Don’t believe the hype….well, not entirely.
You know, the hype that if you do not consume a whey protein beverage one second after your final set of squats, your workout will be useless. The supposed “anabolic window” that magically closes on you 30 minutes after you concluded your final gut-wrenching reps. You have been psyched into believing such “gospel-like” claims due to mass marketing from supplement companies making ads that may as well be interchangeable with Hollywood tabloid magazines!
I am not saying that post workout nutrition is not important, but I am going to say that there is a better way to harness the effects of greater muscle protein synthesis (MPS), lowered cortisol levels, and set the stage for a more favorable protein accretion-to-protein degradation ratio during and after resistance training.
“Intra” is the answer -- No more post-workout-postponed recovery!
Research has demonstrated that key ingredients, such as essential amino acids (6g EAA), and simple carbohydrates (35g sucrose) ingested pre & during resistance training induced the state of hyperaminoacidemia, as well as hyperemia. This effect decreased the net loss of muscle protein that typically takes place during, and post workout, and therefore sets the stage perfectly for muscle growth.
In fact, researcher’s performed muscle biopsies on the quadriceps of 6 healthy volunteers (3 males, 3 females). They also underwent blood sampling to determine blood amino acid levels before the trial began. Three blood samples, separated by ∼10 minutes, were taken from the femoral artery and vein for the measurement of plasma arterial and venous amino acid enrichments and concentrations.
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether an essential amino acid (EAA) + carbohydrate (sucrose) beverage consumed immediately prior to resistance exercise or post resistance exercise would stimulate muscle protein anabolism the greatest. Approximately 209 ± 42 mg of essential amino acids (EAA) were taken up across the leg in the PRE (exercise) trial, whereas only 81 ± 19 mg essential amino acids (EAA) were taken up during the POST (exercise) trial.
This study demonstrates that a relatively low amount of essential amino acids (6g) combined with simple carbohydrates (35g) ingested immediately pre-workout is superior to consuming the same drink post workout -- Net muscle protein synthesis peaks higher, sustains longer, and overall nutrient delivery to muscle cells is enhanced.
This particular study did not examine cortisol levels, but be assured that similar studies revealed pre-exercise carbs & amino-acids blunted the cortisol response by 11%, whereas placebo displayed elevated cortisol by 42%!
My “INTRA-duction” to Intra-Workout Nutrition-
In the 2007, I remember vying to stay leaner in the off-season to gauge trial & error experiments I planned to put myself through. I knew that staying in lean condition (below 10% bodyfat) would allow me to accurately observe changes in my physique when implementing new supplementation protocols, dieting regimens, training schemes etc..
I was always enamored with the abnormal muscle fullness and “pumps” you get immediately after a Bodybuilding contest. “The post contest rebound” was a fascinating, and fulfilling “grace period” that would last a good 4-6 weeks after your show. After digging further into the reasons and mechanisms behind this short window of muscle bursting pumps, and skin splitting training sessions, I decided that intra-workout nutrition would be my answer to potentially replicating this cosmetic & physiological phenomenon.
I experimented with the following carbohydrate sources with decent, but not great results -
I also experimented with the following protein & amino acid ingredients with decent, but not great results -
- Whey protein isolate
- Free form branch chain amino acids
- Hydrolyzed whey protein
I also added creatine, glutamine, arginine, extra leucine and other ingredients to improve each new drink I formulated
The above ingredients gave me decent results, as in, increased blood flow and nitric oxide production from insulin secretion → via carbohydrate ingestion, elevated blood amino acid levels from proteins/bcaa’s used, and more training endurance for higher volume workouts. However, the absorption and inability to digest all of this intra-workout nutrition was being compromised by less than optimally absorbed ingredients. This is when I experimented with amylopectin barley -- also known as Vitargo. Unlike the glucose polymers I used that carry a low molecular weight, and have a high osmolality -- amylopectin barley was pretty much the opposite.
Uncomfortable blood pooling in the stomach, and side aches were non-existent. I also ditched fully intact whey proteins, and used only free-form Essential Amino Acids, which are pre-digested, alongside creatine, and glutamine.
Post Contest Pumps Resurrected!
I was inducing the state of ‘hyperemia,” which is increasing blood flow to surrounding tissues in the body. After playing with different water dilution amounts and ingredient amounts, I pretty much streamlined my intra-workout drink to fit my goals of cellular swelling, enhanced recovery, increased nutrient delivery to working muscles and muscle growth perfectly. I used the following ingredient amounts corresponding with precise water dilution measurements.
-100g-150g amylopectin barley (Vitargo)
- 18g Essential Amino Acids (3 scoops MPA PharmGrade)
- 5g creatine monohydrate
- 3g glutamine
Diluted into 64-84 ounces of water, for better absorption, and gastric emptying.
Note: The amount of water added depended on the amount of carbohydrates added – more carbs = more water.
The Empirical Experiment -
I was so convinced that this form of supplementation was “game changing” that I decided to perform a mini experiment on myself in a 24 hour period. I purposely lowered my carb intake to minuscule amounts, and began an upper body depletion circuit. I trained with high volume, and conquered several sets per muscle for over 2 hours. I was on a mission to deplete glycogen stores rapidly to capture a depleted “before photo.” I finished my workout at 9 pm. and took photos of myself in the corner of my gym in specific lighting. Keep in mind -- I was taking my photos in a “pumped” state, even though, technically depleted.
I remained carb-free the next day, until it was time to train. This go around, I implemented my intra-workout drink 15 minutes prior to beginning the same upper body circuit. As I began training, I started to immediately fill out my muscles with blood, we’re talking rapidly! Keep in mind; I began sipping my 64 oz. drink 15 minutes prior to training so my blood was already ‘primed’ with anabolic ammunition. I remember not being able to complete the same amount of sets as the muscle fullness was too great. It was pretty cool to achieve such rapid super compensation effect in minimal time. Once again, I finished my workout around 9 pm. and snapped photos in the same exact lighting, executing the same exact poses.
I am a very truthful person, and despise over exaggeration, but the before & after shots for these photos was impressive -- solely from a cosmetic point-of-view. My skin appeared much tighter pressed against the muscle, chest, and arms looked much fuller, and when I showed people the comparisons they thought it was a difference of a few months...not 24 hours!
After that point in time, I knew this was something very special, and as the years progressed, so has the science and introduction of even better ingredients. At the present time, I have personally formulated an Intra-workout supplement that I use, and several clients of mine use daily, with phenomenal results.
This updated formula is refined, and improved upon that of 2007. I still prefer Vitargo for the pre-training carb source, then for the INTRA portion I opt for the designer glucose polymer ‘highly branched cyclic dextrin” or -- HBCD. This carbohydrate mixes better than amylopectin barley, and does not sky rocket insulin levels nearly as high, potentially leaving you hypoglycemic mid workout. Gastric emptying is expedited through the small intestine and taken into the bloodstream rapidly, allowing fast absorption, yet prolonged blood glucose levels and manageable insulin secretion is maintained.
I also still favor the use of Essential Amino Acids in this formula, as research has shown that free form amino acids combined with carbohydrates increase the protein synthetic response to resistance training. It should come as no surprise that I created MPA PharmGrade exactly for this reason. Not to mention, MPA PharmGrade is sourced from AjinoMoto, which is the gold-standard in amino acid companies.
Other Important Additives in My Current Drink -
- L CItrulline – I prefer pure Citrulline opposed to Citulline Malate as the malic acid takes away from the potency of the CItrulline. Citrulline will increase blood nitric oxide levels higher and more efficiently that straight arginine itself, igniting capillary expansion and blood flow. Of course MPA CelluVOL is loaded with over 7g of L-Citrulline which is taken before the training session.
- Glutamine -- not much needs to be discussed about this popular amino acid as most of you are familiar with the immune benefits, anti-catabolic properties, and most importantly -- gastrointestinal health protection . Research shows
Glutamine can protect healthy gut bacteria, and salvage key amino acids from degradation in the GI tract. (3-6 grams)
- Creatine gluconate - a creatine molecule bound to a glucose molecule to increase creatine uptake across cells. Think of the glucose molecule as a vehicle transport system for the creatine. (5-10g)
-Creapure German-Grade Creatine- The tried and true basic creatine monohydrate from Germany with exceptional purity regulation. The research is readily available to prove the effectiveness of basic monohydrate. (5-10g
- Electrolytes - electrolytes were added to offset muscle cramping and increase exercise performance from adequate cellular hydration. (1 tbs of coconut water powder like found in MPA PharmGrade)
Is post workout nutrition obsolete? -- Absolutely not.
The neat thing about partaking in intra-workout supplementation is you have essentially flooded your body with muscle-building nutrients all throughout your workout, making it not mandatory to immediately chug down a protein shake after your last set of bicep curls. In fact, I personally wait around 45 minutes after I finish my intra-workout drink due to the intensity of the training session making me sometimes nauseous feeling.
I have been a big advocate of this intra-workout movement for over 10 years now, and recommend you give it a try if you are looking to break through a plateau, or improve your training sessions. I do advise people to be in appropriate condition, meaning 10% bodyfat or less when experimenting with heavier carb laden mixtures, above 100 g of carbohydrates. If you are above this bodyfat, stick to 25-50g carbs per workout. I personally feel that amino acid amounts need to be in the 15g-30g range to really make the most of each drink per workout.
An intense leg & back workouts will need more than the 6 grams of amino acids the studies demonstrated.
If you are interested in information regarding my intra-workout recommendations –I created the “PERI-SERIES” supplement line which is comprised of:
Pre-workout powder: CelluVOL – L-citrulline (7g), Nitrosigine (1.5g), HydroMax (5g),Alpha-GPC (600 mg), and ElevATP (300 mg)
Intra-workout powder: PharmGrade – 13g EAA’s, 800 mg Phosphatidic Acid (mediator), Coconut water powder (3g)
Post-workout powder: CreRiboVOL – Cluster dextrin (10g), Leucine (5g), Ribose (5g) Creapure (10g), 4-hydroxy-isoleucine (500 mg)
You can use whatever carbohydrate powder you personally prefer, whether it be HBCD, Vitargo, Karbolyn, or Waxy Maize. All those are readily available at most supplement shops and online retailers.
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