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Ida A. Heikura, Marc Quod, Nicki Strobel, Roger Palfreeman, Rita Civil and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: To assess energy and carbohydrate (CHO) availability and changes in blood hormones in 6 professional male cyclists over multiple single-day races. Methods: The authors collected weighed-food records, power-meter data, and morning body mass measurements across 8 d. CHO intakes were compared with contemporary guidelines. Energy availability (EA) was calculated as energy intake minus exercise energy expenditure, relative to fat-free mass (FFM). Skinfold thickness and blood metabolic and reproductive hormones were measured prestudy and poststudy. Statistical significance was defined as P ≤ .05. Results: Body mass (P = .11) or skinfold thickness (P = .75) did not change across time, despite alternate-day low EA (14 [9] vs 57 [10] kcal·kg−1 FFM·d−1, race vs rest days, respectively; P < .001). Cyclists with extremely low EA on race days (<10 kcal·kg−1 FFM·d−1; n = 2) experienced a trend toward decreased testosterone (−14%) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (−25%), despite being high EA (>46 kcal·kg−1 FFM·d−1) on days between. CHO intakes were significantly higher on race versus rest days (10.7 [1.3] vs 6.4 [0.8] g·kg−1·d−1, respectively; P < .001). The cyclists reached contemporary prerace fueling targets (3.4 [0.7] g·kg−1·3 h−1 CHO; P = .24), while the execution of CHO guidelines during race (51 [9] g·h−1; P = .048) and within acute (1.6 [0.5] g·kg−1·3 h−1; P = .002) and prolonged (7.4 [1.0] g·kg−1·24 h−1; P = .002) postrace recovery was poor. Conclusions: The authors are the first to report the day-by-day periodization of energy and CHO in a small sample of professional cyclists. They also examined the logistics of conducting a field study under stressful conditions in which major cooperation from the subjects and team management is needed. Their commentary around these challenges and possible solutions is a major novelty of the article.

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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.