Pre and post exercise nutrition can have a significant impact on the hormonal status of the body. In order for testosterone levels to be high the body needs to be in an anabolic state. An anabolic state means the body is in a state of building and repair, with low cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and high levels of growth hormone, insulin and testosterone.
In this environment your body has the ability to grow new muscle tissue, repair from muscle damage and respond effectively to training, to see the fitness changes you are working for.
Sarah, our sports nutritionist, discusses the best pre and post workout nutrition guidelines to help you drive up testosterone levels and ensure you get the very best out of your workouts.
It is very important, especially when the goal is to build muscle, you begin your training session in an anabolic state. The steps below are nutritional protocols to follow before your training session to help the body move into anabolism and keep testosterone high for as long as possible.
Including a pre-workout protein meal will increase the protein balance pushing the body into an anabolic state and switching on the muscle building process.
If you struggle to eat a pre-workout meal branch chain amino acids are a great supplement. It is made up of the 3 essential amino acids the body requires to switch on the muscle building process.
The most important of the 3 is the amino acid leucine. One needs 2.5 – 3 grams to elicit the required effect, therefore make sure the supplement you purchase has the adequate amount.
Although carbohydrates do not appear to alter the muscle building response it does have an impact on reducing the rate of muscle breakdown by reducing the level of cortisol in the body.
As discussed in our previous article, cortisol is testosterones antithesis and therefore reducing cortisol will have a positive impact on testosterone levels. As exercise creates stress on the body and will increase cortisol, it is very important we begin our session with a low level of stress in order to remain in this anabolic state for as long as possible.
- Carbohydrates & protein
Research has shown that when protein and carbohydrates are consumed together they have a much greater impact than when taken alone. When muscle building is the goal, a meal or snack that provides the body with both protein and carbohydrates will increase anabolic hormones (such as testosterone) and help reduce stress, creating the ideal environment for growth.
The Training Session
Exercise creates an increase in anabolic hormones however it is also a stressor on the body and if done for too long can tip the body into a stressed state where testosterone is low and cortisol reins. It is therefore important not to train for too long. If starting as a beginner, a workout period of 45 minutes is sufficient to creating enough of a training effect without over stressing the body. As you begin to train more this time will slowly increase, creating less stress on the body. However when training past an hour you should consider including an intra workout meal or shake to support the body and stay in an anabolic state throughout the session.
Your post-workout nutrition choices can either promote repair and recovery or potentially inhibit it. Once you have trained your muscles are in a state of absorption and need nutrients to help repair the muscle fibres that have been damaged during the session. The way the body adapts is through repairing damaged muscle fibres or building more as a result of training stimulus and adequate nutritional influences.
In order to aid this process you need to supply the body with the right nutrients to support the anabolic response that exercise creates, maximising your growth and repair.
Your post-workout nutrition is very similar to the pre-workout process:
- Carbohydrates & protein:
As mentioned above, they are incredibly effective when combined together. Research has shown that when taken within 1-3 hours post-resistance training they can increase the muscle response by 400%.
- Whey protein
The best protein to consumer post-workout is whey. This protein is rapidly digested and quickly available to the body. The amino acids that it provides drive up protein balance and push the body into an anabolic state, where anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, can work effectively to repair and grown new stronger muscle fibres.
- High GI carbohydrates
High GI carbohydrates are best consumed post-workout, when muscles are super absorptive. Your muscles are depleted of glycogen as a result of training and the glucose I these carbs will be used for repair and not stored for fat.
Another reason that carbohydrates are important at this time is because of the insulin response the high GI carbs will induce. Insulin decreases cortisol levels and allows hormones such as testosterone to dominate. Insulin will also help drive other nutrients such as protein into the muscle, helping with the recovery process.
As we age and testosterone levels decline these recovery responses cannot be taken for granted as they may have once been. It is important we understand the role nutrition plays in order to fight to keep muscle mass high and help anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, do an effective job.