Pines Nutrition

Sports Nutrition Myths

Unit Nutrition | PINES
PINES 2019
Our partner, Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise and Sport (PINES), is a leading global organization of qualified nutrition and exercise professionals who strive for excellence in sports nutrition in order to achieve optimal support for performance, health and injury prevention for active and athletic individuals worldwide.
As always, this year’s PINES symposium at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting did not disappoint. 10 leading experts took the stage to put straight 10 sport nutrition myths - for those who missed it, we’ve captured 4 of them here!
Michael J Ormsbee

Answered by:
Michael J. Ormsbee, Ph.D., FACSM, CSCS*D
Twitter: @mikeormsbee and @FSUISSM

If you eat too much of just about anything, at any time, chances are you’ll gain fat. For athletes, we need to think about nutrition over the entirety of the day, not just in certain windows. For some athletes, eating before sleep is not just recommended, but required! For example, in ultra-distance sports, not eating before sleep would easily lead to severe energy restriction and low nutrient availability for exercise. In addition, in physique sports like bodybuilding, there are countless anecdotal reports of not only eating before sleep but also waking up to eat during the night. Recent data has mounted to show that a pre-sleep protein-centric beverage or meal improves muscle mass and strength while simultaneously reducing total percent body fat.


It is plausible that eating just before bed can make an athlete fat if large amounts of mixed-meals are consumed. However, this myth is busted if the athlete chooses protein dominant foods that are roughly 150-200 kcals.


Dr. Louise Burke

Answered by: 
Dr. Louise Burke, PhD, BSc, Grad Dip Diet, FSMA, FACSM
Twitter: @LouiseMBurke

There are several reasons to consider that females may have special or different responses to a nutrition intervention or supplement; these include differences in body size, the effects of specific sex hormones in the particular phase of the menstrual cycle, differences in nutritional status (e.g. energy availability or iron status) or other factors yet to be identified.

Newer research on the effectiveness of sports supplements has considered the possibility of sex differences. Lane and colleagues reported that caffeine (3 mg/kg BM in the form of caffeinated gum) was equally able to enhance performance (3-4%) of a road cycling time trial simulating the 2012 Olympic event in sub-elite male and female cyclists. More recently, caffeine ingestion (3 mg/kg pre-exercise) was shown to improve the performance of a standardized cycling time trial a similar magnitude (~4%) in males and female athletes, despite significantly greater plasma caffeine concentrations after exercise in women.


It seems that any sex differences related to caffeine and performance are minor, however, more attention to potential sex differences is warranted.

3. Exogenous ketone supplements provide the health and performance effects of fasting and ketogenic diets

Brendan Egan

Answered by: 
Brendan Egan Ph.D. CSCS
Twitter: @BrendanEgan2

Recent explorations have been around the value of the array of exogenous ketone supplements in athletic performance, recovery from exercise, glycemic regulation, antiseizure effects, neuroprotection and cognitive function, and anticatabolic actions. In the performance and recovery paradigm, results have been equivocal, but there appears to several promising reports to date in a range of therapeutic applications.

Nutritional ketosis defined by the elevation in βHB concentrations is therefore common to fasting, ketogenic diets and the ingestion of exogenous ketone supplements. However, the methods to achieve ketosis are fundamentally different. Fasting and ketogenic diets require >12 hours up to several days produce ketosis and can be considered to be by endogenous means, whereas ketone supplements produce ketosis acutely several minutes after ingestion (and therefore, exogenous means) with effects lasting for ~1 to 3 hours. While similarities exist between endogenous versus exogenous ketosis e.g. suppression of appetite, decreased reliance on carbohydrate during exercise, there are marked differences too. Most notably, any performance benefits of exogenous ketone supplements are likely to occur with carbohydrate co-ingestion as opposed to the restriction of carbohydrate in dietary approaches to ketosis.

Moreover, in contrast to the marked elevation of free fatty acids that is essential to produce a ketogenic state, exogenous ketone supplements are anti-lipolytic, and acutely lower circulating free fatty acids.


Whether one considers exogenous ketone supplements to be analogous to the fasting and ketogenic diets, will be largely dependent on the physiological/metabolic parameters and contexts under discussion. In any case, the health and performance effects of any ketosis inducing approach are in need of much further investigation.

4. The vegan diet is unlikely to support optimal performance in athletes due to lack of leucine to trigger muscle protein synthesis

Nancy Clark

Answered by: 
Answered by: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Twitter: @nclarkrd 

Without a doubt, vegan athletes can be healthy. No evidence suggests a nutritionally adequate vegan diet impairs athletic performance. Google “vegan athletes,” and you’ll find an impressive list that includes Olympians and professional athletes from many sports (football, basketball, tennis, rowing, snowboarding, etc.)

The key to having an effective vegan sports diet is to consume adequate leucine, the essential amino acid that triggers muscles to grow. The richest sources of leucine are found in animal foods, such as eggs, dairy, fish, and meats. If a carnivore swaps animal proteins for plant proteins, the swap can reduce leucine intake by about 50%. Hence, vegan athletes need to pay attention to both the quantity and quality of the protein they choose to consume. 


Vegan athletes should try to consume 2.5 grams of leucine every 3 to 4 hours during the day, to optimize muscular development. That means, they need to eat abundant nuts, tofu, beans, lentils, and other plant proteins regularly at every meal and snack. If an athlete is restricting calories to lose body fat, the reduced calorie intake can lead to reduced leucine intake. Hence, weight-conscious vegan dieters need to be extra vigilant to consume an effective sports diet.