Workout supplements promise serious results. They will help transform you into a chiseled, finely tuned exercise machine. Those promises, as it turns out, could just as easily be made by the cashier at your local drive-thru.
A team of researchers led by University of Montana graduate student Michael Cramer set out to see if post-exercise glycogen recovery and exercise performance were actually improved by sports supplements. Their findings, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (which I read all the time), answered that question with a resounding “no.” And they did it with flair, comparing well-known sports brands like Gatorade, PowerBar and Cytomax against a place that many people find synonymous with an unhealthy lifestyle: McDonald’s.
According to Real Clear Science, Cramer put 11 highly trained male athletes through a rigorous 90-minute endurance workout after 12 hours of fasting. “Subsequently, subjects assigned to fast food were given hotcakes, orange juice and a hash brown, while subjects assigned to supplements were given Gatorade, organic peanut butter and Clif Shot Bloks. Two hours later, the fast food group consumed a hamburger, Coke and fries, while the supplement group scarfed down Cytomax powder and PowerBar products. Two hours after their second meal, all subjects rode 20 kilometers on a stationary bike as quickly as possible.” Both meals were designed to be similar in calories, carbohydrates and protein.
A week later, all 11 subjects were put through the same regimen, but this time, the meals were switched.
Looking over the data, researchers found no statically significant differences in the time it took these athletes to complete their workouts or their levels of muscle glycogen afterward. There was also no difference in insulin, glucose, cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Obviously, looking at merely 11 subjects isn’t a definitive study. And researchers seemed to stress that these are highly trained athletes. No word on what might happen with the average Joe.
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