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It is estimated that 37% of elite athletes from various sports have suffered from overtraining syndrome at some point in their careers. Overtraining syndrome results from an imbalance between excess training and inadequate recovery. Carbohydrates are capable of accelerating post exercise recovery. In addition to delaying fatigue by mechanisms involved in glucose metabolism, carbohydrates prevent exercise-induced immunosuppression and provides a less catabolic hormonal profile during and after the workout and promotes a greater rate of glycogen re-synthesis after training sessions. Carbohydrates with amino acids may reduce catabolic conditions that occur with excess training. Research published in the Journal of Amino Acids that drinking a combined carbohydrate drink with essential amino acids (EAA) after high-intensity exercise increased anabolic activity levels of IGF-1. The researchers had subjects perform a high-intensity exercise protocol, and subjects were assigned to receive either:
– a carbohydrate drink (dosage of .85 g/kg of lean body mass) or
-a carb-essential amino acid supplement (dosage of .5g/ kg of lean body mass for carbs and .35g/kg of lean body mass for EAAs).
At the end of the study, there were increases in GH across the entire group after high-intensity exercise but free IGF-I in the carb/EAA group only. These results indicate that slamming a high-quality carb/EAA drink immediately after exercise can increase IGF.
If that’s not enough, it seems that consuming carbs with EAA can also reduce muscle damage so you can recuperate faster. In one study, thirty-four male subjects completed three sets of eight reps at their 8RM in the following exercises: high pull, leg curl, standing overhead press, leg extension, lat pulldown, leg press, and bench press. Subjects consumed either:
– A carb-EAA sports drink or
-Placebo 30 minutes before exercise, immediately before exercise, halfway through the workout, and immediately afterward.
At the end of the study, cortisol responses were significantly elevated in the placebo group compared to the carb-EAA group at 24 hours post-exercise. Markers of muscle damage such as myoglobin and creatine kinase were significantly elevated in the placebo group compared to the carb-EAA group. There was no difference in exercise performance, but the carb and protein group had better markers for muscle recuperation, suggesting the use of a carb-EAA supplement during training reduces muscle damage and soreness.
In the newest study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, researchers reported that carbohydrates help prevent overtraining. Researchers had animals undergo 11 weeks of training (running) on a treadmill, and the last three weeks were designed to induce overtraining.
-One group was supplemented with carbohydrates,
-One group had no supplementation, and
-A third group remained inactive.
Performance tests were given before training and at the 8th and 11th training week. Food intake, body weight, testosterone, cortisol, and other markers of muscle damage was measured. At the end of the study, In the exercise group, there was a significant 32.6% performance. Also, at protocol completion, the exercise-carbohydrate group had a greater gastrocnemius weight than did the control group, which the exercise group did not. This suggests that carbohydrates and exercise reduced muscle mass loss.
Training caused anorexia, decreased testosterone in both exercise groups compared with the control group, with no influence of carbohydrate supplementation on these variables. Compared with the control group, the activity of anabolic pathway Akt-1 was higher in the exercise-carbohydrate group but not in the exercise group. Carbohydrate supplementation promoted a reduction in the performance decrement and maintained muscle mass in animals that had undergone overtraining protocols, which was accompanied by increased activity of the anabolic signaling pathway Akt-1.
The most interesting finding of the study was that carbohydrate supplementation was able to prevent loss of muscle mass during overtraining. The author suspected the protective function of carbohydrates could be attributed to increased glycogen storage due to more food consumption in rats supplemented with carbohydrates. The author also suspected the increased activity of Akt31, one of the key enzymes involved in muscle protein synthesis was increased in supplemented animals, indicating maintenance of anabolic and anti catabolic activity.
Caio Victor Coutinho de Oliveira, Carlos Vinícius Barbosa, Nayara Moreira Massa, Reabias de Andrade Pereira, Gustavo da Silva Félix, Jailane de Souza Aquino, Edilamar Menezes de Oliveira, Alexandre Sérgio Silva. Carbohydrate supplementation attenuates decrement in performance in overtrained rats. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2016, 41:76-82,
Foster, E., Fisher, G., Sartin, J., Elsasser, T., Wu, G., Cowarn, W., Pascoe, D. Acute Regulation of IGF-1 by Alterations in Post-Exercise Macronutrients. Amino Acids. February 2011. 40(2).
Armstrong, L., and VanHeest, J. 2002. The unknown mechanism of the overtraining syndrome: clues from depression and psychoneuroimmunology. Sport Med. 32(3): 185–209.
Alghannam, A.F. 2011. Carbohydrate – protein ingestion improves subsequent running capacity towards the end of a football specific intermittent exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr 414 Metab. 757(36): 748–57.
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