The importance of carbs after training

Sugar...

In recent years it has replaced it’s calorie dense cousin, fat, as the most feared macro. It is being held responsible for all sorts of ailments, from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and cancer… (so the same as fat then).

This paradigm shift in nutritional thinking is perhaps over-simplified however: We must not forget that all three macronutrients - fat, protein and carbs - are absolutely vital to both the structure and function of every human body.

Carbs as a fuel

In active individuals Carbohydrate, of which sugar is one of the purest supplier, is by far the most efficient form of energy used by muscles for movement. When we exercise we gradually use up our body’s source of carbohydrate, and “hit the wall” when we run out.

The body works differently after training

After we train, the body very quickly shifts to recovery mode. In this most interesting time, the body treats carbohydrate completely differently than normal. Firstly, the muscles stop depending on insulin to take up carbs in order to recover quicker. Secondly the body prioritises carbohydrate over anything else to replace what has been used. As an example, any protein consumed after training with be turned into carbs by the body, until the stores are replenished (even if it’s many hours later). Only after this will protein be used in protein production for growth and repair.

Perhaps you should reconsider your post workout feed?

Where research is yet to conclusively show that taking protein after training enhances performance or muscle, it is shown that it can enhance muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Interestingly, there is also a body of evidence showing that this protein production is actually increased when carbs are added to a post workout protein shake.

This all makes good sense: A carb and protein combo post training could mean the carbs are used for muscle replenishment, sparing the protein for growth and repair as required.

It must be noted that where this does make a case for these types of supplements (and we sell them), it makes more of a case for eating real food after training. Food wins, combo supplements second.