How to Make the Most of Your Protein Supplements
After a hard workout, it's easy to make a protein shake and drink it right away. Yet, what if we told you that you might be missing the ideal opportunity to have an even tastier shake with significantly more nutritional value, all the while promoting your recovery?
Think about when most athletes grab their protein shakers and drink one: after a workout, right? It is well known that we do this to heal the little wounds our muscles have sustained from exercise, since the amino acids in our protein supplement work quickly to do so.
These muscles have adapted to grow bigger and stronger thanks to a process known as muscle protein synthesis, or MPS. Great! One of the four "Rs" that helps with workout recovery, repair, has been taken care of.
It goes without saying that eating enough protein is crucial for athletes of all levels to achieve their goals for muscle growth or fat loss. We often forget about the other three "Rs," which puts not only our recovery but also our overall health at risk. The other "Rs" are replenishing, revitalizing, and rehydrating, in case you were wondering.
When we do a hard workout or play a game, our body's anaerobic energy system turns on and starts using glycogen from our muscles and liver as a fuel source. This glycogen is converted by the body into glucose, which is then split in half to create two pyruvate molecules, two lactate molecules, and two ATP molecules, which serve as energy. Because of this catalytic event, we will soon get the ATP we need to keep going hard without oxygen.
Depletion of this energy system has the following effects:
In addition, the body ultimately runs out of glycogen to extract, which means ATP is no longer produced from this system, and we slow down. Lactate is what makes our muscles feel like they are burning when we are tired. Taking a beta-alanine supplement can help reduce this burning feeling.
Refueling becomes necessary at this point. Our body may readily refill our muscle and liver glycogen by adding a carbohydrate source to our post-exercise smoothie, allowing us to function at a high level throughout our subsequent training or game. Carbohydrates have the added benefit of aiding in the healing process.
A recent meta-analysis that looked at 104 publications found that eating protein and carbs together boosted MPS (1). This is because the pancreas senses the rise in blood glucose and produces insulin when carbs are absorbed through the small intestine.
In addition to removing glucose from the blood, this insulin release shuttles the amino acids in your protein supplement to the tissues that require them most—your muscles. Surprisingly, the same meta-analysis discovered that insulin contributed to the development of MPS. All of this indicates that it is preferable to include high-carbohydrate items in your smoothie.
The following list of foods can help with MPS, replace glycogen, and provide an extra serving of one of the five food groups:
• Instant oats (cereals)
• Bananas and berries (fruit)
• Low-fat milk (dairy; contains milk sugar known as lactose)
We now know that our muscles need protein in order to heal after a workout. We also know that carbs fuel our depleted glycogen stores and aid in this mending process (i.e., our fuel tank). Rejuvenating micronutrients are the instruments that enable protein and carbs to perform their functions as the builders that they are.
There is a lot more going on in the background that enables us to mend, refuel, and recover, which is where revitalization takes place.
To help your body recover from the oxidative stress it just went through, we need to give it antioxidants and replace the electrolytes (such as salt, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) it lost through sweating. Consuming mainly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds helps us feel revitalized (think color). The following list of revitalizing micronutrients includes implementation guidelines.
Vitamin A, C, E & Phytochemicals
Antioxidants are another name for these vitamins. They help the body recover from oxidative stress, which can be caused by smoking, being around pollution, or doing a lot of hard exercise. Free radicals are reactive molecules that stick to cells and tissues and cause damage. They are made when there is oxidative stress.
In order to prevent these free radicals from disrupting and damaging these cells and tissues, antioxidants adhere to them (naturalize them). Mango is a fantastic source of vitamin A; citrus and berries are excellent sources of vitamin C; and acai seeds, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of vitamin E.
Lactate (lactic acid) builds up in our muscles during every session, making us feel like we have to slow down. This is the point when our glycogen stores are gone and we are running on very little fuel or none at all. If we simply feel like having a lighter session, we also run off fumes.
This indicates the transition from anaerobic to aerobic metabolism in either case (using oxygen). Muscles in motion have a greater need for oxygen to continue making ATP once the aerobic energy system takes control. Iron is needed more when our body slows down because it serves as a sort of postman, delivering oxygen to the community that is our body.
The first type of iron is hemoglobin, which is mostly found in red meat such as lamb and is the most bioavailable. Non-haem iron, which is found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale as well as fortified cereals (check the nutrition label on the back of cereals and oats—around 3 mg/serve is perfect), is the less bioavailable form of iron.
As a result, you're more likely to add it to your smoothie. Paradoxically, eating iron-rich foods with fruit high in vitamin C makes our internal messenger more effective by increasing iron absorption!
Do you engage in long-distance running on hard surfaces? Play and practice on a hard court? Play any kind of contact sport? If you said "yes" to any of them, calcium is particularly crucial for you to avoid stress fractures as well as complete breaks.
This is due to the fact that it plays a significant role in the formation of our bone matrix and increases bone stiffness. Together with our highly energized friend, ATP, it not only keeps our bones healthy but also serves as a trigger for muscular contractions.
Calcium enters our muscle fibers, which act as the lock, latches on (like turning the key to unlock our front door), and causes our muscles to contract (unlock the door). Our bones will be nice and stiff and our muscles will be able to contract on demand if we add yoghurt or cow's milk to our water-based protein drink.
Magnesium has a lot of benefits that aren't as well known, but they all have to do with how we fuel and recover from exercise. Most athletes need an additional 10–20% of magnesium because of the increased loss through sweat and urine (2).
The primary roles of magnesium include in the synthesis and storage of energy, MPS, immunity, proper muscular contraction (by signaling calcium to leave the muscle cells), and boosting calcium absorption, among many other critical bodily tasks that occur throughout the day (3-5).
We require more magnesium if we are active people because of these losses and the increased demand for the several processes mentioned above. These processes either don't happen at all or happen less effectively if we don't have enough magnesium.
Up to 40% of our daily demand for magnesium can be satisfied by adding spinach, kale, pumpkin seeds, and buckwheat to our shake. Also, you can incorporate Real ZMA into your regular evening regimen to help you get more magnesium while you sleep.
Potassium is an important part of getting your body back to normal after a hard workout because it works in the same ways as calcium and magnesium. In general, potassium regulates how our cells communicate with one another and instruct one another to carry out "things."
These "things" can include everything from nerve communication to hydration and water balance, allowing our muscles to relax at the end of each rep. Yogurt and a banana are easy-to-blend extras that are convenient and delectable.
In addition to helping you cool down and giving you a great reason to take a break in the middle of a session, rehydrating has a few other benefits that you might not have thought of. They include, among other things, creating the ideal conditions for MPS (connecting with the repair "R"), promoting healthy digestion, and increasing blood volume to combat fatigue.
In case this isn't enough to persuade you to rehydrate, keep in mind that water makes up the majority of our bodies. Then, given these facts, why should I switch from my water-based protein drink to something else? There is an easy solution. The majority of other liquids, like milk, already contain about 90% water, and the remaining small portion of the drink has those extra nutrients that also aid in your recovery.
For instance, full-cream milk has an approximate water content of 85–90%, with the remaining ingredients being protein for repair, carbohydrates for refueling, and fat, electrolytes, and vitamin B12 for revitalization.
This is not to imply that water is not a terrific alternative if you already follow the other three "Rs" and obtain your dairy in other ways, because it is. If anything is lacking elsewhere, you have the option to make up the difference by rehydrating with milk or even fresh juice (including taste).
Using protein supplements, particularly protein powder, is without a doubt one of the best ways to boost muscle regeneration. This is fantastic, but it's also crucial to think about refueling with healthy carbs, reviving with vibrant fruits and vegetables, and rehydrating with water.
If you take a protein supplement along with other substances that help with the four "Rs" of recovery, your health and performance will both improve. Take advantage of this chance to get more of the food groups you might not be getting enough of while also having fun trying out new foods and flavors.