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Cereal As Good As Energy Drinks After Exercise


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

A bowl of whole-grain cereal along with nonfat (skimmed) milk, appears to be as effective as carbohydrate-electrolyte energy drink, for the recovery of the body and muscle revitalizing after exercise, claim researchers from Texas, USA.

Exercise psychologist Lynne Kammer, from The University of Texas in Austin came to this conclusion after examining the post-workout physiological effects of the foods. For the study purposes, the investigators recruited their participants through an email announcement, by filling out an appropriate health questionnaire. Individuals with heart problems, diabetes or with other high-risk medical conditions were excluded from the experiment. Volunteers could not be taking standard medications with the exception of those for allergy or birth control pills.

The study involved 12 trained cyclists or triathletes, among whom were eight man with the ages about 28 years, and four women aged around 25 years. The participants were asked to eat consistently for twelve hours prior to performing 2 hours of cycling exercise at a comfortable pace. Each participant had to go through two testing sessions where they were given either the cereal with skimmed milk or the energy drink in randomized order. There were 4 to 12 days between each testing session.

After the two hours of workout, the experts took a biopsy (muscle tissue sample) from the athletes' thigh muscle and then asked them to consume the energy drink, which contained 78.5g of carbohydrates, or to have a bowl of cereal with nonfat milk, which contained 77g of carbs, 19.5g of protein and 2.7g of fat. A second biopsy was taken one hour later. In addition, the investigators took blood samples for testing before and immediately after exercise, and then fifteen, thirty and sixty minutes after the consumption. The collected blood was tested for glucose, lactate and insulin.

The researchers found that one hour after exercise blood glucose was similar between treatments (around 6mmol/L), however after whole-grain cereal, the level of plasma insulin was significantly higher (191.0picomol/L), when compared to the levels after the energy drink (123.1picomol/L). Plasma lactate showed significantly lower levels after the cereal consumption (1.00mmol/L), than after the sports drink (1.4mmol/L). One of the proteins in the biopsies showed higher phosphorylation (mTOR) after the bowl of cereal, in comparison to the energy drink, but glycogen and the phosphorylation of the other muscle proteins were not statistically different between the two recovery foods.

The exact component of the cereal with milk combination that is responsible for the body recovery is yet not clear. The assumption is that the carbohydrate content between cereal and a 6 per cent carbohydrate energy beverage could be the major difference. However, there is another possibility that the milk, which is also a source of protein, may be a contributor.

Based on their findings, the investigators came to the conclusion that, for amateur sportsmen and moderately physically active people who are trying to keep in a good shape, just having a bowl of whole-grain cereal with a splash of nonfat milk could be a better choice rather than spending money on an expensive energy drinks.

The study was supported by General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. The findings are published this month in the peer-reviewed Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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