Cereal and Milk Is the New Sports Supplement, Says Study

A bowl of whole grain cereal is as good as a sports drink for recovery after exercise. Research published in BioMed Central's open access Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has shown that the readily available and relatively inexpensive breakfast food is as effective as popular, carbohydrate-based "sports drinks."

Exercise physiologist Lynne Kammer, from The University of Texas at Austin, led a group of researchers who investigated the post-exercise physiological effects of the foods. Kammer and her team studied 12 trained cyclists, 8 male and 4 female. In contrast to many sports nutrition studies, however, the exercise protocol was designed to reflect a typical exercise session. After a warm-up period, the subjects cycled for two hours at a comfortable work rate, rather than the more frequently seen test-to-exhaustion.

"Our goal was to compare whole grain cereal plus milk--which are ordinary foods--and sports drinks, after moderate exercise," said Kammer. "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."

The researchers concluded that, for amateur athletes and moderately physically active individuals who are trying to keep in shape, popping into the kitchen for a quick bowl of whole-grain cereal with a splash of skimmed milk may be a smarter move than investing in a high-priced sports drink.

Kammer and her colleagues are scientists in the College of Education's Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. This study was supported by General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.