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Open access

Louise M. Burke and Peter Peeling

Many expert sporting bodies now support a pragmatic acceptance of the use of performance supplements which have passed a risk:benefit analysis of being safe, effective, and permitted for use, while also being appropriate to the athlete’s age and maturation in their sport. However, gaining evidence of the performance benefits of these supplements is a process challenged by the scarcity of research in relation to the number of available products, and the limitations of the poor quality of some studies. While meta-analyses and systematic reviews can help to provide information about the general use of performance supplements, the controlled scientific trial provides the basis on which these reviews are undertaken, as well as an opportunity to address more specific questions about supplement applications. Guidelines for the design of studies include the choice of well-trained athletes who are familiarized with performance tasks that have been chosen on their basis of their known reliability and validity. Supplement protocols should be chosen to maximize the likely benefits, and researchers should also make efforts to control confounding variables, while keeping conditions similar to real-life practices. Performance changes should be interpreted in light of what is meaningful to the outcomes of sporting competition. Issues that have been poorly addressed to date include the use of several supplements in combination and the use of the same supplement over successive events, both within a single, and across multiple competition days. Strategies to isolate and explain the variability of benefits to individuals are also a topic for future investigation.

Open access

Trent Stellingwerff, James P. Morton and Louise M. Burke

Over the last decade, in support of training periodization, there has been an emergence around the concept of nutritional periodization. Within athletics (track and field), the science and art of periodization is a cornerstone concept with recent commentaries emphasizing the underappreciated complexity associated with predictable performance on demand. Nevertheless, with varying levels of evidence, sport and event specific sequencing of various training units and sessions (long [macrocycle; months], medium [mesocycle; weeks], and short [microcycle; days and within-day duration]) is a routine approach to training periodization. Indeed, implementation of strategic temporal nutrition interventions (macro, meso, and micro) can support and enhance training prescription and adaptation, as well as acute event specific performance. However, a general framework on how, why, and when nutritional periodization could be implemented has not yet been established. It is beyond the scope of this review to highlight every potential nutritional periodization application. Instead, this review will focus on a generalized framework, with specific examples of macro-, meso-, and microperiodization for the macronutrients of carbohydrates, and, by extension, fat. More specifically, the authors establish the evidence and rationale for situations of acute high carbohydrate availability, as well as the evidence for more chronic manipulation of carbohydrates coupled with training. The topic of periodized nutrition has made considerable gains over the last decade but is ripe for further scientific progress and field application.

Open access

Shona L. Halson, Louise M. Burke and Jeni Pearce

Domestic and international travel represents a regular challenge to high-performance track-and-field athletes, particularly when associated with the pressure of competition or the need to support specialized training (e.g., altitude or heat adaptation). Jet lag is a challenge for transmeridian travelers, while fatigue and alterations to gastrointestinal comfort are associated with many types of long-haul travel. Planning food and fluid intake that is appropriate to the travel itinerary may help to reduce problems. Resynchronization of the body clock is achieved principally through manipulation of zeitgebers, such as light exposure; more investigation of the effects of melatonin, caffeine, and the timing/composition of meals will allow clearer guidelines for their contribution to be prepared. At the destination, the athlete, the team management, and catering providers each play a role in achieving eating practices that support optimal performance and success in achieving the goals of the trip. Although the athlete is ultimately responsible for his or her nutrition plan, best practice by all parties will include pretrip consideration of risks around the quality, quantity, availability, and hygiene standards of the local food supply and the organization of strategies to deal with general travel nutrition challenges as well as issues that are specific to the area or the special needs of the group. Management of buffet-style eating, destination-appropriate protocols around food/water and personal hygiene, and arrangement of special food needs including access to appropriate nutritional support between the traditional “3 meals a day” schedule should be part of the checklist.

Open access

Louise M. Burke, Asker E. Jeukendrup, Andrew M. Jones and Martin Mooses

Distance events in Athletics include cross country, 10,000-m track race, half-marathon and marathon road races, and 20- and 50-km race walking events over different terrain and environmental conditions. Race times for elite performers span ∼26 min to >4 hr, with key factors for success being a high aerobic power, the ability to exercise at a large fraction of this power, and high running/walking economy. Nutrition-related contributors include body mass and anthropometry, capacity to use fuels, particularly carbohydrate (CHO) to produce adenosine triphosphate economically over the duration of the event, and maintenance of reasonable hydration status in the face of sweat losses induced by exercise intensity and the environment. Race nutrition strategies include CHO-rich eating in the hours per days prior to the event to store glycogen in amounts sufficient for event fuel needs, and in some cases, in-race consumption of CHO and fluid to offset event losses. Beneficial CHO intakes range from small amounts, including mouth rinsing, in the case of shorter events to high rates of intake (75–90 g/hr) in the longest races. A personalized and practiced race nutrition plan should balance the benefits of fluid and CHO consumed within practical opportunities, against the time, cost, and risk of gut discomfort. In hot environments, prerace hyperhydration or cooling strategies may provide a small but useful offset to the accrued thermal challenge and fluid deficit. Sports foods (drinks, gels, etc.) may assist in meeting training/race nutrition plans, with caffeine, and, perhaps nitrate being used as evidence-based performance supplements.

Open access

Peter Peeling, Linda M. Castell, Wim Derave, Olivier de Hon and Louise M. Burke

Athletes are exposed to numerous nutritional products, attractively marketed with claims of optimizing health, function, and performance. However, there is limited evidence to support many of these claims, and the efficacy and safety of many products is questionable. The variety of nutritional aids considered for use by track-and-field athletes includes sports foods, performance supplements, and therapeutic nutritional aids. Support for sports foods and five evidence-based performance supplements (caffeine, creatine, nitrate/beetroot juice, β-alanine, and bicarbonate) varies according to the event, the specific scenario of use, and the individual athlete’s goals and responsiveness. Specific challenges include developing protocols to manage repeated use of performance supplements in multievent or heat-final competitions or the interaction between several products which are used concurrently. Potential disadvantages of supplement use include expense, false expectancy, and the risk of ingesting banned substances sometimes present as contaminants. However, a pragmatic approach to the decision-making process for supplement use is recommended. The authors conclude that it is pertinent for sports foods and nutritional supplements to be considered only where a strong evidence base supports their use as safe, legal, and effective and that such supplements are trialed thoroughly by the individual before committing to use in a competition setting.

Full access

Joanne G. Mirtschin, Sara F. Forbes, Louise E. Cato, Ida A. Heikura, Nicki Strobel, Rebecca Hall and Louise M. Burke

The authors describe the implementation of a 3-week dietary intervention in elite race walkers at the Australian Institute of Sport, with a focus on the resources and strategies needed to accomplish a complex study of this scale. Interventions involved: traditional guidelines of high carbohydrate (CHO) availability for all training sessions; a periodized CHO diet which integrated sessions with low and high CHO availability within the same total CHO intake; and a ketogenic low-CHO high-fat diet. Seven-day menus and recipes were constructed for a communal eating setting to meet nutritional goals as well as individualized food preferences and special needs. Menus also included nutrition support before, during, and after exercise. Daily monitoring, via observation and food checklists, showed that energy and macronutrient targets were achieved. Diets were matched for energy (∼14.8 MJ/d) and protein (∼2.1 g·kg−1·day−1) and achieved desired differences for fat and CHO, with high CHO availability and periodized CHO availability: CHO = 8.5 g·kg−1·day−1, 60% energy, fat = 20% of energy and low-CHO high-fat diet: 0.5 g·kg−1·day−1 CHO, fat = 78% energy.  There were no differences in micronutrient intake or density between the high CHO availability and periodized CHO availability diets; however, the micronutrient density of the low-CHO high-fat diet was significantly lower. Daily food costs per athlete were similar for each diet (∼AU$ 27 ± 10). Successful implementation and monitoring of dietary interventions in sports nutrition research of the scale of the present study require meticulous planning and the expertise of chefs and sports dietitians. Different approaches to sports nutrition support raise practical challenges around cost, micronutrient density, accommodation of special needs, and sustainability.

Full access

Louise M. Burke, John A. Hawley, Asker Jeukendrup, James P. Morton, Trent Stellingwerff and Ronald J. Maughan

From the breakthrough studies of dietary carbohydrate and exercise capacity in the 1960s through to the more recent studies of cellular signaling and the adaptive response to exercise in muscle, it has become apparent that manipulations of dietary fat and carbohydrate within training phases, or in the immediate preparation for competition, can profoundly alter the availability and utilization of these major fuels and, subsequently, the performance of endurance sport (events >30 min up to ∼24 hr). A variety of terms have emerged to describe new or nuanced versions of such exercise–diet strategies (e.g., train low, train high, low-carbohydrate high-fat diet, periodized carbohydrate diet). However, the nonuniform meanings of these terms have caused confusion and miscommunication, both in the popular press and among the scientific community. Sports scientists will continue to hold different views on optimal protocols of fuel support for training and competition in different endurance events. However, to promote collaboration and shared discussions, a commonly accepted and consistent terminology will help to strengthen hypotheses and experimental/experiential data around various strategies. We propose a series of definitions and explanations as a starting point for a more unified dialogue around acute and chronic manipulations of fat and carbohydrate in the athlete’s diet, noting philosophies of approaches rather than a single/definitive macronutrient prescription. We also summarize some of the key questions that need to be tackled to help produce greater insight into this exciting area of sports nutrition research and practice.

Open access

Peter Peeling, Martyn J. Binnie, Paul S.R. Goods, Marc Sim and Louise M. Burke

A strong foundation in physical conditioning and sport-specific experience, in addition to a bespoke and periodized training and nutrition program, are essential for athlete development. Once these underpinning factors are accounted for, and the athlete reaches a training maturity and competition level where marginal gains determine success, a role may exist for the use of evidence-based performance supplements. However, it is important that any decisions surrounding performance supplements are made in consideration of robust information that suggests the use of a product is safe, legal, and effective. The following review focuses on the current evidence-base for a number of common (and emerging) performance supplements used in sport. The supplements discussed here are separated into three categories based on the level of evidence supporting their use for enhancing sports performance: (1) established (caffeine, creatine, nitrate, beta-alanine, bicarbonate); (2) equivocal (citrate, phosphate, carnitine); and (3) developing. Within each section, the relevant performance type, the potential mechanisms of action, and the most common protocols used in the supplement dosing schedule are summarized.

Open access

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.

Open access

Louise M. Burke, Linda M. Castell, Douglas J. Casa, Graeme L. Close, Ricardo J. S. Costa, Ben Desbrow, Shona L. Halson, Dana M. Lis, Anna K. Melin, Peter Peeling, Philo U. Saunders, Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, Oliver C. Witard, Stéphane Bermon and Trent Stellingwerff

The International Association of Athletics Federations recognizes the importance of nutritional practices in optimizing an Athlete’s well-being and performance. Although Athletics encompasses a diverse range of track-and-field events with different performance determinants, there are common goals around nutritional support for adaptation to training, optimal performance for key events, and reducing the risk of injury and illness. Periodized guidelines can be provided for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of intake of food and fluids to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competition. Some Athletes are at risk of relative energy deficiency in sport arising from a mismatch between energy intake and exercise energy expenditure. Competition nutrition strategies may involve pre-event, within-event, and between-event eating to address requirements for carbohydrate and fluid replacement. Although a “food first” policy should underpin an Athlete’s nutrition plan, there may be occasions for the judicious use of medical supplements to address nutrient deficiencies or sports foods that help the athlete to meet nutritional goals when it is impractical to eat food. Evidence-based supplements include caffeine, bicarbonate, beta-alanine, nitrate, and creatine; however, their value is specific to the characteristics of the event. Special considerations are needed for travel, challenging environments (e.g., heat and altitude); special populations (e.g., females, young and masters athletes); and restricted dietary choice (e.g., vegetarian). Ideally, each Athlete should develop a personalized, periodized, and practical nutrition plan via collaboration with their coach and accredited sports nutrition experts, to optimize their performance.