How to read science articles

Posted admin Articles, Newsletters

This past week, I tweeted out an article about a study that compared recovery times of fast food (like McDonalds) and supplements labeled as recovery products like protein bars and drinks. The study concluded that these recovery supplements had no significant edge over fast food for recovery. In fact, fast food had a slight edge at replenishing glycogen stores.

Response to this article was as fast and furious as the most recent movie blockbuster of the same name. It was bad science, said critiques, and as coaches it was malpractice to even think about sending this out to people who trust us for reliable, bias free ways to improve your swim and training.

Before you unsubscribe from our newsletter and associate us with supplement-pushing, snake oil coaching groups, let me plead my case for the purpose of sharing this article and in doing so give you some hints on how to read exercise science articles with a critical eye.

If you read the headline and immediately went out to buy a double-double at In and Out to help you recover from one of our killer workouts, you would be mistaken. I found this article interesting not because it is saying fast food is as good as supplements for recovery supplements but that they are as bad as fast food. Of note, the study did not include a “clean eating group” like coconut water, alkalizing vegetables, quick digesting plant based carbs, eggs, or a clean whey protein. They rather wanted to see how processed supplements compared to processed junk.

In reading these types of articles, you should definitely keep the conclusions in mind and occasionally read between the statistics to see if you are being mislead. Another interesting detail to note was the sample size of the group, which like all exercise physiology studies, was quite small. So will this diet work for you? It is hard to say because of how few people took part.

So what is the take away and our advice? You are better off with clean carbs with as little processing as possible (think sushi rice, sweet potato, and chestnuts), a small about of protein like chicken breasts, eggs, a grass-fed, sugarless (or artificial sugarless) whey protein or plant based protein, and natural hydration like coconut water. If you learned anything from this article, pass on both the fast food and the recovery supplements.

Train hard
Coach Chris and Kev