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Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jul;39:211-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 10.

High dietary protein restores overreaching induced impairments in leukocyte trafficking and reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection in elite cyclists.

Author information

Health and Exercise Sciences Research Group, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK. Electronic address:
Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
Sport & Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, St. Luke's Campus, University of Exeter, Exeter EX1 2LU, Devon, UK.
DSM Biotechnology Center, Delft, The Netherlands.
Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Chicago, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine (MIPH), Mannheim Medical Faculty, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Health and Exercise Sciences Research Group, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK.


The present study examined whether a high protein diet prevents the impaired leukocyte redistribution in response to acute exercise caused by a large volume of high-intensity exercise training. Eight cyclists (VO2max: 64.2±6.5mLkg(-1)min(-1)) undertook two separate weeks of high-intensity training while consuming either a high protein diet (3gkg(-1)proteinBM(-1)day(-1)) or an energy and carbohydrate-matched control diet (1.5gkg(-1)proteinBM(-1)day(-1)). High-intensity training weeks were preceded by a week of normal-intensity training under the control diet. Leukocyte and lymphocyte sub-population responses to acute exercise were determined at the end of each training week. Self-reported symptoms of upper-respiratory tract infections (URTI) were monitored daily by questionnaire. Undertaking high-intensity training with a high protein diet restored leukocyte kinetics to similar levels observed during normal-intensity training: CD8(+) TL mobilization (normal-intensity: 29,319±13,130cells/μL×∼165min vs. high-intensity with protein: 26,031±17,474cells/μL×∼165min, P>0.05), CD8(+) TL egress (normal-intensity: 624±264cells/μL vs. high-intensity with protein: 597±478cells/μL, P>0.05). This pattern was driven by effector-memory populations mobilizing (normal-intensity: 6,145±6,227cells/μL×∼165min vs. high-intensity with protein: 6,783±8,203cells/μL×∼165min, P>0.05) and extravastating from blood (normal-intensity: 147±129cells/μL vs. high-intensity with protein: 165±192cells/μL, P>0.05). High-intensity training while consuming a high protein diet was associated with fewer symptoms of URTI compared to performing high-intensity training with a normal diet (P<0.05). To conclude, a high protein diet might reduce the incidence of URTI in athletes potentially mediated by preventing training-induced impairments in immune-surveillance.


CD8(+) T lymphocytes; Dietary protein; Immune-surveillance; Infection risk; Overtraining

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