Most competitive athletes nowadays are engaged in some type of periodised training program. Such programs typically include occasional periods of high intensity training. While such periods are necessary to optimise training adaptations and maximise performance, they come with the risk of increasing an athlete’s chance of infection and impeding recovery. Nutrition and supplements are thought to be key variables that can attenuate an athlete’s risk of infection during periods of high intensity training. Consuming adequate carbohydrate in close proximity to exercise is a proven strategy for offsetting the risk of infection, while protein is the other emerging macronutrient of interest. In particularly, a number of recent studies have measured the effect of whey protein hydrolysate in conjunction with carbohydrate on recovery from endurance exercise.
As such, researchers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden recently completed a study where they compared the effect of pre-exercise protein consumption and post-exercise protein+carb consumption with isocaloric carbohydrate drinks ingested at the same time. The researchers recruited eighteen elite orienteerer’s from Denmark of national/international level and subjected them to a 1-week intensive training camp (which consisted of 13 sessions in total). The group was split in two, with half receiving a proprietary whey protein hydrolysate drink (at a dose of 0.3g per kg bodyweight) before each session in addition to a protein-carbohydrate drink (0.3g protein per kilogram and 1g carbohydrate per kilogram bodyweight) after each session. The other half of subjects received isocaloric and time matched carbohydrate drinks.
Throughout the 1-week trial, subjects were regularly screened for their psychological sense of performance capacity and motivation. They were also subject to a 4km run test before and after the intervention. Biochemical measures included creatine kinase (popular marker of muscle damage), lactate dehydrogenase (another marker of muscle damage) and cortisol (stress hormone).
At the conclusion of the strenuous 1-week training camp, only the groups receiving the whey protein hydrolysate before and after exercise showed significantly lower levels of creatine kinase. On a psychological level, athletes getting the protein also showed less of a reduction in sense of performance capacity than athletes who only received carbohydrate. Finally, performance wise, orienteering athletes receiving whey protein showed a strong trend towards improvements in 4km running times. Athletes only receiving carbohydrate tended to show a decline in 4km running performance, as shown in the graph below.
The particular whey protein hydrolysate used in the study was a novel one, not yet available in Australia. With a brand name of HYDRO.365 and produced in Denmark by a company called Arla Food Ingredients; it comes with a relatively high degree of hydrolysis and a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (21.7g per 100g). This study adds weight to the body of evidence suggesting that quality whey protein hydrolysates with a high degree of hydrolysis provide additional benefits over normal whey protein for recovery and performance.
Hansen M et al. Effect of whey protein hydrolysate on performance and recovery of top-class orienteering runners. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2014;