Friday 15 June 2012

Cost-Effective Pre & Post Workout Drinks

As a university strength & performance nutrition coach, I work mostly with poor student athletes who need to fuel their bodies for high performance. As a result, I'm always looking for ways to stretch their nutrition dollars as far as possible. When it comes to pre and post workout drinks, I can't expect them to drop $80/month on some trendy supplement. However, there is good research behind this topic and we can take advantage of this important fueling "window of opportunity" in a much more cost-effective way.

For my "pre workout", I take 1/2 scoop of whey protein powder in water with a banana about 10 minutes before training. I like whey becauase it is cost effective, fast digesting and has high levels of BCAA's (branched-chain amino acids). For those who do not tollerate whey, you could use vegetarian protein powders (e.g. rice, pea, hemp - or best - a mixture of all 3). I have found this helps me sustain a good training level throughout the training session. Milk could be used here if you tolerate it well.

Occasionally, I'll add some dark organic cocoa powder (find in the baking section of the store) to this mix gentle buz (note: do not become dependant on a stimulant). Ori Hofmekler has pointed out that this helps boost nitric oxide production which may help with tissue repair and muscle growth.

Another option is to have something to sip on during the training/practice session. There is good research on this and I have personally found this helpful. This is especially true when trying to gain/maintain weight or your training/practicing lasts longer than 1 hour. For this phase, you can include a small amount of protein powder (1/4-1/2 scoop) with a carbohydrate powder (1/2 to 1 scoop) or diluted fruit juice and sip on this during the training session. If you sweat a lot or it is hot, add some sea salt.

Dates: natural recovery carbs
For post-training, chocolate milk is a great, cheap, conveinient and tasty option - if you do well with dairy. I personally do not. Therefore, I will have 30-50g of protein (mostly whey because it is fast-digesting with perhaps a small amount of milk protein isolate which has casein protein for slower, more sustained digestion). You can mix this some type of fast-digesting carb (e.g. dates (my personal favourite), raisins, carb powder, rice milk, bagels – if you live in North America – the land of the carb – there are lots of options here).  Your carb-to-protein ratio should be between 2:1 and 4:1 depending on your body composition levels, goals and training style. Also, if you choose to supplement with creatine monohydrate, this would be a good place to do so.

If you want to buy a carb powder, do not buy it at a supplement store or you will pay way too much money. Carb powders should be very cheap - unless the people selling them know you are using it as supplement - then they jack the price up. I've bought maltodextrin online from a baking supply place for really cheap. Another good one is dextrose which can also be purchased online or often found in the wine making section of the grocery store (a tip I learned from Charles Poliquin).

Note: fast-digesting carbs taken around the training time are helpful, but not the most healthy - especially when it comes to dental health. You may not want to use these for the rest of your life and you will want to brush your teeth.

If you have extra money and want to try more expensive supplements (e.g. BCAA’s), then by all means go for it. I have discussed this a bit in a pervious post. However, get them as a plain supplement (and preferably NSF certified) and add them to what you are already using. Also, be sure to keep detailed records of your training (e.g. performance, measurements, weight, body comp, energy levels, etc) to see if it is actually making a cost-justifiable difference.

I understand that some people like the conveience of mixed supplmenets and are willing to acept the higher cost for conveneince reseasons. The choice is yours - now you have more options to choose from.

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