Summary

Protein is an important component of the diet and is involved in almost every structural and functional component of the human body. In general, endurance exercise may impact on the need for dietary protein by increasing the oxidation of amino acids. Resistance exercise may also have an impact through the need for amino acids to support muscle hypertrophy. At the onset of an endurance exercise program there is a negative effect on NBAL, yet with time the body adapts to the stress and NBAL and leucine oxidation are attenuated. After endurance exercise training, the amount of amino acid oxidized at the same absolute exercise intensity is reduced, yet the capacity of the body to oxidize amino acids is increased. However, only in the elite athlete (who is training very hard every day) is there a significant impact upon dietary protein requirements, with a maximal requirement of ~1.6 g/kg/day. For the resistance-trained athlete, there also appears to be a homeostatic adaptation to the stress of the exercise, where very well-trained athletes require only marginally more protein than sedentary persons, and those in the early stages of very intensive resistance exercise may require up to 1.7 g/kg/day. A dietary protein intake that represents 15% of the total energy intake with an energy-sufficient diet should cover the requirements for nearly all strength and endurance athletes. Given the increase in energy intake by most athletes, there is no need to use protein supplements to attain these levels. However, athletes on a low-energy diet or a low-CHO diet could have an inadequate protein intake to cover their needs. The timing of nutrient delivery appears to be important for resistance athletes, where an immediate post-exercise (or pre-/during exercise) intake of CHO and protein will lead to a more positive protein NBAL, probably by reducing protein breakdown (CHO) and stimulating synthesis (protein).

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