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Louise M. Burke and David B. Pyne

Bicarbonate loading is a popular ergogenic aid used primarily by athletes in short-duration, high-intensity sporting events and competitions. Controlled experimental trials have shown that small (worthwhile) benefits can obtained from acute doses of bicarbonate taken before exercise. Gastrointestinal problems encountered by some athletes limit the widespread use of this practice, however. The transfer of positive research findings to the competitive environment has proved problematic for some individuals. More recent applications involve serial ingestion of bicarbonate over several days before competition or during high-intensity training sessions over a few weeks. A number of research questions need to be addressed to enhance applications of bicarbonate loading in the elite sport environment. This commentary examines some of research and practical issues of bicarbonate loading used to enhance both training and competitive performance.

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Gregory R. Cox, Rodney J. Snow and Louise M. Burke

The aim of this study was to investigate the prerace and during-race carbohydrate intakes of elite-level triathletes contesting draft-legal Olympic-distance triathlon (ODT) events. Self-reported prerace and during-race nutrition data were collected at 3 separate ODT events from 51 elite senior and under-23 triathletes. One hundred twenty-nine observations of food and fluid intake representing actual prerace (n = 62) and during-race (n = 67) nutrition practices from 36 male and 15 female triathletes were used in the final analysis of this study. Female triathletes consumed significantly more carbohydrate on the morning before race start when corrected for body mass and race start time than their male counterparts (p < .05). Male and female triathletes consumed 26% more energy (kJ/kg) and 24% more carbohydrate (g/kg) when commencing a race after midday (1:00–1:30 p.m.) than for a late morning (11:00–11:15 a.m.) race start. During the race, triathletes consumed less than 60 g of carbohydrate on 66% of occasions, with average total race intakes of 48 ± 25 and 49 ± 25 g carbohydrate for men and women, respectively. Given average race times of 1:57:07 hr and 2:08:12 hr, hourly carbohydrate intakes were ~25 g and ~23 g for men and women, respectively. Although most elite ODT triathletes consume sufficient carbohydrate to meet recommended prerace carbohydrate intake guidelines, during-race carbohydrate intakes varied considerably, with many failing to meet recommended levels.

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Reid Reale, Gregory R. Cox, Gary Slater and Louise M. Burke


Combat-sport athletes acutely reduce body mass (BM) before weigh-in in an attempt to gain a size/strength advantage over smaller opponents. Few studies have investigated these practices among boxers and none have explored the impact of this practice on competitive success.


One hundred (30 women, 70 men) elite boxers participating in the Australian national championships were weighed at the official weigh-in and 1 h before each competition bout. Regain in BM after weigh-in was compared between finalists and nonfinalists, winners and losers of each fight, men and women, and weight divisions. Boxers were surveyed on their pre- and post-weigh-in nutrition practices.


The lightest men’s weight category displayed significantly greater relative BM regain than all other divisions, with no difference between other divisions. BM prebout was higher than official weigh-in for men (2.12% ± 1.62%; P < .001; ES = 0.13) and women (1.49% ± 1.65%; P < .001; ES = 0.11). No differences in BM regain were found between finalists and nonfinalists, winners and losers of individual bouts, or between preliminary or final bouts. BM regain was significantly greater (0.37% BM, P < .001; ES = 0.25) before an afternoon bout compared with a morning bout.


Boxers engage in acute BM-loss practices before the official competition weigh-in, but this does not appear to affect competition outcomes, at least when weight regain between weigh-in and fighting is used as a proxy for the magnitude of acute loss. While boxers recognize the importance of recovering after weigh-in, current practice is not aligned with best-practice guidance.

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Reid Reale, Gregory R. Cox, Gary Slater and Louise M. Burke

We examined the relationship between the regain of body mass (BM) after weigh-in and success in real-life judo competition. Eighty-six (36 females, 50 males) senior judoka volunteered for this observational study of an international judo competition. Subjects were weighed at the official weigh-in and one hour before their first competition fight (15–20 hr later). Regain in BM after weigh-in was compared between medal winners and nonmedalists, winners and losers of each fight, males and females and across weight divisions. Heavyweights were excluded from analysis. Prefight BM was greater than BM at official weigh-in for both males and females, with % BM gains of 2.3 ± 2.0 (p ≤ .0001; ES= 1.59; CI95% [1.63, 2.98]) and 3.1 ± 2.2 (p ≤ .0001; ES = 2.03; CI95% [2.30, 3.89]), respectively. No significant differences were found between weight divisions for post weigh-in BM regain. Differences in post weigh-in BM regain were significantly higher in medal winners than nonmedalists for males and females combined (1.4 ± 0.4% BM; p = .0026; ES= 0.69; CI95% [0.05, 2.34]) and for males alone (1.5 ± 0.6% BM; p = .017; ES= 0.74; CI95% [0.02, 2.64]), but not for females (1.2 ± 0.7% BM; p = .096; ES = 0.58; CI95% [-0.02, 2.31]). Differences in BM regain after weigh-in between winners and losers were significant across all fights (0.9 ± 0.3% BM; p = .0021; ES= 0.43; CI95% [0.31, 1.41]) but not for first round fights (0.8 ± 0.5% BM; p = .1386, ES = 0.38; CI95% [-0.26, 1.86]). Winners showed a greater regain in BM post weigh-in than losers. This may reflect the greater magnitude of the BM loss needed to achieve weigh-in targets which also relates to the experience level of successful athletes.

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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.

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Rebekah D. Alcock, Gregory C. Shaw and Louise M. Burke

Intake of dietary sources of collagen may support the synthesis of collagen in varying tissues, with the availability of key amino acids being a likely contributor to its effectiveness. This study analyzed commonly consumed preparations of bone broth (BB) to assess the amount and consistency of its amino acid content. Commercial and laboratory-prepared samples, made with standardized and variable (nonstandardized) protocols, were analyzed for key amino acids (glycine, lysine, proline, leucine, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine). The main finding of this study was that amino acid concentrations in BB made to a standardized recipe were significantly lower for hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline (p = .003) and hydroxylysine, leucine, and lysine (p = .004) than those provided by a potentially therapeutic dose (20 g) of reference collagen supplements (p > .05). There was a large variability in the amino acid content of BB made to nonstandardized recipes, with the highest levels of all amino acids found within the café-prepared varieties. For standardized preparations, commercial BBs were lower in all amino acids than the self-prepared varieties. There were no differences (p > .05) in the amino acid content of different batches of BB when prepared according to a standardized recipe. If the intake of collagen precursors is proven to support the synthesis of new collagen in vivo, it is unlikely that BB can provide a consistently reliable source of key amino acids. Research on the provision of key amino acids from dietary sources should continue to focus on the standard sources currently being researched.

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Michelle R. Minehan, Malcolm D. Riley and Louise M. Burke

A palatable flavor is known to enhance fluid intake during exercise; however, a fear of excessive kilojoule intake may deter female athletes from consuming a sports drink during training sessions. In order to examine this issue, we monitored fluid balance during 9 separate training sessions undertaken by junior elite female netball players (n = 9), female basketball players (n = 7), and male basketball players (n = 8). The beverages tested were water, a regular carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage (6.8% CHO, 18.7 mmol/L Na, 3.0 mmol/L K, 1130 kJ/L), and an identical tasting, low kilojoule electrolyte beverage (1% CHO, 18.7 mmol/L Na, 3.0 mmol/L K, 170 kJ/L). Each subject received each of the 3 drinks at 3 separate training sessions, in a randomized, balanced order. Subjects were aware of the beverage provided. Change in body mass over the training session was used to estimate body fluid change, while voluntary fluid intake was determined from the change in weight of drink bottles used in each session. The overall fluid balance on drinks classified as regular, low kilojoule, and water was -11.3 ml/h (95%CI -99.6 to 77.0), -29.5 ml/h (95%CI -101.4 to 42.5) and -156.4 ml/h (95%CI -215.1 to -97.6), respectively. The results indicate that, overall, better fluid balance was achieved using either of the flavored drinks compared to water. These data confirm that flavored drinks enhance fluid balance in a field situation, and suggest that the energy content of the drink is relatively unimportant in determining voluntary fluid intake.

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.

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Naroa Etxebarria, Megan L. Ross, Brad Clark and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: The authors investigated the potential benefit of ingesting 2 mM of quinine (bitter tastant) on a 3000-m cycling time-trial (TT) performance. Methods: Nine well-trained male cyclists (maximal aerobic power: 386 [38] W) performed a maximal incremental cycling ergometer test, three 3000-m familiarization TTs, and four 3000-m intervention TTs (∼4 min) on consecutive days. The 4 interventions were (1) 25 mL of placebo, (2) a 25-mL sweet solution, and (3) and (4) repeat 25 mL of 2-mM quinine solutions (Bitter1 and Bitter2), 30 s before each trial. Participants self-selected their gears and were only aware of distance covered. Results: Overall mean power output for the full 3000 m was similar for all 4 conditions: placebo, 348 (45) W; sweet, 355 (47) W; Bitter1, 354 (47) W; and Bitter2, 355 (48) W. However, quinine administration in Bitter1 and Bitter2 increased power output during the first kilometer by 15 ± 11 W and 21 ± 10 W (mean ± 90% confidence limits), respectively, over placebo, followed by a decay of 34 ± 32 W during Bitter1 and Bitter2 during the second kilometer. Bitter2 also induced a 11 ± 13-W increase during the first kilometer compared with the sweet condition. Conclusions: Ingesting 2 mM of quinine can improve cycling performance during the first one-third of a 3000-m TT and could be used for sporting events lasting ∼80 s to potentially improve overall performance.

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Gregory Shaw, Anu Koivisto, David Gerrard and Louise M. Burke

Open-water swimming (OWS) is a rapidly developing discipline. Events of 5–25 km are featured at FINA World Championships, and the international circuit includes races of 5–88 km. The Olympic OWS event, introduced in 2008, is contested over 10 km. Differing venues present changing environmental conditions, including water and ambient temperatures, humidity, solar radiation, and unpredictable tides. Furthermore, the duration of most OWS events (1–6 hr) creates unique physiological challenges to thermoregulation, hydration status, and muscle fuel stores. Current nutrition recommendations for open-water training and competition are either an extension of recommendations from pool swimming or are extrapolated from other athletic populations with similar physiological requirements. Competition nutrition should focus on optimizing prerace hydration and glycogen stores. Although swimmers should rely on self-supplied fuel and fluid sources for shorter events, for races of 10 km or greater, fluid and fuel replacement can occur from feeding pontoons when tactically appropriate. Over the longer races, feeding pontoons should be used to achieve desirable targets of up to 90 g/hr of carbohydrates from multitransportable sources. Exposure to variable water and ambient temperatures will play a significant role in determining race nutrition strategies. For example, in extreme environments, thermoregulation may be assisted by manipulating the temperature of the ingested fluids. Swimmers are encouraged to work with nutrition experts to develop effective and efficient strategies that enhance performance through appropriate in-competition nutrition.