Physical Performance

Nutrition is an important aspect in athletic performance. Download these shareable videos, graphics, handouts and recipes to help promote the power of protein and eggs.

Leucine: Promoting Muscle Anabolism at Breakfast

Muscle Illustration

Protein is a critically important fuel source for muscles, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are particularly so. Leucine is the most abundant BCAA found in muscles, and as the body of leucine research continues to grow, so does the evidence pointing to several benefits that leucine imparts, including the regulation of skeletal muscle protein synthesis. This was demonstrated in a study where leucine supplementation in a low dose of whey protein stimulated postprandial human myofibrillar protein synthesis as effectively as a much greater dose of whey protein (1). Similarly, a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage supplemented with a high amount of leucine was found to be as effective as a high-protein beverage at stimulating muscle anabolism (2). Furthermore, results of another study on muscle recovery suggest that increasing the concentration of leucine in an essential amino acid supplement during moderate intensity exercise may increase post-exercise skeletal muscle metabolism (3). In addition to tissue protein synthesis, leucine in combination with vitamin B6 also increased fat oxidation and insulin sensitivity and reduced oxidative and inflammatory stress, thus suggesting a potential approach in the management of obesity (4).


Leucine is an essential amino acid, and as such, it must be obtained from dietary sources, since our bodies cannot produce it. Animal proteins in general are among the best sources of dietary leucine. Eggs contain 1.086g of leucine per 100g weight, which translates to approximately 9% of its total protein content (5). When compared to other foods commonly consumed for breakfast, eggs are not as high on a gram for gram basis as oats or cheese (see figure below). However, when a comparison of leucine content is made on a per calorie basis, eggs come out looking better than most other common food sources. At only 72 calories, with 6.3 grams of protein and a high leucine content, eggs are a nutritionally- and protein-dense food source, perfect for those trying to get a little more protein, leucine and other essential micronutrients in their diets.


As noted in the dialogue from the recent fourth meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, protein is notoriously under-consumed at breakfast. Given their robust nutrient profile and leucine content, eggs can be an easy fix to this nutritional shortcoming and an important protein source to consider when helping patients and clients build healthful diets.


  1. Churchward-Venne TA, Burd NA, Mitchell CJ, West DW, Philp A, Marcotte GR, Baker SK, Baar K, Phillips SM. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol. 20012; 590(Pt 11):2751-65.
  2. Churchward TA, Breen L, Di Donato DM, Hector AJ, Mitchell CJ, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Breuille D, Offord EA, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men: a double-blind, randomized trial.Am J Clin Nutr. 2014; 99(2):276-86.
  3. Pasiakos SM, MClung HL, McClung JP, Margolis LM, Andersen NE, Cloutier GJ, Pikosky MA, Rood JC, Fielding RA, Young AJ. Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(3):809-18.
  4. Zemel MB, Bruckbauer A. Effects of a leucine and pyridoxine-containing nutraceutical on fat oxidation, and oxidative and inflammatory stress in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrients. 2012; 4(6):529-41.
  5. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory Website. Updated Dec 7, 2011. Accessed July 28, 2014.

Policy on the Plate: An Overview of Presentations and Dialogue from the Fourth Meeting of the DGAC


Today’s post comes from guest blogger, Apeksha Gulvady, PhD. Apeksha holds an MA and PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Texas in Austin, where her research focused on the role of aging and diet-induced obesity on immune cell function. Apeksha previously worked with PepsiCo R&D, where she supported core nutrition business activities and priorities in both global foods and beverages, and she has recently joined Edelman Public Relations to pursue her passion for nutrition communications.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health, recently reviewed the latest in nutrition research in pursuit of developing evidence-based recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The overarching goal of these new recommendations is to encourage Americans to eat a well-balanced diet to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease.

The DGAC’s fourth meeting, held July 17-18, commenced with an introduction by DGAC Chair, Barbara Millen, who underscored the broad scope of work the Committee has undertaken and the Committee’s three core themes: 1) Dietary Patterns; 2) “What works” to help people actually implement the Dietary Guidelines; and 3) a Systems Approach focusing on what, where and how people consume food and exercise.

Subcommittee 1 on food and nutrient Intakes, and health: current status and trends found that there are multiple ways to build a healthful diet, and it can be done by way of the current food supply. The challenge then becomes, how to make these diets accessible to people and inspire them to make healthier choices. During the discussion, Wayne Campbell stated that proteins are notoriously under-consumed at breakfast, and Barbara Millen agreed, calling out eggs as an important protein source to consider.

Subcommittee 2 on dietary patterns, foods and nutrients, and health outcomes presented a review of evidence on dietary patterns associated with reduced risk for the development of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight/ obesity and cancer. Overall, they observed that “common dietary patterns confer benefits across a variety of outcomes.” During the Committee’s discussion about the need for more specificity regarding individual foods and amounts within these dietary patterns (e.g. lean red meat vs. chicken vs. fish; low-fat vs full-fat dairy; refined grains and added sugars), a Committee member mentioned research indicating that dietary patterns associated with favorable outcomes related to body weight and reduction of CVD risk include low intakes of cholesterol, among other nutrients. This prompted Miriam Nelson, to challenge whether it was cholesterol itself or rather food sources of cholesterol that were related to observed health risks. Frank Hu clarified that observed health outcomes were attributed to dietary patterns rather than individual effects of cholesterol or any single nutrient.

Subcommittee 3 on diet and physical activity behavior change examined emerging areas of research including acculturation, eating out and mobile technology as it relates to health behavior change strategies. Overall, these areas had very limited research available, and more research is needed.

Subcommittee 4 on food and physical activity environments presented updates in three areas: food access, early childhood and school environment. Overall, they found limited evidence in these areas and that more research needs to be explored. Also, initial conclusions within additional areas of exploration are yet to come at future meetings.

Findings of Subcommittee 5 on food sustainability and safety were similar to the dietary patterns associated with positive health outcomes presented by Subcommittee 2 (e.g. Mediterranean, vegetarian, etc.). The Committee found that in general, a dietary pattern that is lower in animal-based foods and higher in plant-based foods has lesser environmental impact.

The physical activity writing group lead by Miriam Nelson stated that the DGAC will include physical activity recommendations for various age groups, based on recommendations from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

While this fourth meeting of the DGAC indicated the directions that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans may take, it is clear that more research is needed in each focus area, and final determinations and recommendations for all topics under the Committee’s broad scope are as of yet undecided. With multiple meetings and opportunities for public and private entities to provide feedback and comments, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans remains a work in progress, and the ongoing dialogue of the DGAC will become increasingly important for health professionals to monitor.

Apeksha Gulvady, PhD

Nutrition Close-Up, Summer 2014

Nutrition Close-Up, Summer 2014 (pdf, 1.5 MB)

Articles in this Issue…

The role of the brain, ‘food cues,’ in overeating

By Kerri Boutelle, PhD

Obesity is a serious and refractory problem that is associated with multiple medical and psychological comorbities and risks. Recent data suggest that in the United States, two out of every three adults are overweight or obese, and one out of three children is overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, psychological impairment, poor quality of life, and all-cause mortality.

Vitamin D: a stronger link to health

By Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN

Getting adequate vitamin D and calcium is essential for children, who need to grow strong bones, and for adults, who need to maintain strong bones and prevent bone loss. New findings
from the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial of >36,000 postmenopausal women, confirm the safety and synergistic benefits of these two nutrients, showing a 35-38 % reduction
in hip fracture incidence 1. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you are less likely to efficiently absorb calcium in the gut and may lose bone as you age. The development of low bone density
and/or osteoporosis later in life, which affects approximately 54 million Americans over the age of 50 years 2, is highly linked to suboptimal nutrition and physical activity patterns during young adulthood. After the age of 20-25 years, when bone growth reaches its full genetic potential, bone “withdrawals” can begin to exceed “deposits” (except in the skull, which increases in mass throughout the lifespan).

Complexity of individual variability in nutrition

By Tia M. Rains, PhD

One size does not fit all when it comes to health. Be it diet, exercise, or prescription medications, what works wonderfully for one person may produce little effect or even the opposite
effect in others. This is not surprising given metabolic differences between individuals. I remember observing this first-hand as an undergraduate student in a clinical chemistry course. Each
student underwent some basic blood tests and we compared results across the class. For some tests (e.g., liver enzymes), there was little variability among the students. But in others, there was quite a bit of diversity in results. For example, the blood glucose and insulin responses to an oral glucose tolerance test varied dramatically student to student.

New research in fight against childhood obesity

By Jamie I. Baum, PhD

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has more than doubled in adults and more than tripled in children and adolescents since the 1970s. Roughly one in three children ages 2-19 years is overweight or obese. Obese individuals have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Once restricted to adults, these metabolic diseases are now being diagnosed in children. Increasing protein in the diet has been linked to improvements in glucose and insulin control, blood cholesterol, body composition, energy metabolism, as well as increased weight loss in adults. However, very little research has been focused on determining if increasing protein in the diet of school-aged children has comparable health benefits.

Low-carb training getting mileage with endurance athletes

By Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS

Training low” has nothing to do with altitude and everything to do with intentionally training with low glycogen stores to enhance fat metabolism. It is the latest craze for endurance athletes who seek to preserve glycogen stores by optimizing utilization of fat stores through an adaptive process during their training. This is typically accomplished by lowering carb feed rates to <3 g / kg / d for five days or more 1. Fat intake is increased to compensate for lower carb calories with the idea that intramuscular triglyceride stores go up along with enzymes necessary for fat oxidation.

CPE Webinar Opportunity – Building an “Optimal Diet”: Putting Protein into Practice


ENC has partnered with Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition) Dietary Practice Group to offer a continuing education webinar titled Building an “Optimal Diet”: Putting Protein into Practice, presented by Dr. Stuart Phillips.

Dr. Phillips is a professor at McMaster University and one of the leading investigators in the field of exercise metabolism. His work focuses on the impact of nutrition and exercise on human skeletal muscle protein turnover. During the webinar, he discusses protein needs and timing of intake for maximum muscle growth and maintenance for athletes and the aging population. Additionally, he elaborates on how protein quality plays a major role in muscle anabolism. To close his talk, Dr. Phillips shares suggestions for practical applications of the latest protein research, including recommending natural protein sources with high biological value, such as eggs and milk, to help health professionals to make up-to-date diet recommendations to their clients and patients.

The webinar is approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) for 1 CPEU and is free of charge throughout the month of July. To receive the CPEU, SCAN members and non-members must log into the SCAN website to order and view the webinar.

Protein Requirements for Athletes and Active Individuals

Dr.-Taylor-C.-WallaceToday’s post comes from Taylor Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN. Dr. Wallace is an accomplished food and nutrition expert, residing in the Washington, DC area.  He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in addition to three academic textbooks.  Dr. Wallace has a doctorate degree in Food Science & Nutrition from The Ohio State University and frequently serves as a media spokesperson on hot topic nutrition, food safety and food technology issues.  Visit Dr. Taylor Wallace’s blog at


A few decades ago, sports nutrition science was in its early infancy; however, today many science-based solutions are available in the form of functional foods and dietary supplements. Many populations of active individuals, such as combat personnel, first responders, athletes and frequent gym goers have greater nutritional requirements as compared to the general population. Optimal nutrition, and the appropriate selection of foods and fluids, timing of intake, and supplemental choices enhance performance and recovery from exercise (1). Energy needs, especially protein and carbohydrate intakes, must be met during times of intense activity to help maintain body weight, replenish glycogen stores and in the case of protein, help build and repair muscle tissue.

Muscle growth happens as a result of combined exercise and proper nutrition. To attain peak levels of performance, active individuals clearly need to be aware of their dietary intake of protein; a large body of evidence supports that appropriate intakes of protein/amino acids can help support increased rates of muscle repair and formation (2). National and international dietary guidelines have traditionally recommend that adults need no more than 0.8-0.9 grams per kilogram body weight per day of protein (3-4). That’s equivalent to about 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women daily. However, a number of recent reviews, including a position stand by the American College of Sports Medicine (5), scrutinize the use of current dietary recommendations for protein among active individuals, such as athletes. There is general consensus that protein needs of active individuals are higher than those of sedentary persons. Intake of 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight for endurance athletes (e.g. runners) and 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight for power athletes (i.e. weight lifters) has been suggested as an appropriate requirement for active individuals (5).  ­That’s equivalent to approximately 84-119 grams for men and 66-94 grams for women daily. Consuming high quality protein (egg, dairy and/or soy) through either food or supplements immediately following exercise enhances muscle creation. While is not difficult to obtain sufficient protein intakes from natural foods, protein shakes, bars, powders and/or amino acid supplements may be advantageous in situations such as when an athlete does not have time for a full meal post-workout. Be cautious on what products you consume, especially if you are an athlete, as many tainted products and banned substances exist. If you are considering a sports nutrition product, choose a national brand or one that is third party certified to avoid any of these potential predicaments.

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of Canada, and American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2009;109(3):509-527.
  2. Burd NA, Tang JE, Moore DR. Exercise training and protein metabolism: influences of contraction, protein intake, and sex-based differnces. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 106:1692-1701.
  3. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005.
  4. WHO Technical Report Series 935. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition: report of a joint FAO/WHO/UNU expert consultation.  Report of a Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation. 2011.
  5. Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM, Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009; 41:709-731.