Maintaining energy balance may protect cyclists’ bones during stage races

May 6th, 2010 - 1:49 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 6 (ANI): A new University of Missouri research has suggested that elite cyclists should match their energy intake to the high-energy demands of stage racing to protect their bones.

Previous studies have demonstrated that competitive cyclists have significantly lower bone mineral density (BMD) than other endurance athletes, making them more vulnerable to fractures.

The reasons for the reduced bone mass in elite cyclists are not fully understood, but one explanation is an imbalance between bone formation and bone breakdown due to the high-energy cost of stage racing.

However, the latest study has shown that proper nutrition during multi-day stage races can prevent harmful changes in bone turnover.

The researchers involved in this study found that athletes who maintained energy balance by matching their energy intake to their energy expenditure showed increased markers of bone turnover - the process of breaking down old bone and forming new bone.

Because the increase in bone formation was greater than the increase in bone breakdown, the researchers concluded that these changes were not likely to negatively affect bone mass in the long-term.

“The findings suggest that participation in stage races might not have negative effects on bone turnover if energy intake matches the energy cost of high-intensity racing over several days,” said Pam Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.

“The results are consistent with the practical recommendation that elite cyclists should match their energy intake to the high energy demands of stage racing,” Hinton added.

In the study, Hinton examined markers of bone formation and bone breakdown in the blood of elite cyclists who participated in the Tour of Southland, a six-day, 10-stage cycling race.

Hinton found significant increases in markers of bone formation and bone breakdown among the athletes whose energy intake matched their energy expenditure throughout the race.

Disrupted bone turnover, that is, reduced bone formation and increased bone breakdown, due to inadequate energy intake relative to expenditure is just one possible cause of low BMD among cyclists.

Other factors include low-body weight, increased loss of calcium through sweat and significant time spent cycling, which exerts only minimal mechanical loading on the skeleton.

The study will be published in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism. (ANI)

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