Post-Workout Carbs - Do You Really Need Them?

Post-Workout Carbs - Do You Really Need Them?

When I was a young buck in the 1990s, the post-workout hype was real. I remember thinking that if I didn’t immediately slam my 75 grams of dextrose and creatine post-workout that I just wasted the 90-minute investment into my gains.

It would be terrible. It wasn't just that I made no gains for the day; I was also going catabolic and losing gains.

Related - What is the Best Post-Workout Carb to Protein Ratio?

And it didn’t matter if I ate a meal right after training. We needed to actually drink that exact shake to prevent mediocrity and terrible consequences even worse than death, NO GAINS.

The bottom line is, there is overwhelming data favoring the use of post-workout carbohydrates. Waiting to consume carbs for as little as two hours post-workout has been shown to reduce glycogen replenishment by about 50%.

Why do we need to replenish glycogen? Because glucose is needed to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

ATP is responsible for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body. If you get this replaced faster, you can recover faster. But how much faster? Probably not enough to concern ourselves with, but every little bit helps.

We can also argue that as long as your macronutrient intake is equal, for example, if you are set to eat 200g protein, 200g carbs, and 100g fat during the day, that as long as you meet those goals, your results will be very similar if not the same. Science backs this as well, as contradictory as it is our first point.

That’s the thing about science. One study will never be enough to end an argument, but it gets us that much closer to a more educated opinion.

One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that protein alone is as effective as protein plus carbohydrate when it comes to repairing or building muscle. [1] It helps in aiding the stimulation of protein synthesis and might also help you recover between training sessions. In this study, they demonstrated gains were similar but recovery was slightly better when carbohydrate was combined with protein.

What does this mean for you and your carb intake?

Post Workout Nutrition and Carbs

For this article, we focus on post-workout and not the rest of the day.

As a person who looks beyond the gains and into the realm of long-term health, I don’t like the long-term deleterious health effects of spiking insulin regularly. It also makes me feel tired and lethargic about 45 minutes after the post-workout carb influx.

On the other hand, I cannot argue that insulin might have some benefits.

I make a supplement from MTS Nutrition called Carb 10™. Carb 10 is extremely FAST with a very low molecular weight and helps to get into your system fast without the concurrent insulin spike. This is why for around training, if you want carbs, I recommend this product.

But what if you don’t like Carb 10 and prefer eating food? As an old school fella, having a banana alongside a scoop of MTS Whey will do the trick. I never recommend a post-workout shake with no protein and only carbs.

How much you need to replenish depends on the intensity of the workout. Thus, I recommend more carbs after taxing days like legs, back, and even chest. I would also recommend more if training with super-high intensity in a sport like boxing or soccer.

For not-so-demanding workouts like arms, shoulders, and smaller bodyparts, I recommend fewer carbs. Here is what I recommend in the real-world setting of scoops:

Fast Carbs With No Insulin Spike

  • Larger Bodypart Day or SUPER HARD Athletic Event
  • 2 scoops Carb 10 or banana
  • 1 Scoop MTS Whey or banana

Smaller Bodypart Day

  • 1 scoop Carb 10 or banana
  • 1 scoop MTS Whey

For those who want dextrose and believe in that insulin spike, there is a great supplement out there called Core PWO. Take this as recommended on the label for both large and small bodypart days.

Consume this right after your last set or if you do postworkout cardio, after the cardio.

Eat a scheduled meal 45 minutes to an hour after consuming this shake.

Post-workout nutrition will indeed help you reach your goals. Find the plan that works for you and be on your way to the gains of a lifetime.

1) Vandré Figueiredo, et. al., “Is carbohydrate needed to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis/hypertrophy following resistance exercise,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:42.
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John Best - May 19, 2018

Thanks for this info Marc. I’ve heard you discuss this before on YouTube. Up until about a year ago I could care less about carbs post workout.

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