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Effect of 3 weeks of detraining on the resting metabolic rate and body composition of trained males


Objective: To examine the hypothesis that detraining decreases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of long-term exercisers.

Design: Eight pairs of subjects were matched for age, mass and training volume. They were then randomly allocated to either a control group (continue normal training) or detraining group (stop normal training but continue activities of daily living).

Setting: Exercise Physiology Laboratory, The Flinders University of South Australia.

Subjects: Sixteen male subjects (age 23.1±4.7 y (s.d.); mass 73.73±8.9 kg; O2max 60.2±6.3 ml. kg−1. min−1; height 180.3±5.0 cm; body fat 14.6±5.4%) were selected from a pool of respondents to our advertisements.

Interventions: Each pair of subjects was measured before and after a 3-week experimental period.

Results: Two (groups)×3 (2-, 3-and 4-compartment body composition models) ANOVAs were conducted on the difference between the pre- and post-treatment scores for percentage body fat, fat-free mass (FFM) and relative RMR ( FFM−1.h−1). No significant between-group differences were identified except for the detraining group’s small decrease in FFM (0.7 kg, P=0.05). The main effects for body composition model were all significant; but the overall differences between the multicompartment models and the 2-compartment one were less than their technical errors of measurement. No significant interaction (P=0.51) resulted from a 2×2 ANOVA on the pre- and post-treatment absolute RMR data for the control (315.2 and 311.9 kJ/h) and detraining groups (325.4 and 325.5 kJ/h).

Conclusions: 3-weeks detraining is not associated with a decrease in RMR (kJ/h, FFM−1.h−1) in trained males; hence, our data do not support a potentiation of the RMR via exercise training. The greater sensitivity of the multicompartment models to detect changes in body composition was of marginal value.

Sponsorship: Australian Research Council.

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Correspondence to RT Withers.

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LaForgia, J., Withers, R., Williams, A. et al. Effect of 3 weeks of detraining on the resting metabolic rate and body composition of trained males. Eur J Clin Nutr 53, 126–133 (1999).

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  • detraining
  • indirect calorimetry
  • male athletes
  • multicompartment body composition models
  • RMR

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