The overly eager cashier at GNC will probably tell you that MuscleFreak Alpha capsules are the best thing for you after a visit to the gym, but a new study suggests a Big Mac might be just as good. Researchers found that feeding an athlete fast food over supplements as an exercise recovery meal made no difference in their later performance, or the stability of their stomach.
As RealClearScience recounts, the team (led by University of Montana grad student Michael Cramer) asked 11 trained male athletes to participate in the experiment. All the men completed a 90-minute endurance workout after fasting for half a day. Then, the scientists gave them some post-exercise snacks -- only half of them got Clif Shot Bloks, Gatorade, and organic peanut butter while the others received fast-food pancakes, hash browns, and OJ. Two hours after their feast, the athletes were given a second meal. The sad supplements group got PowerBars and Cytomax powder while the fast-food crowd dined on hamburgers and fries (with a Coke to wash it all down).
Another two hours later, the dudes got on stationary bikes and went through a new round of workouts. Throughout the whole setup, the researchers collected blood samples and did muscle biopsies to get the guys' specs at every step of the way. (And for symmetry's sake, they brought the gang in again a week later and flipped the supplement and fast-food groups.) Cramer and his team found no significant difference in performance between the two groups. Their insulin, glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels were also pretty similar, as was their "stomach discomfort." These findings indicate there's no real difference between eating an order of fries versus a bucket of supplements, though it's important to note how short the trial was, and also that these guys were highly trained athletes. So you probably shouldn't start eating Quarter Pounders after every run, but you also probably don't need to eat Cytomax powder, because screw that.
Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and would never choose energy powder over fries. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.