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Expert Opinions

Expert Opinions Archive
I'm a serious athlete and have always downed carbs after an intense workout. Now I'm hearing I should load up on protein, too. What gives?

E.P. Boulder, CO
Simple carbohydrates such as fruit juice can help quickly restore energy reserves after exercise. A report in the Journal of Nutrition (6/99) suggests that consuming the<<>> leucine, a protein component found in meats and dairy products, may also be beneficial by cutting down on the time muscles need to recover. But don't load up on leucine supplements, cautions Dr. Donald K. Layman, professor at the University of Illinois and an author of the paper. The study was done in rats, not people, and not enough is known at this point to recommend specific doses of the amino acid.

"The safe interpretation of our research is that people should consume protein as soon as possible after exercise," Dr. Layman says. "The more intense the exercise, the greater the benefit. I think the greatest impact will be for individuals who perform an activity routinely: marathon training, tennis, soccer, basketball, weightlifting. All individuals who perform with high intensity and then experience a recovery period before they can perform again."

How much do you need? "Our research suggests that protein intake of around 15 grams is adequate for the effect," advises Dr. Layman. "Further," he adds, "a ham sandwich is just as effective as some expensive sports drink."

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