Carbohydrates have typically been the go-to food for endurance athletes. But a new report published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s scientific journal said adding protein to the diet during and after training was found to improve athletes’ endurance performance slightly and to reduce some stress associated with high-intensity training, such as fatigue.
“Endurance athletes, such as runners or cyclists, commonly rely on nutrition to enhance their post-exercise recovery,” said Kevin Tipton, Ph.D. and researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland who led the small study, in a news release. “For years, athletes have relied heavily on carbohydrate feeding for recovery. However, we wanted to explore the benefits of protein.”
Eight conditioned long-distance cyclists participated in two, three-week trials of varying levels of intensity: normal, intensified and recovery. Some groups consumed more protein in their diets, from sources such as powders in a smoothie. Results indicated that the high-protein diet slightly improved athletes’ endurance performance, measured through time trials and other tests.
Previous research has identified tyrosine, an amino acid found in protein, as a mood-booster, said Tipton. “Whereas we can’t definitively say why the athletes felt a bit better with higher protein intake, it’s possible the availability of tyrosine in our high-protein diet helped diffuse stress, thus contributing to the increase in performance.”
The study concluded that more research is needed.
— Anne Aurand, The Bulletin
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