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Post-Workout Drink

Part Two: Optional Ingredients

by Gary F. Zeolla

Part One of this article looked at the importance of using a post-workout drink and of including liquid forms of carbs, protein, and fat in the drink. Maltodextrin, whey protein, and cream were stated to be the best items to use, with Optimum's 100% Whey Protein being named as a particular good source for the whey protein.

Liquid forms of carbs, protein, and fat are the "essential" ingredients to include in a post-workout drink. And consuming a drink with just these three ingredients immediately post-workout will aid greatly in recovery from that workout. But there are many other ingredients that one might want to include in a post-workout drink that will further aid in recovery and in ones training progress in general.

I have spent a lot of time researching and experimenting on myself as to which such ingredients work best. So I will discuss these ingredients in this second half of this article. Many of these ingredients are discussed in more details on the Web site. Follow the respective links for these discussions. Each of these ingredients is available from Amazon.

Creatine

Safe, effective, and inexpensive. These three qualities are hard to find in a supplement. But creatine fits all three of these. It is in fact the premier supplement for strength athletes. But how best to take creatine?

Research and experience has shown that creatine is best absorbed when taken with a high-glycemic carbohydrate. I have also found that it is best absorbed post-workout. And since one should already be consuming high-glycemic carbs in one's post-workout drink, then creatine becomes an ideal ingredient to add to the drink.

Doing so will enable the body to replenish creatine phosphate stores in the muscles cells. This should then lead to greater energy for the next workout. And I have found this to be the case.

I mentioned in part one of this article that at one time I used orange juice in my post-workout drink, but later I switched to using maltodextrin. And when I did, I found that I had greater energy for my subsequent workouts and was able to go through my workouts at a faster pace. I stated then that it was most likely was due to greater glycogen storage. But greater storage of creatine was possibly also a factor. The maltodextrin is a better carb for increasing creatine uptake than fruit juice is.

But how much should be used? General recommendations are for anywhere from 2-10 grams. Personally I use about 5 grams. But the reader will have to experiment to see what works best for you.

However, one final point should be mentioned; creatine is only effective for strength athletes, those engaging in high-intensity, short-term activities like powerlifting, bodybuilding, football, or track events like the shot put or discus. It is not effective for endurance athletes.

One point to note though, purity can be an issue when it comes to creatine. Some products can contain impurities that might lead to problems. So I would recommend sticking with pharmaceutical grade creatine products. The best such brand I have found is CreaPure, marketed by Jarrow Formulas and Swanson Health Products.

Glutamine

Glutamine is an often recommended ingredient to be used in a post-workout drink. There are several reasons for this. First, many find that it reduces post-workout soreness. Second, research has found that glutamine can reduce the colds and flu's that many experience as a result of the immune system being depressed from intense exercise. Third, it reduces cortisol levels. Fourth, it increase growth hormone levels. And finally, many athletes find they recover quicker with glutamine use.

So including 5-10 grams of glutamine in a post-workout drink would be beneficial. And I have found glutamine does provide all of the above benefits. However, like creatine, quality can be a problem when it comes to glutamine. And after much experimentation, I have found that IST's Pure Glutamine or Jarrow's Glutamine works best.

Arginine

Arginine is another amino acid that is often recommended for use both pre- and post-workout. The main purported benefit for arginine is that it increases nitric oxide, which acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the muscles. Many report feeling a greater "pump" during and even after their workouts while using arginine. But more importantly, the increased blood flow is supposed to aid in recovery by increasing the flow of nutrients to the muscle cells.

I used Met-Rx's Glutamine NOS (Nitric Oxide Support) for a while. It is a combination of glutamine and arginine. But for some strange reason, it seemed to make me feel fatigued. So I stopped using it and went back to using plain glutamine.

Vitamin C

Research has shown that taking vitamin C post-workout reduces post-workout soreness and cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic (muscle-destroying) hormone that is released during and after intense exercise. So reducing it as soon as possible after a workout is imperative.

Many vitamin C products are available. But I use one Twinlab's C-500 Caps for this purpose. I take one capsule with my post-workout drink. The Twinlab product is a high grade vitamin C product, and I've found it significantly reduces post-workout soreness and fatigue.

Sodium and Potassium

Sodium and potassium are electrolytes that are lost in sweat. This loss is especially significant if one is exercising in hot weather, or as I do in a gym that is not air-conditioned in the summer. Since a loss of such electrolytes can lead to cramping and other problems, replenishing them is a good idea. There are a lot of different products that can be used for a source of sodium and potassium, but I have found one of the cheapest is Morton's Lite Salt, which should be available at most standard grocery stores.

Lite Salt is composed of half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride. It is mainly designed for those who are trying to cut back on their sodium intake. But here, I am mainly looking at it as source of both electrolytes. 1/4 teaspoon contains 290 mg of sodium and 340 mg of potassium.

I have found a 1/4 teaspoon much made me too thirsty afterwards. So I only use 1/8 teaspoon, and I only use it when it in the summer months and then only when it is particularly hot. I don't feel it is necessary otherwise as with just the naturally occurring sodium and potassium in the other ingredients, my post-workout drink contains 81 mg of sodium and 269 mg of potassium. With the 1/8 teaspoon of Lite Salt, it contains a total of 226mg of sodium and 439mg of potassium.

Calcium and Magnesium

Calcium and magnesium are two very important minerals. I supplement with both of these via Twinlab's Calcium Citrate Caps. For me, this is essential in helping control a neurological condition I have called "tics" (follow the preceding link for further details). But as with sodium and potassium, they can be lost in sweat. And it is probably for this reason that I found my "tics" would often flare-up post-workout. So I started taking one Calcium Citrate Cap post-workout, and this cleared up the problem. So this shows it can be helpful to supplement with these two minerals after a workout, especially if you have been sweating a lot. One Calcium Citrate Cap contains 150 mg of calcium and 75mg of magnesium. There are an additional 272 mg of calcium in the other ingredients, but only a negligible amount of magnesium.

HMB

The main benefit of HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) is to reduce muscle damage incurred during and after a hard workout. This in turn reduces post-workout soreness and increases recovery rates. And I have found HMB to be effective in this regard.

But HMB is the most expensive supplement to be discussed in this article. So it would be best to experiment with the above ingredients first. And if you get the results you looking from them, don't bother with the HMB. But if post-workout soreness is a major problem for you, then HMB might be worth a try.

However, it is generally recommended that HMB be taken not just post-workout but throughout the day on both workout and non-workout days in order to keep levels elevated. 3.0 grams a day is the generally recommend amount. However, some authorities believe the dosage should be bodyweight dependent, namely 38 mg per kilogram of bodyweight (or about 17 mg/ pound).

HMB is best taken with protein and in several divided doses to increase absorption. But post-workout, there is a greater need and thus absorption. So more can be taken at that time.

For some time I took the recommended 3g/ day. And it definitely helped with post-workout soreness. But after some experimentation, I found I only needed to take it post-workout for the same amount of benefit. So I now only take 1000 mg post-workout.

Other Possible Ingredients

There are many other supplements that can be found in various recovery products and which are recommended for post-workout recovery. Among these are alpha lipoic acid, ribose, taurine, branch chain amino acids, and many others.

I've tried many such products but have not found them helpful. The above discussed ingredients are the ones that I have found to provide the most benefit. But the reader will have to experiment to see what works best for you.

Post-Workout Meal

Even with the carbs, protein, and other ingredients in a post-workout drink, it is still important to eat a regular meal not too long after finishing a grueling workout. However, it is best to wait long enough to allow the post-workout drink to digest before eating. So most generally, it would be best to eat a meal about 1-2 hours after consuming your post-workout drink.

For the meal, I would recommend again consuming a source of carbs. Only at this point, healthy complex carbs would be best. As stated in part one, complex carbs are best for restoring muscle glycogen stores. Good sources of such carbs would be potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and other whole grain products.

Next, it would be important to include a high-quality protein source, like red meat, chicken, turkey, or fish.

A source of testosterone raising fats would be beneficial as well. Red meat or dark chicken meat would contribute SFA and MUFA, and good sources of healthy MUFA would be olive oil, nuts, and peanuts. Also important would be vegetables, lots of them, to provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Putting it all together

Putting all of the above information together, and after much experimentation, the following is what I have arrived at as being the best ingredients and amounts thereof for my post-workout drink:

With a shaker cup:
Maltodextrin - 25g
Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon.

With a Vitamix:
Brown Rice syrup - 2 tablespoons
Natural peanut or almond butter - 1 tablespoon

With either:
Optimum: 100% Whey Protein - 1 scoop (standard 70cc scoop that comes with most protein powders).
Jarrow: Creatine - 5g.
Jarrow Glutamine - 5g
Twinlab: Calcium Citrate Caps - 1 capsule.
Twinlab: C-500 Caps - 1 capsule.
HMB - 1000 mg.
Morton Lite Salt - 1/8 tsp. (sometimes)

The reader can use these figures and your own bodyweight as a starting point for figuring out how much maltodextrin, whey protein, and cream and/ or oil to use in our post-workout drink. But of course, you then need to experiment to find out what amounts and proportions work best for you.

For some practical tips, I use a shaker cup purchased from Amazon for my post-workout drink. I prepare for it beforehand by measuring out the maltodextrin, whey protein, creatine, and glutamine into ZipLoc snack bags. Then before my workout I put one of these snack bags into the shaker cup, along with a plastic spoon. I measure out the canola oil into a baby food jar and put it in the shaker cup. The capsules I store in pill box and put that into the shaker cup as well.

When I tried using cream, I measured it out and froze it in baby food jars. Then right before I left for my workout, I took one of the jars and wrapped it in a hand towel. This kept it from completely thawing out before the end of my workout.

Then after my workout, I take the various items out of the shaker cup, empty the snack bag into the shaker cup, and add water. I then add the oil or cream. By now the cream should be thawed enough to pour. But if it is not, then the spoon comes in handy to spoon it out. I then close the shaker cup and shake it up. After drinking it, if any solids are left on the bottom of the cup, I again use the spoon to get to get to them. I find this to be a very tasty and beneficial post-workout drink.

Conclusion

Proper nutrition is vital to progress in an exercise or training program. And one very important nutrition step is consuming a post-workout drink with the appropriate ingredients to aid recovery. I hope this article has given the reader the knowledge to help you decide what you will work best for you in your post-workout drink. Each of the products discussed in this article are available from Amazon

.

Note: All company and product names are registered trademarks of the respective companies.

Email Follow-up

Subject: Post Workout Drink

>Hi Gary!

I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for your article Post-Workout Drink. I have been researching post-workout drinks for months now ever since I have decided to start mixing my own from scratch. I too have had the exact experience with dextrose but couldn't put my finger on what it was until I read your article. I never knew what it was in some of these post super workout drinks that I have tried out in the past that was making me fat and bulgy. I always thought it was just too many high glycemic carbs all at once and have been experimenting with it for a while now.

I accidentally put Tablespoons instead of Teaspoons of Dextrose recently while making my post workout drinks and was blown away at how big I got in a matter of days. I just figured it out today that I was doing that. Must have done it at least 3 days now. At first it looked like I was gaining mass but as the days went on I would freak out every time I stepped in front of the mirror as my waist got larger and I could see my body jiggling when I walked looking fatter and fatter by the day! I also seemed to feel full right after I would start to eat my meals and could not eat near as much as I normally did but still kept getting fatter. My metabolism has been incredibly slow compared to how it usually is, especially after a good high intense cardio session which I also have had plenty of.

Tomorrow I am going to mix my drink with straight Maltodextrin (and whey, taurine, creatine, stevia, water, and Glutamine/Vitamins A & C a little while later for transport reasons) without the Dextrose. I did catch it in time today as I was mixing my post drink. I dumped it right down the drain and re-mixed it to the proper ratio as I meant to in the first place:

Maltodextrin - 2.6 TBL
Dextrose – 3.75 TBL ---- This was wrong! should have been 3.75 tsp - oops!
Taurine 1/4 tsp (1g)
Sea Salt - A little less than 1/8 tsp
Whey – 1 scoop
Stevia - Tiny scoop
Water - 16 oz

Total = Calories 242, Protein 24g, Carbohydrates 32g, Sugar 16g, Sodium approx. 250 mg, Fat 1.5g, Taurine 1g.

I can already see the fat coming off. The reason I can tell where the extra fat came from is that I have been eating exactly the same as I always do outside of the "3 hour post workout window" so I knew it had to be somewhere in there. Your article pinpointed it head on for me as I had the exact same symptoms as you described during your experience with Dextrose.

So tomorrow's will even be way lower in sugar and about 3 grams less in carbs seeing I will not be using Dextrose (Drats! just bought a 50lb bag of the crap too!)

Anyway, thanks for posting your experiences. I was actually going to stop eating white potatoes thinking they were the culprit (I only eat them within the 3 hour post workout window) but I remembered that when I once tried Creatine HCS by AST Science I had the same problem so between remembering that and your article, it's all clear as mud now!

Thanks again & God bless you!

Sincerely,
Tony
7/24/06<

Thanks for email me. I hadn't heard of anyone else having the same problem with dextrose, so I was thinking it was just me. But it's good to know someone else has the same problem. Makes you wonder how many other people out there have gotten fat despite their best efforts to exercise, never realizing it was the post-workout drink causing the problems. Also makes you wonder why all the "experts" recommend dextrose and why so many companies sell dextrose-based post-workout products, along with creatine products with dextrose in them like the one you mentioned.

But I should mention that do not use maltodextrin anymore. I have found two things that seem to work even better. The first is brown rice syrup. I discuss this relatively healthy sweetener in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book. Unlike most sweeteners, it contains all carbs that are effective for muscle-glycogen replenishment.

Other possibilities that I mention are Rice Oligodextrin and OatMuscle, available from ProteinFactory.com. These are both low-glycemic carb sources. I know that most "experts" recommend high-glycemic carbs post-workout. But since switching to using the Rice O, I have found that my metabolism has definitely increased. I am eating more than ever and still struggling to keep my weight up! And both products retain the naturally occurring nutrients in the grains they are made from, unlike maltodextrin, which is highly refined.

Also in my book I discuss the issue of the post-workout drink in further detail than in that article and give my own recipe.

Post-Workout Drink. Copyright 2004, 2005 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article first appeared in the free FitTips for One and All newsletter.
It was posted on this site July 16, 2004.
It was updated August 21, 2006.

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