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Bjoern Geesmann, Joachim Mester and Karsten Koehler

Athletes competing in ultra-endurance events are advised to meet energy requirements, to supply appropriate amounts of carbohydrates (CHO), and to be adequately hydrated before and during exercise. In practice, these recommendations may not be followed because of satiety, gastrointestinal discomfort, and fatigue. The purpose of the study was to assess energy balance, macronutrient intake and hydration status before and during a 1,230-km bike marathon. A group of 14 well-trained participants (VO2max: 63.2 ± 3.3 ml/kg/min) completed the marathon after 42:47 hr. Ad libitum food and fluid intake were monitored throughout the event. Energy expenditure (EE) was derived from power output and urine and blood markers were collected before the start, after 310, 618, and 921 km, after the finish, and 12 hr after the finish. Energy intake (EI; 19,749 ± 4,502 kcal) was lower than EE (25,303 ± 2,436 kcal) in 12 of 14 athletes. EI and CHO intake (average: 57.1 ± 17.7 g/hr) decreased significantly after km 618 (p < .05). Participants ingested on average 392 ± 85 ml/hr of fluid, but fluid intake decreased after km 618 (p < .05). Hydration appeared suboptimal before the start (urine specific gravity: 1.022 ± 0.010 g/ml) but did not change significantly throughout the event. The results show that participants failed to maintain in energy balance and that CHO and fluid intake dropped below recommended values during the second half of the bike marathon. Individual strategies to overcome satiety and fatigue may be necessary to improve eating and drinking behavior during prolonged ultra-endurance exercise.

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Bjoern Geesmann, Jenna C. Gibbs, Joachim Mester and Karsten Koehler

Ultraendurance athletes often accumulate an energy deficit when engaging in ultraendurance exercise, and on completion of the exercise, they exhibit endocrine changes that are reminiscent of starvation. However, it remains unclear whether these endocrine changes are a result of the exercise per se or secondary to the energy deficit and, more important, whether these changes can be attenuated by increased dietary intake. The goal of the study was to assess the relationship between changes in key metabolic hormones after ultraendurance exercise and measures of energy balance. Metabolic hormones, as well as energy intake and expenditure, were assessed in 14 well-trained male cyclists who completed a 1230-km ultraendurance cycling event. After completion of the event, serum testosterone (–67% ± 18%), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) (–45% ± 8%), and leptin (–79% ± 9%) were significantly suppressed (P < .001) and remained suppressed after a 12-h recovery period (P < .001). Changes in IGF-1 were positively correlated with energy balance over the course of the event (r = .65, P = .037), which ranged from an 11,859-kcal deficit to a 3593-kcal surplus. The marked suppression of testosterone, IGF-1, and leptin after ultraendurance exercise is comparable to changes occurring during acute starvation. The suppression of IGF-1, but not that of other metabolic hormones, was strongly associated with the magnitude of the energy deficit, indicating that athletes who attained a greater energy deficit exhibited a more pronounced drop in IGF-1. Future studies are needed to determine whether increased dietary intake can attenuate the endocrine response to ultraendurance exercise.