Back in 2008, nutritionists and sports enthusiasts agreed that protein drinks offered the best chance of improving an athlete’s performance. Current studies, however, show that a bowl of high-fiber, whole-grain cereal is just as helpful to an athlete recovering from exercise.
Why Protein Sports Drinks?
In 2008, a study was published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition that concluded that consuming sports drinks that consisted of both protein and carbohydrates were better for athletes than drinking carbohydrate-only beverages. When these supplements were consumed over the six-hour period after exercise, the participants experienced a better recovery period. In other words, athletes who drank a beverage that was mix of protein and carbohydrates were more apt to ease back into exercise quicker than those who did not.
Participants cycled on exercise bikes for a morning session, after which they rested and drank either a protein-carbohydrate beverage or a carbohydrate-only beverage. After the rest period was over, the participants got back on the exercises bikes for another session. While both groups did not show a performance level as high as they did in the morning session, those who consumed the protein-carbohydrate beverages did significantly better than participants who drank the carbohydrate-only beverages.
Why is Cereal Just as Good?
New research shows that consuming a bowl of whole-grain cereal provides the same benefits as a sports drink that contains carbohydrates. The difference between this study and the study that was previously conducted was that the participants, eight men and four women, were to endure a workout more similar to a traditional exercise session. While all of the participants were trained cyclists and fully capable of undergoing a difficult exercise session, researchers wanted to make the study as close to a typical workout as possible. There was a warm-up period followed by a two hours cycling session at a rate that was comfortable for the participants. After the session was over, the participants were allowed to rest. Previous studies focused mainly on exerting participants to the point of exhaustion.
The main goal of the study was to discover whether or not whole-grain cereals were better or worse than carbohydrate-based sports drinks. Researchers found that whole-grain cereals replenished muscle fuel at either the same rate or better than the sports beverages.
In another study, researchers found that the muscles in the body can be stimulated or manipulated in different ways through changes in the athlete’s diet. They found that the most beneficial time for an individual to consume high-quality protein, including milk, was immediately after the exercise session. Muscles have to be encouraged to get stronger through exercise and nourished through food consumption since they cannot build themselves back up on their own.
The benefit to this conclusion is that whole-grain cereals and nonfat or low-fat milk cost much less than sports drinks. Not only does the body receive the necessary nutrients from fiber in the whole-grain cereals, but the milk provides proteins that are easy to digest. The proteins can also help to increase the athlete’s rate of adapting to training sessions, as well as promote protein synthesis within the body.
Which Is Better?
Athletes who thrive on intensive workouts and push themselves to the limit may not feel the benefit of a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk and may need an extra boost to recover fully from their workouts. However, other individuals who are not as active such as amateur athletes and those who participate in moderate activities to stay in shape may find that they get the extra boost they need by eating cereal instead.