Cycling Time Trial Performance May Be Impaired by Whey Protein and L-Alanine Intake During Prolonged Exercise

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Previous studies reported that adding protein (PRO) to carbohydrate (CHO) solutions enhances endurance performance. The ergogenic effect may be a function of additional protein/amino acid calories, but this has not been examined. In addition, although supplemental L-alanine (ALA) is readily oxidized during exercise, the subsequent impact on metabolism and prolonged endurance performance is unknown. The purpose of this investigation was to independently gauge the impact of whey PRO hydrolysate and ALA supplementation on performance and various physiological parameters. Eight cyclists (age: 22.3 ± 5.6 yr, weight: 70.0 ± 8.0 kg, VO2max: 59.4 ± 4.9 ml·kg−1·min−1) performed 120 min of constant-load cycling (55% of peak power) followed by a 30-km time trial (TT) under placebo (PLA), PRO, and ALA conditions. Magnitude-based qualitative inferences were applied to evaluate treatment differences and data are presented as percent difference between treatments ± 90% confidence limit. Both ALA (–2.1 ± 2.7%) and PRO intake (–2.1 ± 2.2%) possibly harmed performance compared with PLA. Of interest, heart rate was possibly lower with ALA than PLA at 20– (–2.7 ± 3.4%) and 120-min (–1.7 ± 2.9%) of constant-load cycling and the serum interleukin-6 (IL-6) response to 120 min of cycling was likely attenuated with PRO compared with PLA (PLA, 6.6 ± 3.7 fold vs. PRO, 2.9 ± 1.8 fold). In addition, blood glucose levels were lower with PRO than PLA at 20– (–8.8 ± 2.3%; very likely) and 120-min (–4.9 ± 4.6%; likely) of constant-load cycling. Although ALA intake appears to lower HR and PRO ingestion dampens the IL-6 response to exercise, the ingestion of PRO (without CHO) or ALA does not enhance, and may actually impair, performance following prolonged cycling.

The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Address author correspondence to Nicholas Luden at ludennd@jmu.edu.