For years, researchers, sports nutritionists and coaches have repeated over and over again until they were blue in the head that athletes need to consume carbohydrates after a workout. The one study I reviewed last week reiterated this point.
However, it looks like there is a new kid on the block; one that may be even more potent and anabolic than post-workout nutrition. It's called pre-workout nutrient delivery and it's anabolic and anti-catabolic; two things you should hope for if gaining lean body mass is your goal.
Remember that weight training results in both protein synthesis and breakdown; the goal is to favor synthesis and reduce breakdown as much as possible. This can be accomplished in well-nourished athletes and in addition to a well-balanced whole food diet, another one way to "nourish" yourself may be by feeding your body some protein and carbohydrates prior to working out. But don't take my word for it; here is one study to support this belief.
This first study was by a group of researchers in Texas who have conducted a majority of research in this area. The purpose of the study was to determine if timing of an oral amino-acid-carbohydrate supplement altered the anabolic (building) response of muscle to resistance training. The supplement was either taken before exercise or after exercise.
In this small trial, six healthy human subjects participated in both groups. The times they took the supplement were random. Subjects either took a pre- or post-exercise protein-carbohydrate supplement. The supplement was exactly the same, so timing was the key issue here.
Understand that the subjects performed the prescribed exercise routine at different time periods separated by at least 2 months. Each exercise was performed at 80% of 1 repetition maximum (1 RM). The exercise was comprised of 10 sets of 8 repetitions of leg press and 8 sets of 8 repetitions of leg extension all with a 2 minute rest between each set.
Blood samples were taken after 10, 20, 30, and 45 minutes from the beginning of exercise. In addition, muscle biopsies were taken immediately before the first set of exercise and again during the rest interval between the 7th and 8th sets of leg extension.
Both the pre- and post-workout drinks provided 6 grams of essential amino acids (EAA) and 35 grams of sucrose (carbohydrate). EAA are amino acids that cannot be produced by the body; they must be taken through the diet via the proteins we eat.
The total response to the consumption of the protein-carbohydrate drink immediately before exercise was greater than the response when the drink was consumed immediately after! Furthermore, the drink resulted in a change from a catabolic (breakdown) state to an anabolic state due to an increase in protein synthesis; something you would clearly want no matter what your physique goals.
It appears that pre-workout drinks enhance the availability of amino acids via enhanced blood flow (from the exercise) during a workout, which prevented, or reduces the body from breaking down muscle tissue, as it normally does during an intense workout.
This is definitely positive news and a little different than the recommendations you've probably heard up until this point. Most of the time it's recommended to eat or drink something immediately after your workout; now it looks like pre-workout drinks may be better for your muscles.
Unfortunately one study just scratches the surface in this developing area of research and muscle growth; however, you have to start somewhere and this opens up and interesting avenue of investigation.
The next study was conducted on a dietary supplement sold to enhance performance. While there are a number of positive studies with ribose on a clinical population, very few have considered its application as a performance enhancer. Let's take a look at one that did.
American Journal of Physiology and Endocrinology Metabolism, 281:E197-E206, 2001
Tipton KD, Rasmussen BB, Miller SL, et al.
Ribose was introduced to the dietary supplement market several years ago with claims of increasing energy and enhancing athletic performance. To date, there is an exiguous amount of research on ribose among a healthy, athletic population; however, its utility in clinical populations has shown promise.
The problem is, healthy athletes are using ribose relying on extrapolated research results from clinical populations which is like putting bicycle tires on a car with the assumption that a wheel is a wheel.
After familiarization with the exercise protocol, subjects performed two bouts of repeated cycle sprint performance. After the second bout, subjects received either 32 g of ribose or placebo over the subsequent 36-hour period. The authors noted this dose of ribose was selected due to previous pilot data from their laboratory.
Ribose supplementation did not result in statistically significant increases in mean or peak power (which were the outcome parameters utilized in this protocol) in previously trained men. The authors noted that the typical recommended dose is 3g/day.
They failed to see any significant benefit with 32 g over a 36 hour period (4 x 8 g doses); therefore, it is apparent that 3g/day would not produce results either.
The practical application of this study is that ribose supplementation does not appear to be effective for performance enhancement in a healthy, athletic population.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 17(1), 47-52, 2003
John M. Berardi and Tim N. Ziegenfuss
Take home messages:
- Taking a supplement that provides at least 35 grams of simple carbohydrate (such as sucrose) and 6 grams of essential amino acids (approximately 10 grams of a complete protein, like whey protein, will provide this) may enhance the benefits you receive from your workout.
There is no definitive amount of carbohydrates and amino acids, but no matter how much you try to drink, this ratio (about 5 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of essential amino acids) seems to work.
There are a number of supplements designed to provide a similar ratio of carbohydrates:protein. Another alternative to supplements is fat-free chocolate milk. It provides about 30 grams of carbohydrates and around 10 grams of protein.
- Ribose doesn't appear to be an effective dietary supplement for enhancing performance.