Effect of dietary protein content during recovery from high-intensity cycling on subsequent performance and markers of stress, inflammation, and muscle damage in well-trained men
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Nutrition is an important aspect of recuperation for athletes during multi-day competition or hard training. Post-exercise carbohydrate is likely to improve recovery, but the effect of protein is equivocal. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of post-exercise dietary protein content imposed over a high-carbohydrate background on subsequent performance. Using a crossover design, 12 cyclists completed 3 high-intensity rides over 4 days. Day 1 comprised 2.5 h intervals, followed by repeat-sprint performance tests on days 2 (15 h post) and 4 (60 h post), interspersed with a rest day. During 4 h recovery on days 1 and 2, cyclists ingested either 1.4 g.kg(-1).h(-1) carbohydrate, 0.7 g.kg(-1).h(-1) protein and 0.26 g.kg(-1).h(-1) fat (protein-enriched) or 2.1 g.kg(-1).h(-1) carbohydrate, 0.1 g.kg(-1).h(-1) protein, and equal fat (control). At other times, cyclists ingested a standardized high-carbohydrate diet. Anabolism was gauged indirectly by nitrogen balance, stress and inflammation via cortisol and cytokines, skeletal-muscle membrane disruption by creatine kinase, and oxidative stress by malonyl dealdehyde. Sprint mean power was not clearly different on day 2 (0.0%; 95%CL: +/-3.9%), but on day 4 it was 4.1% higher (+/-4.1%) in the protein-enriched condition relative to control. Reduced creatine kinase was possible (26%; +/-30%) but effects on oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, and cortisol were inconclusive or trivial. Overnight nitrogen balance was positive in the protein-enriched condition on day 1 (249+/-70 mg N.kg FFM(-1); mean+/-SD), but negative (-48+/-26 mg N.kg FFM(-1)) in the control condition. A nutritive effect of post-exercise protein content was not discernible short term (15 h), but a delayed performance benefit (60 h) was observed following protein-enriched high-carbohydrate ingestion.
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