It’s been talked about for years in the fitness world.

The magical “window of gains”.

Carbs and protein post-workout to get more “anabolic”. You know what I mean bro-tato chip?

Yea, ok. But WHY is it important? What’s occurring in the body physiologically that requires us to need carbohydrates post-exercise? To help out my gainzzz, bro-fessor!

Well, let’s take a closer look.

The biggest buzz word within the fitness and health community right now is:

Hormones.

Everyone is talking about them. The most popular one being cortisol (aka the ‘stress’ hormone).

First, let’s discuss the ‘why’ behind the cortisol-insulin relationship and how it affects us after training.
Insulin’s main function is to store excess energy substrate. When insulin levels increase, the body stores energy in the form of glycogen and fat.

Cortisol, on the other hand, moves energy out of cell stores making them readily available for use. When cortisol levels rise, insulin levels rise. Makes sense?

If cortisol is increasing blood glucose levels, insulin is released to lower blood glucose levels.

But what about during exercise? How is it different?

During exercise, insulin appears to decrease because our bodies are in a state of using stored energy.
Cortisol levels increase with exercise to stimulate gluconeogensis (the creation of glucose) by breaking down protein into amino acids and converting them into glucose.

After a workout, due to multiple mechanisms in our body occurring at the same time, blood glucose concentrations are lower and muscle glycogen levels are decreased (degree of severity is dependent upon type and duration of exercise).

By ingesting carbs after we train, this promotes recovery by attenuating the cortisol response and allowing insulin to rise to support energy storage and glucose mobilization. The elevated insulin levels will help to drive nutrients into the muscle cells.

So instead of our body using it’s back up systems (breaking down muscle protein to convert into glucose) to replenish it’s glycogen stores, we can just speed up the refueling process and lessen the severity of damage by providing it with glycogen through a carbohydrate supplement. Overall faster recovery from workout to workout!

But the cortisol-insulin relationship is not the only thing our body has going on during exercise.

There’s another system called the sympathoadrenal system that represents an axis between the branches of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the adrenal glands.

This system imparts its effects through the synthesis, storage and regulated release of a group of hormones known as catecholamines, namely epinephrine (EPI or adrenaline), norepinephrine (NE or noradrenalin), and dopamine (DA).

Catecholamines promote the cellular uptake of glucose.

Before we even step foot into the gym, our catecholamine levels rise in response to the anticipatory effects of exercise.

The magnitude of elevation in sympathoadrenal activity is dependent upon type and duration of exercise. Exercise activities that place greatest strain on anaerobic pathways show to have the highest response.

Our sympathetic nervous system prefers carbohydrates as its primary fuel source.

Carbohydrate intake is necessary post-workout in order to promote the highest amount of recovery after training that is highly taxing on our sympathetic nervous system.

Other ways to promote less of a sympathetic nervous system response post-exercise is adding in parasympathetic activities like breathing or meditation work.

How can we capitalize on recovery even more?

By using a carbohydrate that is going to be used most efficiently during this time.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD) is superior to all other carbohydrate sources when it comes to post-workout recovery supplements.

Simple sugars have the ability to stimulate a strong spike in blood glucose concentrations, creating a strong rise in insulin – but this sets us up for a big crash.

Complex carbohydrates do provide a more sustained release in energy, but they are slow to digest and may leave you feeling bloated and lethargic.

What makes HBCD different?

HBCD is produced through the breakdown of starch and a unique enzyme is used to form clusters of sugar molecules. Further branching enzymes are then used to form the Cyclic Dextrin into longer chains. HBCD has a relatively high molecular weight and low osmolarity which speeds up gastric emptying. This means that after ingestion it will spend less time in your stomach compared to traditional carbohydrates and will therefore reduce discomfort when ingested during exercise (sloshing around in the stomach).

Another added bonus of HBCD is that it is absorbed more gradually and ensures that there is a continued uptake into the bloodstream. It provides a more sustained release of energy, unlike traditional carbohydrate sources which cause a sudden spike in blood sugar and a large insulin response.

At the end of the day, everyone is looking for a leg up on the competition. Training “harder” than everyone else is no longer the answer.

I believe it’s now two things:
Train smarter
Recover faster

In essence, you should probably be training less, become a “carbivore” after you train, and live like a monk outside of the gym.

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