Protein and Amino Acids for Equine Exercise Demand

Find out how amino acids play a vital role in a number of physiological functions within the equine body.

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Amino acids (AA) are the building blocks of all proteins and are essential for a number of physiological functions within the equine body.

Kristine Urschel, PhD, associate professor of animal science at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, shared the functional importance of AA and protein in exercising horses during the University of Maryland’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ 2016 Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference, held March 23-24, in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Horses’ bodies are mostly made of muscle, which makes up 40-55% of their body weight. Muscle contains roughly 70% water, 20% protein, and 10% fat, glycogen, vitamins, and minerals. Proteins comprise the bulk of solid skeletal muscle, and therefore are of particular interest in exercise physiology, Urschel explained

Exercise increases muscle protein “turn over,” meaning the body breaks down and re-synthesizes protein—an important cycle for building muscle. “However, the process is not uniform throughout the body,” Urschel said “The effects of exercise on plasma AA concentrations have been well-studied, but the implications are varied

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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