What's more important after strength training: protein or carbohydrates?

You have probably heard many rumours about what nutrients should be provided as a priority after strength training. As you might guess, a considerable part of them is simply untrue. It is worth to systematize knowledge of fast nutritional strategies which succour post-exercise regeneration in order to maximize advantages of favorable physiological circumstances and regenerative processes. This time I would like to take into consideration the question of that is better to be eaten after training: protein or carbohydrates?

Advertising, stories of your gym mates and pseudo-scientific arguments

Let's face it, hardly anyone really has time and desire to peruse scientific publications in search for information on what to eat and what supplements to take. The most common sources of this type of knowledge are "experienced" gym mates' opinions, entries on forums and marketing and advertising slogans. Unfortunately, building your knowledge on this type of sources does not guarantee that the data you collect have anything to do with reality. This article will describe the issue of post-training strategies and regeneration.

On the one hand you can come across theories claiming that after physical exertion the key issue is to have a portion of carbohydrates to renew energy reserves, to be exact: reserves of muscle glycogen; on the other, there are statements that portion of sugars consumed after workout inhibits anabolic response of the growth hormone this way making it difficult to regenerate. Enthusiasts of both concepts have many arguments to support their beliefs. Unfortunately, the problem is that sometimes these arguments are strong only in appearance... Let's try to explore the topic and answer the question in the title.

Strength training vs. the question of glycogen

The first question that comes to your mind in relation to that problem is whether strength training leads to drastic loss of muscle glycogen? Well, the answer is: probably not. Of course, a lot depends on the course of the exercise session and techniques to intensify which can significantly aggravate loss in energy reserves. In general, however, the average weight training session does not exhaust the muscle glycogen, but only depletes it. Most important is not how much reserves of glycogen during training will be depleted, but rather whether there is any need for its immediate replenishment and whether this issue is an absolute priority in relation to post-workout regeneration. Test results show that the time in which you supplement the lost muscle glycogen is important only if you plan further efforts in the next few hours.

So if you have already planned, after a morning session at the gym, to have a martial arts training in the evening, this is when you should start to bother with glycogen. In a situation when you have next workout in 24 or 48 hours, this issue becomes of secondary or even tertiary importance. Are carbohydrates simply unnecessary after workout? The answer is: no! Proper intake would have important benefits, such as it helps to provoke a response from the insulin - hormone that enhances glucose and amino acids transport into muscle and inhibits proteolysis, thanks to which it contributes to the net nitrogen balance. At this point, however, we come to the second major dilemma concerning carbohydrates' (or rather insuline's) influence on secretion of growth hormone.