This post is picking up on two previous blogs we published: ‘Healthy Workout Meals‘ and ‘Workout Nutrition: What is it and how to get started‘. Check these out first. The health and fitness industry is full of opinions, contradictions and workout nutrition myths. Everyone has an opinion, a ‘method’, a secret formula and those of us on the other end are just confused.
Workout Nutrition Myths (No. 1)
Post Workout Nutrition is King
As a starting point, I think it’s important to realise that workout nutrition as a whole is not something that absolutely everyone must look at perfecting straight away, if at all. In fact, for the average gym goer, your pre and post workout nutrition will just be your standard meal; breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack etc. At no point will you need to look to supplementation or fueling your body with large amounts of glucose…..sorry but it’s true; you can throw out that protein powder and stop buying lucozade (I elaborate more on this later in point no. 3)
Going one stage further, IF you are training for a specific sport or event and want to take your performance to the next level (assuming you have the basic nutrition habits consistently in place) you have three areas to maximise your nutrient intake: pre, intra and post workout. A lot of articles will emphasise post workout nutrition (and that magic protein window – see point 2). Some, however, suggest there is more benefit to ingesting your protein pre and during workout to spare muscle protein, negate degradation and prepare the muscle for better remodelling later.
Workout Nutrition Myths (No. 2)
Protein, Protein, Protein & that magic window of opportunity
For years, the Holy Grail of nutrient timing has been this post-workout slot, a very tight time frame to maximise your gains. The age old advice was that during this window, your muscles turned into powerhouses and frantically pulled in glucose and protein which basically resulted in muscle development, fat burning and toning.
This still very much exists as common and sound advice in the fitness industry with it not being unusual to see men and women rush to the changing room to prep and quickly drink their protein/glucose shake. The idea behind having protein with carbs is that the glucose will help transport more amino acids into the cell given you are also more insulin sensitive after strength training.
However, the research this was built on turned out to be flawed and more recently we have come to realise that this timing isn’t as important as it once seemed. Truth is that nutrient timing is just not that important for those looking to just look and feel better. The reality is that your muscle glycogen will replenish itself regardless of whether you make it a priority or not but insulin sensitivity is increased after a targeted strength session. So it really depends on what works better for you but it might be good to get most of your carbs in at some point after your session. Some studies now suggest the post workout window actually runs for up to 24 hours post workout, so really you’re in no rush.
Workout Nutrition Myths (No. 3):
Supplements (BCAA, Protein Shakes, L-Carnitine etc)
Contrary to what the fitness industry would like you to believe, supplements form a tiny portion of your diet approach. These products are there to supplement your diet, not replace it. Without proper and consistent eating habits, taking pills isn’t going to make much odds. The main thing to remember that more is not better. While some supplements have a tonne of research behind them, others just have great marketing.
The best resource I can advise to help you research is examine.com. It’s full of research papers and advice. You can then couple this with an independent testing company like labdoor.com to ensure whatever supplement you do decide to go with actually meets quality standards (i.e. what’s on the label is in the bottle).
Probably the most common supplement people take is protein powder. This product can have good efficacy in terms of diet compliance. However, there is no significant research to suggest it outperforms a balanced meal.
While supplements do a great job to isolate certain nutrients, you also need to know what you’re doing. If you’re going to go that route, you need to make sure you are actually getting the most bang for your buck. The supplements to consider based on research to date: fish oil, protein powder, greens and/or some sort of multivitamin.