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Why Carbs Are Required Post Workout…Or Are They?

World’s fastest post workout protein shake recipe

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing why carbs are required post workout …or are they?

In addition to this, I’m also sharing the world’s fastest post workout protein shake recipe.

But before we get into today’s topic, do me a big favor and go subscribe to our Live Lean TV YouTube channel to become apart of the Live Lean Nation.

What is the post workout anabolic window?

Have you heard of one of the “golden rules” of working out, which talks about the post workout anabolic window?

This rule refers to drinking the right combination of nutrients, within 60 minutes of finishing your workout.

It’s often stated that this 60 minute window is one of the most important times of the day, from a nutrition standpoint, to help build muscle and improve your recovery.

The rationale for this is it’s important to make the most of your hard work in the gym, by drinking a protein shake after your workout.

Since you break muscle down during your workout, the goal of post workout nutrition is to rebuild, repair, and recover.

This prevents muscle loss, reduces muscle soreness, and starts the rebuilding process so you are properly recovered for your next workout.

In other words, it switches you out of a catabolic muscle breakdown stage and starts you on a rebuilding anabolic stage.

Should you add carbohydrates to your post workout protein shake?

A typical post workout shake usually contains a combination of a liquid, a protein powder, and a fast digesting carbohydrate source.

The quantities of carbohydrates to protein vary, and really depends on you and your goals.

Now this brings me to the point of this post.

Like all things in fitness and nutrition, there is not a one size fits all solution.

If you hear someone say a blanket statement about why carbs are required post workout, they’re giving it to you without context.

Before making that assumption, the first few questions your coach should ask you is:

  • what is your current body composition?
  • what is your goal?
  • do you have a quick time frame to achieve your goal?

Your specific answer to these three questions, dictate if carbohydrates are required post workout.

Even if your goal is weight loss, I always recommend people get some sort of amino acids, especially branch chained amino acids, within that 60 minute window after your workout.

These BCAAs are essential for protein synthesis, which helps your body recover, repair, and grow your muscle.

Most people get these BCAAs via a protein powder, any food high in protein, or even a BCAA supplement powder.

However when it comes to adding carbohydrates to your post workout shake, it all depends on you and your specific goals.

Here’s what I mean.

Carbs are not required post workout if you are:

But let me be clear.

If you fall into any of these categories, I’m not saying you shouldn’t consume carbohydrates after your workout.

I’m simply stating carbohydrates are not required for your goals.

Now lets talk about who would benefit from consuming carbohydrates after your workout.

Carbs are required for you if you are:

For these people, depending on your specific situation, consuming a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is a good idea.

Don’t fast digesting carbohydrates make you fat?

For people who are already lean, after your workout is the best times to consume fast digesting carbs as your body is more insulin sensitive.

This means, your body is ready to absorb the carbohydrates as muscle glycogen and utilize them to refuel, not store them as fat.

These carbohydrates can also help shuttle the amino acids from the protein to the muscle cells faster, which helps speed up recovery.

So let me address a few of the concerns I always hear about post workout nutrition.

1. I don’t have time to make and eat food after a workout

Time is always an issue.

This would be a valid concern if you were required to bake a chicken breast, bake a sweet potato, and steam broccoli.

But that type of post workout meal is not required.

Solution: if you go to the gym in the morning and then go directly to the office, add pineapple juice or orange juice to a stainless steel shaker cup.

stainless steel shaker cup

Put 20-40g of a high quality protein powder like this one (use coupon code: LiveLeanTV25) in a separate container.

Throw both into your gym bag.

That’s it.

Pineapple juice and orange juice make decent post workout carbohydrates sources as they contain higher amounts of glucose, while they’re lower in fructose.

Best fruit juice post workout carbohydrate source:

If you’re going to use fruit juice as your post workout carbohydrate, look for a fruit juice that is:

  • high in glucose
  • low in fructose
  • high in the insulin index

The insulin index is similar to the glycemic index, but different in that it measures insulin levels, not blood glucose levels.

This is important because glucose is used to replenish depleted glycogen in the muscle cells, while fructose is used to replenish depleted glycogen in the liver cells.

If your goal is muscle building, you could also use dextrose which is a simple carbohydrate powder.

2. I don’t like eating cold food 

No problem.

You don’t have to.

Solution: go re-read solution #1.

3. I don’t like the clumpy texture and bad tasting protein shakes

I don’t blame you.

Solution: buy a high quality protein powder like this one (use coupon code: LiveLeanTV25) that doesn’t contain a bunch of junk and chemicals.

Supplement companies have come a long way in producing healthier and better tasting protein powders with good mix-ability.

I love using a paleo egg protein powder from Rootz Nutrition (use coupon code: LiveLeanTV) because it also contains a blend of super food ingredients.

I’ve also been slowly adding a super clean whey isolate protein powder from Earth Nutri back into my diet.

I like whey isolate protein powder as it is a superior post workout protein powder.

This is due to it’s amino acid profile and higher quantity of the most important amino acid for protein synthesis, leucine.

Post workout protein shake vs a solid meal

Since shakes are in liquid form, they are broken down and digested by the body faster, when compared to a solid food post workout meal.

Even though whole foods high in protein are the best sources of nutrients throughout the day, they don’t break down and digest as quickly as protein powder.

Speed of digestion is an important aspect of your post workout meal, as your muscles are very receptive to absorbing all the nutrients fast.

The Sponge analogy:

Think of your muscle cells as a sponge.

After a workout, the sponge is dry as it has been depleted of all it’s glycogen, which is just a fancy word for short-term energy.

When you pour water (i.e. your protein shake) over a dry sponge (i.e. your muscles), it will quickly absorb all the liquid (i.e. the nutrients) without any spill over, which causes fat storage.

Why carbs are required post workout if you’re already lean

The carbohydrates in your post workout shake are efficiently used to re-store this depleted glycogen in the muscle cells.

This helps break you out of the muscle breakdown and catabolic state, and turn you into the anabolic state that is responsible for repairing, rebuilding, and growing new muscle.

If you don’t replenish your depleted glycogen levels after a workout, your body can then turn to your muscles and break them down for this same purpose.

This can hurt your metabolism, hence why carbohydrates can be beneficial post workout.

Why carbs are not required post workout if you’re obese

However if you’re obese or overweight, your glycogen tanks may already be full, therefore you’re at risk for more spill over and fat storage.

Also, when your glycogen levels are low, your body can use attack stored body fat to burn for energy, not stored sugar.

This is why it’s important to keep carbohydrates low, when you have a major fat loss goal.

Example of a Fast Digesting Post Workout Shake

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To get a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein:

Print Recipe
World's Fastest Post Workout Protein Shake
World's Fastest Post Workout Protein Shake
Course Protein Shake
Prep Time 10 seconds
Course Protein Shake
Prep Time 10 seconds
World's Fastest Post Workout Protein Shake
  1. Add 2 cups of pineapple juice to a shaker cup.
  2. Mix in 1 scoop of vanilla whey isolate protein powder from Earth Nutri.
  3. Add the top to the shaker cup, shake, and drink.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 360

Protein: 30g

Carbohydrates: 59g

Fat: 0g

So there you have it.

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Thanks for watching and keep Living Lean.

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