Since I couldn't get a good work out in today, I decided to try and find a new home gym. While I was out exploring local fitness centers, I got a text message from my friend Paul. Let me tell you a bit about Paul. He is a busy guy: career, family, and still finds time to work out.
Unfortunately, sometimes he doesn't have time to eat. After one horrific experience where Paul bonked for the first time during a half-marathon, he asked me what I thought happened to him. I asked him a simple question: what did you eat for breakfast?
"A banana" he said.
"OK," I countered, "what about dinner last night?"
"A granola bar."
A quick "no gas in the car" analogy, and Paul understood that he needed to eat. Today, Paul asked a more complicated question. He went for a hard 32 mile bike ride yesterday, and today he went for a 14 mile run. He felt great on the ride, but like crap on the run, and wondered what caused the difference. I asked him what he ate within 30 minutes of yesterdays ride. "A protein supplement from GNC" he said.
I'm a computer guy, not a nutritionist, but here's what I told Paul based on my experience. Protein post work out is good, but you also need to replenish your spent glycogen stores. Glycogen (a.k.a carbohydrates) is stored by your muscles, and used when you perform physical activity. Even during fat burning work outs, glycogen is used by your muscles to turn fat into usable energy. When your glycogen stores are depleted from strenuous exercise, you feel depleted and zapped.
After a work out, your body is only going to replenish glycogen stores only for a limited time window. Outside of this window, as far as I know, carbs will instead be stored as fat. I've heard 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes for this window; I don't mess around, though, and I try to get my recovery fuel down within 15 minutes.
I use a fancy, $40 per 15 servings recovery drink. I have no doubt that you can get the same break down of protein, carbs, etc by purchasing the right items at your local grocery store. I just don't have time to get most of my real work done, let alone time to waste playing chemist at home. I also can't afford to spend the day feeling zapped at work, and have a crappy work out the next day because I didn't fuel up properly.
I know that after a brutal, early morning interval session, my recovery drink will be the quickest way to get my body the nutrition it needs while I run around trying to get ready for work. I try to cut costs on bike parts, clothing, etc, but the one thing I will not nickle-and-dime myself is proper recovery nutrition.