In a recent post entitled “Carbs or No Carbs With Post Workout Nutrition” I discussed the benefits of avoiding high levels of carbs immediately after your workouts.
While this can be beneficial for a bodybuilder or endurance athlete, it’s a terrible strategy to follow if you’re a middle aged or older adult who is simply looking to get lean.
To summarize that post, the general rule of thumb is to minimize carbs in your post-workout recovery shake the majority of the time until you get lean.
Consuming a fast assimilating protein like whey with water or coconut / unsweetened almond milk is going to be your best strategy to assist with dropping body fat and rebuilding lean muscle tissue.
The main reason why you want to be avoiding higher amounts of carbs with your post-workout shake is because of insulin sensitivity issues.
Let me make sure I’m perfectly clear on this because the subject on post-workout nutrition stirs up a lot of controversy.
The audience I’m talking to is middle age or older adults who have excess body fat and are looking to lean up while improving health, strength, energy, and function. This is my niche and obviously this group willÂ need to do things differently than someone in their twenties or early thirties.
For a lot of reasons, mostly hormonal and metabolism related, you can get away with downing Gatorade drinks and the like before, during, or after workouts.
The reason is because younger people generally have higher insulin sensitivity. This means they can handle higher amounts of sugar hitting their bloodstream much better.
As you get older insulin sensitivity decreases, much more so when an individual is overweight, has poor dietary habits, high amounts of stress, and doesn’t exercise regularly.
The solution to a better body as you get older is not that different to when you’re younger in that you have to clean up your diet, control stress, and exercise. No surprises there.
However, having said that, it’s essential that you understand the way you eat and exercise will need to change as you get older because your body has changed.
From an exercise standpoint, you’ll want to choose burst training over traditional health club style workouts. The reason is because you want to maximize the hormonal benefits of your exercise. This isn’t as important when you’re younger and hormone levels are all naturally pretty elevated in the first place.
Not to say it wouldn’t still be more beneficial to do burst training when you’re younger, because it would, it’s just that you can get a way with a lot more when you’re younger.
Restricting calories and doing hour long workouts on cardio equipment can work to help you drop weight when you’re in your twenties and early thirties, but then it fails miserably when you’re older.
I’ll keep preaching it until it sinks in…it’s all HORMONAL!
One of the most powerful fat burning hormones that is naturally elevated when you’re younger is human growth hormone or HGH. As I’m sure you already know HGH starts to decline with age. What’s one of the most effective ways to increase levels of HGH release?
You guessed it, burst training!
There is a direct correlation between adrenaline and nor-adrenaline release that comes in response to a central nervous system overload with short burst of high intensity effort and HGH increases. The two factors go hand in hand.
If you want to naturally boost your HGH levels do burst training!
But what’s one way to squash an HGH release with a burst training workout?
Consuming carbs (sugar) immediately after your workout!
Even before training a high sugar meal can impair HGH, but after training consider your exercise induced HGH release stopped dead in its tracks.
Research has shown that high fat and/or sugar meals BEFORE workouts and high sugar intake immediately AFTER workouts will significantly diminish the synergistic impact of growth hormone.
How to maximize growth hormone release with your workouts:
1. Train in a slightly fasted state or consume a small amount of fast assimilating carbohydrate (small piece of fruit for example) prior to your workout.
If you’re not overly stressed and have good adrenal function you can also benefit from a small amount of caffeine prior to your workout.
I use a product called Advocare Spark as my pre-workout energy drink. It not only contains a small amount of caffeine but also has a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. A cup of black coffee could also do the trick though not as beneficial since it lacks the B vitamins and amino acids.
The key thing here is you don’t want a heavier meal prior to your workout. Training on an empty stomach is precarious for someone just starting out on a fitness routine because of insulin sensitivity and blood sugar issues.
If you’re just beginning on a weight loss/ fitness routine make sure to consume a small piece of fruit prior to your workout.
As you condition your body to pull glucose from your liver through a process of gluconeogenesis you can transition to the Advocare Spark / black coffee approach working out in a slightly fasted stated.
It’s important to remember that becoming a “fat burner” instead of “sugar burner” requires time and patient persistence. You have to condition your body with the exercise and Primal Blueprint nutrition strategies to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity issues first.
2. Avoid high amounts of fat and sugar in meals prior to your workouts.
For all the reasons we’ve already discussed.
3. Avoid high amounts of sugar immediately following your workouts.
A small of amount of carbohydrate can actually help kick in protein synthesis but you don’t need a lot. If you consume coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk with your post-workout shake you’ll be getting a small amount of carbs, but it won’t be so much as to impair HGH release.
4. Consume 20-30 grams of fast assimilating whey protein within an hour post-workout.
My preferred choice is whey protein with water or using a small amount of fat by mixing the protein powder with young Thai coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk. A little bit of fat in your post workout protein shake can help prevent your liver from dumping glucose into your bloodstream.
If you don’t get in a shake within an hour post-workout, just make sure to eat a solid meal within two hours post-workout that contains an easy to digest and assimilate lean protein and veggies preferably.
Eggs, chicken breast, tuna fish, etc, are all excellent choices for example. You just want to avoid eating a big steak or something that is going to take a while to digest.
5. Avoid sugary drinks like Gatorade or store bought energy drinks prior and during your workouts.
Drink water during your workouts and avoid the trap of thinking you need to replace electrolytes with a Gatorade type drink. Unless you’re perspiring a ton from workout outside in high heat, and I mean a “ton,” you won’t need to worry about the electrolyte issue. You can replenish levels with your post-workout meal.
6. Consider supplementing with the amino acid L-glutamine prior to your workout.
This is optional but new research is showing some positive feedback with a few amino acid supplements boosting HGH release. A small dose (2 grams would be sufficient) of L-glutamine taken on an empty stomach prior to your workout can help stimulate HGH release.
Since high intensity workouts like burst training can drop glutamine levels in the blood by as much as 50 percent, glutamine supplementation could be an effective pre-workout strategy for several reasons.
Not only can it help stimulate HGH release but it can help aid in lean muscle tissue recovery post-workout when protein synthesis kicks back up.
7. Train with “all out” bursts of high intensity effort
This should go without saying but burst training will only be effective at stimulating an HGH release if you provide a strong central nervous system overload. Just getting yourself out of breath is not enough to drive a central nervous system response.
Remember, we’re looking to drive an adrenaline and nor-adrenaline release FIRST or there won’t be an HGH release.
Simply put, you have to really push yourself hard with those short bursts of all-out effort. We’re talking about giving it all you have and not just straining with the last few reps of your last set.
Follow the burst training principals along with the above mentioned strategies and you’ll maximize growth hormone release along with all the other hormonal benefits that come from conditioning yourself to be a lean “fat burner.”
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.