Pre – Intra – Post Workout Nutrition
There is quite the controversy over this very subject right now in the nutrition community, namely in the sport of bodybuilding, but also in our industry as a whole. After doing a lot of research and field testing several different methods on both myself and my clients at Team Gorman, I have come up with what I believe is a rock-solid protocol that you will greatly benefit from!
History And Background
First a little history to let you know where I came up with this idea and to help you understand the different things I have tried. When I first started helping people get into shape I believed in just getting in your food through 6 meals a day, and training between meals with lower glycemic carbs in them. Some BCAA’s were taken before training but that was it. Later, I moved to having whey protein before and after the workouts but still with lower glycemic carbs pre and post with 10 grams of BCAA’s taken during training. I also prepped for all 3 of my shows in the beginning using this protocol.
Nothing wrong with it, but I did lose a significant amount of strength as I went and also lost quite a bit of muscle.
I used to believe that I didn’t want too much of an insulin spike as it would get in the way of fat loss.
My First Run With High GI Carbs
A couple years ago I started utilizing a different post workout (PWO) protocol with whey and a very fast acting carb low in fat, such as Gatorade or low fat kids cereal, etc. This did help me start putting on more size and also preserving strength when I would diet down.
The most noticeable difference was in the offseason I started to grow MUCH faster doing this, while body fat was kept in a suitable range.
In 2011-2012 I really started playing with high gi carbs pre, during and post workout. Once I started this it was a like a light switch going on. Strength and numbers started going through the roof while body fat stayed consistent! Here is the old protocol that I did that has eventually led to my new one I am about to go into detail on a bit later in this article:
Pre Workout: 15 mins prior – whey and kids cereal
Intra Workout: BCAA’s 10 grams and Gatorade and NRGX Raptor Recovery (a fast digesting carb)
Post Workout: whey and NRGX Raptor Recovery .
Now this protocol was great, and worked wonders for both myself and many clients throughout the year that we ran this protocol. But something got me thinking, so a little light should be shed on where I started to get the new idea.
A New Theory
I was working out in Chicago with a good friend of mine and fellow prep coach Cliff Wilson. I knew his protocol was a bit different as he had his clients drinking whey pre/intra/pwo. We got to talking about things and he mentioned he was doing some research on replacing the whey protein in his Pre and Intra Workout drink with EAA’s due to the body not having to use the digestive system to pull blood there for digestion of the whey and leaving more blood available to the muscles during training. We didn’t talk much more about it but it really got me thinking about our protocol we use so I started doing some research on my own. While doing the research I started to come to a conclusion –
why replace just the whey with something like amino’s that will absorb without going through the stomach for digestion, why not also use a carb source that will do the same?
I mean what’s the point of just replacing whey to avoid the blood shunting effects but still using Gatorade (made up primarily of sucrose, which is a combo of glucose and fructose bonded together that has to be broken down in the stomach for digestion) Since it is not a monsaccharide (meaning a single bond and water soluble and is absorbed into the blood stream immediately instead of having to go through the stomach for digestion) it doesn’t seem to be the ideal choice for what I was trying to accomplish. After some long nights and some serious thought, here is what I have came up with for the new Team Gorman pre/intra/post protocol. We are going to replace the old with the new:
(OLD protocol) whey and cereal (both have to go through the stomach for digestion, which requires the body to shuttle quite a bit of blood there to help aid the breakdown so it can be released into the body to be used. We don’t want this to happen because we want more blood to be used to push the nutrients into the muscles we are working instead of splitting their job between the digestive system and the muscles. More blood means better delivery of nutrients, oxygen, etc into the muscle for recovery and growth
(NEW protocol) We will ditch the whey and want to have BCAA’s here about 5 grams for women and 10 grams for men has been shown to be sufficient for most athletes. It will also absorb directly into the bloodstream without pulling blood into the digestive system. For carbs I have found that straight glucose (I REALLY love 1st Phorm’s product IGNITION, it’s straight glucose) or a dextrose powder will work here as well. Dextrose/glucose are essentially the same thing. Glucose will absorb immediately into the blood stream as well. We will want to have this in a shaker and drink it while starting to warm up, stretch, getting blood going, etc etc.
(OLD protocol) 5-10 grams BCAA’s and Gatorade.
(NEW protocol) We will want to ditch the Gatorade since it has to go through digestion and simply replace it with IGNITION here as well again. I suggest starting to drink this in 1-2 liters of water right around when you will start your warm up sets and have it finished just prior to stopping your training for the day.
(OLD protocol) Whey and any fast acting carbs such as low fat kids cereal, Gatorade, or dextrose/glucose again.
(NEW protocol) We will leave the Whey as at this point we are done with training, and the protein will supply a nice spike in protein synthesis. This coupled with another spike in insulin will make the bump in protein synthesis more effective. Simply have your amount of carbs you will need to fit your diet needs and enjoy. A favorite of mine and my clients is a whey shake and low fat kids cereal such as Cocoa Puffs.
An Example Diet Schedule
Here is an example of a client’s daily diet schedule and training so you can see how to space it out:
Meal 1: protein/carbs/fats
Meal 2: protein/carbs/(low fats)
2-3 hours or so later
Pre Workout: bcaa’s and Ignition
Intra Workout: bcaa’s and Ingition
Post Workout: whey and fast acting carb of choice (I count the pre/intra/post as a meal so this would be MEAL 3)
1-2 hours later when blood sugar feels to be dropping start to eat next meal
Meal 4: protein/ carbs/(low fats)
Meal 5: protein/carbs/fats
Meal 6: protein/fats
Protein Synthesis is a very large component of muscle growth, and this protocol will maximize protein synthesis around training- a very critical time. Training and nutrient intake are both very important parts of activating protein synthesis, though the nutrient intake levels last shorter than training’s effects do.
By utilizing this program around your training you are taking advantage of a very important time to help jump start muscle growth and the repair process.
Protein synthesis is enhanced with insulin, that part we know. Think about this for a minute – you know the IFBB pro’s you have seen go from 220 lbs on stage to 250 lbs plus on stage? You think they do that just taking 2000 mg test a week and tons of other gear? Well, they may be taking that much but the real growth you are seeing comes from the use of insulin to help achieve maximum protein synthesis and growth. Most guys who get to very heavy stage weights or levels of bodyweight (not fat!) are using a protocol similar to the one I have laid out here, they are just injecting insulin and taking advantage of the body’s ability to use carbohydrates around training like this. Their insulin protocol is one designed not just around carbs, but proper protein and/or amino acid combo’s to ensure maximal protein synthesis and growth. With all this being said, the athlete who isn’t going to utilize insulin or even anabolics is still using a protocol similar to these larger athletes – they are just taking advantage of their bodies own insulin to maximize their growth and protein synthesis.
Things I’ve Noticed
Here are the things I have noticed from a sound Pre/Intra/PWO protocol: Athletes working with me using this have gained strength while dieting, and have felt WAY LESS terrible toward the end of the dieting process. PR’s are very common and many times happen every week. Growth has accelerated where some were stalled they are now growing nicely again. Maybe the most significant is the increase in the pump they are getting. This makes sense if you now think about the additional blood being available for the muscles during and after sets.
The argument can be made that at the end of the day calories are all that matters but I disagree. I have seen the studies supporting pre/intra/pwo nutrition and I have seen the studies saying it doesn’t make a bit of difference. At the end of the day, I base everything I do off the results for myself and the feedback from my clients, especially when studies support both sides of this.
Growing While Dieting
This protocol supports recovery and repair of the muscle tissue obviously but I have seen a lot of our clients grow while cutting for shows. How’s that possible? I mean, it’s impossible while being at a caloric deficit to put on muscle right? I think letting the diet and cardio take care of losing fat gradually while letting the pre/intra/pwo protocol take care of muscle repair and growth is what’s getting some clients there. Remember if done right, a cutting diet should be a slight reduction in calories from maintenance, so fat loss is gradual and growing shouldn’t be that hard especially if a person is having a refeed once a week since growth happens very easily around that day when you are at a deficit all week. Our clients plans are 5-6 days cutting, 1-2 days growth so this and the new protocol are showing some signs of growth in dieting phases where we had previously not seen much.
One Last Thing
One last thing that should be covered is how dropping carbs during the diet will factor in here. Say I have an athlete who is dieting on 200 carbs a day, and his pre/intra/post carbs are at 30/30/30 carbs. I simply leave in the carbs around the workout and start to lower carbs at his meals instead. Why-
because your body utilizes carbs the BEST around the workout.
People can argue that all day long but it’s quite simple, your body will use carbs for fuel during training better than they will just sitting around or outside the workout. I diet people all the way into their shows leaving the protocol unchanged and it’s made no difference in fat loss but has definitely made a difference in muscle retention and strength.
Give this protocol a shot and let me know what you think in the comments below.