On April 12th, around 9:45 Dr. Eades, co-author of Protein Power tweeted this:
Muscle inflammation after resistance exercise is greater with high-carb recovery diet. Lift, eat carbs, hurt. http://bit.ly/a9RZwU
It caught my attention so I checked it out. I always like links to research. I’m a nerd.
If you haven’t already clicked the link above, the study Dr. Eades referred us to is “Enhanced inflammation with high carbohydrate intake during recovery from eccentric exercise” published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. Dr. Eades’ should have read the study more closely. His short synopsis is not only incomplete, it’s incorrect.
The study breaks down like this. Two diets, dubbed high and low carbohydrate (CHO), were tested for their ability to affect the immune response to eccentric exercise when ingested during the recovery period. The researches measured glucose, insulin, tumor necrosis factor-a, IL-1B, IL-6, and C-reactive protein as well as perceived muscle soreness. The high CHO diet elicited higher perceived muscle soreness, hence Dr. Eades’ proclamation “Lift. Eat Carbs. Hurt.”, although soreness was elevated with both diets compared to pre-exercise values.
At this point it would seem obvious that the high CHO diet resulted in more soreness post-exercise and you could draw the conclusion that carbohydrates induce muscle soreness, right? Wrong. In order to keep the diets at the same calorie level while manipulating CHO, protein and fat were adjusted as well. While the high CHO diet contained, as a percentage of total calories, 75/15/10, the low CHO diet contained of 6/70/24 as carbohydrates/protein/fat.
Do you see the difference in the amount of protein? You know, the stuff that’s been shown to REDUCE MUSCLE SORENESS when increased in the diet. (Chen) In other words, the high CHO diet didn’t induce muscle soreness, it was merely inferior at blunting muscle soreness because of its low protein content.
Now, take into account not just the macronutrient quality of the diet, but the quality of the foods consumed.
Low CHO meal – Turkey, cheese and nuts
High CHO meal – Corn flakes, 2% milk, apple juice and CLIF bars.
Ouch. So the low carb diet provides not only more protein, but better quality protein with a better amino acid profile! You know, amino acids, the other things shown to reduce DOMS with supplementation during the post-exercise period? (Jackman)
Now, please understand. I’ve only pointed to a few studies. I’m not making a recommendation that BCAAs or protein will diminish DOMS because much more research with similar design needs to be completed. Frankly, the inconsistency between study design and the variability of the outcomes I found while looking into this render the research inconclusive.
And what can we all learn from this? We learn that even the great doctors we’ve come to trust can jump to conclusions when they get excited about a study that helps support ideas they’re passionate about. When this starts happening, find a different source for information.
Depner CM, Kirwan RD, Frederickson SJ, Miles MP. Enhanced inflammation with high carbohydrate intake during recovery from eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010
Chen SC, Davis MJ, Mahoney S, et al. Carboydrate-protein beverage improves recovery from muscle damage induced by downhill running. Med Sci Sports Ex. 2009:41(5);509
Jackman SR, Witard OC, Jeukendrup AE, Tipton KD. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Ex. 2010