Most of us have probably heard about the benefits of drinking chocolate milk post-workout. A lot of health conscious individuals, despite knowing that a beverage like chocolate milk can be beneficial for recovery, are hesitant to start chugging down Yoo-Hoos and, instead, opt for the traditional protein shake. In doing so, these people are missing an important component of the recovery process that involves restoring muscle glycogen.
It’s common knowledge that carbs are an important source of fuel to maintain adequate energy levels–especially if you’re active. For some reason, a lot of people forget this detail when it comes to their recovery beverage. After prolonged or intense physical activity, your blood sugar (and the sugar stored in your liver) is depleted. Which is why it is essential to replenish muscle glycogen immediately after a workout with a carb-loaded beverage. Studies have shown the ideal ratio is 4:1 carbs to protein. Even if your muscle glycogen hasn’t been completely depleted, replenishing your glycogen reserves is important to be able to attack your next workout.
A study published in the Journal of Sport Science and Medicine investigated the effects of different post-workout beverages (containing varying macronutrient ratios) and found that subjects that received a combination of carbs and protein after working out had greater muscle synthesis rates and lower urinary urea excretion (indicating reduced muscle protein degradation). Carbs alone were shown to have minimal effects on protein synthesis in the absence of protein ingestion although carbs do help minimize muscle breakdown.
It’s best to take your recovery shake immediately after working out so that you can replenish glycogen storage right away. Other than the 4:1 carb to protein ratio, there are other important things to consider when determining what goes into your shake. Different kinds of carbs initiate different outcomes. Carbs derived from foods with high glucose indices like fruits or honey have been shown to be the most effective since they’re quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Fruits and sugars containing minimal fiber and packed with carbs are key ingredients. When paired with a little bit of protein powder or a handful of nuts and seeds, you’ll ready for your next workout in no time!
4:1 Recovery Drink Recipe
1 cup of 100% natural orange juice
1/2 a scoop of vanilla protein
1.5 tbsp of honey
A pinch of salt
Add ingredients to a blender and blend for 20-30s.
Drink immediately after training.