AUSTIN, TEXAS — Eating a bowl of whole grain cereal immediately after exercising may be just as beneficial for recovery as a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink, according to new research from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin.

As part of the study, which was supported by the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, researchers at the University of Texas studied 12 trained cyclists or triathletes, eight men and four women, doing a typical workout. After a warm-up period, the subjects cycled for two hours at a normal work rate, after which they were given a muscle biopsy and then told to consume either a sports drink with 78.5 grams of carbohydrates or a whole grain cereal with 77 grams of carbohydrates, 19.5 grams of protein and 2.7 grams of fat. A second muscle biopsy was taken approximately 60 minutes after the drink or cereal was consumed. In addition to the biopsy, 5 ml of blood was drawn at the end of exercise, and at 15, 30 and 60 minutes after treatment.

"Our goal was to compare whole grain cereal plus milk — which are ordinary foods — and sports drinks, after moderate exercise," said Lynne Kammer, exercise physiologist and lead author of the study. "We wanted to understand their relative effects on glycogen repletion and muscle protein synthesis for the average individual. We found that glycogen repletion, or the replenishment of immediate muscle fuel, was just as good after whole grain cereal consumption and that some aspects of protein synthesis were actually better.

"Cereal and non-fat milk are a less expensive option than sports drinks. The milk provides a source of easily digestible and high quality protein, which can promote protein synthesis and training adaptations, making this an attractive recovery option for those who refuel at home."