AFL footballers wanted to test how protein drink affects performance

AFL footballers are being asked to put up their hands for a study into the effects of a protein supplement and caffeine on sporting performance.

Associate Professor Nigel Stepto wants to recruit club-level AFL footballers going into the pre-season to trial the supplements to see whether they improve decision-making (accurate or inaccurate passes) in conditions of fatigue.

“We know that fatigue is due to the skeletal muscles running out of energy and not contracting properly,” Professor Stepto says. “But there’s also a component involving the brain, which often happens in the last half or last quarter of a game and which can lead to poor decision-making on the field.”

For this trial, volunteers will exercise in a simulated hot and high-altitude environment in a way that simulates the energy demands  of a game, and then they will undergo simulated game scenarios where they are expected to hand-ball the football," Professor Stepto says.

“We evaluate whether they made a good or bad decision, in the form of an accurate or inaccurate pass to the appropriate player in the scenario.”

The recruits will be tested when they are fresh and when they are tired, under four conditions:  with no supplements (placebo), caffeine only,  protein drink only and with both caffeine and the protein drink. The study has been funded by the Australian Institute of Sport and will use product  protein drinks sponsored by Musashi.

“The nutritional regimes they will be tested with are compliant with ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) and the wider sporting codes,” says Professor Stepto, Research Leader of the Clinical Exercise Science Program at Victoria University. The trial will begin as soon as possible. 

Volunteers must be:

  • Aged 18-30
  • Regularly playing and training
  • Non-smokers
  • Not suffering from, or treated for, depression


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