Sports Drinks With Protein: Good or bad idea?

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses if sports drinks with protein improve performance in runners, cyclists, OCR, and other endurance athletes to a greater extent when compared to sports drinks that contain no protein.

Video Transcription:

Do Runners, Cyclists, OCR, And Other Endurance Athletes Need A Sports Drink With Protein?

Good morning, family of fastest. Matt Mosman, the chief endurance officer over at EndurElite here today to talk to you about if it is a good idea to consume a sports drink that contains protein in it. Let's just see how it works first. Hamburger, that looks delicious. Shake it up. Oh tricked ya, there's no way in God's green earth that I'm gonna drink that, but coming in 2019, new EndurElite product called Beef Carb, carbs, electrolytes hamburger. Preorders opening up in two weeks.

So we're really gonna talk about is if sports drinks that contain protein are more beneficial to consume during endurance exercise than a carb-based sports drink alone. Now we're gonna look at this from two different ways. First, we're gonna look at it from a performance perspective and then we're gonna look at it from a recovery perspective, and it's all gonna revolve around drinking either the protein carb sports drink, or just the carb-only sports drink during endurance exercise. Not before. Not after.

Now I'm gonna really try to keep my personal bias out of this one and really rely on the research to give you a good answer here because I know there are probably a lot of you right now that take a sports drink that have a protein in it, and if it's working for you, I don't want to be a Debbie Downer just based on me throwing out broscience and opinions. So I'm really gonna rely on the research here to give you the good answer.

What's The Theory Behind Consuming A Sports Drink With Protein?

So the whole theory about including protein in a carb-based sports drink is that it will improve performance. It's gonna reduce muscle protein breakdown, that it can be relied on for energy during endurance exercise. So those are kind of some of the theories out there. And honestly, the research is a little bit debated on this topic which one is superior, but on the same token too, some of these research studies are really flawed. So let's just get into it right away here. Let's look at the first research study that showed consuming protein in conjunction or having protein in a carb-based sports drink improves performance.

Can Sports Drinks With Protein Improve Endurance Performance?

So for this study, the researchers took basically a bunch of cyclists and they had them exercise until exhaustion. One group got a carb-based sports drink only, and then one group got a carb/protein-based sports drink, and they had them cycle to exhaustion. And when the researchers crunched all the numbers, they found out that the carb/protein sports drink led to an increased performance by about 9% compared to the carbohydrate-only group. But there is definitely some flaws with this study.

The first being is the carb/protein sports drink group actually received about 25% more calories than the carbohydrate group. So those 25% extra calories could have led to the increased performance than just the protein by itself. The second issue with this study is time to exhaustion doesn't really mimic real-life situations where you're out racing on a mountain bike or running.

So those are really the critical flaws of that particular study, and other studies have been done like this before too showing carbs/protein-based sports drinks are superior, but the flaw comes back to these drinks always containing more calories when compared to just the group that's receiving the carbohydrate alone.

Are Sports Drinks With Protein Superior To Carb Only Sports Drinks?

So that's kind of the first study looking at carb-based sports drink compared to carb/protein-based sports drink. Now let's look at the other side of the research, and again I'm gonna try to keep my personal bias out there, but the majority of the research shows that a carb-based sports drink compared to a carb/protein-based sports drink, this one on this side, the carb-based protein sports drink doesn't really offer any other benefits compared to the carb-based sports drink alone.

So there's a ton of studies out there on this and I'm not actually gonna even get into any of these because I could go on and on and on, and on. But the one I will quote, it was a meta-analysis of 11 different papers that compared carb-based sports drinks by itself to carb/protein based sports drink, and the majority of these meta-analyses shows that the carb protein-based sports drink did not offer any benefit over the carbohydrate sports drink alone.

Why Endurance Athletes Should Not Consume A Sports Drink With Protein During Exercise

So that's just a really quick look at the research. Now I am gonna bring some personal bias in here now, and here's my issue with including a protein in a carb-based sports drink. One, intact proteins like soy protein or whey protein, other intact proteins when you include it in a carb-based sports drink can cause stomach issues in some people, like major GI issues like bloating, cramping, in some cases vomiting. So that's problem number one I have with that.

Problem number two is when you include a protein in a carb-based sports drink the body has to work harder to break down that protein, and what that requires is shunting blood away from the muscles to help with the digestion of this protein, where you want to keep the blood to the muscles to help you keep on exercising longer and stronger.

And really, well I have four problems. The third problem is some people have some serious allergic reactions to intact proteins like whey and soy. Some may be very subtle where you don't even notice but some can be pretty severe, going back to that GI distress and stomach issues.

And then the fourth issue I have is if exercise is under five hours, I don't think you really need to include protein in a carb-based sports drink. If you're getting enough carbs, so like 30 to 90 grams on an hourly basis during endurance training or racing, that's gonna provide the majority of the energy to fuel your muscular contractions, and again to keep on exercising or racing longer and harder. Protein is gonna contribute very, very little to energy production during endurance exercise lasting less than five hours. And I would say even going beyond there I probably would not be consuming protein in sports drink form when the races get longer. There's just too many...or the potential exists for too many problems to occur and I really don't know if you would need the protein anyways.

When It Might Be Beneficial To Consume A Sports Drink With Protein

Now, it will help reduce muscle protein breakdown during the exercise but then you're just looking at total recovery aspect. So if you're sipping on a carb-based sports drink with protein in it during endurance exercise, I mean you might be able to recover more quickly after your race or training is done, but that's a big if and I don't know of any research that demonstrates that at all.

Now I'm gonna throw a bone to some of these companies that include a protein within their carbohydrate sports drink. During multi-day events, say like the Tour de France, it might be beneficial from time-to-time to drink a carb/protein-based sports drink totally in terms of a recovery aspect and bouncing back quicker the next day. But if you're just doing a race on one day or a training session and you're one and done, I would totally save the protein for afterwards in the form of a meal or a whey protein shake.

The Bottom Line On Sports Drink With Protein

So what's really the take-home points of this video? Take-home points is carb/protein-based sports drink really offer no big additional benefits in terms of performance compared to a carb-based sports drink alone. Point number two is carb-based protein drinks have the potential to cause a lot of problems during racing and training. So I really would avoid them. Big point number three is in most situations I would save the protein until the race or the training session is done.

So that is about all I have for today, my endurance friends. If you have a friend who takes a carb/protein-based sports drink, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition, and supplementation, please subscribe to our YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and our Facebook training and nutrition club page. And until next time my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.