A study has found that fast food is just as effective as expensive energy bars, protein drinks or dietary supplements when it comes to recovering from intense workouts. Junk food may be just as good as those high-tech powders, gummies and shakes in your gym bag. In a recently published study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, entitled “Fast food results in similar post-exercise glycogen recovery and exercise performance compared to sport supplements,” University of Montana graduate student Michael Joseph Cramer and colleagues subjected eleven elite male athletes to a seemingly inane Burger Recovery experiment, which, by the way, you probably shouldn’t try on your own
Cramer asked the athletes to fast for four hours, then undergo a grueling 90-minute treadmill workout. Half of the athletes were then given a diet that has become de rigeur for athletes of all ages and talent levels around the world: Gatorade, chewable energy cubes, organic peanut butter and power bars. The other half of the test subjects were given precisely what most people would think to avoid after exercise: hotcakes, hashbrowns, hamburgers, fries and Coke. Two hours after they finished eating, the subjects rode 12.4 miles on stationary bikes as fast as they could. A week later, the athletes repeated the experiment on the opposite diet. Cramer took blood and tissue samples after both stages.
Although Cramer calculated the two types of meal to have roughly the same number of calories, carbohydrates and protein, Burger Recovery diets were much higher in salt and fat. Yet, Cramer found that the athletes completed the exercises just as easily and quickly after scarfing down sloppy cheeseburgers as they did after ingesting expensive energy cubes. In fact, the subjects showed higher levels of muscle glycogen — or energy reserves — after eating Burger Recovery than they did after eating the nominally more nutritious diet. Cramer also found no difference in insulin, glucose, cholesterol or triglyceride levels of the athletes. Nor did the athletes feel any sicker after eating junk food and exercising than they did on the other diet.