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Three Myths about Post Workout Protein

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This article comes to you from our friends at Carmichael Training Systems ( CTS leads the endurance coaching industry with proven and innovative products, services, and content. And the results speak for themselves; no other coaching company produces more champions, in such a wide variety of sports and age groups, than CTS. They also have great articles. And while they are written specifically for endurance athletes they are easily adapted for the motocross athlete. This is one such article. - Virtual Trainer

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Author: Chris Carmichael CEO/Head Coach of CTS

Grinding an athlete into the ground is the easiest thing a coach can do, and something athletes are great at doing to themselves. In the entire scope of the training process, piling on workload is the easy part. The trickier parts are knowing how much workload to apply, at what time, addressing what system, and followed by how much recovery. Myths abound in all areas of training and nutrition, and there are a lot of misconceptions about the role of protein and the amount of protein endurance athletes need for recovery [This applies 100% to motocross athletes! - Virtual Trainer].

Here are a few of the myths we need to dispel:

Myth: Large amounts of protein are necessary for recovery

No. Some protein is helpful for recovery, but it is unlikely that you need protein supplementation. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams/kilogram of protein per day. This increases to about 1.2-1.7 g/kg for athletes in a medium- to high-workload training plan (in terms of volume and/or intensity). But consuming more than 2 g/kg of protein doesn’t do you any more good in terms of recovery, muscle synthesis, immune function, or energy metabolism. Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you should be able to consume 1.2-1.7 g/kg of protein daily through your normal meals and snacks. [grams/kilogram means grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 170 pounds, that is equal to 77.1 kilograms or 92.4-131.1 g/kg - VT]

You don’t store protein, so unlike fat or carbohydrate you can only use protein from food when you have it on board.

Myth: The best time to consume protein is immediately after exercise

In terms of timing, you should be careful not to focus too many of your post-workout nutrition choices on protein. Immediately post-workout you want to focus on replenishing carbohydrate, and adding some protein to your food/drink choices may help accelerate the uptake of carbohydrate. So, when should you consume the most protein? Actually, never. It’s better to spread your intake throughout the day. You need fuel for building and maintaining muscle tissue, your immune system, and all the other functions of protein throughout the day. And you don’t store protein, so unlike fat or carbohydrate you can only use protein from food when you have it on board. In addition, protein is satiating and slows digestion, which helps keep energy levels from spiking and crashing and helps keep you from feeling so hungry. That last point can be very important for athletes who are simultaneously trying to gain fitness and lose weight.

Myth: You need a recovery drink after every workout

Recovery drinks are great. They are conveniently deliver carbohydrate, electrolytes, fluid, and protein and they are typically consumed immediately after exercise when your body is ready for rapid replenishment. This 60-90 minute post-exercise period is often referred to as the “glycogen window” because it is when your body is able to replenish glycogen stores most rapidly. But that still doesn’t mean you need a recovery drink after every workout. [This might be the most prevalently perpetuated nutrition myth in motocross - VT]

Replenishment of fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrate, and protein doesn’t cease after the first 60-90 minutes post-exercise. It just gradually slows down. If you only trained for 60-90 minutes, glycogen replenishment shouldn’t be a big challenge because most likely you didn’t empty the tank in the first place. And even if you did, your glycogen stores will be completely replenished in 24 hours just from your normal food intake. [Read this paragraph again and again until it really sinks in.....- VT]

Remove the Guesswork

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When should you use a recovery drink? If you are training or competing more than once in a single day, a recovery drink after your first session is a good idea. If you are riding back-to-back days of long miles (like during a bike tour, cycling camp, or stage race), then it’s a good idea as well. Following individual bouts of exercise a breakpoint I use with some athletes is that a recovery drink may be warranted following rides that accumulate about or more than 1500-2000 kilojoules of work (this can vary a bit based on the athlete). This could be very hard 90-minute interval session or a 3-4-hour moderate pace ride, but the rationale is to base the need for a recovery drink on the whether there was sufficient energy expenditure to substantially deplete carbohydrate stores and cause significant training stress. [So for you pros or top amateur riders who ride for 3-4 hours then hit the gym, a recovery drink IS recommended - VT.]

What a recovery drink should look like

Even when a recovery drink makes sense, the most important ingredients are fluid and carbohydrates, followed by electrolytes and protein. Some people get caught up in the exact ratio, whether 2:1 carb/protein is better or worse then 3:1 or 4:1. I think the bigger picture is that they are all better than a protein-heavy drink. Consuming a high-protein recovery drink that contains little to no carbohydrate is not a good idea for recovery. It may supply a nutrient you need for repair and synthesis, it doesn’t supply the nutrient you need for energy replenishment, the urgency of replenishment is not as big, and you can get the protein you need for repair and synthesis through meals.

Similarly, a drink that contains a lot of protein and a lot of carbohydrate is also not ideal, mostly because it is likely to be very high in calories. Athletes who consume these high-calorie drinks typically overcompensate with total post-workout calories because they follow up the drink with a regular size or over-sized meal.

Stay tuned, there are a lot of topics to cover in the area of recovery myths. I’ll have more of them for you next week!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Petter May 13, 2016 at 5:06 am

    So if a go cycling 2h plus 1h of gym, about 1000kj, you suggest no recovery drink or suplements, just a standard meal for example, rice and chicken, or pasta and meet, for recovery?

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 13, 2016 at 7:35 am

    In your case, I think you could use a recovery drink but if you have time, real food in the form of a meal would be better.

  3. Gravatar
    Steve Bissinger May 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for the REAL info on recovery, it changes my long held but miss guided belief's on the best way to recover. I did use Endurox R-4 after mountain bike races and noticed a big difference in my recovery but now i can see that it was only because i was really emptying the tank. Great article should be mandatory reading for any serious riders.

  4. Gravatar
    Arden June 23, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I struggle with this, too. Marketing is a STRONG influence, and I find myself mixing 3 diffferent drinks in the morning for a Day's workout when should really focus on eating real food. Good points.

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