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J Am Coll Nutr. 2019 Feb 13:1-9. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1568322. [Epub ahead of print]

Short-Term Mediterranean Diet Improves Endurance Exercise Performance: A Randomized-Sequence Crossover Trial.

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a Department of Nutrition and Dietetics , Saint Louis University , Saint Louis , Missouri , USA.
b Department of Applied Health , Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville , Edwardsville , Illinois , USA.



Healthful dietary patterns have constituents that are known to improve exercise performance, such as antioxidants, nitrates, and alkalizing effects. However, ergogenic effects of such diets have not been evaluated. We hypothesized that a short-term Mediterranean diet results in better exercise performance, as compared to a typical Western diet.


Eleven recreationally active women (n = 7) and men (n = 4) (body mass index, 24.6 ± 3.2 kg/m2; age 28 ± 3 years) were studied in a randomized-sequence crossover study, in which they underwent exercise performance testing on one occasion after 4 days of a Mediterranean diet and on another occasion after 4 days of a Western diet. A 9- to 16-day washout period separated the two trials. Endurance exercise performance was evaluated with a 5-km treadmill time trial. Anaerobic exercise performance tests included a Wingate cycle test, a vertical jump test, and hand grip dynamometry.


Five-kilometer run time was 6% ± 3% shorter (faster) in the Mediterranean diet trial than in the Western diet trial (27.09 ± 3.55 vs 28.59 ± 3.21 minutes; p = 0.030) despite similar heart rates (160 ± 5 vs 160 ± 4 beats/min; p = 0.941) and ratings of perceived exertion (14.6 ± 0.5 vs 15.0 ± 0.5; p = 0.356). No differences between the diet conditions were observed for anaerobic exercise tests, including peak and mean power from the Wingate test (both p ≥ 0.05), the vertical jump test (p = 0.19), and the hand grip strength test (p = 0.69).


Our findings extend existing evidence of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet by showing that this diet is also effective for improving endurance exercise performance in as little as 4 days. Further studies are warranted to determine whether a longer-term Mediterranean diet provides greater benefits and whether it might also be beneficial for anaerobic exercise performance and muscle strength and power.


Exercise; diets; fatigue; physical performance; sports nutrition

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