Fast food
Fast food after exercise is marginally better than supplements when it comes to post-workout recovery. Reuters

After an intense workout session, most athletes seek a speedy recovery and opt for energy bars, drinks and protein shakes to provide supplementary boosts to their body.

However a new study has found that indulging in fast food after exercise is marginally better than supplements when it comes to post-workout recovery.

Graduate student Michael Cramer from the University of Montana decided to put the multi-billion dollar sports supplementary industry to the test and invited 11 well-trained male athletes to participate in the experiment.

All participants fasted for 12 hours, followed by an intense 90-minute workout. After the session, half of the athletes were fed pancakes, orange juice and a hash brown while the others were given energy drinks, chews and organic peanut butter. A couple of hours later, the fast food group chowed down on hamburgers, chips and Coca Cola whilst their clean-eating counterparts had more power bars and protein products.

After another two hours, all 11 men rode 20km (12.4 miles) on an exercise bike. Both the supplement and fast food meals were almost equal in calories, carbohydrates and protein, although the fast food contained a lot more sodium and slightly more fat.

A fortnight later, the men repeated the tests but this time consumed the opposite to what they had the first time.

Energy in the muscles is higher with fast food

During the test analysis, Cramer found that the men completed the time trials just as quickly as they had previously, but energy in the muscles was actually higher for the fast food group than the supplementary group.

"These data are novel in demonstrating effective glycogen recovery benefits from fast food menu items comparable to products most often advertised to enhance recovery," Cramer wrote in his study.

"In addition, these data suggest that a wide range of appropriate nutritional strategies can be implemented to initiate exercise recovery and prepare for subsequent bouts of performance."

Despite the results, Cramer was careful to avoid claiming that fast food is good for you.