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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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Darrell L. Bonetti, Will G. Hopkins, Timothy E. Lowe and Andrew E. Kilding

Purpose:

Adaptation to acutely intermittent hypoxic exposure appears to produce worthwhile enhancements in endurance performance, but the current 5-min duration of hypoxia and recovery intervals may not be optimal.

Methods:

Eighteen male competitive cyclists and triathletes were randomized to one of two intermittent-hypoxia groups, and nine similar athletes represented a control group. Athletes in the hypoxia groups were exposed to 60 min per day of intermittent hypoxia consisting of alternating intervals of hypoxia and normoxia lasting either 3 or 5 min. Exposures were performed at rest for 5 consecutive days per week for 3 wk. Oxygen saturation, monitored with pulse oximetry, was reduced progressively from 90% (day 1) to 76% (day 15). All athletes maintained their usual competitive-season training throughout the study. Incremental and repeated-sprint tests were performed pre, 3 d post, and 14 d post intervention. Venous blood at rest was sampled pre, mid-, and postintervention.

Results:

There were no clear differences between effects of the two hypoxic treatments on performance or various measures of oxygen transport, hematopoiesis, and inflammation. Compared with control, the combined hypoxic groups showed clear enhancements in peak power (4.7%; 90% confidence limits, ±3.1%), lactate-profile power (4.4%; ±3.0%), and heart-rate profle power (6.5%; ±5.3%) at 3 d post intervention, but at 14 d the effects were unclear. Changes in other measures at 3 and 14 d post intervention were either unclear or unremarkable.

Conclusion:

Acutely intermittent hypoxia produced substantial enhancement in endurance performance, but the relative benefit of 3- vs 5-min exposure intervals remains unclear.

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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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C. Martyn Beaven, Will G. Hopkins, Kier T. Hansen, Matthew R. Wood, John B. Cronin and Timothy E. Lowe

Introduction:

Interest in the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid has increased since the International Olympic Committee lifted the partial ban on its use. Caffeine has beneficial effects on various aspects of athletic performance, but its effects on training have been neglected.

Purpose:

To investigate the acute effect of caffeine on the exercise-associated increases in testosterone and cortisol in a double-blind crossover study.

Methods:

Twenty-four professional rugby-league players ingested caffeine doses of 0, 200, 400, and 800 mg in random order 1 hr before a resistance-exercise session. Saliva was sampled at the time of caffeine ingestion, at 15-min intervals throughout each session, and 15 and 30 min after the session. Data were log-transformed to estimate percent effects with mixed modeling, and effects were standardized to assess magnitudes.

Results:

Testosterone concentration showed a small increase of 15% (90% confidence limits, ± 19%) during exercise. Caffeine raised this concentration in a dose-dependent manner by a further small 21% (± 24%) at the highest dose. The 800-mg dose also produced a moderate 52% (± 44%) increase in cortisol. The effect of caffeine on the testosterone:cortisol ratio was a small decline (14%; ± 21%).

Conclusion:

Caffeine has some potential to benefit training outcomes via the anabolic effects of the increase in testosterone concentration, but this benefit might be counteracted by the opposing catabolic effects of the increase in cortisol and resultant decline in the testosterone:cortisol ratio.