Are starchy snacks or sports supplements better for muscle recovery?
Islamabad, MARCH 12 (Online): When it comes to replenishing muscles after exercise, sports energy bars and drinks are no better than cheap, carb-rich foods, such as potato pancakes, hash browns, and fries, a new study suggests.
A new study investigates nutrition and muscle recovery.
The manufacturers of sports energy bars and drinks market them as providing an “edge” for amateur and professional athletes.
The implicit claim is that their products are better than relatively cheap, ordinary snacks at restoring energy levels after exercise and maximizing athletic performance.
Now, however, research at the University of Montana (UM) in Missoula has cast doubt on this claim.
In the lab, the researchers pitted sports energy bars and drinks against potato-based snacks. The latter were potato pancakes and syrup, gnocchi and pasta sauce, hash browns and apple sauce, and fries.
The scientists measured the ability of the two types of food to replenish energy stores in volunteers’ skeletal muscle and sustain their performance in a time trial.
Muscles use the polysaccharide glycogen to store energy. During periods of intense activity, the muscles break down this glycogen to make glucose, which they use as fuel.
Sports scientists have found that the amount of stored glycogen in muscle helps determine performance in aerobic exercise, which includes cycling, swimming, and running.
Glycogen depletion ride
The aim of the intensive 90-minute glycogen depletion ride was to run down glycogen stores in the volunteers’ muscles.
After the recovery period and snacks, each volunteer cycled a 20-km time trial, completing it as quickly as possible.
The scientists found no significant differences between the two diets.
Potato-based snacks replenished glycogen in the muscles as efficiently as the sports supplements. There was also no significant difference in performance on the time trial.
“Endurance athletes love to talk about how hard they train and how special their diet is,” says Prof. Ruby. “But we need to take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you are getting adequate carbohydrates, your diet can be as diverse as you want it to be.”
In addition, the two diets were just as efficient at replenishing glycogen in females as in males.
More tasty and satisfying
The research did identify one clear advantage of potato-based snacks in comparison with sports supplements. In a questionnaire, the volunteers rated them as more tasty and satisfying.
Eating after exercise is important to restore energy levels. The authors point to evidence suggesting that many athletes, and female athletes in particular, generally consume less than the recommended amounts of carbohydrate.