A series of three case reports in patients with phenylketonuria performing regular exercise: first steps in dietary adjustment

J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Jun 26;32(6):635-641. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2018-0492.


Background Phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare, inherited metabolic condition, is treated with a strict low-phenylalanine (Phe) diet, supplemented with Phe-free protein substitute. The optimal nutritional management of a sporting individual with PKU has not been described. Therefore, guidelines for the general athlete have to be adapted. Case presentation Three clinical scenarios of sporting patients with PKU are given, illustrating dietary adaptations to usual management and challenges to attain optimal sporting performance. Therefore, the main objectives of sports nutrition in PKU are to (1) maintain a high carbohydrate diet; (2) carefully monitor hydration status; and (3) give attention to the timing of protein substitute intake in the immediate post-exercise recovery phase. Optimal energy intake should be given prior to, during and post exercise training sessions or competition. Fortunately, a usual low-Phe diet is rich in carbohydrate, but attention is required on the types of special low-protein foods chosen. Acute exercise does not seem to influence blood Phe concentrations, but further evidence is needed. Summary Well-treated PKU patients should be able to participate in sports activities, but this is associated with increased nutritional requirements and dietary adjustments. Conclusions It should be the goal of all sporting patients with PKU to maintain good metabolic Phe control and attain maximal athletic performance.

Keywords: diet; exercise; nutrition; phenylketonuria; physical activity; sport.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenylalanine / blood
  • Phenylketonurias / blood
  • Phenylketonurias / therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Phenylalanine