Open any health and fitness magazine and the most popular product in there will be a protein powder. Just about every other advertisement will be promoting some type of protein shake and every diet plan will be telling you how important protein is for your post-workout nutrition. Now while it is true that protein helps to recover and build muscle, it is not the only ingredient that your body requires after a tough brutal workout.
In fact, carbohydrates are just as important and the best part is, they will not be stored as fat since your body’s glycogen stores will be depleted and these post workout carbs will be used to replenish your glycogen levels. The body’s main source of fuel during a workout is the glycogen stored in your muscles and this is why it is absolutely crucial to have some type of fast-digesting carbohydrates after a long and strenuous workout (longer than 45 minutes).
Now, there are some that claim that it is not necessary to consume carbohydrates immediately post-workout as your glycogen stores will eventually fill up using the carbs that you consume throughout the rest of the day. I, however, would still suggest having the majority of your daily carbohydrates after your workout because it is digested and absorbed much more efficiently during this time as the enzymes within the body are looking to restore your glycogen levels and as a bonus, fat gain from carbs is greatly inhibited during this time.
You might find that after a tough workout, your body starts to crave high energy foods such as juices, sweets or candy. This is your body’s natural way of letting you know that you are carb-depleted and you should consume a fast-digesting carbohydrate (such as dextrose) to kick start your recovery and replenish your energy levels. A fast digesting carb is recommended alongside a quick digesting protein source (whey) as the carbohydrates will signal a quick insulin spike which will help to shuttle the nutrients, most importantly the amino acids from the protein, in to your muscles as quickly as possible. Many recommend a carb to protein ratio of 3:1 but if you are cutting carbs then a 1:1 ratio will be satisfactory.