Protein requirements for endurance athletes
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Acute endurance exercise results in the oxidation of several amino acids. The total amount of amino acid oxidation during endurance exercise amounts to only 1-6% of the total energy cost of exercise. The branched chain amino acid, leucine, has been most often studied in relation to endurance exercise. Leucine is oxidized by the enzyme, branched-chain oxo-acid dehydrogenase (BCOAD). BCOAD is relatively inactive at rest ( approximately 4-7%) and is activated at the onset of exercise by dephosphorylation (to about 25%). After a period of endurance exercise training, the activation of BCOAD and amino acid oxidation are attenuated, however the total amount of BCOAD enzyme is up-regulated. A low energy and/or carbohydrate intake will increase amino acid oxidation and total protein requirements. With adequate energy and carbohydrate intake, low to moderate intensity endurance activity has little impact on dietary protein requirements and 1.0 gPRO/kg/d is sufficient. The only situation where dietary protein requirements exceed those for relatively sedentary individuals is in top sport athletes where the maximal requirement is approximately 1.6 gPRO/kg/d. Although most endurance athletes get enough protein to support any increased requirements, those with low energy or carbohydrate intakes may require nutritional advice to optimize dietary protein intake.
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