Is McDonald’s an Effective Food for Workout Recovery?

New study challenges the effectiveness of sport food products

When it comes to fast food like McDonald’s fries and burgers, most of us consider the meal an unhealthy treat, a bit of food to be enjoyed every now and then with no real nutritional value. While fast food may not be the healthiest option out there, this new study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism may challenge the idea that this type of food is a total waste of calories.

The study compared two sets of recovery food: fast foods like hash browns, a hamburger, fries and coke to sports foods like Gatorade, Clif Shot Bloks and PowerBar products. All meals were roughly 70 percent carbohydrate and 10 percent protein and both sets of food line-ups had nearly equal amounts of calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

The researchers tested 11 athletes using two exercise tests on a stationary bike. After the initial tough workout, the athlete’s glycogen levels were measured and then they rested and ate one of the two sets of recovery food. After four hours and another glycogen test, the athletes performed another time trial on the bike to confirm the test results. Researchers tested a wide array of variables like cholesterol, performance on the bike and glycogen levels and they found that fast food from McDonald’s was just as efficient at restoring glycogen levels (workout recovery) as sport foods that are manufactured for that purpose.

Through tests, researchers found that both sets of food caused very similar glycogen levels, glucose levels, insulin levels, cholesterol levels and, perhaps most importantly, similar performance on the bike. The researchers say their findings open the door to the possibility of using other foods, that may be cheaper, for workout recovery.