If you're serious about making serious gains in the gym, whether you are lifting weights, doing a CrossFit WOD or bodybuilding for muscle gain, then your pre, intra and post workout carb intake is vital for you to get stronger, fitter and bigger.
How Important Are Carbs For Fitness?
Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates are the three macronutrients that are really important when achieving your fitness goals but carbohydrates are especially important as they are your body's primary fuel source. No matter if you're doing a "fat-burning" HIIT workout or even if you're on a keto diet, your body needs carbs to provide your muscles with energy to power you through your training, boosting your muscle repair by replenishing depleted energy.
Carbs come in all shapes, sizes, nutritional values and are not created equal. Some types of carbs support longer term energy and can help balance your blood sugar by being high in nutrients and fibre like fruits and vegetables. Other faster absorbing carbs can give you a quick boost of glycogen, boosting muscle growth and repair.
A diet rich in carbohydrates increases both endurance and intermittent high-intensity performance because of the extra store of carbohydrates in the muscles and liver, called glycogen. - USADA
Glycogen is made from glucose molecules bound together in long chains that is stored in the form of glucose in the body and held in reserve in your liver and muscles. Your body uses up your glycogen stores when working out or lifting weights to provide your muscles with the fuel to power your exercise.
Therefore pre-loading and replenishing your glycogen stores by consuming carbohydrates before, during and after your workouts will boost muscle protein synthesis and improve muscle growth. Not only this, but consuming carbs post workout will also spike your insulin which acts as a delivery system, transporting essential nutrients to your cells, reducing muscle soreness and inflammation getting you back in the gym quicker!
How Much Post Workout Carbs To Consume?
According to USDA, "athletes should consume anywhere from 3-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram per bodyweight throughout the day" however for different athletes this can vary massively.
We have a guide to how much carbs to consume for the most popular sports and disciplines:
Powerlifter = 5-8 grams per kg bodyweight
Strongman = 3-5 grams per kg bodyweight
Olympic Weightlifter = 5-7 grams per kg bodyweight
Bodybuilder = 6-8 grams per kg bodyweight
CrossFit Athlete = 6-8 grams per kg bodyweight
Runner = 6-10 grams per kg bodyweight
Post Workout Carbs For Muscle Gain, Fitness, & Weight Loss
As you can see you can cater your carbohydrate intake depending on which activity you are doing and for different body composition goals. Protein and fat intake will also differ for these goals too.
For lean muscle building and fitness, a high amount of protein and carbs can help muscles replenish and recover quicker post workout. For runners or athletes exercising for an extended period of time, pre and intra carbohydrates is essential.
But what does all this mean for your nutrition...
To gain the most muscle, replenish your muscles and recovery faster you need to consume more carbohydrates after your workout.
Best Post Workout Carbs
Post workout carbs are proven to aid recovery for all physical exercise but what are the best post workout carbs for you?
We have outlined the different types of post workout carbs to help you recover faster.
Breads and baked goods are a great post workout carb option because they are high on the glycemic index which means that breads rapidly rise your blood glucose levels after eating them.
Sweets and Candy are a great pre-workout carb because they rapidly increase your blood glucose levels but they might also be a good post workout carb too.
Candy with nuts in like Snickers and Reese's may be a great option to include more protein as well as carbs. However, because of the added sugars we would recommend to limit the candy and to try and keep a healthy variety of post workout carbs.
Oats are typically quite easy to prepare and can be combined with other nutrient packed foods like berries or peanut butter to give you your vitamins and minerals for the day.
Powder or Carb Drinks
Carb shakes and dietary supplements are one of THE best post workout carbohydrates. Not only because they are literally built for post workout consumption for muscle growth and fitness but because they are so easy to drink.
There is no cooking or food preparation required, often coming in tasty flavours and can be drank immediately after a workout. In addition, because the carb is in powder and then liquid form when mixed, it is able to be broken down and absorbed quicker by your body.
For those who want a rapid injection of specially selected carbs than can improve recovery, post workout carb drinks are one of the best solutions.
We recommend the XWERKS MOTION Carb drink which is made with a synergistic blend of cluster dextrin carbohydrates, BCAA's and electrolytes and contains 25grams of Carbs per serving.
Rice is a very common food for strong-people, bodybuilders and athletes because of the cost and volume that you can consume as well as the high percentage of carbs. You will often see bodybuilders bored of their chicken and rice diet but that's because it works.
So although boring, rice can help aid recovery and is packed full of magnesium too, which helps muscle relaxation post workout.
Pasta is not only high on the glycemic index but also tastes incredible. Although there might be a little more prep involved, pasta is a great post workout option. It's also really easy to combine with your chosen proteins.
Fruits like bananas, melons and mangos are great options, packed full of vitamins and minerals that are ideal for keeping your body healthy and also have high levels of sugar to help replenish your muscles quickly.
Who doesn't love fries, mashed potato, roast potatoes and all other potato foods? The nutrient dense root vegetable is packed full of potassium, magnesium and Vitamin B6.
Post Workout Carbs or Protein?
Post workout you want to replenish your muscles with the energy they need to recover as well as the protein they need to grow.
Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise.
Therefore, we recommend that you consume a combination of carbs and protein immediately after exercising. In the past, experts recommended eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes, as a delay of carb consumption by as little as 2 hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis.
However, more recent research has found that the post-exercise window to maximise the muscular response to eating protein is wider than initially thought, up to as many as several hours.
We recommend the XWERKS GROW protein supplement which is a unique small batch protein formula contains only whey protein isolate and is not blended with lesser quality whey. Whey isolate means the whey is “isolated” through micro filtration to almost totally pure protein at 25g of protein and over 6g of BCAA’s per serving. This also means almost no lactose, carbs and fats (Peanut Butter contains 23g of Protein, 2g fat and 2g carbs). Low carb makes Grow perfect for anyone following the keto diet.
Pick yours up from the XWERKS website for only $59 for 30 servings.
Post Workout Carbs Supplement
Sometimes you don't have the time or the facilities to cook a carb and protein packed meal straight after a workout so many turn to shakes, drinks or supplements.
Carb drinks can often contain a great amount of carbs per gram and are often specially designed for athletes to improve gym performance.
XWERKS MOTION is a post workout carb drink that is made with a synergistic blend of cluster dextrin carbohydrates, BCAA's and electrolytes for improved gym performance and includes 25grams of carbs per portion.
Clinical trials have shown that Cluster Dextrin can increase time to exhaustion and decrease stress hormone response from exercise - allowing you to perform better and recover quicker than ever before.
The XWERKS MOTION contains:
30 servings per bag
25G of Carbs Per Serving
3G of BCAA's Per Serving
Easily Digested, No Bloating
You can learn more on the XWERKS website and get yours for only $49!
Post Workout Creatine
If you have done any research in the best supplements to take for strength, fitness and muscle gain, you will have heard of Creatine.
For those who don't know Creatine is the best supplement for performance in the gym. Creatine is a substance found naturally in muscle cells and helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high intensity exercise.
Research suggests that taking creatine after a workout is most optimal. It’s better for increasing lean muscle mass when combined with a resistance training program. It may even have more benefits when taking it with a high-carb or high-carb/high-protein post-workout meal.
For Creatine we recommend around 5-8 grams per day and can be found in a tablet or powder form.
XWERKS LIFT creatine is our top pick and is made from only pure, micronised creatine monohydrate. There are many forms of creatine being marketed today, but none are better than monohydrate.
Each bag of Lift gives you 80, 5 gram servings of flavourless creatine to mix with your favourite drink and is perfect to add along with your scoop of Grow, Ignite or Motion.