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Effects of 4:1 carbohydrate/protein solution versus a carbohydrate-alone solution on IL-6, TNF-α, and cortisol during prolonged cycling in hot environmental conditions

Authors Cosio-Lima L, Desai BV, Stelzer, Schuler PB

Received 11 November 2011

Accepted for publication 18 January 2012

Published 15 March 2012 Volume 2012:3 Pages 21—26


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Ludmila M Cosio-Lima, Bhargav Desai, John W Stelzer, Petra B Schuler
Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL, USA

Purpose: Intense or prolonged exercise and/or heat stress might affect the immune system creating a response similar to trauma or inflammation, resulting in an increase in the susceptibility to viral infections. For example, during prolonged exercise, inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-6, and the stress hormone cortisol are produced and released. Although there have been several studies examining the effects of nutritional supplementation on cytokine release in elite athletes, few studies have investigated the effects of different energy drinks during exercise in adverse environmental conditions. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6, and the stress hormone cortisol, during prolonged cycling under hot environmental conditions while ingesting fluid that contains a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrates and protein (4:1 CHO/PRO) versus a carbohydrate-only drink (CHO).
Methods: Six male cyclists (aged 27 ± 8 years; weight 75.5 ± 3.4 kg; VO2max = 66 ± 2.7 mL/kg/min, mean ± standard error) rode on a stationary ergometer on two separate sessions for 2.5 hours at 75% VO2max in an environmental chamber set at 35°C and 60% relative humidity. During the first session the cyclists were given 4 mL/kg body weight of a 6% carbohydrate solution every 15 minutes. During the second session they were given 4 mL/kg body weight of a 4:1 carbohydrate/protein drink every 15 minutes. Subjects were not aware of which drink they were given in each trial. Blood samples were taken pre-, immediately post-, and 12 hours post-exercise. SPSS (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY) was utilized to analyze data through repeated measures analysis of variance.
Results: No significant main effect was observed between treatments in either cortisol (P = 0.97), IL-6 (P = 0.64), or TNF-α (P = 0.37) responses. Total cortisol concentrations were significantly elevated (P < 0.05) immediately post-exercise, and from pre- to 12 hours post-exercise with both the 4:1 CHO/PRO and the CHO-alone solutions. TNF-α concentrations were only significantly (P = 0.045) elevated post-exercise with the CHO-alone solution. A significant (P < 0.05) elevation of IL-6 was seen immediately post-exercise and 12 hours post-exercise with both the CHO-alone and 4:1 CHO/PRO solutions.
Conclusions: Consuming a 4:1 CHO/PRO solution during prolonged cycling under hot environmental conditions has comparable effects on inflammatory cytokines to drinking a CHO-alone solution.

Keywords: carbohydrates, cytokines, heat, performance, protein

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