Q&A with Lyle McDonald, author of The Protein Book
This question is aimed particularly for sprinters who also do a moderate amount of weight training.
Photo credits: Gatorade
What is the best protein recovery drink for sprinters who have to wait 1-2 hours until they got home from practice to eat a solid home-cooked meal? There are a lot of opinions out there, ranging from no carbs (Phil Campbell), 1:1 protein:carb ratio, 1:2 (John Berardi), or even 1:4 (Jacqueline Berning). The ultimate goal is proper recovery and performance.
A: Lyle McDonald:
A lot of it would of course depend on the nature of the workout, low volume speed work is going to be different from more extensive types of training. But, as a whole it’s pretty clear that sprint and power athletes don’t usually burn nearly the calories or carbs that endurance athletes; unfortunately a lot of people tend to take carbohydrate recommendations from research following exhaustive endurance training and apply them uncritically to sprint/power athletes. But let’s be realistic, a short sprinter doing block starts is going maybe 3 seconds, 60m runs is 6 seconds. Even a SE run of 300m is maybe 30 seconds. Where is the glycogen depletion coming from, how many carbs are really being burned. The answer is not very many. Not none mind you, but certainly not many.
At the same time, the research is really abundantly clear that the combination of carbs and protein is superior (for a variety of reasons) to either alone. I don’t think protein only post-workout is ideal.
My own recommendations in The Protein Book range from about 1:1 to perhaps 3:1 (I recommend 0.3-0.5 g/kg protein and anywhere from 0.3-1.5 g/kg of carbs following training) but that’s because those were recommendations for power athletes as a whole and that covers a lot of ground; power athletes can train very very differently depending on the sport. Even within sprinting, there can be differences in what they need depending on the specifics of their training.
For example, a sprint athlete who is doing more hypertrophy work in the gym (in an accumulation or prep phase) is going to have different requirements than one working primarily on short sprints (or doing more neural work in the weight room) and not much else. The same would go for different distances of sprinting, a 400/800m guy (and I realize that may be stretching the definition of sprinting a bit) typically engages in more extensive work than a 100/200m guy. The 400/800m guy may be towards the higher end of my range than the 100/200m.
But, in my opinion, 4:1 is probably excessive and no carbs at all is going to the other end extreme. Somewhere between those two extremes, depending on the situation should be the sweet spot.