You’ve had a long workout–but now you need to eat something to replenish your body.
So what do you reach for? Normally, most of us think sports beverages and bars are the best solution.
New research from the University of Montana says this isn’t necessarily true, however.
In a review of two experimental trials on male cyclists, researchers say eating fast food, such as burgers and fries, was just as effective as health bars marketed to improve a person’s recovery. That means if you’re buying these “specialized” recovery supplements, you’re probably wasting your money.
But this doesn’t mean that binging on fast food is a good idea, say researchers.
“Our results show that eating fast food–in the right amounts–can provide the same potential for muscle glycogen as sports nutrition products that usually cost more,” says Brent Ruby, director of the University of Montana’s Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism. “A lot of the articles out there are totally misrepresenting the study. We had participants eating small servings of the fast-food products, not giant orders of burgers and fries. Moderation is the key to the results we got.”
Detailing his findings in the online version of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Ruby recruited 11 male cyclists to participate in two experimental trials, testing the effects of certain foods on their glycogen. Glycogen is a form of glucose that serves as the main energy storage source in humans, which rapidly decreases due to long bouts of exercise.
All cyclists were asked to cycle for 90 minutes to deplete their glycogen, followed by a 4-hour recovery period. During this period cyclists were given one of the following: A sports supplement, such as a sports bar, or a small serving of fast food. The fast food choices included french fries and hamburgers.
Researchers then measured their blood glucose to determine which foods help replenish their glycogen more effectively–but there wasn’t a difference.
“There were no differences in the blood glucose and insulin responses,” write researchers in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. “Similarly, rates of glycogen recovery were not different across the diets. These data indicate that short-term food options to initiate glycogen resynthesis can include dietary options not typically marketed as sports nutrition products such as fast food menu items.”
However, as Ruby has pointed out in an online press release, this did not mean they binged freely on fast food after exercise. Instead, they ate moderate portions–enough to replenish their energy stores without making them feel stuffed. Oftentimes, eating too much after exercise can make it harder to recover.
So just keep this mantra is mind: Moderation is key.
“Dozens of publications, from the Washington Post and the Daily Mail to Runner’s World and Outside magazine, have picked up the results of the study since it first appeared online in late March,” says Ruby. “But not all of the articles are accurate.”
What This Means For You
Exercise a lot? Chances are buying special sports drinks, supplements, or bars are a waste of money, say experts. Instead, try eating a moderate amount of fast food instead to replenish your glycogen–with a big emphasis on moderate.
Readers: Do you eat anything after exercise to help you recover?
Small Portions of Fast Food Just as Effective for Recovery After Workout as Sports Supplements – ScienceDaily.com
Post-Exercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance is Not Significantly Different Between Fast Food and Sports Supplements (Study) – HumanKinetics.com