When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, there’s a fairly common philosophy: “No pain, no gain.” While some people use the saying to give them a little motivation, others take it to an extreme, training to the point where they are literally in pain. While some discomfort is normal and even good for you, muscle recovery is not to be dismissed.
Your behavior outside of the gym is as important as — if not more important than — your behavior inside the gym. When you break your body down with fitness, it’s vital you rebuild it with nutrition. Taking a post-workout protein shake can aid in muscle recovery, as your body will use the protein to rebuild muscle fibers that experienced wear and tear during a workout.
The most common form of protein used in powders is whey protein, which has several qualities that make it the best form of protein for recovery.
The Importance of Whey Protein
Whey protein makes up 20% of milk proteins. The rest of it is made up of casein. Whey is absorbed and digested by the body faster than casein. Whey protein isolate is also a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive. It contains less than 1% lactose.
As it’s quickly digested, the amino acid component reaches your muscles faster. Whey also stimulates protein synthesis for your muscles to repair and rebuild.
Amino acids are organic compounds needed by the body for performing bodily functions, such as muscle recovery. Whey protein is rich in three essential amino acids known as the branched-chain amino acids. These are leucine, valine, and isoleucine. These are called essential amino acids because the body cannot manufacture them on its own.
The muscles take up these amino acids directly, unlike others that need to be processed by the liver first. Amino acids also stimulate the production of glycogen, one of the body’s main energy sources. It synthesizes glycogen in your muscles and replenishes the stores used during your workout.
Your body creates tears in your muscles as part of the recovery process. It’s a healthy process where proper nutrition is critical. As your muscles are predominantly made of protein, introducing dietary protein to your body is necessary. Whey protein is one of the food sources that can provide the needed amino acids the fastest.
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The recovery process involves the synthesis of new muscle fibers along with the repair of existing muscle fibers by incorporating the new muscle strands. Post-workout protein shakes can give your muscles a kickstart by providing the necessary nutrients.
Whey protein coming from grass-fed sources has an edge over other forms of whey protein. It has higher levels of leucine, an amino acid that increases protein synthesis by signaling the mTor mechanism in the body. mTor is the major anabolic, or muscle building, pathway responsible for regulating skeletal muscle mass.
Pure whey protein has large amounts of protein and amino acids. It also has a minimal amount of calories, fat, and sugar, although this varies depending on the brand you use.
There are arguments about when the best time to consume whey protein is. Some insist that you must down a protein shake within 30 minutes after working out. It’s true that your body absorbs nutrients faster after a workout. However, recent studies have shown that this anabolic window could actually be as long as six hours, so there’s no need to rush.
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Direct protein sources such as whey protein are good for consumption right after a workout. You can also consume slow-burning proteins such as cottage cheese before sleeping. This way, your body can have a continued source of protein as it recovers and repairs during your sleep.
Consuming protein right after a workout reduces muscle soreness and results in fewer muscle-related injuries. Your health benefits heavily from both exercise and proper nutrition, so you should keep both in check.
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