Protein after cycling today increases performance tomorrow
If endurance athletes not only take carbohydrates but also proteins during the first two hours after a heavy workout, they will perform better the next day than if they only consume carbohydrates right after their training session. Exercise scientists from the Norwegian School of Sport Science report this in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
The researchers got 8 elite cyclists to cycle to failure on two different occasions. During the first 2 hours after this session, on one occasion the athletes received 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kg/hour; the other time they received 0.8 grams of carbohydrates and 0.4 grams of protein per kg/hour.
Half of the carbohydrates consisted of maltodextrins, while the further half was glucose. The protein source was standard whey.
On the day after the debilitating training, the athletes had to sprint again for 10 seconds, complete a time trial and sprint for another 10 seconds. This time trial was completed when the cyclists had produced a fixed amount of work.
During both sprints the cyclists developed a bit more power after they had consumed proteins the day after their training. More power means in this case that the cyclists could cycle faster.
Supplementation with proteins after training one day earlier also resulted in better results on the time trial. You can see that above
If the cyclists had consumed proteins after training, they problably had not lost muscle mass. Their nitrogen balance - the ratio between the amount of nitrogen lost through urine and the amount of nitrogen that they consumed - did not change at all. If the riders were given carbohydrates for the first two hours after their training, their nitrogen balance was negative.
"Supplementation with protein combined with carbohydrates within the first few hours after exhaustive cycling improves cycling time trial and sprint performance the following day", write the researchers. "These improvements were correlated with a positive nitrogen balance during recovery, and suggest an increased catabolism of endogenous proteins in the absence of dietary protein intake after exercise."
"The mechanism for the benefits of carbohydrate plus protein intake supplementation following exercise remains unclear, but may be related to mitochondrial or myofibrillar protein synthesis, reduced protein breakdown or a combination of these events."
"The importance of the findings in this study cannot be overstated as they relate protein intake to endurance performance during competitions occurring over consecutive days."
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Sep 13. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01132.2017. [Epub ahead of print].
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Nutrition & Endurance