Dr. Donald Layman: Hi! I am Dr. Donald Layman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois. I am here today to talk with you about the essential nutrient Choline and how it supports exercise performance and muscle health.
Muscle health is important for athletic performance but also long term health. Exercise increases energy expenditure, helps maintain body composition, and controls body weight. We all know that routine daily exercise is important for health, but we often forget that nutrition choices are essential for optimal muscle performance.
Choline is a nutrient that plays a vital role in many processes including muscle function, but surprisingly little is known about choline during exercise.
What is known is that Americans dont get as much choline as experts recommend. In fact more than 90% of us arent getting enough choline in our diets. Choline supports the nervous system that sends signals to exercising muscles, specifically choline is part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is a signal that stimulates muscle contraction for muscle movement and performance. Without an adequate supply of acetylcholine muscle movement will not be possible. Choline is also an essential part of phosphatidyl acetylcholine, a structural component of cell membranes of all cells.
Phosphatidyl choline makes up about 50% of the phospholipid membrane and it is essential for normal membrane functions. Cell membranes control nutrient uptake into muscles and the signals that trigger contraction.
The composition of the muscle is also important for muscle function, choline deficiency changes muscle metabolism increasing the amount of fat within the individual muscle fibers. As this fat accumulates it can lead to the formation of large fat droplets within the muscles.
Changes in the composition of the muscle fibers can negatively impact the way muscles function during exercise. A study of healthy adults published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a diet deficient in choline cause muscle damage and fatty liver and 77% of men and 80% of postmenopausal women. 10% of adults experience fatty liver and muscle damage even when consuming the adequate intake levels or choline.
Consuming adequate or higher amounts of choline reverse these conditions for everyone. Exercise studies with choline have largely focused on used during prolonged activities like marathons.
These athletes suffer from loss of acetylcholine after intense training or competition. But we also know that choline losses occur after exercise of only an hour, and that could occur with a long run, cycling or a competitive tennis match.
Bottom-line; its clear that choline deficiency has adverse effects on muscle health including fat metabolism and muscle function.
Choline supplementation may provide benefits for endurance athletes such as marathon runners as well as more casual athletes by preventing the adverse health effects associated with choline deficiency.
Adequate intakes of choline from food or dietary supplements is essential for good health and for physical performance.