Friday, March 25, 2011

Magic Bullets!

The linked article discusses an option for a post workout recovery shake, focusing on molasses as a means to combat loss of potassium due to excess sodium intake.

You know that you need a post-​​workout protein shake immediately after your workouts, right?  And you know that your muscles are low on glycogen and needs a shotgun blast of sugar to recover and build new muscle.  Well, the next time you whip up your smoothie in the blender, sweeten it with……BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES!  
First off, the evidence that you 'need' a post-workout protein shake completely depends on your workout goals.  If you are a hyper focused competitive body builder or multi-event-per-day athlete, sure you need a post workout shake.  If you are a typical American trying to stay in or get in 'shape', you probably are doing more harm than good with a post-workout shake. (PWS)  My advice is to workout short and hard, eat real food, drink enough to stay hydrated, and "don't sweat" the post-workout window of insulin sensitivity.  In particular, if you are not as lean as you want to be, the PWS is counter productive.
On the other hand, if you want to try the blackstrap molasses shake to test its efficacy, go right ahead, but try to control other variables in your workout/dietary regimen so that you have a shot of being able to tell if there are positive changes.  
As regards the sodium/potassium balance issue, I'm skeptical of the magic claims for massive gains as a result of adding some molasses to your PWS.  I would be impressed if he had an intervention study that showed results (even a small one), or even if the author took the time to quantify his potassium levels before and after he used the molasses PWS.  The molasses PWS conjecture, as stated in the article, is one of the classic unverified and nearly unverifiable claims - of which there's seemingly a new one daily.  
Paleo man didn't have a salt shaker but he ate blood pudding, every internal organ, animal brains, the bone marrow, etc - very little of the kill was left for the bacteria and other carrion eaters.  In other words, I remain unconvinced that I'm eating more salt than paleo man.  But supposing we accept the 'too much salt' on it's face, if there's no way to quantify how much salt we're over-ingesting, how they heck are we supposed to know how much molasses to consume to balance the intake?  Not to mention - how to account for daily variation in sweat output, food intake, etc?  If one were really convinced that potassium/salt balance was the key to MASSIVE gains, one would have to get quite a lot more technical than "dump a little molasses in a shake and get huge."  For one - why not just supplement potassium?
Lastly, I try to keep in mind the difference between a competitive, 20 something athlete and the majority of the population which would do well to work out 3 to 5 hours a week, on a good week.  The former will always be working on the ragged edge of recovery, the latter probably needs more than anything to just eat good food and be healthy.  The former has the benefit of a young person's hormonal mileu, the later is hopefully not a hormonal wreck.  One would kill to get a 5% improvement in performance, the latter might get 20% or more improvement, but still not be at a peak.  One has the time and energy to fool around with any number of options, the later is in a fistfight for time every day and can only afford so many indulgences in training.  
If you have money and time for a PWS, go for it, but I would first make sure to tackle vitamin D, get first rate fish oil, and make sure you keep carb (especially sugar and wheat) intake low enough to support long term health.

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