In the third installment of the Weight List, brought to you by the Three Amigos Podcast and Bloody Elbow, our own Iain Kidd and leading nutritionist, George Lockhart discuss post-workout recovery drinks, more information on why using milk as a recovery drink might not be the best idea, how to prevent lactic acid build-up, and why you should be incorporating cinnamon into your diet.
Question: Is milk as good as a post-workout drink for recovery?
George Lockhart: I think the National Strength and Conditioning Association did a lot of studies on this and they promoted milk as being just as good. It's funny, because they also did a study about lactose intolerance in America, and a huge percentage of African-Americans, Latino-Americans and Asian-Americans are lactose intolerant. So you have two different studies from the same group saying kind of conflicting things.
I don't personally prefer milk because there's eight grams of fat per serving. There's also eight grams of protein, and the sugar in milk isn't the most quickly absorbed sugar. I'm of the belief that the quicker carbs are absorbed after the workout the more efficient they'll be. I work with athletes who do two and three sessions a day, so I need to use stuff that will be absorbed quickly. Every time you add fat to something it reduces the glycemic load, which affects how quickly your body absorbs it, and the caseinate protein in milk also isn't very fast acting. In my opinion, milk is just not as good as other post-workout shakes.
Iain Kidd: Something people make a big deal of is how milk is a source of BCAAs, which are fantastic post-workout, so there's this idea you don't need to take a BCAA supplement if you take milk as you post-workout drink. The problem with that is milk isn't a complete source of BCAAs, and even what's there isn't available in the amounts an athlete, or someone who is training extremely hard, needs in a post-workout.
As you touched on, you don't really want fat in your post-workout drink. During my reading on milk as a post-workout drink, one of the benefits given was that fat will keep your satiated for hours. Now, that's true, but you're not drinking post-workout to get satiated. You're drinking post-workout because you need to refuel the glycogen in your muscles as fast as possible and help your body being the recovery process.
George: It's funny that you brought up the BCAAs. A lot of companies will bring up all the BCAAs in their protein supplements. All protein has BCAAs, but the truth is the BCAAs are diluted in most of these sources of protein. A BCAA is a smaller portion of amino acids, which helps your body synthesize carbohydrates. It's a good idea to supplement BCAAs specifically.
Question: What should be in a good post-workout drink?
George: Post-workout you want simple carbohydrates. I give a lot of my people waxy maize, because a lot of the time when I have to reload a fighter after a weight cut fast acting carbs like dextrose get into the small intestinal tract very quickly, but it can cause bloating. Waxy maize doesn't cause that, but it still gets to the small intestinal tract at about the same speed as the dextrose.
I'll give them a carbohydrate based on the type of workout they've had. If it has been an anaerobic workout, that determines how much sugar is needed. I want to reload with BCAAs, a carbohydrate and a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and I want to take in about 80mg of caffeine. A lot of people don't realize this, but caffeine post-workout replenishes you four times faster than without caffeine.
Iain: What is your take on sodium and potassium levels in a post-workout? They're great for rehydration, but the truth is that for most people, at the end of a workout hydration isn't really a problem, right?
George: A lot of the time it's really not a problem. Now if I'm working with a fighter, post-workout is often when I want to reload the salt. Sodium does actually help the synthesis of carbohydrates as well. I want to make sure they don't have an electrolyte imbalance. If they sweat a lot and aren't eating a lot of salt, I need to replace the sodium they lose. Now, the average American? They don't have that problem. They get five times too much sodium in their diet. Losing sodium, for them, isn't an issue. Potassium might be a problem, in which case something like coconut water along with the BCAAs, carbs and caffeine can be a good idea.
Iain: So to sum up the question of milk as a post-workout drink, milk has some advantages as a post workout drink:
It's a decent source of carbs.
There's some branch chain amino acids.
The ratio of carbs to protein is pretty good in milk.
There's a decent amount of sodium and potassium.
On the other hand, it also has some problems:
There aren't as many BCAAs as you want.
The carbs aren't the ideal carbs, and they're a little slow-acting.
There's a significant amount of fat that you really don't need post-workout.
In short, milk is better than water, but if you can make a proper post-workout drink with simple carbs, caffeine, and BCAAs you should definitely go that route.
George: Absolutely. I would like to mention kefir here. Kefir is available with low fat, it has more protein than normal milk, and it has an enzyme called lactase. People who are lactose intolerant don't have enough lactase, so the lactase in kefir makes it more suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. I think kefir is a good pre-workout, due to the protein, but if you're going to take milk as your post workout, make it kefir.
Question: What are the benefits of cinnamon in your diet?
George: Cinnamon is great. Cinnamon acts as an appetite suppressant. If you're eating often and you end up missing a meal your body begins craving foods that are high in fat, high in sodium and high in carbs. It wants carbs quick-fast in a hurry. If I take cinnamon it helps keep that under control. It's also useful for diabetics because it helps regulate insulin, that regulation also helps with my cravings. You can have cinnamon in water, or in a shake, whatever, but it has some great properties.
Iain: It's also good for calming an upset digestive system. If you're feeling nauseous the catechins in cinnamon will help with that. If you're having trouble with bloating there are elements of cinnamon that will help relieve that, and just make your life a lot more comfortable.
Question: How can you prevent lactic acid building up while working out?
George: A lot of people think lactic acid is the enemy, but the problem is the ammonia your body creates, to simplify it. What I need to do is keep the acid levels down, and the best way to do that is to introduce a buffer. There are a lot of alkaline waters out there which are crazy expensive, but a cheap way to increase the alkalinity of my body is to use sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda. There are test strips you pee on that will test the acidity of your body. If it's green your good to go, if it's black you have a lot of acid in your body. If you take sodium bicarbonate before you work out you'll realize that the amount of acid your body creates is minimal compared to not using it.
Iain: Sodium bicarbonate can have some unwanted side effects on the bowels though, right?
George: [Laughing] Yes! That's why they don't market it and sell it as a supplement, even though it's one of the greatest supplements out there. The people with the highest amount of acid in their body, if you look at their lifestyle and how they eat and train, you can tell they have a very acidic body, when they take sodium bicarbonate they have a crazy bowel movement.
We thought about how to name it if we ever supplemented it, it would be called ‘butt-blast 2000' or something. Once you get past that bowel movement you will have the best workout of your life. You really will notice the difference the first time you take it. You can go longer and harder without that acid buildup.
Iain: There you go ladies and gents, some practical advice for you: Take some sodium bicarbonate, then take a huge dump, and then have an awesome workout!
If you'd like to listen to this segment, you can check it out here or via the embedded player below. The episode starts at the 25:10 mark of the audio.
You can submit questions for the weight list in the comments below, or via email to email@example.com or via twitter @iainkidd. You can (and should) also follow George Lockhart on twitter @LockLoaded.