Some say that you need fast-digesting carbs after a workout to replenish glycogen, spike insulin and gain muscle.
But, you may also come across claims that taking in carbohydrate after exercise will stop you burning fat.
If I wanted to make a case for the importance of taking in carbs after a workout, it would go something like this:
After a tough workout, your body is depleted of glycogen – the name given to carbohydrate stored in your body – which needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Failure to do so is cheating your muscles and putting the brakes on recovery.
Stored glycogen in muscle cells will also pull water into those cells. This increases cell volume, triggering changes in the muscle that will ultimately lead to faster growth.
The best way to do this is with a rapidly digested carbohydrate with a high glycemic index. Dextrose, maltodextrin, waxy maize starch or Vitargo will all do the job.
The carbs also jack up your insulin levels, which helps to shuttle nutrients into muscle cells, as well as blocking the post-exercise rise in cortisol levels, which would normally have a catabolic effect on your muscles.
In short, to truly maximize recovery and muscle growth, carbs after a workout are essential.
Insulin will be spiked, cortisol will be shut down, and glycogen will be restored as the post-workout gods deliver you directly to recovery heaven.