The altered human serum metabolome induced by a marathon

Zinandré Stander, Laneke Luies, Lodewyk J. Mienie, Karen M. Keane, Glyn Howatson, Tom Clifford, Emma J. Stevenson, Du Toit Loots

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Endurance races have been associated with a substantial amount of adverse effects which could lead to chronic disease and long-term performance impairment. However, little is known about the holistic metabolic changes occurring within the serum metabolome of athletes after the completion of a marathon.

Considering this, the aim of this study was to better characterize the acute metabolic changes induced by a marathon.

Using an untargeted two dimensional gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry metabolomics approach, pre- and post-marathon serum samples of 31 athletes were analyzed and compared to identify those metabolites varying the most after the marathon perturbation.

Principle component analysis of the comparative groups indicated natural differentiation due to variation in the total metabolite profiles. Elevated concentrations of carbohydrates, fatty acids, tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, ketones and reduced concentrations of amino acids indicated a metabolic shift between various fuel substrate systems. Additionally, elevated odd-chain fatty acids and α-hydroxy acids indicated the utilization of α-oxidation and autophagy as alternative energy-producing mechanisms. Adaptations in gut microbe-associated markers were also observed and correlated with the metabolic flexibility of the athlete.

From these results it is evident that a marathon places immense strain on the energy-producing pathways of the athlete, leading to extensive protein degradation, oxidative stress, mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 inhibition and autophagy. A better understanding of this metabolic shift could provide new insights for optimizing athletic performance, developing more efficient nutrition regimens and identify strategies to improve recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number150
Issue number11
Early online date3 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


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