Post-lifting protein/carbs

A question for the serious weight lifters in the crowd:

With the beginning of the post-racing season here in MN, I’ve begun a reasonably serious lifting program, every other day. The off days are some combination of Speedstroke, indoor rowing, other cardio, or on-water (until the water gets a little bit hard for that). I’ve never really lifted in the past, so I’m a bit of a novice on this subject, although I know how to work pretty hard. I’m simultaneously trying to combine this with not gaining my typical 5-10 lbs this winter, so I’m gently calorie resticting, just substituting fruits and veggies for other stuff. I’d like to come into the next racing season about 10 lbs lighter, in addition to significantly stronger (weight in the boat makes you slower, obviously).

Anyway, I’ve read a fair amount about the need to ingest proteins/carbs right after working out. The problem is that most of the protein bars are pretty darn caloric- 390 calories for the Clif Builder’s bar for example. You add an extra 400 calories every other day, and it’s pretty easy to end up gaining 10 lbs, keeping everything else the same.

So, should I just ignore this post-workout protein advice and just concentrate on maintaining a moderate amount of dietary protein, or does it really make a difference in terms of strength gain and speed of recovery?

Any thoughts?


Ask Alice

– Last Updated: Oct-09-07 11:26 AM EST –

Especially this:

hi andrew
i do not lift, but do some weight training, and i’ve been told it’s good to eat something within 90 minutes of weight training/working out. oatmeal or cottage cheese with berries, or a whey protein shake with berries are what i eat. sometimes i add a few nuts. you may want to look at what the “crossfit” people do. i like their approach~ it’s geared towards functional strength building. most of them do something like the zone diet, or a spin off. personally, i just can’t afford to obsess about the specifics too much, but have shifted away from eating as many breads. pastas, etc. unless i am enaged in some sort of endurance work like a long hike:)

Post Workout

Lifted heavily for years, and yes, the post workout protein replenishment made a huge difference for me, both in terms of strength/size and recovery. The bars and premixed drinks, like Muscle Milk, are the most convenient, but carry with them additional caloric fillers, and can be very high in fats as well. Any of your powders (Myoplex, etc.) can be easily mixed with water or juice for a lower calorie protein boost. If a blender is not available, then a ‘Turbo shaker’ available at most GNCs, etc. works pretty well, but you might have a clot or two to chew on-smile. Also experimented with some of the transport systems, glutamine and the like, with some limited results. Gave creatine a shot and it definitely does work, particularly for maximal effort activities, such as sprinting, heavy lifts, et al, but the jury’s out on its long term safety, so I’ve not revisited this supplement. Be sure you’re taking a decent B-complex as well.

You can spend a lot of money. . . .
on a post workout recovery drink, or you can drink plain old low fat chocolate milk. It’s got a good mix of carbs and protien.

except that i’m lactose intolerant
they won’t let me back into the gym anymore if i start drinking milk!

i suppose soy milk would be an option. hadn’t really thought of that as a post-exercise drink, but it might be a good choice.


Post-Workout Meal

I usually head to the gym after work everyday for about 2 hours, and would concur with the rest of the posts that your protein intake within 45 minutes of your workout are very important.

If you’re concerned with getting the most protein for the lowest amount of calories, you can’t beat whey protein poweder. Optimum Nutrition (ON) has a 24 gram whey protein for about 110 calories. Mix two scoops and you get 48 grams of protein for about 220-230 calories. The taste isn’t too bad either.

Keep in mind that if you are working out with weights, your body will need an increased amount of calories to build muscle mass. If you are also adding cardio to your workout, you will also want to to increase your calorie intake to help build mass.

P.S. - has a huge amount of products at the lowest prices I’ve seen, and here in FL, they always arrive 1-2 days after ordering.

decided to go with the clif builder’s bar (20g protein, 270 kcal). i like the taste, and i can just throw them in my gym bag without mixing stuff up.

amazon has an excellent deal on these, btw. if you “subscribe” to have them delivered on a regular schedule (i have 3 boxes of 12 coming every 2 months, for 18/month- roughly the right number of weight workouts), you get them for $14.97/box with free shipping and no tax. and you can cancel or change whenever.


what I found
I use a product called P90X recovery drink and a P90X protein bar. These products are available online from I have been lifting weights for over 20 years since I was 18. I found that the P90X drink mixes the best and tastes the best. The bars are also the best tasting to me. I do a 30 minute cardio excercise cycle ride while doing shoulder rolls to warm up my rotator cuff muscles, followed by 30 to 60 minutes of weight circuit training. Chest and back one day, shoulders and arms next day, all cardio the next. One weight lifting day is intense with lighter weights, the next day is more intense with heavier weights. If I had a KayakPro machine, I would be using it instead of the exercise cycle. I feel that getting up earlier in the morning to do this routine makes for a better day. Better mood and much higher metabolism. Try it and see if it does not make you feel better. A word of caution though… you will end up working out just to have the recovery drink! I mix with water and fresh orange juice. Your muscle recovery will be much better for taking in carbs and protein within one hour after any workout. When you workout so intensely you get the shakes, it is time to slow down or start drinking the shake. Good luck

High reps and low weight is good way to avoid injury. I love whey protein shake after lifting. Made with fruit yogurt and ice, the air from blender really fills you. Enjoy shrimp and I like brown rice and lentil soup to fill and satisfy.

It’s all about timing
Trying to lose body fat (assuming that is what you want to lose) and maintain/gain muscle mass is not an easy thing to do and it requires additional protein in your diet, especially if you are going to cut calories. I would say don’t worry about those “extra” calories post-workout, rather, think of those calories as being the most important calories. Also, consider consuming a carb/protein blend before the workout, which also helps in recovery.

I think others have given you good advice concerning various food combinations and products.

If you would like more info on training and/or nutrition, check out my website:

Good luck with your training.


good advice all. i liked your webpage, connie. i’m just going to concentrate on working hard at both the weights and my usual endurance stuff and eating sensibly, and see where the cards fall. it’s hard to believe that i won’t see some improvement by the spring.


what trilobite and dave said
I always try to refuel with protein within 1 hour. I use a soy protein mix and use water instead of milk, or sometimes I add the protein powder to oatmeal, it mixes better and is quick and easy. At my age, I can still see the results vs. not refueling promptly.

Also what dave said about high reps and low weight. When I was younger I used to lift to build muscle mass. About a year ago, I got serious about this and core work, and started using an inflatable ball and dumbbells, high reps/low weight, and no breaks between exercises, which incorporates a cardio benefit. The results have been dramatic, I don’t have to do anything like crunches or situps as balancing on the ball while doing other exercises benefits the core as well.

we’ll see
i’m not sure about the high rep/low weight thing. i’m doing a fairly standard 12/10/8 3 set regimen, using the most weight i can lift for 12 reps. i’ve been paddling quite seriously and rowing indoors for a good number of years, and i would say that those sorts of workouts take care of the high rep/low resistance sort of stuff quite nicely. it’s the raw strength that i think i need to add weights for- i want to be able to hold sustained sprints at 8+, instead of dropping back off to 7+. so my goals may be a bit different than yours.

thanks for all the good advice, though.


just remember
Added bulk isn’t always beneficial to real performance.

true, but
essentially all of the top guys at the surfski nationals are visibly quite strong, in addition to having great endurance and boat skills. it’s the whole package.

i’ve used that “excuse” myself for a number of years to justify lots and lots of time in the boat, with little or no lifting time. now i’m trying something different.

yesterday was upper body and core lifting. this morning was 45 minutes on the speedstroke, trying to keep HR over 150, last 20 minutes 4 min 160 bpm/ 1 min sprint at 175+ x 5 sets. hopefully the sort of thing that works for power and endurance at higher levels of suffering. i’m going to try to get in 20 min elliptical and 20 rowing erg at lunch. i think i can keep up this kind of schedule until next spring, when the water will beckon again.


"higher levels of suffering"
Thanks for that.

Sounds like you’re mixing it up well.

lot of theories.

– Last Updated: Oct-12-07 1:08 PM EST –

Most of what I have studied on weight training suggests that loosing fat and building muscle are two different objectives. Neither of them works optimally if you are adding the training and diet for both. I have lifted about 7 years now and really learned a lot.

Most of what I learned is that you can find an expert to back up whatever plan you might conceive.

Good idea to eat before and after a work out. But I NEVER use any supplement meals. All my calories come from good human food. The jury is out on the supplement thing. Most doctors will argue that supplements MAY help those training at professional or Olympic levels of training. The average gym rat is better served by real food.

It is VERY hard to find the magic combo that will allow you to both gain muscle AND burn fat. That would require having a doctor monitor you daily to determine the exact combination of nutrients YOUR body and workout program requires. And then you would have to stick with it almost like a robot. Too hard. Your gains will peter out in 2 months and you will be back refining your program to achieve your next goal.

If you are gaining, eat like you are gaining and workout like you are gaining.

If you are cutting, same trick.

A plan that worked for me was, build the muscle first. You burn the fat better with more muscle when you switch to endurance/cutting. And you can retain most of the muscle while cutting if you remember to throw in some strength sets a couple times per week.

Don't focus on your weight so much as your measurements. Measure your arms, legs, chest and waist to see how your body is shaping.

If you are REALLY concerned about paddling your extra weight around, I would suggest sticking with the endurance / fat reduction programs exclusively. Muscle weighs more than fat. You can get skinnier and heavier building muscle.

Paddling does not require weight lifter strength. You can only impart so much force to the water with a given blade shape. That force is not much, maybe 20 pounds thrust. So what is the point in being able to pull 8o pounds on a one arm cable row or similar excercise?

You need reasonable strength. You need exceptional endurance to compete in paddling. I would stick with the endurance excercise to loose weight and build endurance. Unless you are too weak to pick up a paddle, I think I would only do strength once maximum per week. Being extra strong while paddling is like having a Dodge Viper on ice. What you going to do with all that power? Just spin more, not go more.

not sure i agree
"Paddling does not require weight lifter strength. You can only impart so much force to the water with a given blade shape. That force is not much, maybe 20 pounds thrust. So what is the point in being able to pull 8o pounds on a one arm cable row or similar excercise?

You need reasonable strength. You need exceptional endurance to compete in paddling. I would stick with the endurance excercise to loose weight and build endurance. "

I think there is a bit of kayaking myth about “strength” and “endurance”. I don’t think it’s really quite so simple to draw the line. With a wing, which I and all the people I race against use, you can apply an essentially unlimited amount of force to the blade. Given equivalent technique, equivalent stroke rate, identical cardiovascular fitness, and identical boats, the person who is applying more force to each stroke will go faster, plain and simple. Where this gets more complicated is with regards to weight- kayaking is a strength to weight ratio sport, at least when you are talking about fast boats. With the notable exception of Oscar Chalupsky, really really big people, no matter how strong they are don’t go as fast. So the “ideal” paddler, if you will, is someone with absolutely optimized strength to ofset the penalty that extra weight entails.


I don’t know

– Last Updated: Oct-12-07 2:45 PM EST –

And I realize we're drifting from the original topic.

Strength training is usually focused on improving muscle strength, not endurance. To me, paddling seems like an endurance sport, unless you're doing sprints. Even in that case, it's unique in that there is no muscle or group doing the work, but a combination. And there's a huge distinction between moving a paddle through the water once, with all your force, or doing it over and over for a long period of time.

Sports in general are moving toward endurance and flexibility training, and toward exercises that more closely replicate the actions in a given sport. You see less and less people concerned with mass. I think that's a good thing.