Speeding up recovery after exercise

New research from Food for Health Ireland

At the forefront of improving health, wellness and quality of life through world-class food innovation, Food for Health Ireland (FHI) announces the start of a new study to explore if a unique dairy-based protein ingredient will lead to a faster recovery after exercise.

Eating a combination of carbohydrate and protein sources soon after exercise is seen as the optimal recovery meal because this provides both glucose (sugar) and amino acids to support recovery and repair.

However, the type of protein can also affect the insulin response to the meal, and understanding how insulin works and how it can be manipulated during recovery can pay enormous dividends for athletes. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood glucose levels and pathways of muscle growth, and has the potential to speed recovery and build lean body mass.

Scientists based at University College Dublin are currently investigating a dairy-based protein that has been predigested to form (what is known as a hydrolysate) to see if it will enhance the insulin response and lead to a faster recovery compared with other protein and carbohydrate drinks.

Dr Brendan Egan, FHI UCD and lead investigator on the study explains: 'Exercise by its very nature induces a form of stress on the body, which requires restorative processes. These include the recovery of fuel stores, repair of damaged muscle, restoration of fluid and electrolyte balances, lactate removal, and inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses.'

'Two main processes, which are the subject of much research and directly influenced by nutrient intakes during recovery from exercise and sports performance are the replenishment of muscle fuel stores, and the repair, growth and remodelling of muscle.'

Dr Egan describes how intense exercise damages muscle necessitating the repair and remodelling is central to training adaptation, and that optimising the recovery is paramount to sports nutrition strategies. He points to how research has evolved with several key nutrition strategies for recovery been established, primarily focusing on the influential effects of the timing of meals, and the composition of nutrients.

Our new study will focus on taking advantage of manipulating the post-exercise nutrition profile and insulin activity, so athletes or recreational exercisers can optimise muscle recovery and achieve significant improvements in subsequent performance.'

Jens Bleiel, CEO, says: 'FHI aims to identify bioactive ingredients that can be derived from milk, ensure that any components found satisfy real consumer needs and accelerate their commercialisation. The sports nutrition market has a lot of potential for novel ingredients with proven health benefits.'

'Globally, we know there is a demand for new and innovative products in this area. This is a very exciting research project which will help to address consumer needs for products delivering optimal energy and building endurance,' commented Conor Galvin, Head of Strategic Development, Dairygold, one of the funders of FHI.

For more information about the role of dairy in recovery from exercise and sports performance, visit the ebook written by Dr Egan and produced by FHI and the National Dairy Council (NDC).