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The Golden Hour

Immediate post-exercise nutrition


The golden opportunity

In the immediate post-exercise period

Groundbreaking Research: Recommendations for high-intensity, endurance sports.

  • Important research by Dr John Ivy and his team at the University of Texas, showed how important it was to have protein and carbohydrate immediately after exercise.
  • This ratio is for those involved in prolonged high intensity exercise lasting 2 hours or more.
  • Levenhagen et al 2002, noted in their study that muscle loss may occur if protein/carbohydrate is delayed post-exercise due to the catabolic nature of exercise being allowed to persist rather than providing a synthetic stimulus via insulin and increased blood amino acid levels.
  • For detailed information on this important post-exercise metabolic window please click on the following:
  • The recommendation of this landmark study by Dr John Ivy et al was:

    "If both carbohydrate and protein are consumed, it is recommended that 0.8 g
    carbohydrate·kg-1 body wt plus 0.2 g protein·kg-1 body wt be consumed immediately and 2-hours after exercise during a 4-hour recovery period."
  • Since this study and stated in his important book The Performance Zone, it is important to have a post-exercise drink as outlined below immediately after and again within 45 minutes after exercise.

Beginners vs endurance and high-intensity exercisers


And low-intensity exercisers who train less than 90 minutes should use the low-intensity calculator below to decrease the amount of calories consumed. You are not likely to deplete your glycogen stores at all but you want to stop the catabolic [tissue breakdown] process and to stimulate protein synthesis immediately post exercise

Intermediate to Advanced

You will most likely train hard and significantly or completely deplete your glycogen stores. Adding a glucose polymer will be important to replenish your glycogen levels ASAP to maintain performance. Use the high intensity calculator below

Important: The amount of carbohydrate is kept to a minimum for individuals unlikely to deplete their glycogen stores due to lower intensity exercise or high-intensity exercise lasting less than 90 minutes.

D-Ribose and post-exercise recovery

  • 5g of D-Ribose post-recovery is a worthy addition to the solution mentioned above.
  • Why? Click on this following link: Exercise Matters: D-Ribose


  • L-Leucine has been shown to increase protein synthesis:

            " ...independently of an overall increase of other amino acids27"

  • In other words, L-Leucine seems to directly stimulate protein synthesis in both the post-exercise period26 and interestingly in elderly individuals whose post-prandial [after eating] signalling for protein synthesis is impaired28.
  • Increasing L-Leucine along with the other Branched Chain Amino Acids [BCAAs - L-Valine and L-Isoleucine] can help to stimulate protein synthesis in the post-exercise period.

Fructose and Liver Glycogen

  • Studies have shown the following with regard to boosting glycogen stores in muscle and liver:
    "Glucose was found to be superior to fructose in rebuilding the liver glycogen stores during the early stages, i.e., the first hour, of recovery after exhausting fatigue, the difference being statistically significant. Fructose approaches glucose in activity in the liver in the second hour, and in the third hour is much more effective than glucose29"

'Hitting the wall' and the importance of preserving muscle mass

  • 'Hitting the wall' is a term used for high-intensity sports where individuals train beyond the point of muscle and liver glycogen depletion.
  • Glycogen depletion results in severe fatigue which can persist for days unless glycogen stores are replenished.
  • Once you deplete your body of glycogen and break what I term the  'Glycogen Ceiling', your body will start to break down skeletal muscle to convert amino acids to glucose.
  • This will result in muscle loss the result of which will be diminishing strength and poor performance. See QuickGuides: Resistance Training Once-a Week for more information on the Glycogen Ceiling.

The ratio now recommended

  • On email correspondence [on the 31st October, 2009], Dr John Ivy was kind enough to indicate that his estimation was leaning more towards a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.

Why the products suggested?

Rapid absorption and avoiding the osmotic effect

Diversion of blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the muscles after exercise

  • With exercise, you feel hot and flushed - why? Because blood is diverted to the periphery, to the muscles, and soft tissues being exercised.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen after exercise? - The simple answer is drawing blood away from the flushed and well infused muscles to the gastrointestinal tract [GIT] to digest protein and carbohydrate that you just consumed immediately post exercise!

Which protein?

  • The protein suggested see: NutriDesk Protocols: Exercise Protocol - has both Whey Protein Isolate for absolutely rapid absorption and Whey Protein Concentrate for slower absorption.
  • This combination will be digested rapidly requiring minimal 'digestion power' and minimal diversion of blood away from the muscles where it is needed.
  • This will enable a flood of amino acids to be delivered to the muscles where they are needed to stimulate protein synthesis.
  • To understand more about the characteristics of whey, a wonderful summary can be found on clicking the following link: QuickGuides: Whey Protein and QuickGuides: Hydrolyzed Whey

Which Carbohydrate?

  • With carbohydrates, you will need to think back to your high school chemistry days.
  • When you have a solution with a higher concentration of solute [sugar], water will be drawn from areas of lower concentration of solute. In this case, water will be drawn from the bowel lining into the bowel lumen [the interior of the bowel].

  • What this does is cause dehydration when you least need it and this can also cause you to feel light headed and possibly faint due to water being dragged away from the rest of your body into the bowel lumen to offset a high carbohydrate load.
  • For this reason a low osmolarity carbohydrate such as Poly-Joule® or other glucose polymer, will provide your muscles with a rapid release of glucose without the counter-productive osmotic effect shown in the graphic above. 

Why carbohydrate and protein after exercise

  • Both carbohydrate and glucose powerfully stimulate the release of insulin, your body's powerful growth hormone.
  • Insulin is needed for both glucose and amino acids to enter cells for glycogen synthesis and protein synthesis.
  • A rapid release of amino acids is critical for signaling of protein synthesis

Link to Exercise References

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There is no obligation. Just click on the following link: Join NutriDesk then you can access the references through the link below.


Nutraceutical References