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Open access

Protein Recommendations for Weight Loss in Elite Athletes: A Focus on Body Composition and Performance

Amy J. Hector and Stuart M. Phillips

There exists a large body of scientific evidence to support protein intakes in excess of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) (0.8 g protein/kg/day) to promote the retention of skeletal muscle and loss of adipose tissue during dietary energy restriction. Diet-induced weight loss with as low as possible ratio of skeletal muscle to fat mass loss is a situation we refer to as high-quality weight loss. We propose that high-quality weight loss is often of importance to elite athletes in order to maintain their muscle (engine) and shed unwanted fat mass, potentially improving athletic performance. Current recommendations for protein intakes during weight loss in athletes are set at 1.6–2.4 g protein/kg/day. However, the severity of the caloric deficit and type and intensity of training performed by the athlete will influence at what end of this range athletes choose to be. Other considerations regarding protein intake that may help elite athletes achieve weight loss goals include the quality of protein consumed, and the timing and distribution of protein intake throughout the day. This review highlights the scientific evidence used to support protein recommendations for high-quality weight loss and preservation of performance in athletes. Additionally, the current knowledge surrounding the use of protein supplements, branched chain amino acids (BCAA), β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate (HMB), and other dietary supplements with weight loss claims will be discussed.

Free access

How Skepticism (not Cynicism) Can Raise Scientific Standards and Reform the Health and Wellness Industry

Nicholas B. Tiller and Stuart M. Phillips

Restricted access

A Critical Examination of Dietary Protein Requirements, Benefits, and Excesses in Athletes

Stuart M. Phillips, Daniel R. Moore, and Jason E. Tang

There is likely no other dietary component that inspires as much debate, insofar as athletes are concerned, as protein. How much dietary protein is required, optimal, or excessive? Dietary guidelines from a variety of sources have settled on an adequate dietary protein intake for those over the age of 19 of ~0.8–0.9 g protein·kg body weight−1·d−1. According to U.S. and Canadian dietary reference intakes (33), the recommended allowance for protein of 0.8 g protein·kg−1·d−1 is “the average daily intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all [~98%] . . . healthy individuals” (p. 22). The panel also stated, “in view of the lack of compelling evidence to the contrary, no additional dietary protein is suggested for healthy adults undertaking resistance or endurance exercise” (33, p. 661). Currently, no group or groups of scientists involved in establishing dietary guidelines see a need for any statement that athletes or people engaging in regular physical activity require more protein than their sedentary counterparts. Popular magazines, numerous Web sites, trainers, and many athletes decry protein intakes even close to those recommended. Even joint position stands from policy-setting groups state that “protein recommendations for endurance athletes are 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg body weight per day, whereas those for resistance and strength-trained athletes may be as high as 1.6 to 1.7 g/kg body weight per day” (1, p. 1544). The divide between those setting dietary protein requirements and those who might be making practical recommendations for athletes appears substantial, but ultimately, most athletes indicate that they consume protein at levels beyond even the highest recommendations. Thus, one might conclude that any debate on protein “requirements” for athletes is inconsequential; however, a critical analysis of existing and new data reveals novel ideas and concepts that may represent some common ground between these apparently conflicted groups. The goal of this review was to provide a critical and thorough analysis of current data on protein requirements in an attempt to provide some guidance to athletes, trainers, coaches, and sport dietitians on athletes’ protein intake. In addition, an effort was made to clearly distinguish between “required” dietary protein, “optimal” intakes, and intakes that are likely “excessive,” perhaps not from the standpoint of health, but certainly from the standpoint of potentially compromised performance.

Open access

Celebrating the Professional Life of Professor Kevin D. Tipton (1961–2022)

Oliver C. Witard, Arny A. Ferrando, and Stuart M. Phillips

This invited editorial celebrates the distinguished professional life of Professor Kevin D. Tipton, who sadly passed away on January 9, 2022. Professor Tipton made an outstanding contribution to the scientific field of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism over an exceptional 30-year career. He dedicated his academic career to understanding the response of muscle protein metabolism to exercise and nutrition. The impact of his work is far-reaching with application to athletes in terms of promoting training adaptation, recovery, and performance, alongside clinical implications for injury management and healthy aging. Notable scientific contributions included the first in vivo human study to demonstrate the role of orally ingested essential amino acids in stimulating muscle protein synthesis during acute post-exercise recovery. This finding laid the foundation for future studies to interrogate the response of muscle protein synthesis to the ingestion of different protein types. Professor Tipton’s work also included investigating the maximally effective dose and timing (regarding exercise) of ingested protein for the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. Kevin will be remembered fondly by academics, applied scientists, and students across the sport nutrition and exercise metabolism community as a leading researcher in the field, a critical thinker, and an inspirational teacher. His mission was to educate the next generation of exercise scientists by sharing his distinct wealth of knowledge accrued over three decades. Above all else, Kevin was kind, generous (with his time and knowledge), honest, and incredibly social. He was a unique character and will be greatly missed among our community but certainly never forgotten.

Restricted access

Postexercise Dietary Protein Strategies to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Repair and Remodeling in Masters Endurance Athletes: A Review

Thomas M. Doering, Peter R. Reaburn, Stuart M. Phillips, and David G. Jenkins

Participation rates of masters athletes in endurance events such as long-distance triathlon and running continue to increase. Given the physical and metabolic demands of endurance training, recovery practices influence the quality of successive training sessions and, consequently, adaptations to training. Research has suggested that, after muscle-damaging endurance exercise, masters athletes experience slower recovery rates in comparison with younger, similarly trained athletes. Given that these discrepancies in recovery rates are not observed after non–muscle-damaging exercise, it is suggested that masters athletes have impairments of the protein remodeling mechanisms within skeletal muscle. The importance of postexercise protein feeding for endurance athletes is increasingly being acknowledged, and its role in creating a positive net muscle protein balance postexercise is well known. The potential benefits of postexercise protein feeding include elevating muscle protein synthesis and satellite cell activity for muscle repair and remodeling, as well as facilitating muscle glycogen resynthesis. Despite extensive investigation into age-related anabolic resistance in sedentary aging populations, little is known about how anabolic resistance affects postexercise muscle protein synthesis and thus muscle remodeling in aging athletes. Despite evidence suggesting that physical training can attenuate but not eliminate age-related anabolic resistance, masters athletes are currently recommended to consume the same postexercise dietary protein dose (approximately 20 g or 0.25 g/kg/meal) as younger athletes. Given the slower recovery rates of masters athletes after muscle-damaging exercise, which may be due to impaired muscle remodeling mechanisms, masters athletes may benefit from higher doses of postexercise dietary protein, with particular attention directed to the leucine content of the postexercise bolus.

Restricted access

Presleep α-Lactalbumin Consumption Does Not Improve Sleep Quality or Time-Trial Performance in Cyclists

Martin J. MacInnis, Christine E. Dziedzic, Emily Wood, Sara Y. Oikawa, and Stuart M. Phillips

We tested the hypothesis that presleep consumption of α-lactalbumin (LA), a fraction of whey with a high abundance of tryptophan, would improve indices of sleep quality and time-trial (TT) performance in cyclists relative to an isonitrogenous collagen peptide (CP) supplement lacking tryptophan. Using randomized, double-blind, crossover designs, cyclists consumed either 40 g of LA or CP 2 hr prior to sleep. In Study 1, six elite male endurance track cyclists (age 23 ± 6 years, V ˙ O 2 peak 70.2 ± 4.4 ml·kg−1·min−1) consumed a supplement for three consecutive evenings before each 4-km TT on a velodrome track, whereas in Study 2, six well-trained cyclists (one female; age 24 ± 5 years, V ˙ O 2 peak 66.9 ± 8.3 ml·kg−1·min−1) consumed a supplement the evening before each 4-km TT on a stationary cycle ergometer. Indices of sleep quality were assessed with wrist-based actigraphy. There were no differences between the CP and LA supplements in terms of total time in bed, total sleep time, or sleep efficiency in Study 1 (LA: 568 ± 71 min, 503 ± 67 min, 88.3% ± 3.4%; CP: 546 ± 30 min, 479 ± 35 min, 87.8% ± 3.1%; p = .41, p = .32, p = .74, respectively) or Study 2 (LA: 519 ± 90 min, 450 ± 78 min, 87.2% ± 7.6%; CP: 536 ± 62 min, 467 ± 57 min, 87.3% ± 6.4%; p = .43, p = .44, p = .97, respectively). Similarly, time to complete the 4-km TT was unaffected by supplementation in Study 1 (LA: 274.9 ± 7.6 s; CP: 275.5 ± 7.2 s; p = .62) and Study 2 (LA: 344.3 ± 22.3 s; CP: 343.3 ± 23.0 s; p = .50). Thus, relative to CP, consuming LA 2 hr prior to sleep over 1–3 days did not improve actigraphy-based indices of sleep quality or 4-km TT performance in cyclists.

Restricted access

Whey Protein Supplementation Is Superior to Leucine-Matched Collagen Peptides to Increase Muscle Thickness During a 10-Week Resistance Training Program in Untrained Young Adults

Jeferson L. Jacinto, João P. Nunes, Stefan H.M. Gorissen, Danila M.G. Capel, Andrea G. Bernardes, Alex S. Ribeiro, Edilson S. Cyrino, Stuart M. Phillips, and Andreo F. Aguiar

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of supplementation of whey protein (WP) versus leucine-matched collagen peptides (CP) on muscle thickness MT and performance after a resistance training (RT) program in young adults. Twenty-two healthy untrained participants were randomly assigned to either a WP (n = 11) or leucine-matched CP (n = 11) group and then submitted to a supervised 10-week RT program (3 days/week). The groups were supplemented with an equivalent amount of WP (35 g, containing 3.0 g of leucine) and CP (35 g, containing 1.0 g of leucine and 2.0 g of free leucine) during the intervention period (after each workout and in the evening on nontraining days). MT of the vastus lateralis and biceps brachii, isokinetic peak torque and mean power output of the elbow flexors, and peak power output of the lower body were assessed before and after the RT program. The WP group experienced a greater (interaction, p < .05) increase in the vastus lateralis (effect size, WP = 0.68 vs. CP = 0.38; % Δ, WP = 8.4 ± 2.5 vs. CP = 5.6 ± 2.6%) and biceps brachii muscle thickness (effect size, WP = 0.61 vs. CP = 0.35; % , WP = 10.1 ± 3.8 vs. CP = 6.0 ± 3.2%), with a similar increase in muscle performance (peak torque, mean power output, and peak power output) between groups (time p < .05). Supplementation with WP was superior to leucine content-matched CP supplementation in increasing muscle size, but not strength and power, after a 10-week RT program in young adults.

Open access

IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete

Ronald J. Maughan, Louise M. Burke, Jiri Dvorak, D. Enette Larson-Meyer, Peter Peeling, Stuart M. Phillips, Eric S. Rawson, Neil P. Walsh, Ina Garthe, Hans Geyer, Romain Meeusen, Luc van Loon, Susan M. Shirreffs, Lawrence L. Spriet, Mark Stuart, Alan Vernec, Kevin Currell, Vidya M. Ali, Richard G.M. Budgett, Arne Ljungqvist, Margo Mountjoy, Yannis Pitsiladis, Torbjørn Soligard, Uğur Erdener, and Lars Engebretsen

Nutrition usually makes a small but potentially valuable contribution to successful performance in elite athletes, and dietary supplements can make a minor contribution to this nutrition program. Nonetheless, supplement use is widespread at all levels of sport. Products described as supplements target different issues, including the management of micronutrient deficiencies, supply of convenient forms of energy and macronutrients, and provision of direct benefits to performance or indirect benefits such as supporting intense training regimens. The appropriate use of some supplements can offer benefits to the athlete, but others may be harmful to the athlete’s health, performance, and/or livelihood and reputation if an anti-doping rule violation results. A complete nutritional assessment should be undertaken before decisions regarding supplement use are made. Supplements claiming to directly or indirectly enhance performance are typically the largest group of products marketed to athletes, but only a few (including caffeine, creatine, specific buffering agents and nitrate) have good evidence of benefits. However, responses are affected by the scenario of use and may vary widely between individuals because of factors that include genetics, the microbiome, and habitual diet. Supplements intended to enhance performance should be thoroughly trialed in training or simulated competition before implementation in competition. Inadvertent ingestion of substances prohibited under the anti-doping codes that govern elite sport is a known risk of taking some supplements. Protection of the athlete’s health and awareness of the potential for harm must be paramount, and expert professional opinion and assistance is strongly advised before embarking on supplement use.