I asked a question recently on Quora, my favorite question/answer site where the worlds smartest people hang out:
What’s the all time best book on Sports Nutrition?
The answer that was voted #1 was Nutrient Timing by Ivy and Portman. So I bought it on Kindle for around $8 bucks. The cover looks cheesy and the talk of a “system” in the book sounds suspiciously like a late night infomercial, but the book is pure, well researched data from two well qualified Ph.D’s.
I know little about sports nutrition, so this book was a real eye opener for me. I learnt a lot about basic muscle physiology, what energy is, its many sources and how each of them converts a stored form of energy into kinetic energy.
Here are a few things I learned that I’ve put to use:
- If you can boost your insulin level during and immediately after exercise, your muscles will recover faster and grow faster.
- The best way to boost insulin during or after training is to consume a carbohydrate and protein drink. The ratio should be between 3:1 and 4:1 with carbohydrates dominating.
- The best carbohydrate source is plain old sugar (Sucrose).
- The best protein source is Whey protein.
- You may also benefit from antioxidants to prevent muscle oxidation by free radicals. The book recommends Vitamin C and E.
- The drink should be consumed immediately after exercise and then again 2 hours after and 4 hours after to try and prolong the anabolic phase where your body has high insulin levels. This will provide maximum recovery, minimize muscle protein loss and maximize muscle protein gain.
For my first experiment with this approach, I concocted a drink consisting of 2 cups of 2% milk, three heaped teaspoons of cocoa and three heaped tablespoons of white sugar. I went and swam 60 lengths in a 25m pool (just under a mile) and a good pace. I drank the whole thing 10 minutes after exercise while driving home from the gym.
The results were interesting. I immediately felt warm all over. I generally don’t consume sugar, so the sugar was a huge shock to my system. I felt like I’d taken a drug.
The next three days were actually kind of awful. I felt like I had a 3 day sugar crash. But my muscles felt stronger for some reason. I figured it was probably an illusion.
About 5 days later I hit the pool again. I had fully recovered from my last swim and thought I’d see if I felt any stronger. I had been swimming 60 lengths for several weeks. This time I passed 40 lengths and was feeling strong. So at length 50 I started doing something I’ve never done before. I did alternating sprint/normal pace swimming. One length sprint, one length to recover. I kept this up until length 80 when I stopped and was still feeling strong. I’ve swam 80 lengths many times and it was my regular swim in my 20’s (10 years ago). But I’ve never swam alternating sprints and never at the end of an 80 length set. Once I was done I felt great, and had another hit of my new jet fuel.
My verdict on the book’s approach is that there’s definitely something to their logic. I’ve also noticed new muscle growth that I didn’t have before. If you can handle the sugar crashes, this approach could get you past a hard plateau in your training. I’m continuing to experiment hoping to find a quantity and combination of protein and carbs that gives me the benefits of a post workout insulin boost without the multi-day crash.
My current drink recipe is as follows:
I’ve varied the protein sources (milk, peanuts and egg) and the carbohydrate sources (brown sugar, molasses) and included cocoa. The goal is to make the drink more balanced and provide useful vitamins and minerals along with the protein and carbs. I also use Milk instead of Whey because it’s cheap, freely available, contains Whey, seems more natural and according to the Wikipedia entry on Whey Protein, consumer reports found that some sources contain heavy metals.
Post a comment if you try this and let me know how it goes.