: How you actually recover after the workout
The Harvard School of Public Health says researchers have found out that the body uses three main sources of fuel during exercise: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The first of those, carbohydrates, are stored in the liver and skeletal muscles in the form of glycogen, which can be easily metabolized into glucose to provide immediate energy to fuel the brain, nervous system, and muscles during exercise.
For an average person, the body’s glycogen supply can provide enough fuel for about 90 to 120 minutes of vigorous activity. When the glycogen is used up, the body begins to break down fat to burn for fuel, especially during low- to moderate-intensity activity. Finally, the body begins to break down skeletal muscle protein for glucose production.
Physical activity can induce muscle growth, also called hypertrophy. Weight lifting and other resistance training exercises are commonly used to increase skeletal muscle mass, but cardiovascular exercise like running can also spur muscle growth. Such physical activity causes structural damage to muscle fibers, especially when muscles are challenged with multiple repetitions of heavy weights. The body’s repair response involves fusing broken muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands, which in turn increases muscle size. This is the repair and rebuilding phase of the regimen where post-workout supplements can do the most good.
There is plenty of reliable information about the effects of strenuous exercise on the body, and how the use of proteins can be managed to provide the greatest benefits. Here are some of them:
Supplements for post-workout regimens: Six healthy nutrients that provide the biggest payoff from an intense fitness training exercise regimen.
A variety of post-workout supplements is available for athletes to increase their muscle mass through enhanced muscle repair, recovery and growth. While the formulations vary from product to product, experts agree that the timing of these supplements is a key factor in their successful use. The supplements should be taken no more than 30 minutes after the end of the exercise because that is when muscles are still working and best-suited for absorbing the energy from these nutrients.
Here are some of the most common ingredients in post-workout supplements, and how they work to improve muscle mass and quality
Replenishing the body’s glycogen level with sufficient carbohydrate intake is important for muscle recovery, and starting the next workout with sufficient muscle glycogen stores has been shown to improve exercise performance. Post-workout supplementation with carbohydrates within 24 to 36 hours is recommended after strenuous physical activity, including an hour or more of vigorous exercise such as interval training, running, swimming, bicycling, soccer, or basketball.
Most healthy adults need about seven grams of protein each day for every 20 pounds of body weight. Recommended amounts of protein supplements during exercise vary based on the type of exercise being conducted. A review conducted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that protein supplements for people with adequate carbohydrate intake may not improve endurance but could reduce muscle damage and feelings of soreness. Many people use protein powders, which may come from a wide variety of sources such as eggs, milk and plants. Because these powders may contain many other non-protein ingredients such as sugars and flavors, it’s always a good idea to read the labels carefully.
This organic compound has been shown to hold promise as a nutritional supplement that might help the muscles with both adaptation and recovery following a workout. The Journal of Sports Medicine reported that an analysis of recent date suggests that creatine might reduce the level of muscle damage caused by exercise and also promote long-term gains from intense workouts.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
The BCAAs are three amino acids == leucine, isoleucine and valine – that may be obtained from protein-rich foods and are also available as dietary supplements in powdered form. All three are considered key components of muscle protein synthesis, and research has shown that leucine in particular promotes protein synthesis and suppresses protein breakdown.
Although the results are still preliminary, some studies have shown that CBD may be able to help muscle tissue retain some of the gains it receives from intense exercise as well as lessen the damage done by strenuous workouts. Other recent studies show that CBD might reduce post-exercise inflammation without interfering with the muscle-building benefits of that exercise.
This nutrient made from beets is also found in many animals, plants and microorganisms. In the human body, betaine helps to improve muscle cell survival, increase cell synthesis, and maintain other key functions during periods of intense exercise. Betaine supplements have been shown to improve strength and peak power output while also increasing endurance by extending the time until fatigue and protecting the body from dehydration, It has also been demonstrated to increase lean body mass.
For more on post-workout recovery, check out these articles:
Nutrition and workout recovery
Muscle and Fitness
Finding the right nutritional supplements to maximize the benefits from a post-workout regimen
Each athlete has a specific set of goals to accomplish, and professionals who choose to use high-intensity workouts often are looking for various results from the supplements they select. Beginners and other amateurs may have a tough time finding the right balance of ingredients as well as the most effective combination of exercise routines. This is one reason why fitness blogs, often maintained by the companies that manufacture the supplements, have become a popular source of advice for people getting started on their own fitness programs.
Podium Nutrition is a company based in College Station, Texas, that entered the supplement marketplace in September 2021. Its first goal was to reach out to consumers who follow the popular CrossFit training regimen of high-intensity workouts. Podium CEO Paul Haverland says his company partnered with several world champion athletes to design each of its products to meet the specific goals of the various disciplines.
“What ultimately makes us different is that we’re building products for elite fitness. We’re taking actual athletes that have competed at the highest level and giving them input into the formulas and flavors and the ingredients that are going into these products,” he says. “We’re going to marry their experience with the real-life science behind it and figure out why it worked for them.”
Haverland says his company supports the idea that good nutrition starts with a solid diet-based program, but their researchers are convinced that supplements are needed to provide extra help in such areas as carbohydrates for energy, hydration, and protein for recovery.
Another post-workout strategy: active recovery
As researchers are developing the best combinations of nutrients to rebuild muscles following a strenuous workout, other scientists are looking into physical activities that may also help the body retain the benefit of the workout. The process is called active recovery, and it can involve a shorter, less-intense form of exercise following a more demanding series of activities. Some popular forms of active recovery are swimming, doing yoga, riding a bicycle, or simply taking a walk.
One of the drawbacks of intensive exercise programs is the soreness that many people feel as their muscles are stretched, damaged and rebuilt during the process. The benefits may be considered worth the discomfort, but the soreness can be discouraging for some people beginning an exercise regimen. Active recovery activities can help reduce that soreness because they keep the muscles engaged even after the main workout.
According to Healthline, other benefits of active recovery include
Reducing lactic acid buildup in muscles
Keeping muscles flexible
Increasing blood flow
The exact form and duration of an active recovery workout will depend on the athlete’s physical condition, overall health, and benefits received from the intense workout regimen. Once those factors are taken into consideration, an active recovery plan can be used in conjunction with a balanced regimen of nutritional supplements to ensure that your body receives the greatest possible benefits from an intense workout session.
More information about active recovery workouts can be found at:
WebMD What To Know About Active Recovery Workouts
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health