Compensatory Changes in Energy Balance Regulation over One Athletic Season

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Mechanisms in energy balance (EB) regulation may include compensatory changes in energy intake (EI) and metabolic adaption (MA), but information is unavailable in athletes who often change EB components. We aim to investigate EB regulation compensatory mechanisms over one athletic season.


Fifty-seven athletes (39 males/18 females; handball, volleyball, basketball, triathlon, and swimming) were evaluated from the beginning to the competitive phase of the season. Resting and total energy expenditure (REE and TEE, respectively) were assessed by indirect calorimetry and doubly labeled water, respectively, and physical activity energy expenditure was determined as TEE − 0.1(TEE) − REE. Fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) were evaluated by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and changed body energy stores was determined by 1.0(ΔFFM/Δtime) + 9.5(ΔFM/Δtime). EI was derived as TEE + EB. REE was predicted from baseline FFM, FM, sex, and sports. %MA was calculated as 100(measured REE/predicted REE-1) and MA (kcal) as %MA/100 multiplied by baseline measured REE. Average EI minus average physical activity energy expenditure was computed as a proxy of average energy availability, assuming that a constant nonexercise EE occurred over the season.


Body mass increased by 0.8 ± 2.5 kg (P < 0.05), but a large individual variability was found ranging from −6.1 to 5.2 kg. The TEE raise (16.8% ± 11.7%) was compensated by an increase EI change (16.3% ± 12.0%) for the whole group (P < 0.05). MA was found in triathletes, sparing 128 ± 168 kcal·d−1, and basketball players, dissipating 168 ± 205 kcal·d−1 (P < 0.05). MA was associated (P < 0.05) with EB and energy availability (r = 0.356 and r = 0.0644, respectively).


TEE increased over the season without relevant mean changes in weight, suggesting that EI compensation likely occurred. The thrifty or spendthrift phenotypes observed among sports and the demanding workloads these athletes are exposed to highlight the need for sport-specific energy requirements.

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