Dr. Robert Portman answers frequent questions about muscle recovery.

Q: If I miss the 45-minute recovery window, does it make sense to  consume a recovery beverage?

A: The recovery window does not slam shut after 45 minutes. Instead, there is a rapid fall off in benefit. After about two hours, you get almost no benefit. Consuming a recovery beverage within 45 minutes maximizes glycogen replenishment and the repair and rebuilding of damaged muscle protein.

Q: Do I always need to drink a recovery beverage after exercise?

A: The rule for when to consume a recovery beverage is based on the intensity and duration of your exercise. For example, short high-intensity exercise and long low- intensity exercise are both situations where a recovery beverage is very beneficial.

Q: Since there is muscle protein breakdown after exercise,  wouldn’t it be better to drink  a protein supplement?

A: A popular misconception is carbohydrate is for endurance sports and protein for strength training. The fact of the matter is both forms of exercise require protein. Although it seems counterintuitive, combining carbohydrate and protein actually works better than a protein supplement in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. The reason is protein synthesis is turned on via two pathways. One involves amino acids and the second involves insulin. When you consume protein alone you only switch on one pathway. When you consume a carb-protein combination, especially one that uses a 4:1 ratio, you stimulate two protein building pathways. Research has shown that a carb-protein beverage is 38% more effective than a protein beverage in stimulating muscle protein synthesis post exercise.

Q: Is there any benefit in consuming caffeine after exercise?

A: Endurance athletes should incorporate caffeine into their nutritional training regimen. Caffeine, in combination with carbohydrate and protein, has been shown to significantly extend endurance and reduce brain fatigue. One of the actions of caffeine is to increase the absorption of carbohydrate in the GI tract. This action enables carbohydrate to be more rapidly transported to working muscles where it can be rapidly converted into energy during exercise. The result- extended endurance. This action of caffeine is also valuable during the recovery process. The faster muscle glycogen stores are replenished, the better the recovery and the greater the benefit. One additional benefit of caffeine concerns muscle soreness. Researchers showed cyclists who consumed caffeine after exercise experienced less muscle soreness.

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