I've done a myriad of protocols for pre-peri-post training nutrition over the years. Most of which follows the usual thought of moving carbs and proteins in at various times in order to enhance recovery and promote growth. I mean, that's what all the fuss is about right? That's the debate involving what to eat or drink prior to and post training.
During prep, I did a lot of studying on enhancing this even more since I was using the exogenous ketones in that time to keep training intensity high, and not feel brain dead all the time. Especially in the last 4-6 weeks prior to the show. I wanted to come out of the show and take advantage of post show rebound growth, and have the best plan I could write out in order to do this. Some of these protocols I used for the show (shouldn't be hard to figure out which ones), and others I'm using now in offseason mode.
This isn't a huge deviation from what I've done previously, but there are some details I thought were worth sharing. Let me preface this with I'm not going to go back and forth all day about minor details. I implemented a plan that worked. It WORKED FOR ME. There. That's done with. If you don't want to implement it and argue that's certainly your right. I'm simply offering it up since I get asked these questions a lot, and to give some insight as to how you COULD implement this into your nutritional paradigm in regards to enhancing the training effect.
So let's get to it.
Pre-workout - 60-90 minutes prior to training
Casein pre-workout with a banana and some peanut butter. This combination, especially if it is micellar casein, which causes no insulin response, is great for a few reasons. Casein tends to be a slow digesting protein, so while you're training you're going to have a full spectrum of amino acids still getting into the bloodstream. Bananas are a low glycemic index carb, but it doesn't even matter since we're adding in some peanut butter which would bring down the GI score of any carb ingested with anyway, but I still like playing this on the safe side to keep blood sugar levels from bouncing off the wall before you train. So with this combo, I kept insulin and blood sugar on the down low.
- 20-30 minutes prior to training
I use the 3.0 keto-os. Which has leucine in it, which is the branch chain amino acid for activating mTOR, the primary muscle building pathway in the body. So now we're activating muscle protein synthesis half an hour before training, and getting the benefits of including exogenous ketones, which give us another energy source in addition to glucose for training. For those in a highly depleted state, like being in contest prep, the reason they tend to notice a huge lift in brain fog and have focus again is that, from what we're seeing is that the ketones go towards energy for the brain.
Which would explain why you go from being like a zombie, to suddenly having that drive and focus for hard training again. But even if you're not carb depleted or in prep, you're still getting the benefits of reducing inflammation with BHB, which means faster recovery time between workouts, which means you can train more, which means you have more opportunities to stimulate growth. Not only that, but inflammation is related to just about every illness known to mankind. So if you want to improve your health, it's a great overall addition to your diet. If you don't give a shit about all of that, don't buy it. I don't care.
During training, I started to hyperdose BCAA. I know there's been a lot of back and forth on the net about the benefits of BCAA, and I'm not sure why. There's a mountain of studies that have shown that using BCAA helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis, helps reduce soreness and promote recovery and a more highly anabolic environment. I have actually found that using around double the recommended dose (around 40 grams instead of 20) does in fact make a difference in recovery time and reduced soreness from training. Now for a while, I was using cyclic dextrin during training, but I ended up realizing that if my carb intake was high, the truth was I wasn't going to go through all my muscle glycogen and liver glycogen during a training session that was only 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes long. Are they going to get depleted? Yes of course. But you can replenish your glycogen stores just fine and your body is actually in a more primed state to do so post workout.
Second, I just prefer having something that has a "taste" to it during training. I drink over a gallon of water a day as is (and at times more than 3 gallons a day during prep), so having something that has "flavor" to it is mostly a personal choice.
Which leads us to post workout nutrition. Now the thought for a long time has been that as soon as training is over you have to slam your carbs and protein in order to recover, and replenish glycogen stores immediately post training.
Net protein balance is an absolute requirement for muscle growth to happen (net protein balance is when muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown and is a MUST for growth). But muscle protein synthesis is elevated for up to 24 hours or longer post training, and glycogen synthesis is elevated for up to six hours post training before returning to baseline. Not only that, but fat oxidation is also increased in a post workout state. So post workout your body is actually in a fat burning mode. There is the debate that you're turning off this time of fat burning if you ingest carbs immediately post training, however the counter argument to that is carbs post workout go towards nothing but glycogen replenishment, and that fatty acids fuel normal resting requirements. I'll come back to that.
Now to insulin sensitivity post workout. Insulin sensitivity is high post workout. And whey protein alone spikes insulin very efficiently, and insulin is what we need in order to reduce muscle protein breakdown. Whey isolate also increases muscle protein synthesis. So it's pretty easy to conclude that post workout, you can wait while fat oxidation is high, then get in your post workout shake sans carbs and find a positive net protein balance while keeping the fat burning furnace high. I also recommend a mixture of 50/50 isolate and casein post workout (25 grams of casein and 25 grams of isolate) as isolate is a fast digestion protein that gets the amino acids into the cells quickly due to it's high insulin response, where as noted before with casein, it's a slower digesting protein that will feed the cells amino acids for several hours afterwards.
Now we've set the stage for a few things
- Longer period of fat oxidation post workout, so this means an increased time in fat burning mode
- Achieving a positive net protein balance with the inclusion of whey isolate by reducing muscle protein breakdown, and increasing muscle protein synthesis.
- Using a slower digesting protein to prolong the anabolic environment.
The flip side of this is for those who want to gain weight, or are in offseason mode where fat burning is not a primary objective. In that case, 50-100 grams of carbs coming from waxy maize or cyclic dextrin is a great idea, as it clears the gut fast and replenishes glycogen stores very quickly. But even for those who are trying to get leaner, you still need to replenish glycogen post training, but this can be done so efficiently in the six hours post training when the body is in a state for increased uptake of glycogen. It really all depends on goals and what you're trying to maximize in your training or body composition.
So here will be the counter argument about all of this. And I will say I'm on board with either and will give my two cents, and then be broke as fuck.
Truthfully, you can do either regardless of whether you're trying to get lean or gain mass. At the end of the day you're still going to need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat, or a calorie surplus to gain mass. However, you can tweak this process a bit in order to eek out slightly better results for both. Obviously eliminating 50-100 grams of carbs (200-400 calories) will help with getting into a calorie deficit. However, those quick digesting carbs are far more likely to be stored in the muscle post training, and then you could just as easily manipulate your carb intake for the rest of the day to find the desired deficit you need. The addition of those 200-400 calories will obviously be a great idea for someone looking to add calories for mass gain.
See? No reason to be dogmatic. It's possible both approaches work. I know, that's effin crazy, but it's true.
Experiment with BOTH to see what YOUR results are. Don't argue. Try both out. People have gotten lean doing it both ways, and people have gained mass doing it both ways. Tweaking it for yourself will help you to understand which works better for you, and your goals.
For the novice, most of this is irrelevant. Get a good meal in 90 minutes prior to training and within 1-2 hours post training. For the advanced lifter, these things will make a difference in recovery and growth.
Lastly, this protocol has worked VERY WELL for me. So while I'm including studies, I really am done with going back and forth over the net arguing about all of these nuances.
Here is the REAL DEAL - you're going to have to experiment to find out what works FOR YOU. Period. Citing study after study without ever applying methods or ideologies into your training or nutritional paradigm is just mental masturbation. And it's annoying. Feel free to copy and use my plan, or play around and design your own that you find results with. People THAT, and that alone, is the best way to find out what works most efficiently FOR YOU.
I hope to hear back from anyone who implements this and talks about their results. My suggestion is to give a protocol a try for an extended period (at least 8 weeks) before you come to conclusions about it, and to also have your DIET AS A WHOLE, dialed in before you come to those conclusions. What you eat from sunrise to sundown is more important than this particular window of nutrition. This particular paradigm is merely a piece of the puzzle. It's an important one, but if the rest of your diet isn't on point it will be nearly impossible to gauge how significant or insignificant the results from implementing these strategies will be.
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