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Do Athletes Need More Dietary Protein and Amino Acids?

Peter W. R. Lemon

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is based primarily on data derived from subjects whose lifestyles were essentially sedentary. More recent well-designed studies that have employed either the classic nitrogen balance approach or the more technically difficult metabolic tracer technique indicate that overall protein needs (as well as needs for some specific individual amino acids) are probably increased for those who exercise regularly. Although the roles of the additionally required dietary protein and amino acids are likely to be quite different for those who engage in endurance exercise (protein required as an auxiliary fuel source) as opposed to strength exercise (amino acids required as building blocks for muscle development), it appears that both groups likely will benefit from diets containing more protein than the current RDA of 0.8 g · kg−1 · day 1 . Strength athletes probably need about 1.4-1.8 g · kg−1 · day 1 and endurance athletes about 1.2-1.4 g · kg−1 · day 1 .

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Effects of Exercise on Dietary Protein Requirements

Peter W.R. Lemon

This paper reviews the factors (exercise intensity, carbohydrate availability, exercise type, energy balance, gender, exercise training, age, and timing of nutrient intake or subsequent exercise sessions) thought to influence protein need. Although there remains some debate, recent evidence suggests that dietary protein need increases with rigorous physical exercise. Those involved in strength training might need to consume as much as 1.6 to 1.7 g protein ⋅ kg−1 day−1 (approximately twice the current RDA) while those undergoing endurance training might need about 1.2 to 1.4 g ⋅ kg−1 day−1 (approximately 1.5 times the current RDA). Future longitudinal studies are needed to confirm these recommendations and assess whether these protein intakes can enhance exercise performance. Despite the frequently expressed concern about adverse effects of high protein intake, there is no evidence that protein intakes in the range suggested will have adverse effects in healthy individuals.

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Protein and Amino Acid Needs of the Strength Athlete

Peter W.R. Lemon

The debate regarding optimal protein/amino acid needs of strength athletes is an old one. Recent evidence indicates that actual requirements are higher than those of more sedentaty individuals, although this is not widely recognized. Some data even suggest that high protein/amino acid diets can enhance the development of muscle mass and strength when combined with heavy resistance exercise training. Novices may have higher needs than experienced strength athletes, and substantial interindividual variability exists. Perhaps the most important single factor determining absolute protein/amino acid need is the adequacy of energy intake. Present data indicate that strength athletes should consume approximately 12-15% of their daily total energy intake as protein, or about 1.5-2.0 g protein/ kg 1 (approximately 188-250% of the U.S. recommended dietary allowance). Although routinely consumed by many strength athletes, higher protein intakes have not been shown to be consistency effective and may even be associated with some health risks.

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Acute Ketone Salts–Caffeine–Taurine–Leucine Supplementation but not Ketone Salts–Taurine–Leucine, Improves Endurance Cycling Performance

Manuel D. Quinones and Peter W.R. Lemon

Coingestion of ketone salts, caffeine and the amino acids, taurine, and leucine improves endurance exercise performance. However, there is no study comparing this coingestion to the same nutrients without caffeine. We assessed whether ketone salts–caffeine–taurine–leucine (KCT) supplementation was superior to caffeine-free ketone salts–taurine–leucine supplementation (KT), or to an isoenergetic carbohydrate placebo (CHO-PLAC). Thirteen recreationally active men (mean ± SD: 177.5 ± 6.1 cm, 75.9 ± 4.6 kg, 23 ± 3 years, 12.0 ± 5.1% body fat) completed a best effort 20-km cycling time-trial, followed 15 min later by a Wingate power cycle test, after supplementing with either KCT (approximately 7 g of beta-hydroxybutyrate, approximately 120 mg of caffeine, 2.1 g of leucine, and 2.7 g of taurine), KT (i.e., same supplement without caffeine), or isoenergetic CHO-PLAC (11 g of dextrose). Blood ketones were elevated (p < .001) after ingestion of both KCT (0.65 ± 0.12 mmol/L) and KT (0.72 ± 0.31 mmol/L) relative to CHO-PLAC (0.06 ± 0.05 mmol/L). Moreover, KCT improved (p < .003) 20-km cycling time-trial performance (37.80 ± 2.28 min), compared with CHO-PLAC (39.40 ± 3.33 min) but not versus KT (38.75 ± 2.87 min; p < .09). 20-km cycling time-trial average power output was greater with KCT (power output = 180.5 ± 28.7 W) versus both KT (170.9 ± 31.7 W; p = .049) and CHO-PLAC (164.8 ± 34.7 W; p = .001). Wingate peak power output was also greater for both KCT (1,134 ± 137 W; p = .031) and KT (1,132 ± 128 W; p = .039) versus CHO-PLAC (1,068 ± 127 W). These data suggest that the observed improved exercise performance effects of this multi-ingredient supplement containing beta-hydroxybutyrate salts, taurine, and leucine are attributed partially to the addition of caffeine.

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Cycling Time Trial Performance 4 Hours After Glycogen-Lowering Exercise Is Similarly Enhanced by Recovery Nondairy Chocolate Beverages Versus Chocolate Milk

Adam U. Upshaw, Tiffany S. Wong, Arash Bandegan, and Peter W.R. Lemon

Postexercise chocolate milk ingestion has been shown to enhance both glycogen resynthesis and subsequent exercise performance. To assess whether nondairy chocolate beverage ingestion post–glycogen-lowering exercise can enhance 20-km cycling time trial performance 4 hr later, eight healthy trained male cyclists (21.8 ± 2.3y, VO2max = 61.2 ± 1.4 ml·kg-1·min-1; M ± SD) completed a series of intense cycling intervals designed to lower muscle glycogen (Jentjens & Jeukendrup, 2003) followed by 4 hr of recovery and a subsequent 20-km cycling time trial. During the first 2 hr of recovery, participants ingested chocolate dairy milk (DAIRYCHOC), chocolate soy beverage (SOYCHOC), chocolate hemp beverage (HEMPCHOC), low-fat dairy milk (MILK), or a low-energy artificially sweetened, flavored beverage (PLACEBO) at 30-min intervals in a double-blind, counterbalanced repeated-measures design. All drinks, except the PLACEBO (247 kJ) were isoenergetic (2,107 kJ), and all chocolate-flavored drinks provided 1-g CHO·kg body mass-1·h-1. Fluid intake across treatments was equalized (2,262 ± 148 ml) by ingesting appropriate quantities of water based on drink intake. The CHO:PRO ratio was 4:1, 1.5:1, 4:1, and 6:1 for DAIRYCHOC, MILK, SOYCHOC, and HEMPCHOC, respectively. One-way analysis of variance with repeated measures showed time trial performance (DAIRYCHOC = 34.58 ± 2.5 min, SOYCHOC = 34.83 ± 2.2 min, HEMPCHOC = 34.88 ± 1.1 min, MILK = 34.47 ± 1.7 min) was enhanced similarly vs PLACEBO (37.85 ± 2.1) for all treatments (p = .019) These data suggest that postexercise macronutrient and total energy intake are more important for same-day 20-km cycling time trial performance after glycogen-lowering exercise than protein type or protein-to-carbohydrate ratio.

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Two Minutes of Sprint-Interval Exercise Elicits 24-hr Oxygen Consumption Similar to That of 30 min of Continuous Endurance Exercise

Tom J. Hazell, T. Dylan Olver, Craig D. Hamilton, and Peter W. R. Lemon

Six weeks (3 times/wk) of sprint-interval training (SIT) or continuous endurance training (CET) promote body-fat losses despite a substantially lower training volume with SIT. In an attempt to explain these findings, the authors quantified VO2 during and after (24 h) sprint-interval exercise (SIE; 2 min exercise) vs. continuous endurance exercise (CEE; 30 min exercise). VO2 was measured in male students (n = 8) 8 times over 24 hr under 3 treatments (SIE, CEE, and control [CTRL, no exercise]). Diet was controlled. VO2 was 150% greater (p < .01) during CEE vs. SIE (87.6 ± 13.1 vs. 35.1 ± 4.4 L O2; M ± SD). The observed small difference between average exercise heart rates with CEE (157 ± 10 beats/min) and SIE (149 ± 6 beats/min) approached significance (p = .06), as did the difference in peak heart rates during CEE (166 ± 10 beats/min) and SIE (173 ± 6 beats/min; p = .14). Total O2 consumed over 8 hr with CEE (263.3 ± 30.2 L) was greater (p < .01) than both SIE (224.2 ± 15.3 L; p < .001) and CTRL (163.5 ± 16.1 L; p < .001). Total O2 with SIE was also increased over CTRL (p < .001). At 24 hr, both exercise treatments were increased (p < .001) vs. CTRL (CEE = 500.2 ± 49.2; SIE = 498.0 ± 29.4; CTRL = 400.2 ± 44.6), but there was no difference between CEE and SIE (p = .99). Despite large differences in exercise VO2, the protracted effects of SIE result in a similar total VO2 over 24 hr vs. CEE, indicating that the significant body-fat losses observed previously with SIT are partially due to increases in metabolism postexercise.