Post workout nutrition: Here’s what science says

The Norwegian School and Sport Sciences published new research this year testing the importance of post exercise carbohydrate and protein consumption.  It’s always good to stay up to date with the current science behind nutrition because it is constantly changing. When it comes to exercise nutrition, you should constantly be looking for research that validates how you currently train and eat. Each time a new study validates your current methods, you can rest easy knowing you are doing everything you can to maintain peak physical and mental performance.  When it comes to post-exercise nutrition, there is a lot of advice out there.  Instead of being the one looking for advice, use this new research to give others advice instead.

The Study

The research aimed to look at the effects of protein plus carbohydrate consumption two hours after exhaustive cycling.  The next day, they wanted to know if the group who consumed a protein + carbohydrate mixture within a 2 hour window post exercise would perform better.  They decided to test three different groups.  The first group consumed 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.  The second group consumed .8 grams of carbs and .4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, and the last group consumed a placebo that contained no calories.  All three groups consumed consumed this mixture in the form of a drink after the exhaustive cycling was performed.

The main method of testing was blood draws at very specific intervals in the 2 hours post exercise.  To be specific, they took blood immediately after exercise, and then 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes post exercise.  They consumed equal portions of the post exercise nutrition drink at these intervals as well.  The next morning, they measured the Resting Metabolic Rates of each individual, and then moved onto performance testing after each group ate the same breakfast.

The performance testing was the same testing they performed the day prior.  They were not only testing to see if they performed better on this second test, but the blood analysis was crucial to understanding what was going on in each cyclists body.  The following analytic tests were performed :

The Results

This study amassed a very large amount of data.  It would be difficult for us to properly review every piece of data in one blog post so we encourage you to read the study yourself to gain your own perspective.  The main purpose, however, was to see if exhaustive exercise the following day lead to greater performance when you consumed protein and carbohydrate 2 hours post exercise.

optimal post workout nutrition results

What we see from the results of the study is that the cyclists who consumed the carbohydrate plus protein drink in 2 hours post exercise the day before, performed significantly better than the other groups.  We cannot downplay the significance of what this data shows.  Consuming protein and carbohydrate post workout prevented the cyclists from wearing out almost 20 minutes after the carbohydrate group and 30 minutes after the placebo group.  Something interesting to note as well.  The perceived effort was significant lower in this group as well.

Perceived exertion was significantly lower


There is one very important takeaway from this study that everyone should take note of: Your post exercise nutrition the day before will effect your workouts the day after.  You should be consuming a good blend of protein and carbohydrates.  Maltodextrin or dextrose is a suitable form of carbohydrate.  While this study tested whey protein, a protein blend has been shown to have superior effects.

This is very convincing evidence that the two hour window post exercise is important. Going into this study the researchers were very well versed on the prior scientific findings on protein and carbohydrate consumption surrounding exercise as well.  The key points made before the study conducted are as follows:

  1. Protein is normally not considered as an important energy substrate during exercise,
    although oxidation of leucine is known to increase during exercise
  2. Protein degradation is increased in glycogen-depleted muscles during exercise
  3. Protein breakdown continues in skeletal muscle after exercise if energy intake is not sufficient or if only carbohydrates are provided
  4. Recovery of performance includes the removal and degradation of proteins damaged during exercise along with the proper re-synthesis of proteins
  5. Dietary intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) after exercise reduces loss of amino acids from muscles and therefore spares muscle protein from degradation
  6. Intake of protein immediately after exercise has also consistently shown to increase protein synthesis, including synthesis of mitochondrial proteins, while simultaneously protein degradation is decreased
  7. It has been shown that protein intake in the early phase after intensive exercise stimulates protein synthesis more effectively than later


If you found this information useful, share it out to your friends. We also have a ton of other great articles to guide you on your path to optimal sports performance and nutrition.

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