The metabolic recovery of marathon runners: an untargeted 1 H-NMR metabolomics perspective

Rachelle Bester, Zinandré Stander, Shayne Mason, Karen M. Keane, Glyn Howatson, Tom Clifford, Emma J. Stevenson, Du Toit Loots*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Extreme endurance events may result in numerous adverse metabolic, immunologic, and physiological perturbations that may diminish athletic performance and adversely affect the overall health status of an athlete, especially in the absence of sufficient recovery. A comprehensive understanding of the post-marathon recovering metabolome, may aid in the identification of new biomarkers associated with marathon-induced stress, recovery, and adaptation, which can facilitate the development of improved training and recovery programs and personalized monitoring of athletic health/recovery/performance. Nevertheless, an untargeted, multi-disciplinary elucidation of the complex underlying biochemical mechanisms involved in recovery after such an endurance event is yet to be demonstrated.

Methods: This investigation employed an untargeted proton nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics approach to characterize the post-marathon recovering metabolome by systematically comparing the pre-, immediately post, 24, and 48 h post-marathon serum metabolite profiles of 15 athletes.

Results and Discussion: A total of 26 metabolites were identified to fluctuate significantly among post-marathon and recovery time points and were mainly attributed to the recovery of adenosine triphosphate, redox balance and glycogen stores, amino acid oxidation, changes to gut microbiota, and energy drink consumption during the post-marathon recovery phase. Additionally, metabolites associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness were observed; however, the mechanisms underlying this commonly reported phenomenon remain to be elucidated. Although complete metabolic recovery of the energy-producing pathways and fuel substrate stores was attained within the 48 h recovery period, several metabolites remained perturbed throughout the 48 h recovery period and/or fluctuated again following their initial recovery to pre-marathon-related levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1117687
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2023

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