Post-WOD Nutrition


Speaking of food, here’s some food for thought from Coach Schurko…

Oh, hey there friends! Today, I want to discuss a polarizing topic in fitness circles: Post-WOD nutrition. I’m going to discuss what post-workout nutrition is and why we all should be having something after our workouts. Your body wants, needs, and likes certain nutrients after a workout in order to jump start muscle anabolism and recovery. These nutrients are specifically, carbohydrates (gasp!) and protein. First, let’s talk about what happens to muscles during and after a workout, and then why post-workout nutrition is so important.

Skeletal muscles at the micro-level are made of bundles of protein. When we work out, the proteins contract, generating energy, and this energy is transferred to the bar which allows us to move weights. Sometimes, we push these proteins to their limit and they tear. The tears result in micro-injuries to the protein, leading to a cascade of muscle breakdown and inflammation called catabolism. Catabolism is why you feel sore and can’t walk up stairs after a hard day in the box.

Now that we have a basic understanding of muscle physiology, let’s discuss how we can optimize our Post-WOD nutrition, in order to build muscle (anabolism), to stop muscle breakdown (catabolism) and to get ready for your next WOD.

Part I: Maintain a Positive Protein Balance
As stated above, when we work out, we cause micro-injuries to our muscles. The body responds to these injuries by breaking down the damaged proteins, and building new ones. This process of breaking down old, damaged protein and building new proteins is called protein turnover. In order for protein turnover and new muscle synthesis to occur – AKA muscle hypertrophy – we need a positive protein balance (ie. more protein coming in vs. being broken down). We can achieve this by ensuring the body has readily available proteins when it needs it most – immediately after working out. Now, there are many thoughts and opinions as to what the best post-WOD protein source is – protein shakes (hydrolysates, isolates, branched chain amino acids), or actual food (chicken, beef etc) – and that could be another whole blog post – however, I go with the belief that fast absorbing protein shake after my workouts are best.

Part II: Get an Insulin Response!
Now, we just learned WODs can break down our muscle and how we can prevent that. In addition to potentially causing muscle catabolism, working out also uses up our body’s glycogen stores. Glycogen is our body’s energy source (like our car’s gasoline) during short-term exercise. Glycogen is made of multiple molecules of glucose and we know glucose equals sugar. If you want to be primed to workout tomorrow we must have some sugars post-workout today.

Obviously, replenishing our body’s glycogen stores is very important – we can’t drive our cars without gasoline – however, what’s more important is the insulin response we get from our post-workout nutrition. A post-WOD shake (with simple sugars!) will rapidly increase our blood glucose levels. This increase in blood glucose concentration will cause our pancreas to release the anabolic hormone, insulin. Insulin is a great hormone that gets a bad rap. It increases the amount of proteins and sugars (from our post-WOD shake) transported into starving muscle cells, while also increasing concentrations of growth hormone and testosterone. Ipsofacto, insulin transports the building blocks (protein) for muscle building and energy stores (glucose) into cells while also increasing concentration of hormones (growth hormone and testosterone) that also have a major role in muscle building.

To review, after a WOD we need rapidly absorbing proteins in order to maintain a positive protein balance, to initiate muscle anabolism, and to prevent muscle catabolism. We also need rapidly absorbing glucose to replenish our glycogen stores for our next workout. Additionally, the increase in blood glucose levels will increase insulin levels which help transport proteins and glucose into cells, and causes increased concentration of growth hormone and testosterone.

So what do I do?
Post-WOD (0-15 minutes after a WOD) I have a protein shake (~30 grams of protein isolate) with ~25 grams of a rapidly absorbing carbohydrate source (waxy maize/blended fruits/maltodextrin) in order to get the full benefits of the hour I just spent in the gym while preparing me for my next WOD.  Just remember, a  post-WOD shake’s maximal benefit is only seen if the shake is had within ~20 minute post work-out. If you wait longer, then your body’s insulin sensitivity decreases and thus, there will be a decreases in glucose and protein transport into cells, and growth hormone and testosterone synthesis. SO, BRING YOUR POST-WOD SHAKES WITH YOU TO THE BOX!

And a special note to all Paleo Challengers out there: YES, whey protein is allowed on the challenge!  As always, be mindful of the ingredients and do your best to find a clean, healthy protein powder.

“Southie Sangy”
Run 800m
3 rounds of:
3 Squat Cleans (185/115)
6 Burpees
9 C2B Pull-Ups
Run 400m
3 rounds of
3 Squat Cleans
6 Burpees
9 C2B Pull ups
Run 800m

Level 3 (155/105)
Level 2 (115/75)
Level 1 400m-200-400; 2 rounds of each triplet (95/55)

Mobility Class
Focus: Upper Body