Despite everything we know about healthy eating, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a mouth-watering burger, crispy fries, and an ice-cold carbonated beverage. Even after exercise. That’s right, fast food can actually help you recover from a workout according to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
Researchers compared sports supplements to fast food on glycogen recovery and exercise performance. The subjects were 11 well trained men who performed a 90-minute glycogen depletion ride followed by four hours of recovery. The subjects consumed approximately 230g of carbohydrates, 27g of protein, and 35g of fat as either sports supplements or fast food at zero and two hours. Following muscle biopsies, a 20k (124 mile) time-trial was completed. Tables 2.1 and 2.2 show what the athletes ate.
I’m Lovin’ It
Blood samples were analyzed at seven, 30-minute intervals after exercise for insulin and glucose. The researchers found no differences in the blood glucose or insulin responses. Additionally, the rates of glycogen recovery were similar among both groups and there was no difference in the 20k time-trial performance.
Not So Fast
The results of the study does not mean you should visit your local burger joint after each workout. In fact, this study is of little relevance to the majority of athletes. Few are willing to perform steady-state cardio for 90-minutes and then perform a 20k time-trial. However, in terms of recovery following a long steady-state bicycle ride, the source of your carbohydrates, fats, and proteins does not appear to matter. When analyzing this study, I think it’s also important that you do not combine the idea of health and performance. This study did not look at the effect of long-term fast food consumption on health. It simply looked at the effects of glycogen restoration and performance.
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a freelance writer on topics of fitness and nutrition, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RDN, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential. Gavin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cramer MJ, Dumke CL, Hailes WS, Cuddy JS, Ruby BC: Post-exercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance is Not Signifantly Different Between Fast Food and Sports Supplements. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2015.