Typically, sports nutrition protein/carbohydrate or amino acid/carbohydrate blends are compared to carbohydrate only or non-caloric refreshment. The protein or amino acid always performs better than the placebo or control that is not providing the same nutrition.
Apparently researchers presenting at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) had the same thought.
A whole grain cereal, in combination with skim milk, provides a complete post-workout recovery snack. Cereal and milk provide ample carbs for glycogen replacement. On top of that, dairy products are naturally high in the essential amino acid leucine, which has special muscle-building properties. Leucine actually helps "turn on" the reading of genes that eventually lead to synthesis of structural muscle proteins.
"We were surprised that blood lactate was lower after cereal, possibly due to glycogen storage," remarked Lynne Kammer from UT at Austin. "In addition, the muscle was ready to store additional glycogen after the cereal-and-milk regimen, even after glycogen had already been synthesized."
What’s the point? Many companies make a huge profit based on an athlete’s desire to have the best workout recovery nutrition, but plain old food will also do the trick, with a caveat. The food should be well-balanced and incorporate the components we know are important for workout recovery, based on science. A functional post-workout food should contain a complete protein source (preferably one that is high in BCAA) and sufficient carbohydrates. By these criteria, most sweetened dairy products or cereals with fat-free milk will do. To get important nutrient to the needy muscles quickly, the recovery food choice should also be low in fat, as fat delays the rate at which food is sent from the stomach to the small intestine. The issue of taste and convenience is also important, however.
"Sports drinks may have an advantage in convenience," Kammer highlighted. "We wanted to look at a realistic exercise scenario and test the effectiveness of whole foods that might be acceptable for muscle recovery."
The research group asked 12 fasted cyclists (8 of which were men) to perform a two-hour cycling routine. Following the exercise, the volunteers were provided with either a whole-wheat flake cereal with fat-free milk or a sports drink containing carbohydrate. Blood glucose and insulin levels were increased by both protocols, but cereal raised insulin to a significantly greater extent, blunted the rise in blood lactate, enhanced protein synthesis, and allowed for additional glycogen storage potential.
I gleaned the research (supported by yet another company that wants a chunk of your sports dollar: Wheaties and the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition) info from quotes from NutraIngredients.com—the study has not yet been published because it was only presented at the conference, but the scientists seeking to expand the research.
Jean offers nutrition coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, or any of your personal goals at her office in the Alico building in downtown Waco, TX right in the heart of central Texas. She also offers personal training services at Ironhorse gym on the corner of Franklin and 17th, which is also very convenient to downtown Waco. Contact information can be found on her personal website.