Today’s post is an answer to a question about the article I wrote titled How Do I Bulk Up? in the Team Beachbody Newsletter. You can read it by clicking here.
Subject: Contradictory Information Question
Hi Steve, I started Body Beast 6 weeks ago and I’m loving it! I’m working to dial in my nutrition and more specifically my post workout shake. I’m a bit confused by contradictory info in the Book of Beast and an article you wrote on the Beachbody site. According to the book my phase one post workout shake should equal 540 calories (2 scoops Fuel shot/1 scoop Base shake) but this link to your article http://www.beachbody.com/beachbodyblog/fitness/ask-expert-can-bulk suggests not exceeding 250 calories post workout. Can you shed some light on which you recommend? Your insight is appreciated here.
Thanks, Brian, for a great question. It brings up a larger topic about nutritional hair splitting that bogs a lot of people down. I’ll start by answering this with an anecdote, then we’ll get to your personal situation.
Many years ago I attended a seminar led by bodybuilding legend Tom Platz and was fortunate enough to get more than my share of one on one time with him. He’d always been interesting to me because, while he trained with Arnold during his prime, they had to use totally different training protocols in order to get similar results. Because they had different body types—basically fast twitch and slow twitch—what worked for one was awful for the other. It’s a subject that still gets discussed today, although not in elite circles as the science is well known. Back then, however, it was pretty damn revolutionary.
We ended up discussing a myriad of subjects but the one I remember most vividly was about nutrient timing. You can follow science all you want but, at some point in the equation, real life filters in. In both exercise and nutritional science, balancing the theoretical and the practical is a huge part of the equation because, well, science is never black or white to begin with and no two people live the exact same lifestyle.
The topic was post-exercise nutrition, which has always been a dilemma for bodybuilders because the biggest crux for them is eating enough food to sustain their massive frames. In the hour after a hard workout, when blood and muscle glycogen are depleted, you stand to make the biggest nutritional gains from the food you eat.
However, after you finish working out, your body also kicks in a growth hormone spike, which is basically like a free hit a natural doping. Small, but it’s something, and in a world where you’re looking for tiny advantages you want to maximize any advantage. The kicker is that eating shuts it down, so what do you do?
On paper, the effects of the nutrients far out weigh the hormonal spike. Your eating strategy is more important. But why settle for one when you might be able to benefit from both? Platz’s opinion even heaped a third topic onto things.
Not only is there a small hormone spike, but it increases if you happen to be asleep (most performance-enhancing hormone production improves when you’re sleeping), so he said it was common for guys to immediately try and sleep following their workout for about 20 minutes, which is the estimated window of your growth hormone spike. Effectiveness of this tactic is dubious, since most people can’t fall asleep right after training, but his point was that it didn’t really matter. There was potential for more, so why not try?
Train, nap, shower, change, eat and you’re still within the one-hour post-workout window for optimal fuel replenishment. An hour later you start hitting calories with “normal” bodybuilding meals. That was their solution. How much this works better than just eating is likely minimal, but so is the difference between Mr. Olympia and not Mr. Olympia.
That, Brian, is where we’re at with your question.
The Beast guide gives you the most helpful scenario for the greatest number of people. While the guide offers some options, you’ve chosen the one targeting getting big where, by far, the most important aspect to your training is getting all the calories you need to grow.
I can’t overstate its importance. It’s very hard to learn to eat enough to get bigger than your body naturally wants to be. Your body protests as your digestive tract gets used to the “food challenge” it’s being subjected to. You tend to feel sluggish, which doesn’t promote hard training, something nearly as vital. Beachbody is always about the simplest solutions first, so we stacked the deck in the guidebook to what will benefit the largest number of people.
In the nitpicky world, however, we’d take advantage that one-hour post workout window to give you only enough calories that your body can digest and utilize within an hour’s time. The reason is they’re used more effectively the quicker they digest. Then we’d have you eat again as soon as possible. This means that a 250 calorie Beast shake, followed by the larger shake or a meal an hour later, would be the ultimate option.
However, this adds a layer of complexity to your day. It’s likely—especially with a workout program you bought on TV—that you’re skeptical. Any instructions beyond following the workouts allow for more potential excuses. After all, if you were interested in following a professional athlete’s schedule you’d probably already be training. So we moved two shake/meals into one, for simplicity sake.
As for the growth hormone spike, and power nap post cool-down, that just seemed way out of line with what we were going for with Beast. But if I’m your trainer, and you want results above all else, that’s what I’d recommend that you do.
pic: if you want to go around lifting vintage cars, like Platz is doing here, you’d better learn to utilize nitpicks.