A team of researchers from the University of Taipei in Taiwan and the Competitor Institute of Sports Nutrition in Beijing recruited 15 elite basketball players between 18 and 20 years old for the study. The participants completed a one-hour cycling test at 70 percent VO2 max. VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that a person can use during intense or maximal exercise. Right after the cycling test, they were given either a carbohydrate-based drink formulated with high-protein or an isocaloric low-protein drink. They then rested for two hours before doing another cycling test at 80 percent VO2 max.
The research team found that the participants who belonged to the high-protein group recovered faster after the cycling tests. In addition, their cycling time was 16 percent longer than that of the group which consumed a low-protein drink. Their consumption of the high-protein supplement resulted in improved cerebral oxygen saturation during the second cycling test and an increase in their blood oxygen levels.
"It is mechanistically unclear how protein supplementation during post-exercise recovery acutely increased oxygen saturation during high-intensity exercise," wrote the research team. "One possibility accounted for the increased oxygen saturation during exercise could be associated with better endothelial adaptation after more protein supplementation. An alternative possibility accounted for the hemodynamic adaptation after high-protein supplementation is an improved brain mitochondria function."
Overall, increasing protein content in a carbohydrate-based supplementation after an exercise recovery dramatically improved oxygen levels in the brain without requiring too much blood during the next high-intensity exercise. The findings of the study were published in the journal Nutrition.
After your workout, you have to address the three Rs of recovery: Rehydrate, refuel, and rebuild. You have to drink fluids to replace what you sweat and refuel by eating carbs to replace muscle glycogen stores. To rebuild muscle, you need to consume protein. Eating protein-rich foods will also help you recover faster and prevent burnout and symptoms of overtraining. (Related: High protein diet good for your health, good for weight loss, says startling new research.)
Here are five high-protein foods you can eat for optimal recovery:
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