British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Evidence of negative energy balance using doubly labelled water in elite Kenyan endurance runners prior to competition

Barry W. Fudgea1, Klaas R. Westerterpa2, Festus K. Kiplamaia3, Vincent O. Onyweraa3, Michael K. Boita3, Bengt Kaysera4 and Yannis P. Pitsiladisa1 c1

a1 Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, International Centre for East African Running Science (ICEARS),Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK

a2 Maastricht University, Department of Human Biology, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

a3 Kenyatta University, Department of Exercise and Sports Science, PO Box 43844, Nairobi, Kenya

a4 School of Physical Education and Sports, Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine, University of Geneva, Faculty of Medicine, Switzerland


Previous studies have found Kenyan endurance runners to be in negative energy balance during training and prior to competition. The aim of the present study was to assess energy balance in nine elite Kenyan endurance runners during heavy training. Energy intake and expenditure were determined over 7d using weighed dietary intake and doubly labelled water, respectively. Athletes were on average in negative energy balance (mean energy intake 13 241 (SD 1330) kJ/d v. mean energy expenditure 14 611 (SD 1043) kJ/d; P=0·046), although there was no loss in body mass (mean 56·0 (SD 3·4) kg v. 55·7 (SD 3·6) kg; P=0·285). The calculation of underreporting was 13; (range −24 to +9%) and almost entirely accounted for by undereating (9% (range −55 to +39%)) as opposed to a lack of significant underrecording (i.e. total water intake was no different from water loss (mean 4·2 (SD 0·6) l/d v. 4·5 (SD 0·8) l/d; P=0·496)). Fluid intake was modest and consisted mainly of water (0·9 (SD 0·5) l/d) and milky tea (0·9 (SD 0·3) l/d). The diet was high in carbohydrate (67·3 (SD 7·8) %) and sufficient in protein (15·3 (SD 4·0) %) and fat (17·4 (SD 3·9) %). These results confirm previous observations that Kenyan runners are in negative energy balance during periods of intense training. A negative energy balance would result in a reduction in body mass, which, when combined with a high carbohydrate diet, would have the potential in the short term to enhance endurance running performance by reducing the energy cost of running.

(Received March 29 2005)

(Revised June 20 2005)

(Accepted August 22 2005)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Y. P. Pitsiladis, fax +44 (0)141 330 2915, email