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When it comes down to it, making muscular gains is about going beyond simply recovery: Building muscle size, day by day, inch by inch, requires a net positive effect on muscle protein balance. Reducing muscle breakdown [probably by increasing insulin levels5,6] is one way that including carbs in your peri-workout7-10 recovery drink gets this done. Intra-workout carbs also reduce post-exercise cortisol11, an important predictor of muscle growth over the long haul12,13. Admittedly though, the science is actually a bit fuzzy as to the acute14,15 and long haul benefits16 of peri-workout carbs for packing on size per se, but including carbs in a recovery drink primes your muscles for restoring glycogen17,18 (see Cyclic Dextrin® below) and there’s certainly no disadvantage to intra-workout carbohydrate19.
Before we get into the details of Recovery, be sure you don’t lose sight of the big picture when crafting your intra- and post-workout strategy. Intra-workout nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle: Substantial gains may very well mean consuming more carbohydrate and/or protein (and calories!) than subjects following most research protocols. For example, supersizing your post-workout carbohydrate (e.g., with 90-100g of carbs) may8 or may not20 inhibit protein breakdown. However, a glycogen-filled muscle cell is generally a more anabolic one7 and a brutal weight training workout dramatically elevates metabolic rate21,22, and can even temporarily prohibit glycogen replenishment despite eating a high carbohydrate diet23. This may be why one study found that hard training plus massive (>350g) carbohydrate supplementation (even without additional protein!) produces substantial gains in muscle mass without increased body fat24.
Obviously, protein has its role, too. While consuming more than ~40g of post-workout protein may not further increase protein synthesis25-27, doubling this amount28,29!] creates the positive protein balance we want by blunting protein breakdown. While adding more and more protein to the diet beyond a certain point30,31 isn’t a magic bullet for building more muscle, there is also little risk of adverse health effects or gaining body fat from simply from eating large amounts of protein32-34.
Given the above, we’ve created Recovery as a way to jumpstart a recovery strategy based on a sound diet replete with carbs, protein, and calories.
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