3 years ago

Post-exercise Ingestion of Carbohydrate, Protein and Water: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis for Effects on Subsequent Athletic Performance

Danielle McCartney, Christopher Irwin, Ben Desbrow



Athletes may complete consecutive exercise sessions with limited recovery time between bouts (e.g. ≤ 4 h). Nutritional strategies that optimise post-exercise recovery in these situations are therefore important.


This two-part review investigated the effect of consuming carbohydrate (CHO) and protein with water (W) following exercise on subsequent athletic (endurance/anaerobic exercise) performance.

Data Sources

Studies were identified by searching the online databases SPORTDiscus, PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus.

Study Eligibility Criteria and Interventions

Investigations that measured endurance performance (≥ 5 min duration) ≤ 4 h after a standardised exercise bout (any type) under the following control vs. intervention conditions were included: Part 1: W vs. CHO ingested with an equal volume of W (CHO + W); and, Part 2: CHO + W vs. protein (PRO) ingested with CHO and an equal volume of W (PRO + CHO + W), where CHO or energy intake was matched.

Study Appraisal and Synthesis Methods

Publications were examined for bias using the Rosendal scale. Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regression analyses were conducted to evaluate intervention efficacy.


The quality assessment yielded a Rosendal score of 63 ± 9% (mean ± standard deviation). Part 1: 45 trials (n = 486) were reviewed. Ingesting CHO + W (102 ± 50 g CHO; 0.8 ± 0.6 g CHO kg−1 h−1) improved exercise performance compared with W (1.6 ± 0.7 L); %Δ mean power output = 4.0, 95% confidence interval 3.2–4.7 (I 2 = 43.9). Improvement was attenuated when participants were ‘Fed’ (a meal 2–4 h prior to the initial bout) as opposed to ‘Fasted’ (p = 0.012). Part 2: 13 trials (n = 125) were reviewed. Ingesting PRO + CHO + W (35 ± 26 g PRO; 0.5 ± 0.4 g PRO kg−1) did not affect exercise performance compared with CHO + W (115 ± 61 g CHO; 0.6 ± 0.3 g CHO·kg body mass−1 h−1; 1.2 ± 0.6 L); %Δ mean power output = 0.5, 95% confidence interval − 0.5 to 1.6 (I 2 = 72.9).


Athletes with limited time for recovery between consecutive exercise sessions should prioritise CHO and fluid ingestion to enhance subsequent athletic performance.

PROSPERO Registration Number


Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-017-0800-5

DOI: 10.1007/s40279-017-0800-5

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