Protein supplements promise greater strength, faster recovery time and bigger muscles. The timing of when athletes eat, and what ratio of carbohydrates to proteins they eat after a workout can significantly improve their recovery period after exercise. Supplements can provide this necessary nutrition but it’s suggested that athletes can get by with just a glass of milk.
Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 30mins post-workout helps maximize muscle synthesis, muscle function and decreases muscle breakdown.
This occurs because this is the time that muscles experience a heightened sensitivity to insulin. The right combination of carbohydrates to protein is associated with faster glycogen replenishment in the muscles, better muscle protein synthesis, reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle
strength and body composition. Optimal post-exercise recovery is all about taking advantage of the 30-min recovery window and choosing foods that portray a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Chocolate milk is a quick and easy post-recovery drink that naturally contains carbohydrates and proteins in the correct ratio.
Whey vs. casein
Cow’s milk is composed of carbohydrates and two main dairy proteins: casein and whey. The ratio of protein within a glass of milk is about 20% whey to 80% casein, which provides an optimal composition of readily available nutrients to replenish body fuel post-workout and keep energy levels up.
Whey is known as the “fast-acting” protein, meaning that the body can break it down and absorb the nutrients relatively quickly. Protein supplements break down whey even further into whey protein isolate, whey concentrate or whey powder. These concentrated protein supplements are absorbed at a quicker rate than casein. Whey is high in essential, branched-chain amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must derive from food.
Casein, often referred to as the “slow-acting” protein, takes slightly longer to digest as it slowly releases amino acids into the bloodstream. It contains a different amino acid profile than whey and is particularly high in the conditionally essential amino acid, glutamine. This is beneficial because, when the body is put under physiological stress, such as with endurance exercise, the body needs to derive glutamine from an outside source of food. The bottom line, however, is that both whey and casein are
needed for proper nutrition.
Some supplements contain both whey and casein to allow the body to take full advantage of the different absorption rates. The combined efforts are beneficial because whey works to stimulate protein synthesis whereas casein inhibits the breakdown of protein.
Milk: Full or low-fat?
Research shows that low-fat dairy is more effective at protein synthesis and replenishing net muscle protein balance than high-fat dairy. One theory is that the fat is digested at a slower rate than carbohydrates and protein, and thus the fat slows down the delivery of carbohydrates
and protein to tissues. Long term use of low-fat milk as a post-exercise resistance training meal has been associated with a greater reduction in overall body fat, increased muscle growth and greater muscle mass maintenance.
The combination of whey and casein protein found in cow’s milk provides reliable nutrition to restock glycogen stores, promote protein synthesis and repair muscles while providing beneficial nutrients such as calcium, vitamin
D and vitamin A. Whole foods, such as low-fat milk, can be equally effective, if not more effective than supplement drinks in restoring the body to optimal performance levels and naturally provide all the essential nutrients in a ratio the body needs.
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