Share this article on:

A Protein–Leucine Supplement Increases Branched-Chain Amino Acid and Nitrogen Turnover But Not Performance

NELSON, ANDRE R.1; PHILLIPS, STUART M.2; STELLINGWERFF, TRENT3; REZZI, SERGE3; BRUCE, STEPHEN J.3; BRETON, ISABELLE3; THORIMBERT, ANITA3; GUY, PHILIPPE A.3; CLARKE, JIM1; BROADBENT, SUZANNE4; ROWLANDS, DAVID STEPHEN1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 1 - p 57–68
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182290371
Basic Sciences

Purpose This study aimed to determine the effect of postexercise protein–leucine coingestion with CHO–lipid on subsequent high-intensity endurance performance and to investigate candidate mechanisms using stable isotope methods and metabolomics.

Methods In this double-blind, randomized, crossover study, 12 male cyclists ingested a leucine/protein/CHO/fat supplement (LEUPRO 7.5/20/89/22 g·h−1, respectively) or isocaloric CHO/fat control (119/22 g·h−1) 1–3 h after exercise during a 6-d training block (intense intervals, recovery, repeated-sprint performance rides). Daily protein intake was clamped at 1.9 g·kg−1·d−1 (LEUPRO) and 1.5 g·kg−1·d−1 (control). Stable isotope infusions (1-13C-leucine and 6,6-2H2-glucose), mass spectrometry–based metabolomics, and nitrogen balance methods were used to determine the effects of LEUPRO on whole-body branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) and glucose metabolism and protein turnover.

Results After exercise, LEUPRO increased BCAA levels in plasma (2.6-fold; 90% confidence limits = ×/÷1.1) and urine (2.8-fold; ×/÷1.2) and increased products of BCAA metabolism plasma acylcarnitine C5 (3.0-fold; ×/÷0.9) and urinary leucine (3.6-fold; ×/÷1.3) and β-aminoisobutyrate (3.4-fold; ×/÷1.4), indicating that ingesting ∼10 g leucine per hour during recovery exceeds the capacity to metabolize BCAA. Furthermore, LEUPRO increased leucine oxidation (5.6-fold; ×/÷1.1) and nonoxidative disposal (4.8-fold; ×/÷1.1) and left leucine balance positive relative to control. With the exception of day 1 (LEUPRO = 17 ± 20 mg N·kg−1, control = −90 ± 44 mg N·kg−1), subsequent (days 2–5) nitrogen balance was positive for both conditions (LEUPRO = 130 ± 110 mg N·kg−1, control = 111 ± 86 mg N·kg−1). Compared with control feeding, LEUPRO lowered the serum creatine kinase concentration by 21%–25% (90% confidence limits = ±14%), but the effect on sprint power was trivial (day 4 = 0.4% ± 1.0%, day 6 = −0.3% ± 1.0%).

Conclusions Postexercise protein–leucine supplementation saturates BCAA metabolism and attenuates tissue damage, but effects on subsequent intense endurance performance may be inconsequential under conditions of positive daily nitrogen balance.

1School of Sport and Exercise, Massey University, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND; 2Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA; 3Nestle Research Center, Lausanne, SWITZERLAND; and 4School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: David Stephen Rowlands, Ph.D., School of Sport and Exercise, Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, PO Box 756, Wellington, New Zealand; E-mail: d.s.rowlands@massey.ac.nz.

Submitted for publication March 2011.

Accepted for publication June 2011.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (www.acsm-msse.org).

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine