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The Effect of Protein and Sugar on Muscle Growth and Recovery

It’s the start of a new year and chances are good that you still have a few sweet gifts leftover from the holidays… I know I do. Calorie consumption is typically higher over the holiday season—thanks impart to all of the chocolates, cookies, candy canes and festive glasses of egg nog—making it hard to stick with pre-holiday fitness and nutrition goals. But what if I told you that you could still eat the calorie-rich foods that you like while increasing lean muscle tissue and promoting weight loss? It would be pretty great news, right? Well I wish that was the case, but sadly it’s not.

Though it was once believed that consuming sweets right after a workout helped to speed up muscle recovery and increase energy, recent (and admittedly disappointing) evidence now proves that this is a busted myth. In other words, your remaining holiday sweets need to remain guilty pleasures if you are working towards a particular body transformation goal.

To help you better understand why you may need to pawn off your remaining sweets, let’s look at the evidence and go over what happens after a hard workout.

After a workout your body is ready to restore the energy that has been lost. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s several studies showed that if simple carbohydrates (ex. milk, chocolate, table sugar) were consumed with essential amino acids (ex. protein powder) your muscles absorbed the protein at a faster rate, allowing you to recover faster. However recent studies give no evidence that your protein absorption rate increases when simple sugars are consumed after a workout. The truth is it’s the essential amino acids that actually promote muscle recovery, not the added sugar… which is less than stellar news for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Another interesting fact is that several researchers also found that your body will restore most of its lost energy through a caloric source (like fruits, vegetables, grains or meat) within about six hours of being consumed.

The takeaway here? If your goal is to increase lean muscle mass through exercise and promote weight loss essential amino acids are what you should be consuming after your workout, not sugar.

The good news is there are some pretty tasty protein smoothie recipes out there that sort of taste like a treat. Here’s a link to a few of our favourites.

Email me if you have any questions!




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