Depending on what type of exercise you are doing (resistance training or endurance exercise) you are either in a negative or positive balance of protein turnover. When protein synthesis is greater than protein breakdown, you are in a hypertrophic state or building muscle. When protein breakdown is greater, you are in a muscle wasting state. During endurance exercise, you are in a negative balance which means you are in a catabolic period. During resistance exercise, protein synthesis is increased however you are still catabolic due to increases in protein breakdown as well. In both states, you remain in a negative balance until adequate protein and energy (aka CARBS) are consumed.
The Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Leucine is crucial when it comes to protein synthesis. To simplify it, leucine controls the start of protein synthesis. In a study by Layne Norton and Donald Layman (Norton Layman 2006), we can conclude that supplementing leucine post-exercise increases intracellular leucine allowing for maximum recovery of muscle protein synthesis. The combination of leucine as well as carbohydrates produces an increased effect on recovery and protein synthesis rather than carbohydrates or other amino acids alone.
So what does this exactly mean for your post-workout nutrition?
After reading this published study as well as performing my own experimentation, I recommend that you supplement leucine immediately post-workout as well as carbohydrates within 1-3 hours post exercise. Carbohydrates are not necessarily NEEDED right after, as long as you consume adequate carbs within the few hours after your workout. Now, you may be asking, “Where can I get leucine?” You can purchase leucine itself at any nutrition store (Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, etc) however I personally use either a Whey Protein source from De Novo Nutrition called Max MPS (contains 3.154g Leucine per serving) OR immediately post-workout I take a scoop of Carbon Post Recovery Drink. Carbon Post contains 4g Leucine per serving along with other key ingredients to maximize recovery including my personal favorite Tart Cherry Powder.
Post-workout nutrition is just as essential as pre-workout nutrition if you are looking to see hypertrophic gains as well as recover optimally. If you have further questions regarding this topic, I would be happy to answer those as always via email: FitnessTeam@sd-evolution.com.
Norton L.E, Layman DK. Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006;0022-3166/06;533S-537S.