Protein sports drinks

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 21st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You want the best-performing sports drink you can find. So you look for the one with the most protein, right? Wrong! A new study reveals protein-enhanced sports drinks may NOT be the way to improve your athletic performance.

Researchers studied ten trained cyclists in a simulation of three separate eight-kilometer bicycle races. They gave the cyclists either a protein-supplemented sports drink or a placebo drink with no energy added. Neither the cyclists nor the researchers knew which drink was consumed during the tests.

What the researchers found surprised them. Compared with the placebo drink, the sports drink did improve performance. But, the drink with the added protein did not give the cyclists a performance edge. In fact, it provided no benefit at all.

Previous studies showed protein was beneficial when consumed during tests in which the cyclists were instructed to “ride to exhaustion.” However, researchers say these types of workouts don’t duplicate real-world athletic competition. Plus, the athletes in those studies did not ingest the amount of carbohydrates recommended for such high-paced exercise.

The new study, while small, shows that protein offers no performance benefit during “real-life” exercise when athletes consume sufficient amounts of a sports drink. Eating some protein after exercise is important to help repair damaged muscles, researchers suggest. But to date they say drinking protein beverages during exercise itself doesn’t boost endurance or performance.

So, the next time you’re ready to set a new personal performance record, consider holding the proteins until after the race.