Whether you’re training for a marathon or pumping iron like Arnie, intense physical activity depletes your muscles’ primary source of energy, glycogen. There’s a whole industry of post-workout supplements designed to help your muscles bounce back as quickly as possible. But according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, other foods--including fast food--could replenish glycogen just as efficiently as the special supplements.
When you lift up that heavy dumbbell, the energy you're using comes from glycogen, which makes up 2 percent of the weight of your skeletal muscles. (Glycogen can also be stored in the liver and released as a backup energy supply.) As you use your muscles, the amount of glycogen gradually decreases, usually depleting its supply between 10 and 30 minutes of the start of an activity depending on its intensity.
Replacing this glycogen after a workout is key--if you don’t, muscles can go looking for other sources of energy, weakening the body’s structure and stressing out the immune system. Carbohydrates are the primary source of glycogen, which is why a lot of athletes try carb-loading before a demanding event, to give their muscles more energy. But eating some carbs after a workout is important, too, to replenish the glycogen lost during the workout and making muscles bulkier in preparation for future stress.
In the new study, researchers tested the effects of glycogen supplements and fast food on glycogen recovery and exercise performance. Eleven participants fasted for 12 hours before a 90-minute endurance workout. Immediately after, half of them were fed hotcakes, hash browns and orange juice, then after 2 hours were given a burger, fries and a Coke. The other half were given Gatorade, Cliff bars and Powerbars at the same times. At various intervals after the meal, the researchers took muscle tissue samples and did blood tests to check the subjects’ glycogen levels. They found that, after four hours, the results were basically the same no matter what the athletes ate.
The researchers concluded that some foods that aren’t necessarily marked as post-workout supplements could still do the same thing, which is great. But a lot of fast food includes nutritional components that can slow down glycogen replenishment, such as fat or fiber.
It's also important to note that the researchers aren't saying that fast food is better than these nutritional supplements; in general, eating too much fast food can be detrimental to your overall health, as it often contains a lot of sodium, cholesterol, and calories that can lead to a number of health conditions, such as obesity. This study only looked at the results directly after a workout and hadn't performed any test to see the long term effects, Although I think we all know that one.
My point is really that do we need to spend a fortune on Protein, BCAA's or other aminos, dextrose, maltodextrin creatine etc etc.
Okay so we know that Protein is essential for muscle growth, however Last year, Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld, and James Krieger were the first to investigate the effects of protein timing on hypertrophy and muscle strength in a meta-analysis. After contrasting and combining results from several randomised controlled trials, the authours concluded the following: “In conclusion, current evidence does not appear to support the claim that immediate (≤ 1 hour) consumption of protein pre- and/or post-workout significantly enhances strength- or hypertrophic-related adaptations to resistance exercise. The results of this meta-analysis indicate that if a peri-workout anabolic window of opportunity does in fact exist, the window for protein consumption would appear to be greater than one-hour before and after a resistance training session …”
Overall it’s safe to say that total protein intake is far more important than protein timing when it comes to muscle and strength gains, and as long as you eat enough protein throughout the day to meet your requirements, it doesn’t seem to matter much whether some of this protein is consumed immediately before and/or after your workout or not. However, it’s important to note that these studies focus on protein intake in and around a training session, not the optimal frequency of protein-rich meals throughout the day.
There are two primary reasons why consuming fast-absorbable protein and carbohydrates directly after a strength training session isn’t really a top priority for the average lifter (provided that he gets enough protein during the day to meet his requirements and doesn’t delay his first post-workout meal for too long). First of all, the science doesn’t really show that consuming carbohydrate and/or protein directly after a workout enhances muscle growth or strength development. Second, if you’ve eaten a mixed meal 2-3 hours prior to training (like most serious lifters do), you’ve already supplied a generous dose of nutrients that are already being broken down, absorbed, and metabolised both during and after your workout.
Since a post-workout protein shake doesn’t really seem to boost muscle growth or strength gains, you might be asking whether you will benefit from including protein shakes in your diet at all. While the answer to this question primarily depends on your ability to get enough protein from “real food”, there are also other considerations you should have in mind. Let’s briefly look at some of the pros and cons associated with the consumption with protein powders, with an emphasis on whey protein.ProsProtein powders help increase your total daily protein intake
Protein shakes are clearly a convenient and cheap way of increasing the total daily protein intake, and many serious strength trainees find that they aren’t able to get enough high-quality protein into their diet without supplementing. Since sources of protein such as free-range eggs, grass-fed meats, and seafood are more expensive and require more preparation than sources of fat and carbohydrate, protein is often diluted in favor of carbohydrate and fat, and consuming protein powders after a training session or during the day can therefore be an efficient way of increasing the total protein intake. This can be especially beneficial for strength trainees who pay little attention to their overall diet and protein consumption. “High-protein” diets are often associated with bodybuilding and strength training, but are also very effective for weight loss.Protein powders can help speed up the recovery process
Although protein timing doesn’t seem to offer any substantial benefits in terms of hypertrophy and strength, nutrient timing does affect your recovery rate and is therefore of special concern to those who perform several workouts during the same day. In general, if you’ve just finished a brutal workout and feel the need for some fast-absorbable energy, it’s probably a good idea to get some food into the system within a relatively short timeframe to kick-start the recovery process. However, there isn’t any reason to force 2 scoops of whey protein down if you’ve eaten a large mixed meal prior to training and aren’t really that hungry directly after your workout.There are many health benefits associated with the consumption of protein powders
Besides the convenience of including protein shakes in the diet in the context of boosting protein intake and recovery, protein powders are also considered functional foods that have positive effects on health beyond basic nutrition. Most of the research has focused on the bioactive compounds and nutrient value of whey protein, which increases the antioxidant enzyme Glutathione and is an abundant source of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Whey protein has been shown to possess antioxidant-, antihypertensive-, antitumor-, hypolipidemic-, antiviral-, antibacterial-, and chelating- properties, which probably stem from the conversion of the amino acid cysteine to glutathione. Also, certain components in whey, such as lactoferrin and immunogolublins, have immune-enhancing effects, and several studies support a role for whey protein in the prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases.
While there are many health benefits associated with the consumption of protein powders, there are also some potential adverse effectsConsIn evolutionary terms, we have never consumed such a highly concentrated source of protein
Protein powders contain a higher concentration of protein than anything we’ve been eating throughout most of our evolution, but it’s unclear whether this unnatural macronutrient composition poses a problem or not. The evolutionary argument isn’t especially conclusive in terms of protein timing as our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t really train like bodybuilders or weight lifters. Also, they didn’t necessarily do what was optimal in terms of recovery and muscle growth. However, looking at the human diet in an evolutionary perspective can help us understand what types of foods we’re naturally adapted to eat. While we don’t need to eat like our paleolithic ancestors (or have access to the same food) to be healthy, we can learn a lot by studying the mismatch between modern sources of food and those we’ve been eating throughout most of our evolution. Both highly dense sources of carbohydrates (e.g., refined grain products, sugar) and fat (e.g., high-fat cream, vegetable oils) are recent introductions in the human diet and because of their unnatural macronutrient composition these products can potentially induce a state of chronic low-grade inflammation by promoting the absorption of endotoxins into systemic circulation. Highly dense sources of protein such as protein powders are also a very recent introduction in the human diet, and although there is currently little evidence showing that protein powders are harmful to ones health, we can’t exclude the possibility that dense sources of protein could have some potential adverse effects that haven’t yet been fully investigated.Consumption of whey protein can increase acne severity
Besides the insulinogenic effect of whey protein, some of the hormones that are present in milk are also present in whey, and this could help explain why whey proteins seem to increase acne severity in some people ("No, no, I'm not taking steroids my acne must be from the super duper concentrated whey protein I'm drinking honest"
).What about the insulin spike?
Whey protein has a very powerful effect on insulin secretion, and although insulin sensitivity is heightened after a training session, there are few (if any) studies showing that a similar amount of protein from whey is superior to meat, eggs, and seafood after a workout. Is the potent effect on insulin secretion following consumption of whey protein beneficial, benign, or bad? We can’t say for sure at this point. Recent research questions the notion that a greater insulin response post-workout contributes to muscle protein anabolism, and owing to the fact that insulin is in effect a "storage" hormone signalling your body to store energy (which can only be stored as fat), I’m personally sceptical to the idea that a post-workout insulin spike is something to aim for. This is also supported by recent literature which shows that a post-workout protein shake, with or without added carbohydrate, doesn’t seem to enhance muscle growth or strength development. However, if you’re a big fan of protein timing it’s clearly more convenient to bring a shake than chicken and fruit to the gym.A lot of protein powders on the market are of poor quality
Since the supplement industry is poorly controlled, a lot of protein powders contain metals and ingredients that lack safety data, and it can often be difficult to know whether you’re buying a high-quality supplement or not.Allergy and intolerance
While not really a downside of protein powders themselves, it’s worth mentioning that some people experience gas, bloating, or other problems following the consumption of protein powders because they are allergic to some of the protein fractions or don’t produce the necessary enzymes to break down all of the ingredients in the supplement.Takeaway
In conclusion, total protein intake matters a lot more than protein timing (in and around a workout). The “anabolic window” doesn’t close 30 minutes after a workout, and there’s no reason to force down protein shakes or food until you’re actually hungry. There are several considerations you should keep in mind when deciding whether you need protein powders in your diet, chief of which is whether you’re able to get enough protein from food. But as far as all the other supplements, BCAA's, Glutamine etc they're probably not worth the money, keep it and spend it on some decent food or with JD!