In Part 1 I discussed the general principles of nutrition around workout time (peri-workout nutrition) based on a simple protein and carbohydrate (P & C) drink. Here, in Part 2, we’ll get into more detail regarding the protein and carbs.
Fast and Slow Protein
When we talk about the speed of a protein powder we mean how quickly it raises amino acid levels in the blood (plasma amino acid levels). Ideally the protein in our P & C drink should be fast. It’s the sudden peak or pulse in amino acids that triggers protein synthesis.
After digesting whey protein isolate (WPI), for example, on an empty stomach, plasma amino acid levels reach their peak after about an hour and return to baseline after two hours. Whey protein concentrate may take a little longer to reach peak levels but not so much longer that it would make a significant difference. Pea protein isolate, rice protein concentrate and egg white powders probably take longer.
Because WPI maxes out blood amino acids after an hour it is generally referred to as a fast protein. Seem impressive?
But what if you had a protein powder that peaked blood amino acids after 20 minutes or less? Well, you do, they’re called hydrolysed protein powders. For that reason, a hydrolysed protein powder should be the mainstay of periworkout nutrition.
Hydrolysed Protein Powders
All protein consists of long chains of amino acids and the role of your digestive process is to break these down into very small chunks so they can be absorbed into the blood stream.
Hydrolysing a protein mimics this process so that the protein powder is, in a sense, pre-digested. You can read more about hydrolysis here.
Chunks of protein that are only 2 or 3 amino acids long (di and ti-peptides) are absorbed the most rapidly into the blood stream. Faster, even, than free form amino acids. So we should aim to maximise the number of di- and tri-peptides in our peri-workout protein powder.
The only downside, if you’re sensitive to taste, is that as the protein molecules get smaller the resulting powder tastes more bitter.
The Best Peri-Workout Protein Powder?
MyoPures’ Leucine Peptide is the best choice (more about the leucine part in part 3 of this article). The Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate DH17 Ultra or the Hydrolysed Casein Protein are a very close second. If you’re using any of these in your P & C drink you should take your drink 15 to 20 minutes before training.
If you’re particularly sensitive to taste then ACE Whey Protein Isolate is going to have to do but start by taking your pre-workout drink 30 minutes before training and adjust the timing depending on how that goes.
The choices are a lot simpler when it comes to carbohydrates. For the pre-workout drink the carbs should raise insulin quickly. Both Dextrose and Maltodextrin do this and, strangely, a combination of both works better than either alone.
However, there may be a case for using some carbohydrate with a lower glycemic index, like Palatinose, in subsequent drinks.
Ratio of Protein to Carbohydrate
As mentioned in part one a good starting point for the ratio of protein to carbs (P:C) is 1 part protein to 2 parts carbohydrate (1:2). The amount of carbs can be higher if you’re also using a low GI carbohydrate, if you’re really lean or you’re doing endurance exercise.
For during and post workout drinks you can play around with lower levels of carbohydrate.
As before I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments below.
In Part 3, we’ll look at timing around the workout and the post workout window and adding other ingredients, such as creatine, leucine, BCAAs, beta-alanine and taurine to the mix.