If you're working hard at working out, but you're frustrated with the time it's taking you to build
lean muscle mass, then you might want to take a look at your diet. Doing all the right things in the
gym, need to be backed up by all the right things in the kitchen, too.
When we train, tiny little tears appear in our muscle tissue. The body then gets to work repairing
these tears, and in doing so, more muscle layers form, and we get bigger, more visible muscles.
Protein is vital for this muscle recovery. But carbs have a role to play too.
Protein AND Carbs?!
The idea of adding protein to post-workout meals didn't materialise until the mid-1990s. Before
then, much of the sports science centred around the nutritional needs of endurance athletes such as
long distance runners. Research focussed on how best to refill tired muscles with the glycogen they
needed after a long run, and how to rehydrate the athlete. (Glycogen is a sugar that the muscles
need to power them, but have a limited supply of, hence why muscles get tired)
So carbs and fluids were the name of the game.
But then research emerged that said that protein could benefit muscle repair and those who are
weight training have been basing their diet on this research ever since.
So we know that carbohydrate helps to replenish glycogen and that protein helps to repair muscle,
but is one better after strength training than the other? Or is a combination of the two best?
Protein and Carbs – Getting the Balance Right
When we train using weights or our own body weight in resistance exercise, the ultimate goal is to
build muscle (aside from losing fat). Muscle is made of protein (which itself is made of amino acids,
often called the building blocks of protein), water, connective tissue and glycogen.
Protein synthesis is the creation of protein and is triggered by the process of training. So, training
equals protein synthesis, which equals muscle building. Just what we want!
The opposite of protein synthesis is protein breakdown. The body needs the ability to breakdown
protein in order to adapt to changing needs. It might need those amino acids somewhere other than
the muscles. So protein breakdown, whilst bad news for the muscles, isn't so bad elsewhere in the
body. But to build muscle, we need protein synthesis to outweigh protein breakdown. And that
means getting the diet right.
Post Workout Protein and Carbs
Eating protein stimulates protein synthesis but has no impact on protein breakdown. Insulin,
triggered when we eat carbohydrates, inhibits protein breakdown and has no effect on protein
So we can see, that eating protein after training benefits muscle growth by stimulating protein
synthesis in the muscles, and eating carbs after training benefits muscle growth by inhibiting protein
So all this means that the best post workout snack or meal includes both protein and carbs. Perfect
protein/carb combinations include peanut butter or eggs on wholemeal toast, a chicken sandwich
made with lean chicken breast and wholemeal bread or a tuna pasta salad made with wholemeal
If you'd like more information on combining protein and carbs for maximum workout benefit,
contact me and let's see what we can achieve together!