The Skinny on Post-WOD Eats and the Truth about Protein Powders

I’ve found that there is a lot of confusion around protein powder and its role in fitness and nutrition, especially among women. Many think of protein powder as something only used by body builders and those who want to bulk up. Others might not necessarily be opposed, but have no idea what kind to buy or when to use it. I started drinking whey protein shakes post-workout about 6 months ago, and let me tell you, it has certainly made a difference for me both in recovery time as well as fat loss.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I want to start with a brief discussion on the role of nutrition and its timing in exercise recovery. As we all know, it’s very important to fuel your body post-workout, whether you’re participating in endurance or weight training activities. After we exercise, our bodies go into a catabolic – or “breakdown” – state. The glycogen stores in our muscles are depleted and muscle fibers are broken down. The meal that we eat immediately after exercising can play a large role in restoring energy, repairing muscles, shortening recovery times and even changing body composition.

However, the quality and timing of your post-workout meal is very important.

The Metabolic Window

It has been shown that in order to achieve maximum benefits from exercise, a meal should be eaten no longer than 30-45 minutes after exercise. For those who exercise several times a week, this is especially important for recovery, as it can result in a 4-10 hour recovery period, as opposed to 24-36 hours.

The Optimal Combination

So now that you know when you should eat, you may be wondering what you should eat. While this depends on the type of exercise that you’re doing, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume a mixture of cardio and weight training.

It is important to consume carbohydrates post-exercise, as they play a key role in restoring glycogen in the muscles. However, combining protein with carbs post-exercise boosts glycogen synthesis more than consuming carbs alone and helps to further promote muscle repair. Studies have shown that 0.25-0.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass post-exercise is sufficient. But keep in mind that this varies by person based on their goals and specific nutrition needs.

As a general rule of thumb, the ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio of a post workout meal is 2:1. Here’s a nice little calculator that can help you get an idea of what that translates to (scroll to the bottom).

So any type of carb is ok, right?

Chips

Wrong.

Fast-acting carbs such as fruits are great immediately after a workout because they restore glycogen levels immediately, which aids in recovery. Slow-acting carbs such as sweet potatoes and steel cut oats restore glycogen levels at a slower, steadier rate. A combination of the two is optimal, but not always achievable when trying to stay within the metabolic window. I usually eat a banana immediately after I workout to get something into my body, and then about an hour or so later, I’ll have part of a sweet potato.

Ok, so where does protein powder enter the picture?

If you’re like me and you workout in the morning before heading straight to work (after a shower, I hope), it’s easy for an hour or even two to go by between finishing your workout and actually eating a meal. This is obviously way outside the metabolic window. Protein drinks and shakes are a great way to immediately get some protein into your body post-workout so that you don’t miss the window.  They tend to be low in fat and calories and are easy to make and transport. You just throw a scoop or two of protein powder into your handy dandy blender bottle and add water. I usually eat a banana at the same time, or throw everything together in a blender to make a banana protein shake, which satisfies my carb:protein requirements.

Not all protein is created equal.

So what kind of protein should you buy? With all of the different products on the market, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when walking into your local Vitamin Shoppe. I found this guide from Muffin Topless on buying protein powders to be very useful. Generally, you’ll want to look at the ingredient list and find one that does not contain excess sugar or harmful chemicals. You’ll also want to watch out for cheap filler ingredients, which may detract from the amount of protein you’re actually getting with each serving.

The most common types of protein include whey, casein and soy. I prefer whey, as it contains a higher level of amino acids and is digested and absorbed more rapidly, producing a higher rate of muscle protein synthesis at rest and after exercise.

Personally, I looooooooooove Protizyme Peanut Butter Cookie. Even mixed with water, it still tastes incredible. Blended with a banana and almond milk, you have yourself a peanut butter shake!

Protizyme

Whey is derived from milk, so if you’re lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, soy protein is another option, although I’m not familiar enough on the topic to speak to it. There are also other sources such as pea and rice protein.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the stigma of protein powders, especially for you ladies out there! No need to be intimidated by protein shakes. Drink up!

Now I’m off to the gym for an ass-kicking followed by my own protein shake…

As always, comment if you have any questions!

Julia

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Metabolism Rundown and a2a Egg Muffins

First off, I hope everyone participating in the 25 day a2achallenge has been enjoying these first few days!  We have had such a great response from so many of you who have stepped up to the challenge! Stay motivated and keep sending those “a2a approved” healthy meals and recipes our way!

I know this challenge came at a great time for me and I’m excited to see how I feel and look after 25 days.  If you are looking for the “challenge approved” egg muffins that I made earlier this week, they are at the very bottoms of the post and have really come in handy so far!

Since one of the objectives of this challenge is to restore a healthy metabolism, I thought I would take this opportunity to dive into what metabolism really is.  It can be a huge player in fat loss…either working for or against you.  This has actually been a hot topic in my daily life lately, as I have been working with a client on how to repair a damaged metabolism. While repairing metabolism is a little more involved then we’re going to get today, I’ll be sure to post more about that in the future and share my own story.  Today I’ll just run through a general overview about metabolism and how you can boost yours!

So what is Metabolism? 

Metabolism is a function of the body that processes food into energy.  This process establishes the rate that we burn energy (calories) and determines how quickly we gain or lose weight.  Essentially, our body is constantly burning energy…metabolism drives the amount of energy that the body burns in order to maintain everyday activities like eating, sleeping, sitting etc.  There are many different factors that affect metabolism,  which include:

  • Body Composition – More muscle generally leads to higher metabolism
  • Age – Metabolism slows as we get older
  • Sex – Men generally have a higher metabolism than women
  • Foods – The kind of food and timing of meals can impact metabolism
  • Activity (exercise) levels – Exercise can help boost metabolism

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If you are starting to fear that your levels may be a little low, don’t panic!  There are a number of things that you can do to increase your metabolism. I came across a great article, listing 23 ways to boost your metabolism and I have highlighted some of my top picks below:

1.) Build muscle – Simply put, having muscle burns more calories than fat…yet another reason to pick up those weights!  (If you haven’t yet, check out Julia’s posts about lifting heavy and Strong is the new Skinny.)

OK, maybe not THAT much muscle!!

OK, maybe not THAT much muscle!!

2.) Do interval training – Among other great benefits, this increases metabolism and resting metabolic rate.

3.) Eat smaller meals more frequently  – This helps keep your engine revved and your metabolism high!

4.) Incorporate certain metabolism boosting foods into your diet:

5.) Drink more water!

6.) Sleep more

7.) Avoid fad, or severe low-calorie diets – These can actually end up slowing your metabolism down by tricking your body into thinking its starving!  The result is starvation mode!

While I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism, I hope that it helped to give a general idea of what metabolism is all about and what you can do to help give it a boost!  If you still want a little information about metabolism, check out this article.

Now for the Egg Muffin recipe!  Feel free to incorporate some of the metabolism boosting foods into these eggs.

Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Eggs
  • 1-1.5 cups whites  (Feel free to try a different ratio depending on how many yokes vs. whites you want…this can also be made with just 12 whole eggs!  I did 8 eggs & 1 cup whites this time.)
  • Veggies of choice (I used broccoli & onion)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine eggs into a bowl & mix
  • Pour eggs into greased muffin tin
  • Place COOKED veggies into each muffin cup
  • Bake for 25 minutes & allow them to cool for 5
  • Tip: Use a knife to loosen the sides of eggs from the pan.

Enjoy!

-Kayte