Protein shakes, amino acids, creatine, L-carnitine, preworkouts — what are these? Should I be taking them? When do I take them? All valid questions. Fitness supplements can be extremely beneficial to helping you optimize your progress.
When I first got into fitness, I did a lot of research on what to eat before and after workouts. I discovered that consuming protein post-workout would aid in the recovery and repair of muscles. Numerous fitness professionals have recommended that consuming protein post-workout during the anabolic window is the ideal time.
The anabolic window is 15–60 minutes post-workout, when the muscles are known to be spongelike and would absorb the protein, creating an increased development in the muscle. I followed this theory for years and it was very beneficial. Until my lifestyle changed and the hour right after my workout needed to be dedicated to getting ready for my day, which led me to start consuming my protein shakes during my training sessions versus after.
This simple switch not only provided an increase in strength but also in muscle growth, more so, than when I would consume protein shakes post-workout. Both of these methods were beneficial for me. If you are unsure whether to consume your shakes during or after, try both ways and monitor your progress to see which one your body responds to best.
Protein shakes help build muscles and aid in recovery, but what if you still feel sore hours and days after your training sessions? One of the best supplements I have come across to reduce muscle soreness is amino acids, also known as BCAAs (branch chain amino acids). BCAAs will help prolong muscle breakdown, also aiding in muscle growth and reducing soreness. No more feeling like you were hit by a bus or skipping training days because you are too sore.
Drinking BCAAs during training sessions is most common, which is great if you have prolonged workouts. Workouts lasting longer than an hour will decrease your glucose levels, causing fatigue, strength reduction and lack of focus. By consuming BCAAs during your prolonged training sessions, you will boost your energy levels, helping you to lift heavier, run faster, train longer and harder.
However, if you are training to increase your muscle mass (size), researchers have recommended avoiding drinking BCAAs during training sessions. Reason being is that in order to create muscle hypertrophy, you will want to allow the muscle fibers to be broken down so that the body can naturally rebuild the muscles and increase the size of them during its repairing of these fibers. As BCAAs suppress the breakdown of muscle, according to research, it’s not that you will NOT experience muscle growth, you will simply experience less growth. Therefore, if optimal muscle growth is your goal, consuming BCAAs anytime throughout the day that is not your training time is ideal. So when deciding when to consume BCAAs, keep your goals in mind.
Tune into next month, when I discuss pre-workouts, L-carnitine and creatine. ￼
Alex Garzaro is a lifestyle strategist, weight loss expert for women and transformational speaker. The views expressed are her own.