T Nation

Cardio and Post Workout Drink

I am confused on postworkout nutrition and cardio, I hope you all can help me on the below questions:
Is a post workout drink required after performing cardio on a cardio only day?
Does this drink need protein + carbs or just carbs ?
If dieting would no post cardio drink help with fat loss, or would this be very catabolic.
Is swimming after a weights workout a bad idea as it prolongs workout duration and to the body is a type of resitance training ?
A lot of questions I know…

You want a PW drink after any workout, no matter what the nature. It may not even be that the workout was catabolic. For example a 15 min session of cardio at 70% max HR, would not elevate cortisol or substantial protein degradation, but it does stimulate glucose and amino acid uptake into the cell. So, use that cardio to stimulate anabolism.

The PW drink should always contain protein. If you are a bodybuilder or anyone who wants to gain muscle every meal should contain protein.

If dieting, you should still consume a PW drink, just back off on the high glycemic carbs. Protein or amino acid ingestion following exercise will stimulate protein synthesis without an elevation in blood glucose. Protein uptake and synthesis is more effective with the glucose and insulin response, but if dieting you have to make some compromises. On that note though, if you eat some carbs during the workout, you will not elevate insulin and inhibit lipolysis post-workout. The whole point during dieting is keep protein intake high and just cut back on the carbs.

The swimming depends on the length of the lifting session and your goals. If the lifting session was say 45 min and you swam for 15 or 20, that might not be catabolic. If the workout were 60 min and you swam for 30, that’s another matter. Again, if you are trying to cut some fat, a whole body exercise like swimming would be of benefit. If you are trying to get huge, stay out of the pool.

Thanks for your answer Steve,
I have never been a big fan of cardio with the fear of loosing muscle.

You do not need to be afraid of cardio, just use it for your benefit, not detriment. A short session at the end of a workout can remove some lactic acid and waste products from the muscle and likely stimulate more effective recovery. This only needs to be 5-10 min though. On an off day for lifting or a specific body part, you can help get nutrients into the muscle again by doing a short session and stimulate glucose and amino acid uptake into the muscle. The problem lies when someone spends 70 minutes lifting and then does a 45 min cardio session. They are chewing up the muscle that they are trying to build.

One more thing. Instead of swimming, you might want to try an ellitical trainer with arm movement or another type of whole body exercise. Since you don't support your body weight in swimming you actually burn less calories than if you did something where you are standing up. By doing whole body though, you burn more calories with less perceived stress. This will result in less catabolism.

Oh yeah, there might be some health benefits too, but those aren’t important.

Take care

Steve and Alex: This was a VERY helpful post for me since I have begun contemplating some post-workout cardio after reading about JB’s workout. Steve, I have a question that relates to your answers. If cardio is so “catabolic”, its seems strange to me that almost ALL the national level “natural” competitors have cardio as a major part of their routines, and a lot of these guys are FAR from being small.

Am I missing something? It seems that they would be the LAST people to do a lot of cardio. It seems you are right, and I couldn’t agree more; don’t fear the cardio…

Your thoughts…

Probably the easiest way out of your argument about the national level “naturals” would be one word… genetics. But, again, cardio is really only catabolic in certain contexts, and in others slightly anabolic.

Now cardio is never going to be anabolic in the sense that it will help you put on mass, but it does pull glucose and amino acids into the cell, which then can facilitate protein synthesis, if the rest of your program is done right.

Here are a couple of rules of thumb where you should be afraid of cardio. 1) You are a pure strength athlete-- cardio will induce some changes in the muscle separate from recovery/anabolism/catabolism, specifically fiber type switch that will be detrimental to pure strength athletes. 2) After a long lifting session-- the longer the strength workout, the higher likely hood of pushing the body into a catabolic state. By doing cardio after this, you are exacerbating the situation. If you are a wise lifter though, this wouldn’t be a concern as the sessions wouldn’t be long.

Some recommendations. Now I have to be honest, I am not familiar with JBs training protocol, we pretty much just talk science, but you need to generate your own program which suits your body anyway. In general, you want to keep the total workout time less than 60-75 min. For example, 45 min lift then 15-20 min cardio. If you are hardcore and have no life, you can split the sessions and do say 45-60 min lift in the morning and 20-30 min cardio in PM. Bear in mind, nutrition in the interim between workouts becomes critical, but this can actually help your recovery. The anabolic effects of the PW drink will begin to dissipate after a few hours. By doing the cardio later in the day, you elevate the metabolism slightly and burn fat, and at the same time start pushing glucose and AA into the muscle to perpetuate the recovery. The important thing here is NOT to push the cardio. Approximately 50-75% max heart rate (ensure breathing is not labored) and try and make it a whole body exercise. Although I love cycling, it is not really an effective tool for BB cardio. Stick to the treadmill or elliptical trainer if it has arm motion. You will burn more calories, and stay in fat burning zone while doing it. Riding a bike, you don’t use your arms, don’t support your body weight and have to burn carbs in your legs to get the same caloric effect.

Steve: Don’t want to beat that ole’ dead horse to death…just want to make sure I’m readin’ you right. Your suggestions are for the cardio you would incorporate into your overall program, correct? This is INDEPENDENT of that 5 or so minutes of “low intensity” cardio you may do AFTER your workout to 1)flush out lactate AND 2)to furthur “prime” the body for post workout nutrient uptake, correct? Either way, it seems that for an overall program, we need to take it easy on both AND LOOK AT HOW OUR INDIVIDUAL BODIES RESPONDS!

THANKS again!

The important thing is your personal response.

Taking it easy, is a little different than not pushing it. You want to go as hard as you can and still remain “aerobic”. That’s what I mean by not having labored breathing. Once you start panting you are either too tired or you are going anaerobic. In either case it is not what you want under my previous recommendations (THis is assuming you are not a fitness competitor, where AT intervals might be warranted, but I’m sure you are just a typical BB). Realize that my previous recommendations were rules of thumb, and specific programs might warrant different approaches. Following those rules though, you shouldn’t lose mass as a result of catabolism. You need to make sure you eat enough to account for the increased overall metabolism though. Document, document, document to make sure you can account for your individual response.

Mr. McGregor, good stuff, always. Really liked the “Ford assembly line” analogy for the anabolism / catabolism issue a while back.

Here's a familiar question, and I know it's been talked to death -- the timing of the PW drink. So, before even asking, I did a forum search on your name. You've said, "If you are going to consume a MRP after your workout, do it immediately. Do not wait an hour. By waiting an hour, your metabolism slows down and your muscles are not as "primed" to utilize the carbs and proteins. I have discussed this at length on other posts, but the longer you wait after the workout, the less effective the MRP will be."

If I missed the "other posts" on this topic in my search, I apologize in advance. Can I assume the above was related to maximizing an anabolic work-out with the PW drink? The "wait an hour" philosophy is more often connected to fat loss. Steve, is there anything to that -- the old "HIIT and then wait sixty minutes because your body's still burning calories" concept?

Also, returning to anabolism and PW drink timing, would the forthcoming Surge still qualify as an MRP in this context? Is there added benefit to drinking Surge as close to immediately as you can after training? In real world terms, is it worth the effort to stick Surge in your training bag to consume right there at the gym -- or is driving for twenty to thirty minutes and drinking it at home just no big deal? If so, how much time might pass before Surge's effects *are* minimized? Thanks in advance for your responses.


Geez, a search engine is like having a video camera at a bachelor party, it can document all of the stupid things you’ve done in the past. Luckily you didn’t find any of the stupid things.

About the HIT and waiting an hour, yes, there is something to the fact that you are still burning fat after the workout, but you are also metabolizing protein. To me, if you are going to all of the trouble and expense to buy supplements and get the exact ratio of AA in your diet etc. why would you want to risk being catabolic after a workout to burn an extra 100 cal. Just eat 25 grams less carb overall for the day and you get the same effect.

By ingesting the PW drink immediately after the workout, your muscles drink up the carbs and AA like a newborn at a mother's nipple. This is independent of having insulin present. The farther away you get from the workout, 60 min ..., the more important insulin becomes because the muscle has lost the intrinsic ability to utilize CHO and AA on its own.

With regard to Surge, this is JB's baby. I do not know what data he has coming out of his lab, but I am familiar with most of the data in the relevant fields. In my opinion, ingest something as soon as possible. With the hydrolysates in Surge it should get into the muscle toot suite. From the evidence that is out there though, a single dose of AA and CHO will stimulate protein synthesis for about an hour. So, I would take half a serving immediately following and another about an hour later. If you are eating regular meals frequently, this will keep the elevated nutrient utilization going to your next meal. Again though, I am going to defer to JB specifically with regard to Surge because I am not familiar specifically with their data. With a mix of AA or protein content they might come up with different kinetics. I would always have something with me for after the workout anyway. What happens if you meet a hot babe on the way out of the gym and you want to chat her up. "Sorry dear, I've got to run, I've only got 18.5 min to get home for my Surge." Not a great pick up line.

Steve: As they say in The Corps: “Outstanding!”


Mr. McGregor, this is the second time you’ve brought immediate clarity to a subject for me. The first was your post about cardio training vs. fat burning relative to those little charts on cardio equipment. There are few things rarer in life than an answer which is specific, coherent, and quickly delivered. Well done.

Ah shucks, I’m blushing.

Glad I could help.