MATAWAN, NJ — Whether protein is needed in a sports drink may depend on the results an exerciser is seeking.

A Gatorade-funded study performed by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, found that adding protein to a sports drink won't make a person race faster. However, a study funded by PacificHealth Laboratories Inc., which makes Accelerade Sports Drink, found that a protein-containing sports drink was more effective in rehydrating athletes than a conventional sports drink or water.

The study by Gatorade (which does not include protein) tested a non-protein sports drink to a protein sports drink and water. The study found that sports drinks improved the performance of cyclists tested compared to a placebo drink, but no additional benefit of protein supplementation existed.

“Previous studies that suggested protein was beneficial used ‘ride to exhaustion’ tests that do not resemble normal athletic competition,” says Martin Gibala, an associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University.

However, the study by the makers of Accelerade Sports Drink, which contains protein, found that protein in a sports drink was beneficial for rehydration. The study measured the effectiveness of a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink, a carbohydrate-protein-electrolyte sports drink and water after subjects lost 2.5 percent of body weight through exercise-induced sweat loss. The carbohydrate-protein-electrolyte sports drink rehydrated athletes 15 percent better than the carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink and 40 percent better than water.

“The results clearly disprove the myth that adding protein to a sports drink negatively impacts rehydration,” says Dr. John Seifert, associate professor in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at St. Cloud State University and principal study investigator.