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Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Amino Acid Metabolism during Exercise

Martin J. Gibala

The contribution of amino acid oxidation to total energy expenditure is negligible during short-term intense exercise and accounts for 3–6% of the total adenosine triphosphate supplied during prolonged exercise in humans. While not quantitatively important in terms of energy supply, the intermediary metabolism of several amino acids—notably glutamate, alanine, and the branched-chain amino acids—afreets other metabolites .including the intermediates within the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Glutamate appears to be a key substrate for the rapid increase in muscle TCA cycle intermediates (TCAI) that occurs at the onset of moderate to intense exercise, due to a rightward shift of the reaction catalyzed by alanine aminotransferase (glutamate + pyruvate <-> alanine + 2-oxoglutarate). The pool of muscle TCAI declines during prolonged exercise, and this has been attributed to an increase in leucine oxidation that relies on one of the TCAI. However, this mechanism does not appear to be quantitatively important due of the relatively low maximal activity of branched-chain oxoacid dehydrogenase, the key enzyme involved. It has been suggested that an increase in TCAI is necessary to attain high rates of aerobic energy production and that a decline in TCAI may be a causative factor in local muscle fatigue. These topics remain controversial, but recent evidence suggests that changes in TCAI during exercise are unrelated to oxidative energy provision in skeletal muscle.

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No Effect of Short-Term Green Tea Extract Supplementation on Metabolism at Rest or During Exercise in the Fed State

Brian J. Martin, Rachel B. Tan, Jenna B. Gillen, Michael E. Percival, and Martin J. Gibala

Supplementation with green tea extract (GTE) in animals has been reported to induce numerous metabolic adaptations including increased fat oxidation during exercise and improved performance. However, data regarding the metabolic and physiological effects of GTE during exercise in humans are limited and equivocal.


To examine the effects of short-term GTE treatment on resting energy expenditure (REE), wholebody substrate utilization during exercise and time trial performance.


Fifteen active men (24 ± 3 y; VO2peak = 48 ± 7 ml·kg·min−1; BMI = 26 ± 3 kg·m2(–1)) ingested GTE (3x per day = 1,000 mg/d) or placebo (PLA) for 2 day in a double-blind, crossover design (each separated by a 1 week wash-out period). REE was assessed in the fasted state. Subjects then ingested a standardized breakfast (~5.0 kcal·kg-1) and 90 min later performed a 60 min cycling bout at an intensity corresponding to individual maximal fat oxidation (44 ± 11% VO2peak), followed by a 250 kJ TT.


REE, whole-body oxygen consumption (VO2) and substrate oxidation rates during steady-state exercise were not different between treatments. However, mean heart rate (HR) was lower in GTE vs. PLA (115 ± 16 vs. 118 ± 17 beats·min−1; main effect, p = .049). Mixed venous blood [glycerol] was higher during rest and exercise after GTE vs. PLA (p = .006, main effect for treatment) but glucose, insulin and free-fatty acids were not different. Subsequent time trial performance was not different between treatments (GTE = 25:38 ± 5:32 vs. PLA = 26:08 ± 8:13 min; p = .75).


GTE had minimal effects on whole-body substrate metabolism but significantly increased plasma glycerol and lowered heart rate during steady-state exercise, suggesting a potential increase in lipolysis and a cardiovascular effect that warrants further investigation.

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Protein Plus Carbohydrate Does Not Enhance 60-km Time-Trial Performance

Asker E. Jeukendrup, Kevin D. Tipton, Martin J. Gibala, and Michael J. Saunders

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Nutritional Strategies to Promote Postexercise Recovery

Milou Beelen, Louise M. Burke, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon

During postexercise recovery, optimal nutritional intake is important to replenish endogenous substrate stores and to facilitate muscle-damage repair and reconditioning. After exhaustive endurance-type exercise, muscle glycogen repletion forms the most important factor determining the time needed to recover. Postexercise carbohydrate (CHO) ingestion has been well established as the most important determinant of muscle glycogen synthesis. Coingestion of protein and/or amino acids does not seem to further increase muscle glycogensynthesis rates when CHO intake exceeds 1.2 g · kg−1 · hr−1. However, from a practical point of view it is not always feasible to ingest such large amounts of CHO. The combined ingestion of a small amount of protein (0.2–0.4 g · (0.2−0.4 g · kg−1 · hr−1) with less CHO (0.8 g · kg−1 · hr−1) stimulates endogenous insulin release and results in similar muscle glycogen-repletion rates as the ingestion of 1.2 g · kg−1 · hr−1 CHO. Furthermore, postexercise protein and/or amino acid administration is warranted to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, inhibit protein breakdown, and allow net muscle protein accretion. The consumption of ~20 g intact protein, or an equivalent of ~9 g essential amino acids, has been reported to maximize muscle protein-synthesis rates during the first hours of postexercise recovery. Ingestion of such small amounts of dietary protein 5 or 6 times daily might support maximal muscle protein-synthesis rates throughout the day. Consuming CHO and protein during the early phases of recovery has been shown to positively affect subsequent exercise performance and could be of specific benefit for athletes involved in multiple training or competition sessions on the same or consecutive days.

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Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists

Naomi M. Cermak, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon

Six days of dietary nitrate supplementation in the form of beetroot juice (~0.5 L/d) has been reported to reduce pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO2) during submaximal exercise and increase tolerance of high-intensity work rates, suggesting that nitrate can be a potent ergogenic aid. Limited data are available regarding the effect of nitrate ingestion on athletic performance, and no study has investigated the potential ergogenic effects of a small-volume, concentrated dose of beetroot juice. The authors tested the hypothesis that 6 d of nitrate ingestion would improve time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Using a double-blind, repeated-measures crossover design, 12 male cyclists (31 ± 3 yr, VO2peak = 58 ± 2 ml · kg−1 · min−1, maximal power [Wmax] = 342 ± 10 W) ingested 140 ml/d of concentrated beetroot (~8 mmol/d nitrate) juice (BEET) or a placebo (nitrate-depleted beetroot juice; PLAC) for 6 d, separated by a 14-d washout. After supplementation on Day 6, subjects performed 60 min of submaximal cycling (2 × 30 min at 45% and 65% Wmax, respectively), followed by a 10-km time trial. Time-trial performance (953 ± 18 vs. 965 ± 18 s, p < .005) and power output (294 ± 12 vs. 288 ± 12 W, p < .05) improved after BEET compared with PLAC supplementation. Submaximal VO2 was lower after BEET (45% Wmax = 1.92 ± 0.06 vs. 2.02 ± 0.09 L/min, 65% Wmax 2.94 ± 0.12 vs. 3.11 ± 0.12 L/min) than with PLAC (main effect, p < .05). Wholebody fuel selection and plasma lactate, glucose, and insulin concentrations did not differ between treatments. Six days of nitrate supplementation reduced VO2 during submaximal exercise and improved time-trial performance in trained cyclists.

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Manipulating Carbohydrate Availability Between Twice-Daily Sessions of High-Intensity Interval Training Over 2 Weeks Improves Time-Trial Performance

Andrew J.R. Cochran, Frank Myslik, Martin J. MacInnis, Michael E. Percival, David Bishop, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, and Martin J. Gibala

Commencing some training sessions with reduced carbohydrate (CHO) availability has been shown to enhance skeletal muscle adaptations, but the effect on exercise performance is less clear. We examined whether restricting CHO intake between twice daily sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) augments improvements in exercise performance and mitochondrial content. Eighteen active but not highly trained subjects (peak oxygen uptake [VO2peak] = 44 ± 9 ml/kg/min), matched for age, sex, and fitness, were randomly allocated to two groups. On each of 6 days over 2 weeks, subjects completed two training sessions, each consisting of 5 × 4-min cycling intervals (60% of peak power), interspersed by 2 min of recovery. Subjects ingested either 195 g of CHO (HI-HI group: ~2.3 g/kg) or 17 g of CHO (HI-LO group: ~0.3 g/kg) during the 3-hr period between sessions. The training-induced improvement in 250-kJ time trial performance was greater (p = .02) in the HI-LO group (211 ± 66 W to 244 ± 75 W) compared with the HI-HI group (203 ± 53 W to 219 ± 60 W); however, the increases in mitochondrial content was similar between groups, as reflected by similar increases in citrate synthase maximal activity, citrate synthase protein content and cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV protein content (p > .05 for interaction terms). This is the first study to show that a short-term “train low, compete high” intervention can improve whole-body exercise capacity. Further research is needed to determine whether this type of manipulation can also enhance performance in highly-trained subjects.

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β-Alanine Supplementation Does Not Augment the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to 6 Weeks of Sprint Interval Training

Andrew J.R. Cochran, Michael E. Percival, Sara Thompson, Jenna B. Gillen, Martin J. MacInnis, Murray A. Potter, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, and Martin J. Gibala

Sprint interval training (SIT), repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise, improves skeletal muscle oxidative capacity and exercise performance. β-alanine (β-ALA) supplementation has been shown to enhance exercise performance, which led us to hypothesize that chronic β-ALA supplementation would augment work capacity during SIT and augment training-induced adaptations in skeletal muscle and performance. Twenty-four active but untrained men (23 ± 2 yr; VO2peak = 50 ± 6 mL·kg−1·min−1) ingested 3.2 g/day of β-ALA or a placebo (PLA) for a total of 10 weeks (n = 12 per group). Following 4 weeks of baseline supplementation, participants completed a 6-week SIT intervention. Each of 3 weekly sessions consisted of 4–6 Wingate tests, i.e., 30-s bouts of maximal cycling, interspersed with 4 min of recovery. Before and after the 6-week SIT program, participants completed a 250-kJ time trial and a repeated sprint test. Biopsies (v. lateralis) revealed that skeletal muscle carnosine content increased by 33% and 52%, respectively, after 4 and 10 weeks of β-ALA supplementation, but was unchanged in PLA. Total work performed during each training session was similar across treatments. SIT increased markers of mitochondrial content, including cytochome c oxidase (40%) and β-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase maximal activities (19%), as well as VO2peak (9%), repeated-sprint capacity (5%), and 250-kJ time trial performance (13%), but there were no differences between treatments for any measure (p < .01, main effects for time; p > .05, interaction effects). The training stimulus may have overwhelmed any potential influence of β-ALA, or the supplementation protocol was insufficient to alter the variables to a detectable extent.

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No Improvement in Endurance Performance after a Single Dose of Beetroot Juice

Naomi M. Cermak, Peter Res, Rudi Stinkens, Jon O. Lundberg, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon


Dietary nitrate supplementation has received much attention in the literature due to its proposed ergogenic properties. Recently, the ingestion of a single bolus of nitrate-rich beetroot juice (500 ml, ~6.2 mmol NO3 ) was reported to improve subsequent time-trial performance. However, this large volume of ingested beetroot juice does not represent a realistic dietary strategy for athletes to follow in a practical, performancebased setting. Therefore, we investigated the impact of ingesting a single bolus of concentrated nitrate-rich beetroot juice (140 ml, ~8.7 mmol NO3 ) on subsequent 1-hr time-trial performance in well-trained cyclists.


Using a double-blind, repeated-measures crossover design (1-wk washout period), 20 trained male cyclists (26 ± 1 yr, VO2peak 60 ± 1 ml · kg−1 · min−1, Wmax 398 ± 7.7 W) ingested 140 ml of concentrated beetroot juice (8.7 mmol NO3 ; BEET) or a placebo (nitrate-depleted beetroot juice; PLAC) with breakfast 2.5 hr before an ~1-hr cycling time trial (1,073 ± 21 kJ). Resting blood samples were collected every 30 min after BEET or PLAC ingestion and immediately after the time trial.


Plasma nitrite concentration was higher in BEET than PLAC before the onset of the time trial (532 ± 32 vs. 271 ± 13 nM, respectively; p < .001), but subsequent time-trial performance (65.5 ± 1.1 vs. 65 ± 1.1 s), power output (275 ± 7 vs. 278 ± 7 W), and heart rate (170 ± 2 vs. 170 ± 2 beats/min) did not differ between BEET and PLAC treatments (all p > .05).


Ingestion of a single bolus of concentrated (140 ml) beetroot juice (8.7 mmol NO3 ) does not improve subsequent 1-hr time-trial performance in well-trained cyclists.

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A Sucrose Mouth Rinse Does Not Improve 1-hr Cycle Time Trial Performance When Performed in the Fasted or Fed State

Jorn Trommelen, Milou Beelen, Marjan Mullers, Martin J. Gibala, Luc J.C. van Loon, and Naomi M. Cermak

Carbohydrate mouth rinsing during exercise has been suggested to enhance performance of short (45–60 min) bouts of high-intensity (>75% VO2peak) exercise. Recent studies indicate that this performance enhancing effect may be dependent on the prandial state of the athlete. The purpose of this study was to define the impact of a carbohydrate mouth rinse on ~1-hr time trial performance in both the fasted and fed states. Using a double-blind, crossover design, 14 trained male cyclists (27 ± 6 years; 5.0 ± 0.5 W·kg−1) were selected to perform 4 time trials of ~1 hr (1,032 ± 127 kJ) on a cycle ergometer while rinsing their mouths with a 6.4% sucrose solution (SUC) or a noncaloric sweetened placebo (PLA) for 5 s at the start and at every 12.5% of their set amount of work completed. Two trials were performed in an overnight fasted state and two trials were performed 2 h after consuming a standardized breakfast. Performance time did not differ between any of the trials (fasted-PLA: 68.6 ± 7.2; fasted-SUC: 69.6 ± 7.5; fed-PLA: 67.6 ± 6.6; and fed-SUC: 69.0 ± 6.3 min; Prandial State × Mouth Rinse Solution p = .839; main effect prandial state p = .095; main effect mouth rinse solution p = .277). In line, mean power output and heart rate during exercise did not differ between trials. In conclusion, a sucrose mouth rinse does not improve ~1-hr time trial performance in well-trained cyclists when performed in either the fasted or the fed state.

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Acute Ketone Monoester Supplementation Impairs 20-min Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists: A Randomized, Crossover Trial

Devin G. McCarthy, Jack Bone, Matthew Fong, Phillippe J.M. Pinckaers, William Bostad, Douglas L. Richards, Luc J.C. van Loon, and Martin J. Gibala

Acute ketone monoester (KE) supplementation can alter exercise responses, but the performance effect is unclear. The limited and equivocal data to date are likely related to factors including the KE dose, test conditions, and caliber of athletes studied. We tested the hypothesis that mean power output during a 20-min cycling time trial (TT) would be different after KE ingestion compared to a placebo (PL). A sample size of 22 was estimated to provide 80% power to detect an effect size d z of 0.63 at an alpha level of .05 with a two-tailed paired t test. This determination considered 2.0% as the minimal important difference in performance. Twenty-three trained cyclists (N = 23; peak oxygen uptake: 65 ± 12 ml·kg−1 min−1; M ± SD), who were regularly cycling >5 hr/week, completed a familiarization trial followed by two experimental trials. Participants self-selected and replicated their diet and exercise for ∼24 hr before each trial. Participants ingested either 0.35 g/kg body mass of (R)-3-hydroxybutyl (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate KE or a flavor-matched PL 30 min before exercise in a randomized, triple-blind, crossover manner. Exercise involved a 15-min warm-up followed by the 20-min TT on a cycle ergometer. The only feedback provided was time elapsed. Preexercise venous [β-hydroxybutyrate] was higher after KE versus PL (2.0 ± 0.6 vs. 0.2 ± 0.1 mM, p < .0001). Mean TT power output was 2.4% (0.6% to 4.1%; mean [95% confidence interval]) lower after KE versus PL (255 ± 54 vs. 261 ± 54 W, p < .01; d z  = 0.60). The mechanistic basis for the impaired TT performance after KE ingestion under the present study conditions remains to be determined.