We’ve talked before on the blog about the importance of protein after a workout. Protein on its own has been shown to have many benefits, but protein together with carbs can have an even greater impact.
Carbohydrates are important after an intense workout, just like protein. They offer many benefits of their own, as well as working in tandem with protein to further enhance workout recovery.
Benefits of Carbs Post-Workout
Carbohydrates get a bit of a bad rap in some diet and weight loss circles, but they are a very important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. This is particularly true for anyone with an active lifestyle.
Carbs are macronutrients, and are essential to helping your body recharge and restore its fuel supply. They play a major part in replenishing glycogen stores after a workout. They can be especially helpful to glycogen resynthesis when consumed immediately following a workout-studies have shown that delaying consumption of carbs by even just 2 hours can slow muscle glycogen resynthesis by as much as 50%.
Carbs can also help protect against disease following a workout. Exercise can lead to temporary decreases in your immunity as your body recovers. Carbs have been shown to play a role in preventing this decrease in immunity, and keeping you healthy while your body heals itself following a tough workout.
Protein and Carbs Together
Carbs and protein play a similar, but not exactly identical, role in workout recovery. Consuming both protein and carbs post-workout can speed your recovery and help your body’s energy supply be replenished.
Consuming protein and carbs in tandem stimulates muscle repair in the body, and helps rebuild muscles. Adding protein to your post-workout carbohydrate meal can enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis, speeding up your muscle recovery. Both carbohydrates and protein individually have been shown to replenish glycogen stores, which is an essential part of exercise recovery. Taken together, this replenishment can occur even more quickly and efficiently. A study of CrossFit athletes found that a pre- and post-workout routine that included both carbs and protein provided benefits for sport-specific performance. And another study examining post-workout recovery after cycling or sprinting found consumption of both protein and carbohydrates together to increase muscle glycogen content much more than consuming only carbohydrates.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat?
So there are clearly some benefits of carbs after a workout, but how many carbs are enough? It is recommended to consume at least 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight for each of the first 4 hours after exercising. Carbs are most effective when eaten immediately after a workout, and have been shown to continue to have benefits for up to 4 hours after the workout session.
You’ll also want to pay attention not only to the amount of carbs you’re consuming, but also the ratio of carbs to protein. For optimal muscle recovery, you’ll want somewhere around a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio. This ideal ratio can vary a bit depending on your specific training goals, and may be as low as 1:1 for those whose training is heavily strength-focused.
Sources of Protein and Carbs
There are a variety of foods and supplements that you can consume to ensure your body is getting enough protein and carbs post-workout. Elevated Gains bars are a perfect workout recovery protein bar. They are a great source of both protein and carbs, with 20+ g of protein and 28 g of carbohydrates. Plus, our bars offer the added benefits of CBD, which has also been shown to aid in workout recovery.