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The Effect of Dietary Protein on Protein Metabolism and Performance in Endurance-trained Males


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 2 - p 352–360
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001791

Recommendations for dietary protein are primarily based on intakes that maintain nitrogen (i.e., protein) balance rather than optimize metabolism and/or performance.

Purpose This study aimed to determine how varying protein intakes, including a new tracer-derived safe intake, alter whole body protein metabolism and exercise performance during training.

Methods Using a double-blind randomized crossover design, 10 male endurance-trained runners (age, 32 ± 8 yr; V˙O2peak, 65.9 ± 7.9 mL O2·kg−1·min−1) performed three trials consisting of 4 d of controlled training (20, 5, 10, and 20 km·d−1, respectively) while consuming diets providing 0.94 (LOW), 1.20 (MOD), and 1.83 (HIGH) g protein·kg−1·d−1. Whole body protein synthesis, breakdown, and net balance were determined by oral [15N]glycine on the first and last day of the 4-d controlled training period, whereas exercise performance was determined from maximum voluntary isometric contraction, 5-km time trial, and countermovement jump impulse (IMP) and peak force before and immediately after the 4-d intervention.

Results Synthesis and breakdown were not affected by protein intake, whereas net balance showed a dose–response (HIGH > MOD > LOW, P < 0.05) with only HIGH being in positive balance (P < 0.05). There was a trend (P = 0.06) toward an interaction in 5-km Time Trial with HIGH having a moderate effect over LOW (effect size = 0.57) and small effect over MOD (effect size = 0.26). IMP decreased with time (P < 0.01) with no effect of protein (P = 0.56). There was no effect of protein intake (P ≥ 0.06) on maximum voluntary isometric contraction, IMP, or peak force performance.

Conclusion Our data suggest that athletes who consume dietary protein toward the upper end of the current recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (1.2–2 g·kg−1) would better maintain protein metabolism and potentially exercise performance during training.

1Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, CANADA; and

2Frontier Research Laboratories, Institute for Innovation, Ajinomoto Co., Inc., Kawasaki, Kanagawa, JAPAN

Address for correspondence: Daniel R. Moore, Ph.D., 100 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 2C9; E-mail:

Williamson and Hiroyuki Kato contributed equally to this work.

Submitted for publication June 2018.

Accepted for publication September 2018.

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine