Advanced Workout Nutrition: What to eat before, during, and after exercise

Advanced Workout Nutrition: What to eat before, during, and after exercise

​We know training alone does not produce maximum results; it’s what we eat and how much that has the largest impact on our results.

The workout window, being before, during and after exercise is considered an important time of day for someone who is seeking maximum performance and recovery.

The reason for this, is throughout this time, we have the ability to fully maximise protein synthesis. For the performance minded individual, this is the most important aspect to seeing results.

In this article we will look in-depth at advanced workout nutrition recommendations for those seeking to maximise their training performance, recovery and results. 

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Guy posing for camera with his workout nutrition

Maximising protein synthesis

Protein synthesis is the body’s ability to create new proteins for muscle repair and growth.

In order to do this effectively, we must activate ‘mammalian target of rapamycin’ or also known as ’mTOR’ (a protein), which is the controlling component to achieving protein synthesis while also signalling growth within the body. 

Protein Synthesis = mTOR activation 

To successfully activate mTOR, we must adhere to the following;  

As we can see, in order to activate mTOR maximally, we need a combination of weight training and nutrition at the same time, thus putting a large emphasis on finding the right workout nutrition

CONTRACTION

Intense weight training takes care of the ‘contraction’ part of the equation, along with the providing the growth factors such as growth hormone and IGF. 

What remains is the amino acids (protein) and insulin (carbohydrates). To ensure we cover these bases, we can use a number of advanced supplements that are currently available to us.

These ensure we provide the body with exactly the right nutrients, at the required times. 

AMINO ACIDS (PROTEIN) 

Enter, fast acting whey isolates or casein hydrolysates.

These type of protein powders provide us with sufficient and high quality amino acids in order to activate mTOR. Casein Hydrolysate is the highest quality protein powder on the market and contrary to its name is also absorbed much faster than any other intact protein or amino acid.

This provides the body with a complete amino acid profile and instant delivery of these ‘building blocks’ which will boost performance by reduced fatigue, faster recovery, increased endurance and heightened protein synthesis.

My favourite casein hydrolysate is PeptoPro. It is a pre-digested protein that is completely water soluble and contains > 60% unique hypo-allergenic di- and tri peptides.

PeptoPro also significantly increases glycogen levels (remember we need insulin), resulting in a better utilization of glucose and amino acids by the cells.

As this is a pre-digested protein, it by passes the stomach and heads straight for the small intestine, ready to be absorbed into the blood stream.

The result, instant delivery of the highest quality amino acids when we need it most. 

INSULIN (CARBOHYDRATES)

Enter, fast acting starchy carbohydrates.

Insulin is a growth and storage hormone, so when trying to create maximum protein synthesis, it is important to have a spike in insulin (and even keep it elevated) by using fast acting carbs sources.

This helps further shuttle the important amino acids to the muscle cells to improve nutrient uptake and further increase cell volumization.

Most people will look to dextrose/simple carbs for their fast acting carb sources, but there is a problem with these.

Despite simple carbs being fast acting in terms of emptying from the small intestine, due to the high osmolality (the concentration), there can be a significant delay in gastric emptying.

As a result, we could be missing out on the insulin release when we need it most in our workout nutrition.

It is therefore important to consume low osmolality based fast acting carbs for your workout nutrition.

This ensures fast emptying from the stomach, to match that of the fast acting protein powders.

This ensures a quicker release of insulin, thus activating protein synthesis earlier.

Further, what is commonly seen with fast acting carbs is a post insulin spike crash, when glucose is released too quickly from the intestines into the blood stream.

To avoid this, we also want a highly branched, or highly molecular based carb source.

This ensures, when the carbs hit the small intestines, they still require some digesting before uptake, resulting in a steady and constant insulin spike.

My favourite carbohydrate for achieving this is waxy maize starch and waxy barley starch.

These are the perfect workout nutrition carb, as it is high molecular yet low osmolality, providing us with a quick release from the stomach into the small intestine, to provide a rapid yet sustained form of glucose into the blood stream. 

AMINO ACIDS

The above information activates mTOR, providing us with maximum protein synthesis. 

Essentially we are delivering key nutrients to the working cells in order to create new ones – we are trying to maximise cell volume (using training and nutrition). 

There are a number of other ingredients to consider during the workout window that will help further drive and promote delivery of the key nutrients previously mentioned. 

Leucine

Leucine is a branch chain amino acid (BCAA), and research has shown that mTOR is activated the most from this amino. When taken in the right dosages (minimum 3.2g), it acts as a trigger switch for amino acid transport and uptake, via the mTOR pathway.

Leucine also potentiates insulin release (even more so with the presence of carbs) which is another important factor when aiming for protein synthesis. 

Glutamine

An age old traditional supplement that has been touted as the most abundant free amino acid in the body. 

Despite this, glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning it can be synthesised by the body when required to do so. 

Under certain conditions such as severe burns, infections, or those that cause a catabolic condition in the body, glutamine stores can be significantly depleted.

As a result, during these times it is important to replenish this amino acid in order to stop too stop muscle wasting. 

Weight training and endurance events have shown to have a catabolic response on the body, hence why the use of glutamine became popular, to help keep the body in a anabolic state.

However, we now know that the research is weak on this, and exercise does not cause significant depletion of glutamine in healthy people. 

This does not mean glutamine is not a noteworthy ergogenic aid, it simply means we should not be using it for the common mis-informed reasons above. 

What we should be using it for is to further enhance cell volume and protein synthesis around the workout window.

Glutamine supplementation pulls water into cells and activates leucine uptake, both of which are needed to maximally turn on protein synthesis. 

Further, a cell has to load up on glutamine before leucine is imported. When the body produces its own, there is a significant lag time involved, which if you have been paying attention up to now, you know we do not want any delay of nutrients during the workout window.

Therefore, supplementation is essential. 

Glycine

Glycine primes the insulin producing cells in your pancreas for increased insulin release. As we have already discussed, insulin is essential to mTOR activation and amino acid uptake.

Glycine is also an ‘osmolyte’, meaning it pulls water into the cells, causing an increase in cell volume, leading to greater protein synthesis. 

The Advanced Workout Nutrition Protocol

In summary, we want to achieve maximum protein synthesis during the workout window. We do this by activating mTOR by intense weight training, amino acids and insulin. 

To do this, we need:

  1. Intense weight training
  2. Amino acids via fast acting whey isolates or casein hydrolysates e.g. Pepto Pro
  3. Elevated insulin levels via fast acting carb powders e.g. Barley Starch
  4. Enhanced cell volumization via free form amino acids: 
  • L-leucine, 5-10g 
  • L-glycine, 5-10g 
  • Glutamine peptides, 5-10g 

Suggested dosages and timings:

  • 60 mins pre workout (15-30g Protein, 15-30g Carbs + Aminos) 
  • During (15g protein, 15g Carbs) 
  • 30-60 mins post (15-30g protein + Aminos) 
  • 90-120 mins post (solid whole food with protein + carbs)

This is an advanced workout nutrition protocol for those interested in ensuring they have protein synthesis at maximum capacity for maximum muscle growth and recovery.

Many of the supplements, including some of the information is relatively new on the scene, meaning we do not fully understand all the mechanisms behind them, and research may not be conclusive. 

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References & Further Reading