But oddly enough, burgers and fries may aid post-workout recovery just as effectively as pricey energy bars, protein powders and sports drinks, according to recent University of Montana findings. To come to this conclusion, 11 elite male athletes fasted for 12 hours and then completed a rigorous 90-minute treadmill workout. Afterwards, half of the subjects were given a Gatorade, a PowerBar and Cytomax "energy" powder. The other athletes were fed hotcakes, hash browns, hamburgers, fries and a soda. Two hours after the subjects finished eating, they rode 12 miles on stationary bikes and then underwent a series of medical tests. A week later, the athletes repeated the experiment, but were fed opposite diets.
Despite consuming vastly different meals, they both contained the same amount of calories, carbohydrates and protein. This is why the researcher found it so interesting that when tested for glycogen levels, the fast food group had more of it in their muscles than their counterparts. Why is this important? Glycogen, the body's most easily accessible source of energy, is typically depleted after a workout, so replenishing the stores post-pump can boost future workout performance and aid muscle recovery—both key components to sculpting a lean figure.
There are some caveats though: The study was small and only looked at fast foods’ effect on elite athletes, so it’s hard to say if the average gym rat will see improved results from a post-workout cheeseburger. Until we know more, consuming some lean, muscle-rebuilding protein (like a low-fat Greek yogurt) and some glycogen-replenishing carbs after your sweat session (like a piece of fruit) is likely your best bet. The exciting takeaway here is that the occasional post-pump burger and fries won't likely do much harm to your waistline. In fact, it may just help you to hit the gym harder the next day, which can boost your calorie burn and aid your long-term weight loss efforts.