Consuming sugars post-workout is a highly effective recovery protocol for some. But what types of sugars are we referring to and what clients is this recovery protocol right for? In this blog, we explain the difference between the types of sugars found in common post-workout recovery supplements and which clients it may be right for.
Monosaccharides: These consist of a single molecule of sugar; examples include glucose (aka d-glucose, dextrose) and fructose. Nearly every sugar is eventually broken down to glucose for the body either to use or store as glycogen. Fructose, from fruit, is preferential to the liver and not skeletal muscle but does cause a greater uptake of glucose, as it acts as a signaling molecule.
Disaccharides: These are two sugar molecules combined; examples would be sucrose (glucose and fructose bound, naturally occurring in plants, or unnaturally occurring in high fructose corn syrup) or lactose (the sugar found in milk, one molecule of galactose & one of glucose).
Polysaccharides: In a nutshell, just a bunch of monosaccharides chained together. In the end, these are broken down to glucose like everything else, but it just takes longer (this is key). Examples would be maltodextrin (shorter chain polysaccharide) or items like waxy maize starch (longer chain polysaccharide composed of amylopectin).
The number of sugars your client should consume post-workout will vary depending on the training session, their age, their body fat percentage, lean body mass, etc. But what type of sugar should they be using? Here are our thoughts on commonly found post-workout products/sugars.
(Coach’s Resource: Not sure if your post-workout sugar is right for your client? Learn how to assess your client’s nutritional needs in this free coaching course.)
Fast, cheap, quickly absorbed, and quickly & efficiently spikes insulin post-workout which is a good thing. This sugar used to be found in the original Gatorade formula, it is not there anymore. Name brand supplement companies like Ultragen still use it. The downside to dextrose is that it can cause GI distress due to the low molecular weight and high osmolality – it draws water into the GI tract. This is what causes the “bloat” some folks get from it.
This is the old school bodybuilder post-workout mix. The early bodybuilders were/are the kings of n=1 experimentation, and figured a lot of stuff out early. This combo has a fast uptake and causes less bloat due to the different molecule sizing.
The combo of glucose & fructose. Gatorade now uses sucrose, and quality brand name post-workout mixes like ReFuel do as well. Coconut water, the darling of many gyms and Paleo followers, is nothing more than pure sucrose, no sodium, and some potassium. There is mixed science on if high fructose corn syrup is the same as naturally occurring sucrose – some chemists say yes, other chemists site the creation of damaging reactive carbonyls when the bond between the glucose and fructose is broken.
Commonly known brands that use this sugar are Vitargo (actually from barley), Ucan Super Starch, and 3Fuel. Nothing amazing here this sugar has a low osmolality and high molecular weight. It is basically big molecules of starch. No magic, no mystery, just better digestion & metabolism – which some folks find very beneficial compared to dextrose. This sugar is possibly beneficial for the endurance client, pointless for the mixed-modal client training participating in training less than 90 minutes. These clients should focus on fueling after with faster carbs then consuming whole food.
There’s a lot of different brands out there … Endurox, Cytosport, Hammer, etc. In the end its important that your client finds one that suits their goals, that they find palatable (this is important), and that doesn’t cause GI distress.
Always make sure your clients back up their post-workout sugars with solid food within an hour or so. Uptake of post-workout fuel is fast, and to keep recovery turning, our bodies need continual substrates (proteins and carbohydrates), as well as cofactors (vitamins & minerals). Which is, you guessed it real food.
Post-workout sugars are not right for every client but could be essential for some. What is more than recommending a certain post-workout routine to all of your clients is the ability to recognize the individual needs of your clients. Learn how to do this and how to create individualized nourishment plans with our Free Coaching Course. Sign up, now and start becoming your gym’s post-workout expert.