Those who ate the rolled oats cereal were able to cycle significantly longer than those who ate the puffed rice. These results make it clear that athletes should choose their pre-exercise foods carefully.
The pre-workout meal should also contain some protein. New research suggests that providing the body with a dietary source of amino acids (the "building blocks" of proteins) through pre-workout protein consumption can further decrease the body's reliance on muscle proteins for energy during exercise.
It also accelerates post-exercise muscle protein synthesis by increasing the availability of amino acids for this purpose.
Consuming a carbohydrate-protein supplement during exercise can further minimize muscle tissue damage and accelerate post-workout protein synthesis. Use of a conventional 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate sports drink such as Gatorade slows the depletion of muscle glycogen stores and thereby delays the rise in the use of muscle proteins as an energy source.
But newer research has demonstrated that the addition of a small amount of protein to a sports drink spares glycogen even further. It does this by stimulating more insulin, which is the hormone responsible for transporting glucose to the muscles.
In a study, researchers found that the addition of protein to a carbohydrate sports drink in a 4 to 1 ratio enhanced aerobic endurance performance by 24 percent more than a conventional carbohydrate sports drink.
These data suggest that the addition of protein increased insulin and glucose uptake, thereby providing faster energy to the exercising muscle. The result is increased sparing of muscle glycogen and a significant improvement in endurance.
A sports drink is the best form in which to consume carbohydrate and protein during workouts, not only because these nutrients will be more quickly absorbed in this form but also because a sports drink also provides the water and electrolytes needed to prevent dehydration during exercise.
Athletes should consume a few ounces of such a drink every 10 minutes throughout exercise. The precise amount needed depends on factors that include the size of the athlete, the intensity of exercise, and the air temperature.
A study performed at St. Cloud University demonstrated that using a carbohydrate-protein sports drink during a workout can also significantly reduce post-exercise muscle tissue stress. In this study, athletes that used this supplement showed on average a 36 percent lower level of a physiological marker for muscle tissue stress than controls, suggesting that by providing amino acids in addition to carbohydrate, the sports drink helped maintain cell membrane integrity.