Back in the day the best pre-workout and post-workout were pretty straight forward. We used carbohydrates for energy and would bring fast acting carbs in the form of sugar to the gym with us to get us through the workout. That was in the days before the ketogenic diet craze. Now pre-workout and post-workout are a little more complicated. Some people do really well burning fats for energy and others don’t.
Young children do really well at burning fats and carbs but our society feeds our children lots of sugar and carbs which slowly deteriorates the ability to be a good fat burner. There are ways to improve the ability to burn fat and they include a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and fasting. All of those strategies are for another article. In this article I will talk about the best pre-workout supplements and nutrition, how to supplement during a workout, and the best post workout meal for a fat burning body and a carb burning body.
The Best Pre-workout Nutrition and Supplements
If a person is a carb/sugar burner, carbohydrates are said to be the second most effective legal ergogenic aid (performance enhancer), known to man. A person would need to eat healthy carbs about 2 hours before a workout. The carbs have to leave the stomach, get absorbed by the body and deposited in the muscles for optimum performance. I still recommend using nutrient rich sources of carbs like sweet potato, squash, peas, green beans, or zucchini.
Adversely, in a fat burning mode, a pre-workout could include C8 oil or Dave Asprey's Brain Octane Oil. C8 oil metabolizes quickly to have ketones in the blood and full ketosis will emerge in about a half hour after 2 tablespoons. If you haven't tried it before than lower the dosage quite a bit the first couple of times or you will get disaster pants. Mixing it with other fats seems to help as well.
Whether a person uses carbohydrates or fats for their energy source it is important to get some protein as well. I recommend using undenatured whey protein and about a half scoop of BCAAs or branch chain amino acids. Glutamine has been proven to increase recovery significantly and putting a scoop in a pre-workout is a great way to insure you get it in your diet. Using mocha green tea is great as well. The epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG in green tea diverts calories away from fat cells and into muscle cells.
The most effective legal ergogenic aid is water. Be fully hydrated by the time you get to the gym. It’s really hard to re-hydrate during a workout.
DURING THE WORKOUT
Studies show that adding a source of carbs during a workout improves gains and prevents fatigue. This is why sports drinks were invented. They add sugar to the body and have the right amounts of sodium and potassium for better absorption. Normally adding something to the stomach would activate the rest and digest mode which diverts blood flow to the stomach but the water, sodium, and potasium allows for easy gastric emptying and quick absorption which prevents blood flow to shunt from the muscles to the digestive system. Using a sports drink during a workout is only recommended for those using carbohydrates as their energy source.
According to a doctor that runs marathons, (I can't remember his name) 7% sugar in water is optimum for gastric emptying and absorption to the body. This is approximately ¼ sports drink and ¾ water. You need to replace water during your workout any way.
After you have depleted energy from your system, your body starts to pump cortisol to store fat around your belly. It's a defense mechanism so you don’t deplete all energy out of your body. This happens at approximately 47 minutes after you start your workout. To prevent cortisol production, which is the stress hormone, start adding an easy to digest form of carbs to your body about 30 minutes into your workout.
You can use sports drinks mixed with water, but preferably, use a healthier form of sugar like organic unpasteurized honey or real Canadian maple syrup. You want it to be easy to digest. If you eat something more difficult to digest, this causes your body to go to rest and digest mode and takes away from your workout and may cause cramps.
One other notable benefit you get from adding carbs during a workout is it prevents your body from breaking down muscle tissue to use as energy. It is true that your body will also break down fats at this point, but you never want to lose fat at the expense of muscle. You can massively increase your fat loss by increasing muscle mass and it’s the first goal in a weight loss program. All of the above is for people using carbs as their energy source.
The other supplement you can add to your workout to enhance gains are BCAAs. Studies have shown carbs to be more beneficial, but adding amino acids show better gains as well. Try to use as clean as possible BCAAs so you don't add harmful toxins to your body.
Dr. Mercola’s warning
“Isolated amino acid supplements and branched-chain amino acid isolates (such as leucine and glutamine) are dangerous and potentially damaging to your health — so stay away from them. Many contain "putrid proteins," as well as the proteins in the wrong form (isomers) so they cannot be properly used by your body.
They also tend to be acid-processed and contain surfactants, artificial sweeteners, heavy metal contaminants (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury), and a long list of chemical additives. Instead, look for a high-quality whole food whey supplement that is minimally processed, comes from organic, grass fed, non-hormone treated cows and is independently tested and verified for purity.
An excellent source of convenient, quick-to-prepare high-quality protein is whey protein. Whey protein is an excellent ‘fitness food’ because it contains not only high-quality protein, but also extremely high amounts of leucine, which is particularly important for muscle growth and repair.
One of the reasons whey protein is so effective for exercise recovery is that it assimilates very quickly — it gets into your muscles within 10 to 15 minutes of swallowing it, just when they need it most. Whey is also excellent for your immune system, as it is rich in immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and other precursors for glutathione.”
If you are using C8 oil before the workout you should be fine for energy during your workout. You won’t need to add anything during the workout. When you put yourself in ketosis you will burn fats off your body when you run out of the ketones from the C8 oil. It also takes longer to burn off the energy from ketones. I use this method and I can workout and I will still have plenty of energy after.
The Best Post-Workout Nutrition
It’s important to get a meal as soon as possible after a workout. Studies show that there is an anabolic window after a workout in which the body will use protein to rebuild muscle. That window is approximately one hour. Your body will be in fight or flight mode after a workout which makes it hard to eat right away. You can expedite the situation by eating; your body will go into rest and digest mode very soon. You can also meditate to activate the rest and digest mode.
A source of protein will be needed and same with a source of energy. The body will not use protein for anabolic purposes (muscle building), until it gets the energy it desperately needs. The body also produces a lot of enzymes to store energy in the muscles and build muscle right after a workout. Take advantage of the environment in the body and eat protein and healthy fats/carbs.
A post workout meal would look something like this. Soup with homemade bone broth and vegetables = very high nutrient and the amino acids in the bone broth are great to improve the amino acid ratio needed for the human body. In other words, bone broth is high in the right amino acids that the body needs. The number one objective with food is to get the nutrients our bodies will need so lots of high nutrient vegetables in the soup is important. I use coconut milk as my source of energy and spices like curry are great antioxidants along with other benefits. I would add another source of protein to this meal in the form of grass fed beef, vegetable dog or patty, or some seafood.
Commercial Preworkout Supplements
I do not recommend using a preworkout supplement to increase energy for your workout. During the workout we break down the body. The rest and recovery part is where the gains come from. It’s called hormesis. Hormesis is where a stress is applied to the body and the stress is then removed and recovery repairs the body better than it was before the stress was applied. There are many forms of hormesis like cold therapy, hypoxia (holding your breath for longer and longer), heat therapy, fasting, and of course exercise.
Taking a preworkout might give a person more energy for the moment but the after effects are the problem. A person will not rest and recover as well. Sleep will not be as good. Sleep is very important for gains but not only that the next day will be difficult. When a person takes preworkout supplements they are essentially stealing energy from tomorrow and they will not recover as well. The most important part is the recovery.
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