Post-training recovery of endurance athletes quicker with milk and cornflakes than with sports drink


From Ergo Log

The muscles and glycogen reserves of cyclists, runners and triathletes recover more quickly from a bowl of skimmed milk and cereal than from a sports drink, write sports scientists from the University of Texas at Austin in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

We’ll start by saying that the researchers were paid by General Mills, the manufacturer of the breakfast cereal Wheaties. Wheaties has been advertised in the US since the 1930s as the Breakfast of Champions.

The researchers used twelve trained cyclists and triathletes as their test subjects. The athletes had to cycle for two hours at 60-65 percent of their VO2max first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Immediately after finishing, half of the subjects were given a drink containing eighty grams of sugars. The other half ate two bowls of Wheaties with milk. Wheaties is like Cornflakes, but based on wheat. The composition of both ‘meals’ is shown in the table below.

Both groups consumed similar quantities of carbohydrates. The cereal group drank extra water so that they had consumed the same amount of liquid as the drink group.

After the meal the researchers examined the blood and muscle tissue of the athletes every fifteen minutes. The athletes who had eaten the cereal had a higher insulin level than the ones that had had the drink. There was no difference in glucose levels between the two groups.

Analysis of the quadriceps muscle cells showed that the production of glycogen – muscle cells store glucose in this form – was higher in the cereal group. The gene for the enzyme glycogen synthase worked less hard in the cereal group, probably because it didn’t need to as the glycogen reserves were higher.

The researchers also discovered that the proteins in the skimmed milk aided the muscle recovery. At least, the activity of the anabolic signal molecules Akt and mTOR was higher in the cereal group.

According to the researchers, their study shows that ordinary cheap foods like wheat flakes and milk help post-exercise muscle recovery better than expensive sports drinks.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 May 14;6(1):11.


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