Energy Balance over One Athletic Season

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Magnitude and variation in energy balance (EB) components over an athletic season are largely unknown.


We investigated the longitudinal changes in EB over one season and explored the association between EB variation and change in the main fat-free mass (FFM) components in highly trained athletes.


Eighty athletes (54 males; handball, volleyball, basketball, triathlete, and swimming) were evaluated from the beginning of the season to the main competition stage. Resting and total energy expenditure (REE and TEE, respectively) were assessed by indirect calorimetry and doubly labeled water, respectively. Physical activity energy expenditure was calculated as TEE − 0.1 TEE − REE. Fat mass (FM), FFM, and bone mineral were evaluated with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; changed body energy stores were calculated as 1.0(ΔFFM/Δtime) + 9.5(ΔFM/Δtime). Total-body water (TBW) and its compartments were assessed through dilution techniques, and total-body protein was calculated from a four-compartment model, with body volume assessed by air displacement plethysmography.


Although a negative EB of −17.4 ± 72.7 kcal·d−1 was observed (P < 0.05), EB varied widely among sports and across sex groups resulting in a net weight increase (0.7 ± 2.3 kg) that is attributable to significant changes in FFM (1.2 ± 1.6 kg) and FM (−0.7 ± 1.5 kg) (P < 0.05). EB was related with TBW and intracellular water (r = 0.354, r = 0.257, P < 0.05, respectively), regardless of sex, sports, and age.


The mean negative EB observed over the season resulted from the rate of FM use and FFM accretion, but with a large variation by sex and sports. TBW, but not total-body protein or mineral balance, explained the magnitude of EB, which means that athletes under a positive or a negative EB showed a TBW expansion or shrinkage, respectively, specifically within the cells, over one athletic season.

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