• Hot Topic: Post-Exercise Carbohydrate and Protein Supplementation
    More and more products are becoming commercially available to fulfill the need for post-exercise recovery supplementation. This article looks at different supplementation combinations that can be used for recovery purposes.
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  • A photo of raw steakIntroductionPost-exercise nutrition is an integral component of any training program. Consuming the proper nutrients post exercises initiates the recovery process and jump starts the restoration of muscle glycogen and reducing muscle damage for improved recovery. Nutrients, such as carbohydrates (CHO), protein (PRO), and fat, play a key role in facilitating muscle protein synthesis, which aids in muscle repair.

    One’s ability to recover after each training session allows an individual to return to a state of physical readiness from the subsequent training session. There have been numerous studies that compare the effects of a Carbohydrate (CHO) supplementation to Carbohydrate and Protein (CHO + PRO) supplementation on recovery after exercise programs that induce exhaustion.

    There are many different commercially available products that can be used as post-exercise recovery supplementations. It is the purpose of this paper to look at the different supplementation combination that can be used after strenuous activity, for recovery purposes.

    The Science Behind SupplementationThe scientific research that surrounds post-exercise supplementation is extensive. There have been many different investigations that look at the different ratios of post-exercise CHO to PRO in aiding recovery after strenuous activity. 
    Pritchett and colleagues looked to compare the effects of a CHO + PRO beverage in the form of chocolate milk (CM) and a commercially available CHO + PRO post-exercise supplement.
    They found that there was no difference between the two supplements when comparing markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase; CK) in subsequent bouts of exercise (5). 
    Thomas and colleagues looked to compare the effects of CM, a CHO-replacement beverage, and a fluid-replacement beverage on short-term recovery after intense exercise. Thomas and colleagues found that time to exhaustion during exercise after a 4-hour recovery from previous exercise bout was longer in the CM than the other two groups (7).

    Thus, according to these two research studies it can be said that CM may be a viable CHO + PRO supplement for use post-exercise to aid in the recovery process when consumed immediately post-exercise.

    The Ferguson-Stegal StudyA study by Ferguson-Stegal and colleagues looked to compare the effects of a CHO and PRO supplement in the form of Chocolate Milk (CM), an isocaloric (having similar caloric value) CHO beverage, and a placebo on recovery and subsequent exercise performance.

    This study looked at 10 cyclists that performed 3 trials of strenuous activity, cycling 1.5 hours at 70% VO2 max plus 10 minutes of intervals (1 minute alternating intervals at 45% VO2 and 90% VO2 max for a total of 10 minutes; 1 minute at 45% and 1 minute at 90% for 10 minutes). The exercise protocol was designed to deplete muscle glycogen stores.

    Subjects received water at 15-minute intervals during the ride, and subjects then recovered for 4-hours and received 1 of 3 experimental supplements immediately after and at 2 hours post-exercise. During this period of time the researchers took measurements of markers of muscle damage and inflammation. 
    After the 4-hour recovery period the subjects then participated in a cycling time trial (40-km) to determine their post-recovery exercise performance.
    The time trial times were faster in the CM group as compared to the CHO and the placebo groups. Muscle glycogen resynthesis was higher in the CM group compared to the CHO and placebo group (1). The CM used within the present study provided an average of 1.9g of CHO, 0.6g PRO, and 0.3g FAT per kilogram of body weight. The CHO beverage provided an average of 2.5g CHO and 0.3 g FAT per kilogram of body weight. These doses were based on previous findings that 1.5g CHO per kilogram of body weight maximizes muscle glycogen storage when supplemented immediately post and 2 hours post-exercise during a 4-hour recovery period (2).

    In turn, the results of the Ferguson-Stegal study revealed that CM (CHO +PRO + FAT) supplementation post-exercise can improve subsequent exercise performance and provide a greater stimulus of PRO synthesis (muscle repair) when compared to just CHO and the placebo.

    The International Society of Sport Nutrition acknowledges that adding protein to a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage may increase benefits of rehydration solutions which again re-iterate the importance of making sure that the recovery beverage being consumed has a mixture of CHO and PRO (3).

    The ratio of CHO to PRO typically ranges from 3:1 to 4:1. When looking for a post-exercise recovery beverage, make sure that there is 3 to 4 times more CHO then PRO within the beverage. An example of a post-exercise beverage that contains a 3.5:1 ratio of CHO to PRO can be seen below in Figure 1.

    Figure 1. Sample Post-Exercise Beverage Nutrition Label

    ConclusionPost-exercise supplementation is a very important component to any training session, training cycle and training program. This supplementation is critical in facilitating the recovery and adaptation process after strenuous exercise.

    The main finding within these studies is that CM (CHO + PRO + FAT mixture) is an easily assessable and relatively inexpensive option to use as a post-exercise recovery beverage. Chocolate Milk provides a mixture of CHO, PRO, and FAT in an excellent ratio to induce positive recovery after strenuous exercise.

    On numerous occasions CM was utilized as a post-exercise recovery beverage and improved performance during the second exercise bout when individuals completed two training session within one day. It can be said that individuals should ingest a CHO and PRO mixture that follows a 3:1 to 4:1 CHO to PRO ratio directly after strenuous activity in order to aid in the recovery process.
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