No. Let me finish. Well actually, get started.

If you do CrossFit™ or any other type of high intensity training protocol then you’re well aware of the crash and burn feeling you get after an exceptionally nasty WOD (workout of the day). You start out strong, get halfway in and the voices start whispering (or screaming) in your head for you to STOP! But you’re an animal and you want to go so hard and crush this workout. As soon as the coach yells “TIME!!!” and the music is dampened you collapse on the ground gasping for oxygen, like you’ve been hit in the chest with a riot control gas canister. The last thing on your mind is getting that post workout recovery shake down. 

Once you’ve came back to life, halfway, you drudge over to the fridge and snatch your post workout shake and begin to down it. Consumption rate is preferential to individual’s choice.

Ok, we get it. Why do we want carbs post workout?

Before I answer this question outright I want to dispel a myth about post workout carbs. ITS NOT JUST TO REPLENISH MUSCLE GLYCOGEN STORES. Now..

To answer that question, I’ll go over a few basics about what happens to the body during bouts of intense exercise.

At rest we are in a state of homeostasis brought on by the parasympathetic nervous system. When we enter Viking mode and try to assert our dominance over said workout, we enter what is commonly know as “flight or fight” (survival mode) which is brought to you by the sympathetic nervous system. Both are a part of the central nervous system and serve different purposes. Both are very needed.

So, when you go deep into your SNS function you tend to feel pretty wrecked afterward. This is due to the brain signaling the adrenals to dump adrenaline into your system to amp you up so you can “survive”. Not that your brain would ever let you push yourself to death in a workout, but nonetheless your body much prefers homeostasis.

For this very reason you want to intake carbohydrates within 15 minutes post workout. Carbs have a profound hormonal effect on insulin. When insulin is spiked, it shuts down the PSNS response (fight or flight) and brings you back to homeostasis more quickly. How it does this is beyond the scope of this article and can be another post for the future, but I digress.

One last thought to add to this train is that the longer you stay in the PSNS state, the longer it will be until you recover. So the faster absorbing the carb source that you choose means a greater insulin response which will bring you back to homeostasis more quickly. Consequently, the longer you go with inadequate recovery, the deeper of a hole you dig yourself into metabolically and hormonally speaking. So have at those carbs!

Will fruit work?

Disclaimer: If you’re not worried about body composition then this doesn’t apply to you.

No. Fructose (fruit sugar) is stored primarily in the liver, not muscle. When the finite space in your liver is full of glycogen, it is stored as fat.

Second Disclaimer: I’m not vilifying fruit. It’s extremely rich in vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients. You should still probably be eating at least some fruit each day.

As you can see, the need for carbohydrates post workout is immense. If you’re not doing this, you’re not optimally recovering after your workout. Period. And if you’re in the sport of CrossFit™ recovery is vastly more important to your success and longevity in the sport.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing your success. Happy tracking!

Tyler Wright,

Crossfit Coach