The companies that sell post-workout drinks and snacks would love you to believe that post-exercise nutrition is an exact science, and that you need specific nutrients in specific ratios from specific products to recover and perform your best. Recently, a study tested that idea, pitting sports recovery products against a McDonald's meal — and the fast food worked just as well.
Photo by Ryan McFarland
In the study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise, recreational athletes tested two post-workout meals with similar numbers — 1300 calories, 70% carbs, 10% protein. One was made up of sports products, like Gatorade and PowerBars. The other was from McDonald's, but a dream world McDonald's where you can order breakfast and lunch at the same time: there were hotcakes and orange juice, but also a burger and fries.
Results were the same after both types of meals, including the subjects' glycogen (the amount of carbohydrate they were able to put back into their muscles), and their performance on a time trial a few hours later. Reporting on the study, Runner's World quotes marathoner and dietician Nancy Clark:
"I haven't yet seen a study where a commercial supplement outperforms real foods," she notes. "The supplements may seem impressive because they offer a precise ratio of carbohydrates to protein, but you can get the same from tastier, less pricey real foods with adequate carbs, protein, and calories."
That explains why chocolate milk can do as well as recovery products — although some of the chocolate milk studies were funded by the dairy industry, which has an agenda similar to Gatorade's (emphasise the benefits of their product to sell more of it).
The bottom line: Food is food, and what's inside counts more than whether it says "sports recovery" on the wrapper. Read more at Runner's World for the details and expert commentary on the study.
Fast Food May Help You Recover Similar to Sport Products [Runner's World]