Protein supplementation enhances cerebral oxygenation during exercise in elite basketball players

Nutrition. 2018 Sep;53:34-37. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.01.015. Epub 2018 Feb 5.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to examine cerebral oxygenation during high-intensity exercise in elite basketball players who consumed supplements with different whey protein contents after a short postexercise recovery to determine whether changing whey protein content in carbohydrate-based supplementation influences cerebral hemodynamic response when the supplement was consumed during a 2-h recovery after a 1-h exercise challenge.

Methods: This was a randomized, counterbalanced crossover study. Fifteen Division 1 collegiate basketball players (18-20 y) consumed 6.25 kcal/kg of either high-protein (36% protein in total calorie) or an isocaloric low-protein (12% protein in total calorie) control supplement in a carbohydrate-based drink immediately after a 1-h cycling (70% of maximal oxygen consumption [VO2max]). After a 2-h rest, the athletes were challenged on a cycloergometer at 80% VO2max. Blood perfusion (total hemoglobin) and oxygen saturation of frontal brain were continuously measured by near-infrared spectroscopy during the cycling.

Results: Before the cycloergometer test, high-protein supplementation increased peak insulin response and lowered glucose increases during the recovery compared with the low-protein trial. High-protein supplementation enhanced increases in cerebral oxygen saturation (P < 0.01) and attenuated increases in cerebral blood perfusion (total hemoglobin; P < 0.01) during the cycloergometer exercise; and resulted in a 16% longer cycling time (from 474 ± 49 s to 553 ± 78 s, P < 0.05), compared with the low-protein trial.

Conclusion: Enhanced fatigue recovery after consumption of a high-protein supplement is associated with enhanced cerebral oxygenation against exercise challenge, which spares brain blood demand for periphery.

Keywords: Endurance performance; Frontal brain; Hemodynamic; NIRS; Whey protein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Athletic Performance / statistics & numerical data
  • Basketball
  • Bicycling
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Test / methods*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Whey Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Whey Proteins