Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Whey improves endurance athletes' stamina

The tens of thousands of wonderful readers of this free web magazine are familiar with whey as an easily absorbed protein that promotes muscle recovery and hypertrophy when taken before or after a training session. So it's good stuff for bodybuilders, whey. But if the Taiwanese animal study that was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is to be believed, then whey is also good for endurance athletes. But in a very different way from how you probably think.

The Taiwanese did an experiment with 4 groups of mice.

The first group of lab animals got no physical exercise and were given ordinary feed [SC].

A second group also got no exercise but got a daily portion of whey [SC+WP]. The human equivalent of the dose they used would be 30-40 g.

A third group swam every day. The researchers increased the amount of exertion gradually so that at the end of six weeks the mice swam for 60 minutes with a weight attached to their tail [ED].

A fourth group of mice swam every day and were given a portion of whey 30 minutes afterwards [ET+WP].

Stronger and fitter
The whey supplementation made the mice stronger. The mice in the ET+WP group developed more grip strength in their claws after 6 weeks, as the figure below shows.

Whey improves endurance athletes' stamina

Even more convincing was the effect of whey on the mice's endurance capacity. Their time to exhaustion doubled in the ET+WP group.

Muscles and fat
You'd expect that the whey supplementation would also boost the mice's muscle growth, but that didn't happen. Whey supplementation had no effect on muscle mass, but reduced the amount of fat tissue [EFP] considerably.

Whey improves endurance athletes' stamina

The researchers found no abnormalities in the muscle tissue, organs or blood of the mice that had been given whey. So whey was safe.

"We provide evidence that whey protein affected biochemical assessments with long-term aerobic swimming, considered an intensive training exercise, and enhanced exercise performance without muscle hypertrophy", the researchers summarise. "For future investigations, whey protein could be used in humans who focus on aerobic endurance training for protective and health purposes. We also provide the basic safety evidence from pathological observations and assessments. This study suggests alternative uses of whey protein as a nutrient supplement worthy of good health considerations."

The study was funded by the Taiwanese government.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Aug;46(8):1517-24.

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