Peri Workout Nutrition: Managing Training Centric Shakes to Optimize Recovery and Gains

Everyone knows recovery is truly essential to facilitating adaptation. No matter how hard you work one day, if you aren’t properly recovering from the stress imposed on your body then it can, and will, negatively impact your whole training week. In a nutshell, adaptation happens because you’re imposing a similar stressor over a prolonged period of time, which then forces mechanical and neural changes throughout the body. These adaptations, however, can plateau or even decline when major imbalances in stress and recovery exist. Let’s start with the training week since it’s essential to making real change. Week after week of continued and varied stimulus is the driving force behind your gains. And while a single training day is simply not enough to induce adaptation in your body, it’s the summation of many good training days over the course of several weeks that make big things happen. In order to adequately recover from these individual sessions, and show up fresh day after day, your nutrition must be spot on. Here’s an easy way to think of this: the more effectively you recover from the training day the more you will be able to handle next session, and the more able you are to handle the next session, the greater your gains will be over time.

Photo Credit:  quickmeme
Photo Credit: quickmeme

A very effective way to improve recovery from session to session is via pre-intra-post workout nutrition (also known as peri workout nutrition). While there are literally thousands of potential options for nutrition throughout the training window, it’s important to understand that proper nutrition can fuel you to adapt better to the training stressors being imposed.

Better Adaption= Better Gains

I typically find myself training later in the day after already consuming 2-4 whole food meals. On these days, I prefer liquid nutrition around my training because it will digest easier and faster. Not only that, training shakes have proved time and time again to be incredibly convenient when meal prepping or in a rush.

Two of my favorite sources for training centric nutrition are highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD) and whey hydrolysates.

Whey Hydrolysates

Now whey hydrolysates have been around for some time, and about 15-20 years ago there was word on bodybuilding magazines that hydrolysates could induce greater skeletal muscle growth versus other protein sources. Their popularity has phased in and out over the years, but more and more quality research has been fueling their most recent surge. Specifically, hydrolysates from di and tri peptides are the choice recommendation for supplementation. And just so we’re all on the same page: hydrolysates are basically protein molecules that go through a filtration process that cleaves most of their peptide bonds making them much easier to digest.

Photo Credit:  Wedding Crashers, New Line Cinema
Photo Credit: Wedding Crashers, New Line Cinema

These broken down protein molecules are not only utilized faster than intact whey (isolate, concentrate), but they are more effective when combined with high glycemic liquid carbohydrates:

  1. They have a substantially greater insulinotropic effect than intact whey and carbs.
  2. They significantly increase glycogen stores in skeletal muscle.

A very interesting study using male bodybuilders found that they recovered peak contraction force in only 6 hours following100 maximal quad contractions while supplementing with hydrolysate. This is only one study, but its results are relevant to the performance field, and it also shows the direction hydrolysate studies are taking which gives the results more efficacy.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD)

Highly branched cyclic dextrin has been gaining a lot of popularity in the performance community as well. It is a chemically changed amylopectin molecule to actually give a cyclic look to the chain. The real efficacy for using these intra workout specifically comes from their lack of insulin response. The chains are very dense, and in your shaker bottle have a low osmolality, this means they can quickly bypass the osmo-receptors of the stomach. Also, due to their cyclic structure the chains are broken down at once.

Here’s something else worth noting: training is a catabolic process and needs high amounts of sympathetic drive in order to overcome stress. Insulin, however, is the chief anabolic hormone, and happens to be closely linked with the parasympathetic nervous system. This is often where the sugar crash conflict comes when using certain carbohydrate sources intra workout. So…by using highly branched cyclic dextrin we can avoid the sugar crash and maintain sympathetic drive.

Training Centric Shakes

  *The macro-nutrients in the below examples are specific to me. They are based off my my daily caloric intake, macro distribution and my own meal plan. If you want help coming up with your own plan, then feel free to contact me via our coaching page.

Here’s the kicker:  I’m kinda broke.  I can’t always afford 4-5lbs of HBCD a month along with 4-5lbs of hydrolysates to use for all of my training shakes. The great part about the protocol I’m about to show you is its affordability. Replacing hydrolysates and HBCD at opportune times decreases the amount you will need per training session substantially.

The first shake, coming 30 mins before training, utilizes intact whey isolates and only 50% of the carbs come from HBCD. By the time your workout hits, the amino acids have been broken down from the intact whey and help facilitate the driving of glucose to the cell. The dextrose will also help spike insulin to drive glucose to the cell, however, cutting it with the HBCD makes coming down from the insulin spike much more manageable. This ideally should create an even environment for total uptake of the pre training macros.

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The autonomics of intra training nutrition make it more difficult to cut the shakes with anything, but it is the smallest shake of the trio. By using whey hydrolysates and HBCD intra workout you can recover better during and after your training.

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The post workout shake uses only dextrose for the carbohydrate source to obviously help shuttle nutrients to the cell, but also facilitate the recovery process by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The whey hydrolysates will immediately begin rebuilding the mechanical damage done to the body, and will be exaggerated by the dextrose based insulin spike.

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This is only my attempt to interpret the research I’ve seen and somehow apply it to a real training scenario. I could be totally wrong, but for me, everything is way more fun when I step out of the box. I know this article had a lot of science, and I’m sure you’ll have some questions, so feel free to drop them below in the comments and I’ll help you out.

Also, below are two links if you’re interested in reading more on either HBCD and/or Hydrolysates:

For more info on HBCD click here

For more info on Hydrolysates click here

about the author

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Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).