Research has shown that a pre-workout type of shake helps promote protein synthesis better than a post workout shake. Does that mean if you drink two, you will get more protein synthesis? Most likely not. Protein synthesis happens in pulses, you cannot be in a constant state of muscle anabolism.
So what happens to all those extra calories you eat that you think are helping your recovery? THEY ARE MAKING YOU FATTER!!!
I’ll take an example of my college roommate, Chris. During one of his “bulking phases” he gained a lot more fat than he wanted to because he wanted to be “anabolic” the whole time. He didn’t need “all” those extra calories to promote muscle growth. Chris learned that the hard way. A good recommendation is about 500-700 extra calories a day to help promote muscle growth. Muscle growth happens so slowly, it is hard to put on more than 1-2lbs of real muscle a month. Even that rate is hard for most individuals. If you could imagine 10lbs of ground beef and imagine that much mass added onto someone’s body, they would have a very different physique. Most individuals who say they’ve gained 10-15lbs of mass while beginning a weight lifting program are probably not lying until they say they have gained 10-15lbs of muscle. It is just hard to get into most individuals’ heads because of the perpetuated myths in our media today.
EATING FOOD, NOT SUPPLEMENTING
Another pseudoscience trend I fell into was, “eat lots of fast digesting carbohydrates and protein during the workout and get huge!” Well it has some truth to it. Faster digesting carbohydrates and proteins do help promote protein synthesis, glycogen re synthesis, and recovery, but you do not need as much as you think. Overall daily nutrition is much more important than the workout shake in terms changing body physique. You cannot add on slabs of muscle from a shake or gain tons of fat from eating a slice of cake. Losing fat and muscle work are also the same, you will not cannibalize muscle if nor will you lose those rolls around your stomach if you skip a meal or two. It takes work and consistency to do both. This is why you do not see individuals gain an enormous amount of fat or muscle in a week. The general recommendations from ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) are pretty good for exercise nutrition.
Pre-competition: The optimal CHO and PRO content of a pre-exercise meal is dependent upon a number of factors including exercise duration and fitness level, but general guidelines recommend ingestion of 1 – 2 grams CHO/kg and 0.15 – 0.25 grams PRO/kg 3 – 4 hours before competition.
Post-competition: Ratio of CHO to PRO requires additional investigation, a often utilized practical approach is to consume a supplement containing CHO + PRO in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio within 30 minutes following exercise, which translates to 1.2 – 1.5 g/kg of simple CHO (e.g., dextrose, sucrose) with 0.3 – 0.5 g/kg of a quality PRO containing EAA
Now remember, pre-competition guidelines are a MEAL, not a shake. The post-competition guideline does not factor in a pre-workout shake. This is especially important if you are trying to lose fat (more on that later in this post).
So is it time to rethink your workout nutrition? Most likely . . . AFTER YOU GET YOUR DAILY NUTRITION INTO GEAR TOO! This is just a small piece in the grand scheme of nutrition. Just because you get this part right and mess it up the other 23 hours a day, don’t expect to lose fat.
I have been on a “real food” phase lately. Let’s start off with what has happened to me. Coming back from my internship at Athletes’ Performance I went from 158 to 170 (Who said you can’t gain weight and workout while interning 55 hours a week). When I got home and started my internship at Holy Cross, they didn’t have the extra Gatorade or protein shakes lying around so that was cut out of diet. I slowly lost weight went down to 164 in a matter of 8 weeks, still working out trying to get stronger. My program wasn’t that much different and I interned about 15 fewer hours there a week. What does that tell you? To lose fat, you have to eat less (in a reasonable sense of course). All I did was cut out Gatorade and extra protein shakes during the day. So if you are not losing weight, you need to eat less. You cannot eat less and not lose weight in most healthy individuals. Less comparatively to yourself, not someone else!
WORKOUT NUTRITION FOR FAT LOSS
If you are trying to lose weight, cut the pre and post workout shakes. EAT REAL FOOD! Now you might think I’m talking blasphemy and ask what about all that research that talk about protein synthesis being unregulated with individuals who drink a post-workout shake. Well most of the studies are done in a fasted state before hand, not factoring in a pre-competition meal which makes a very big difference. If one is trying to lose weight, they should be in calorie deficiency while lifting heavy things (read lifting weights). Now I stress heavy things, not something you can lift 11-100+ rep range. More like something in the 4-6 rep range. They recruit more muscle fibers, so there is more simulation to illicit a “muscle protecting effect”.
If you have been in the gym for over while and you have not lost any weight, it’s time to recheck with your nutrition. You are obviously not breaking the laws of thermodynamics by eating less and not losing weight. You are not that special. Natural bodybuilders slim down every year and have success by eating less and lifting heavy things!
WHY REAL FOOD
Well why real food? Here is the reason, because real food kicks protein powder and replacement meals butts in terms of nutrition value, fiber content and satiety. You get more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and you get to chew it instead of drinking some shake. You get more bang for your buck in terms of calories, what is there not to like? “Oh, but Henry what about my recovery from the workout?” You are trying to lose fat, not put on muscle or get stronger. Focus on that goal! If you could choose between a shake and a meal post workout, a meal wins each time for fat loss goals. In a calorie deficit diet, it is important to make sure you are getting enough nutrients, so why waste your calories on “empty calories”. In fact, it has been shown that cereal after workouts is just as effective as a sports drink for glycogen re synthesis.
Messages to Take From This Article:
-Eat real food on fat loss diets
-Eat less to lose weight
-Do not go crazy with extra calories when trying to gain weight
Here are a few links to check out to spark your own interest and research.
Henry is ACSM-PT Certified. He graduated from University of Rhode Island with a B.S. in Exercise Science. He is currently at College of Holy Cross as a strength coach for athletes.