Fat oxidation rates in professional soccer players


August 2019


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Purpose: Large interindividual variation exists in maximal fat oxidation (MFO) rates and the exercise intensity at which it occurs (FATMAX). However, there are no data describing the shape of the fat oxidation curve or if individual differences exist when tested on separate occasions. Furthermore, there are limited data on fat metabolism in professional team sport athletes. Therefore, the aim of this study was to test-retest the concavity (shape) and intercept (height) of fat oxidation curves within a group of professional soccer players.

Method: On two occasions, 16 professional male soccer players completed a graded exercise test in a fasted state (≥5 h). Rates of fat oxidation were determined using indirect calorimetry. Maximal oxygen uptake (V˙O2max) was measured to calculate FATMAX (%V˙O2max). The shape of the fat oxidation curves were modeled on an individual basis using third-degree polynomial. Test-by-test differences, in the shape and vertical shift of the fat oxidation curves, were established to assess within-individual variability.

Results: Average absolute MFO was 0.69 ± 0.15 g·min (range, 0.45-0.99 g·min). On a group level, no significant differences were found in MFO between the two tests. No differences were found (P > 0.05) in the shape of the fat oxidation curves in 13 of 16 players (test 1 vs test 2). There were also no differences (P > 0.05) in the vertical shift of the fat oxidation curves in 10 players.

Conclusions: In general, the shape of the fat oxidation curve does not change within an individual; however, the vertical shift is more susceptible to change, which may be due to training status and body composition. Understanding a player's metabolism may be of value to practitioners working within sport, with regard to personalizing nutrition strategies.

Med Sci Sports Exerc (2019) 51(8):1677-1683

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