For years we have talked about the performance benefits of carbohydrates during long duration training/competition, but now there are new sports products on the market promoting the use of protein during training. Examples of such products on the market now are Pure Sport and Accelerate. So which products are better… those with carbohydrate only or those protein + carbs? The answer will depend on the individual, their level of training (duration & intensity), their body composition goals (increasing muscle mass vs reducing fat mass), and individual gastro-intestinal tract tolerance to certain foods during training.
Recent research shows performance benefits for endurance athletes consuming carbohydrate (at 6% carbs which is similar to a standard sports drink), but no further performance benefit when protein + carbs are consumed during exercise.
Therefore, as long as you are consuming adequate carbohydrate (30-60g per hour), additional protein is not necessary during long duration exercise (>90mins). What does this mean in practice? A typical sports drink containing 6% carbohydrate provides about 60g carbohydrate per 1L. Don’t like the taste of commercial sports drinks, or don’t want to consume so much sugar? You can make your ‘sports drink’ using fruit juice, water and salt…. to find out how, contact a sports dietitian.
On the other hand, if carbohydrate intake during exercise is inadequate, additional protein may improve your performance. But beware, protein intake during endurance training can cause stomach upset due to slow breakdown of protein compared to carbohydrate.
Protein can have an important role during the recovery phase immediately post high intensity exercise. More on Recovery Nutrition to come….