Energy balance, metabolism, hydration, and performance during strenuous hill walking: the effect of age

P.N. Ainslie*, I.T. Campbell, K.N. Frayn, S.M. Humphreys, D.P. MacLaren, T. Reilly, K.R. Westerterp

*Corresponding author for this work

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We aimed to examine the effect of age on energy balance, metabolism, hydration, and performance during 10 days of strenuous hill walking. Seventeen male subjects were divided into two groups according to their age. The nine subjects in group 1 constituted the younger group (age 24 +/- 3 yr), whereas eight older subjects were in group 2 (age 56 +/- 3 yr). Both groups completed 10 consecutive days of high-intensity hill walking. Mean (range) daily walking distances and ascent were 21 km (10-35 km) and 1,160 m (800-2,540 m), respectively. Energy intake was calculated from weighed food intake, and energy expenditure was measured by the doubly labeled water method. Blood and urine were sampled on alternative days to determine any changes in metabolism and hydration during the 10 days. Subjects also completed a battery of tests that included muscular strength (handgrip), jump performance, cognitive processing time, and flexibility. The younger group remained hydrated, whereas the older group became progressively dehydrated, indicated by a near twofold increase in urine osmolality concentration on day 11. This increased urine osmolality in the older group was highly correlated with impairment in vertical-jump performance (r = -0.86; P < 0.05) and decreased cognitive processing time (r = 0.79; P < 0.05). Despite energy expenditure of approximately 21 MJ/day, body mass was well maintained in both groups. Both groups displayed a marked increase in fat mobilization, reflected in significantly lowered prewalk insulin concentrations and elevated postwalk glycerol and nonesterified fatty acid concentrations. Despite the dehydration and impaired performance in the older group, blood glucose concentrations were well maintained in both groups, probably mediated via the increased mobilization of fat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-723
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002

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