Reasons for performing study: There is little information about the influence of crude protein (CP) intake on glycogen and free pool amino acid concentrations in the muscle of horses in training. High energy forage-only diets may be an alternative to concentrate rich diets and may provide high levels of CP.
Objective: To study the effect of feeding 2 forage-only diets, containing either high or moderate CP concentrations on glycogen and free pool amino acid concentrations in the muscle.
Materials and methods: Two high energy forage-only diets based on high-energy grass forage were fed for 23 days in a crossover design to 6 Standardbred horses in racing condition. One forage diet provided a high (HP) CP (16.6%) intake and the other diet provided recommended intake (RP) of CP (12.5%). At Day 19 a standardised treadmill test was performed to mimic a race. Blood samples were taken before, during and after (up to 90 min) the treadmill test and muscle biopsies (m. gluteus) were taken before and after exercise and after 90 min. Amino acids were analysed with a HPLC-technique and glycogen with a fluorimetric method.
Results: A main effect of the HP diet was that muscle glycogen and leucine concentrations were higher compared to the RP diet. Branched chain amino acid concentrations in plasma remained higher during early recovery from exercise on the HP diet compared to the RP diet. Intense exercise caused a similar decrease in glycogen, aspartate and glutamate concentrations in muscle and increase in alanine concentration on both diets.
Conclusion: Feeding a forage-only diet with a high CP intake increases glycogen and leucine concentrations in muscle of horses in training. This may be beneficial for muscle recovery following intensive exercise.