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Sara Dean, Andrea Braakhuis and Carl Paton

Researchers have long been investigating strategies that can increase athletes’ ability to oxidize fatty acids and spare carbohydrate, thus potentially improving endurance capacity. Green-tea extract (epigallocatechin-3-gallate; EGCG) has been shown to improve endurance capacity in mice. If a green-tea extract can stimulate fat oxidation and as a result spare glycogen stores, then athletes may benefit through improved endurance performance. Eight male cyclists completed a study incorporating a 3-way crossover, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, diet-controlled research design. All participants received 3 different treatments (placebo 270 mg, EGCG 270 mg, and placebo 270 mg + caffeine 3 mg/kg) over a 6-day period and 1 hr before exercise testing. Each participant completed 3 exercise trials consisting of 60 min of cycling at 60% maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) immediately followed by a self-paced 40-km cycling time trial. The study found little benefit in consuming green-tea extract on fat oxidation or cycling performance, unlike caffeine, which did benefit cycling performance. The physiological responses observed during submaximal cycling after caffeine ingestion were similar to those reported previously, including an increase in heart rate (EGCG 147 ± 17, caffeine 146 ± 19, and placebo 144 ± 15 beats/min), glucose at the 40-min exercise time point (placebo 5.0 ± 0.8, EGCG 5.4 ± 1.0, and caffeine 5.8 ± 1.0 mmol/L), and resting plasma free fatty acids and no change in the amount of carbohydrate and fat being oxidized. Therefore, it was concluded that green-tea extract offers no additional benefit to cyclists over and above those achieved by using caffeine.

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Hannah Bond, Lillian Morton and Andrea J. Braakhuis

Increased plasma nitrate concentrations from dietary sources of nitrate have proven to benefit exercise performance. Beetroot (BR) contains relatively high levels of nitrate (NO3 ), which increases nitric oxide stores. This study investigated whether dietary nitrate supplementation, in the form of a BR beverage, would improve rowing performance during ergometer repetitions. In a randomized crossover design, 14 well-trained junior male rowers consumed 500 ml of either BR or placebo (PL) daily for 6 d. After supplementation, rowers completed 6 maximal 500-m ergometer repetitions and times were recorded. A 7-d washout period separated the 2 trials. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation, maximum heart rate, urine (specific gravity, pH, and nitrites), and lactates were collected for analysis at baseline and pre- and postperformance. Changes in the mean with 95% confidence limits were calculated. There was a likely benefit to average repetition time in the BR condition, compared with PL (0.4%, 95% confidence limits, ± 1.0%). In particular, Repetitions 4–6 showed an almost certain benefit in rowing time on BR (1.7%, 95% CL, ± 1.0%). The underlying mechanism for the observed results remains unknown, as differences observed in rowers’ physiological measures between the 2 conditions were unclear. Conclusively, nitrate supplementation in the form of BR juice resulted in improved maximal rowing-ergometer repetitions, particularly in the later stages of exercise.

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Andrea J. Braakhuis, Will G. Hopkins and Timothy E. Lowe

The beneficial effects of exercise and a healthy diet are well documented in the general population but poorly understood in elite athletes. Previous research in subelite athletes suggests that regular training and an antioxidant-rich diet enhance antioxidant defenses but not performance.

Purpose:

To investigate whether habitual diet and/or exercise (training status or performance) affect antioxidant status in elite athletes.

Methods:

Antioxidant blood biomarkers were assessed before and after a 30-min ergometer time trial in 28 male and 34 female rowers. The antioxidant blood biomarkers included ascorbic acid, uric acid, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), erythrocyte- superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and catalase. Rowers completed a 7-d food diary and an antioxidant-intake questionnaire. Effects of diet, training, and performance on resting biomarkers were assessed with Pearson correlations, and their effect on exercise-induced changes in blood biomarkers was assessed by a method of standardization.

Results:

With the exception of GPx, there were small to moderate increases with exercise for all markers. Blood resting TAC had a small correlation with total antioxidant intake (correlation .29; 90% confidence limits, ±.27), and the exercise-induced change in TAC had a trivial to small association with dietary antioxidant intake from vitamin C (standardized effect .19; ±.22), vegetables (.20; ±.23), and vitamin A (.25; ±.27). Most other dietary intakes had trivial associations with antioxidant biomarkers. Years of training had a small inverse correlation with TAC (−.32; ±.19) and a small association with the exercise-induced change in TAC (.27; ±.24).

Conclusion:

Training status correlates more strongly with antioxidant status than diet does.

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Bridget Ellen Philippa Bourke, Dane Francis Baker and Andrea Jane Braakhuis

Social media contains a wealth of nutrition information and proposes a cost-effective, highly engaging platform to deliver nutrition information to athletes. This study used an online questionnaire to determine whether New Zealand athletes are using social media as a source of nutrition information and to understand perceptions of social media as a nutrition resource. Quantitative data were analyzed using t tests, chi-squared tests, and logistic regression analysis. Inductive thematic analysis was adopted for the qualitative data. From the 306 athletes who completed the questionnaire, 65% reported social media use for nutrition purposes in the past 12 months. Social media use was predicted by both athlete status and gender. Female athletes were more likely to have used social media for nutrition purposes (odds ratio = 2.7, 95% confidence interval [1.52, 4.62], p = .001) than males. Elite athletes were less likely to have used social media for nutrition (odds ratio = 0.44, 95% confidence interval [0.24, 0.83], p = .011) than recreational athletes. Athletes commonly used social media for practical nutrition purposes, including recipes and information about restaurants/cafes. Perceived advantages of social media as a nutrition resource included ease of access, well-presented information, personal connectedness, and information richness. Athletes’ primary concern for obtaining nutrition information from social media was information unreliability.

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Andrea J. Braakhuis, Will G. Hopkins, Timothy E. Lowe and Elaine C. Rush

A quantitative food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was developed to determine antioxidant intake in athletes. The questionnaire will be valuable for researchers wishing to standardize antioxidant intake or simply document habitual intake during an intervention trial. One hundred thirteen athletes participated in the validity study, of whom 96 completed the questionnaire and blood test, 81 completed the 7-d food diary and questionnaire, and 63 completed the 7-d food diary and blood test. Validity was investigated by comparing total and food-group antioxidant intakes from the questionnaire with those from a subsequent 7-d food diary. Measures of construct validity were determined by comparing a biomarker of antioxidant capacity (ferric-reducing ability of plasma) in a blood sample with antioxidant intakes from the questionnaire and diary. The correlation between the diary and questionnaire energy-adjusted estimates of total antioxidant intake was modest (.38; 90% confidence limits, ± .14); the correlation was highest for antioxidants from cereals (.55; ± .11), which contributed the greatest proportion (31%) of the total antioxidant intake. Correlations were also high for coffee and tea (.51; ± .15) and moderate for vegetables (.34; ± .16) and fruit (.31; ± .16). The correlation of the plasma biomarker with the questionnaire estimate was small (.28; ± .15), but the correlation with the diary estimate was inconsequential (–.03; ± .15). One-week test–retest reliability of the questionnaire’s estimates of antioxidant intake in 20 participants was high (.83; ± .16). In conclusion, the FFQ is less labor intensive for participants and researchers than a 7-d diary and appears to be at least as trustworthy for estimating antioxidant intake.

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Andrea J. Braakhuis, Kelly Meredith, Gregory R. Cox, William G. Hopkins and Louise M. Burke

A routine activity for a sports dietitian is to estimate energy and nutrient intake from an athlete’s self-reported food intake. Decisions made by the dietitian when coding a food record are a source of variability in the data. The aim of the present study was to determine the variability in estimation of the daily energy and key nutrient intakes of elite athletes, when experienced coders analyzed the same food record using the same database and software package. Seven-day food records from a dietary survey of athletes in the 1996 Australian Olympic team were randomly selected to provide 13 sets of records, each set representing the self-reported food intake of an endurance, team, weight restricted, and sprint/power athlete. Each set was coded by 3–5 members of Sports Dietitians Australia, making a total of 52 athletes, 53 dietitians, and 1456 athlete-days of data. We estimated within- and between- athlete and dietitian variances for each dietary nutrient using mixed modeling, and we combined the variances to express variability as a coefficient of variation (typical variation as a percent of the mean). Variability in the mean of 7-day estimates of a nutrient was 2- to 3-fold less than that of a single day. The variability contributed by the coder was less than the true athlete variability for a 1-day record but was of similar magnitude for a 7-day record. The most variable nutrients (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin A, cholesterol) had ~3-fold more variability than least variable nutrients (e.g., energy, carbohydrate, magnesium). These athlete and coder variabilities need to be taken into account in dietary assessment of athletes for counseling and research.

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David M. Shaw, Fabrice Merien, Andrea Braakhuis, Daniel Plews, Paul Laursen and Deborah K. Dulson

This study investigated the effect of the racemic β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB) precursor, R,S-1,3-butanediol (BD), on time-trial (TT) performance and tolerability. A repeated-measures, randomized, crossover study was conducted in nine trained male cyclists (age, 26.7 ± 5.2 years; body mass, 69.6 ± 8.4 kg; height, 1.82 ± 0.09 m; body mass index, 21.2 ± 1.5 kg/m2; VO2peak,63.9 ± 2.5 ml·kg−1·min−1; W max, 389.3 ± 50.4 W). Participants ingested 0.35 g/kg of BD or placebo 30 min before and 60 min during 85 min of steady-state exercise, which preceded a ∼25- to 35-min TT (i.e., 7 kJ/kg). The ingestion of BD increased blood D-βHB concentration throughout exercise (0.44–0.79 mmol/L) compared with placebo (0.11–0.16 mmol/L; all p < .001), which peaked 1 hr following the TT (1.38 ± 0.35 vs. 0.34 ± 0.24 mmol/L; p < .001). Serum glucose and blood lactate concentrations were not different between trials (all p > .05). BD ingestion increased oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production after 20 min of steady-state exercise (p = .002 and p = .032, respectively); however, no further effects on cardiorespiratory parameters were observed. Within the BD trial, moderate to severe gastrointestinal symptoms were reported in five participants, and low levels of dizziness, nausea, and euphoria were reported in two participants. However, this had no effect on TT duration (placebo, 28.5 ± 3.6 min; BD, 28.7 ± 3.2 min; p = .62) and average power output (placebo, 290.1 ± 53.7 W; BD, 286.4 ± 45.9 W; p = .50). These results suggest that BD has no benefit for endurance performance.