Protein and carb intake post-exercise can benefit bone health, study finds

February 17, 2017, Nottingham Trent University
Protein and carb intake post-exercise can benefit bone health, study finds
The findings have the potential to influence athletes' dietary and training practices. Credit: Nottingham Trent University

Protein and carbohydrate intake after exercise can have a beneficial impact on bone health and could help to stave off serious injury among athletes, new research suggests.

A study led by sport scientists at Nottingham Trent University showed that drinking a protein and carbohydrate-rich solution after strenuous exercise helped decrease – the breakdown of tissue in the .

It also had a small positive impact on , creating a better balance of bone turnover – which at high levels is also associated with and damage.

It is known that prolonged and intense exercise causes increased resorption of the bone – which is linked to the occurrence of debilitating injuries in athletes. Such injuries can see athletes out of action for months, resulting in major losses in training time or missed competitions.

The researchers, writing in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, say the findings have the potential to influence athletes' dietary and training practices.

As part of the study male endurance runners ran on a treadmill until exhaustion – and had their blood collected before and after exercise, to measure the impact upon biomarkers. Participants drank either a placebo or a protein and carbohydrate solution developed by the researchers.

The scientists found that the solution reduced concentrations of the b-CTX biomarker – which is released into the blood stream during bone resorption – whether it was ingested immediately or two hours after exercise.

Those who had the solution immediately after exercise also showed increases in P1NP, a blood biomarker for bone formation, four hours after exercise.

Previous work has looked at effects of nutrition before and during exercise, but this is not always practical and can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.

A key benefit of drinking a solution in this context is that it is quick and easy for the athlete to ingest. It would probably take longer to see any similar benefit from eating protein and carbohydrate-rich food, due to the additional time taken for transit through the gut.

"Given that endurance athletes train multiple times a day, preventing bone loss and stress fracture injury is hugely important," said Craig Sale, Professor of Human Physiology in Nottingham Trent University's School of Science and Technology.

He said: "These athletes have minimal recovery time and rest days and are likely to suffer in terms of bone health, with increased risk of injury. These findings are important for those individuals because post- intake, or training sessions, can be timed so that training occurs when bone resorption is at its lowest and bone formation at its highest."

Researcher Becky Townsend added: "Although the study was performed with elite athletes in mind, the data could also be used by sub-elite or recreational endurance athletes training just once a day.

"The data may also be useful for athletes that perform a variety of different training sessions; from long slow runs, to high-intensity interval type sessions, as all of these types of sessions include repetitive mechanical loading and cause increased physiological/hormonal responses.

"Although the carbohydrate and protein drink used in the study was individualised based on participant body weight, there are a number of similar carbohydrate and protein recovery drinks that are commercially available."

The study also involved the English Institute of Sport and Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia.

Dr Kevin Currell, Director of Science and Technical Development at the English Institute of Sport, said: "Working with Nottingham Trent University to find a simple intervention which could support bone health has been an impactful partnership. This research has already been put into practice, and helped keep a number of fit and healthy leading into Rio 2016."

Explore further: Women exercisers face health risk if not keeping up energy intake

More information: Rebecca Townsend et al. The Effect of Postexercise Carbohydrate and Protein Ingestion on Bone Metabolism, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2017). DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001211

Related Stories

Women exercisers face health risk if not keeping up energy intake

January 10, 2017
Many New Zealand women who exercise recreationally could be risking their health by not eating enough to match the energy they expend, new University of Otago research suggests.

Carbs during workouts help immune system recovery

February 16, 2017
Eating carbohydrates during intense exercise helps to minimise exercise-induced immune disturbances and can aid the body's recovery, QUT research has found.

Study of elite paralympic athletes supports benefits of exercise for children with cerebral palsy

May 6, 2016
For highly trained Paralympic athletes with cerebral palsy (CP), bone mineral density and other measures of body composition are similar to those of able-bodied adults of similar age, reports a study in the American Journal ...

Addressing the psychological demands on endurance athletes

December 6, 2016
What are the psychological demands commonly faced by endurance athletes? New research published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology has identified psychological stressors common to endurance athletes ...

Make no bones about it: The female athlete triad can lead to problems with bone health

July 1, 2015
Participation in sports by women and girls has increased from 310,000 individuals in 1971 to 3.37 million in 2010. At the same time, sports-related injuries among female athletes have skyrocketed. According to a new study ...

Recommended for you

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

June 21, 2018
Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline—from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health—but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.