DR. MARK TARNOPOLSKY, a muscle physiology researcher at McMaster University in Canada and a physician, knows all about the exhortations by supplement makers and many nutritionists on what to eat and when to eat it for optimal performance.
The idea is that you are supposed to consume carbohydrates and proteins in a magical four-to-one ratio during endurance events like a long run or bike ride, and right after. The belief is that such nutritional diligence will improve your performance and speed your recovery.
Dr. Tarnopolsky, a 45-year-old trail runner and adventure racer, might be expected to seize upon the nutritional advice. (He won the Ontario trail running series in 2004, 2005 and 2006.)
So might his colleague, Stuart Phillips, a 41-year-old associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster who played rugby for Canada's national team and now plays it for fun. He also runs, lifts weights and studies nutrition and performance.
In fact, neither researcher regularly uses energy drinks or energy bars. They just drink water, and eat real food. Dr. Tarnopolsky drinks fruit juice; Dr. Phillips eats fruit. And neither one feels a need to ingest a special combination of protein and carbohydrates within a short window of time, a few hours after exercising.
There are grains of truth to the nutrition advice, they and other experts say. But, as so often happens in sports, those grains of truth have been expanded into dictums and have formed the basis for an entire industry in "recovery" products.