Friday, December 29, 2000

Protein for Performance Horses


During hard training or competitive events, equine athletes damage muscle tissue as a result of the production of high levels of lactic acid and /or over exertion. These muscle tissues must be repaired rapidly in order to maintain improvement, ready your athlete for the next event, and alleviate stiff and sore muscles. While in hard training or before and after serious competition dietary programs must be chosen with care in order to maintain improvement, prepare his or her system for the coming event and impact quick recovery from that event. Diets chosen for your athlete must contain protein that is profiled properly ( amino acids) along will minerals, vitamins, fat and carbohydrates. High quality protein is essential for maximum performance of any equine athlete because of its amino acid profile and the availability of these amino acids. The interaction of these amino acids with vitamins and minerals are necessary interactions for improved muscle growth and repair, stronger supportive tissues, an improved carbohydrate metabolism, stronger bones and joints, thicker hoof walls and greater overall soundness.


Protein can be defined as any substance which is made of amino acids in a peptide linkage. The word protein comes from the Greek word PROTOS or FIRST because protein is the basic constituent of all living cells. Protos may also be the root of the name proteus , a mythological figure who could change form. Food protein also changes form to become a body substance after being eaten. Protein makes up three - fourths of the dry weight of most living cells. Proteins are also involved in the biochemical structure of hormones, enzymes, nutrient carriers, antibodies and many other substances and functions essential to life.


Protein is a collection of amino acids tied together. Once the protein is consumed and digested the amino acids breakdown into single amino acids or in some cases , peptides, which are just a few amino acids tied together. Some amino acids are considered ESSENTIAL and some are considered NON ESSENTIAL. We often do not realize how much the horse needs amino acids, because we are not aware of how busy the equine system is. Every second the bone marrow makes millions of red blood cells - every four days most of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and the blood Platelet are replaced. - Most of the white blood cells are replaced in ten days and the number of muscle cells replaced or created in horses that are training hard or performing can be staggering.


Essential amino acids are amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the system from other things such as vitamins or carbohydrates. These essential amino acids must be eaten every day. If not, consumed daily the horse will then borrow them from other parts of his system to provide them for his daily maintenance. Essential amino acids are extremely important to your horse. The exclusion of even one essential amino acid from the diet or the reduction of an essential amino acid in relation to its need will reduce the total protein synthesis in the system. In horses where everyday maintenance is necessary and improvement with training is required, the creation of new cells is your priority. The horse requires a precise amino acid profile. Amino acids are not just randomly joined together, but are assembled according to a detailed predetermined procedure whose sequencing is controlled by the D.N.A. In order for new cells to be synthesized, all of the amino acids in the D.N.A. profile must be available in adequate amounts. If just one amino acid in the profile is missing the creation of new cells stops. This is called first limiting amino acid.


Horses receive protein from both their grain mix and the hay they receive. Alfalfa hay of course is very high in protein and grass hays are lower. Common sense would tell us that if you are feeding alfalfa hay, your grain mix should be lower in total protein. If you are feeding grass hay you should be feeding a grain mix that is higher in protein. Grain mixes come in all types, but in general they are a combination of pellets ,oats and corn. Corn and oats both contain protein but are low in the essential amino acid lysine. The pellets in your feed should contain additional protein sources. These sources could be and more then likely are plant protein products such as soy bean meal in combination with other of numerous processed grain by-products. Soybeans as well as processed grain by products must go through some sort of heat process. This heat can destroy some of the most important essential amino acids for the horse.. All amino acids have a different melting point. Cystine is destroyed at 175 degrees F . Lysine , which is a extremely important amino acid is destroyed at 224 degrees F.Proline is lost at 220 degrees F. Soy bean meal processors are never supposed to exceed 200 degrees F but when push comes to shove, you know what happens. Products like distillers grain or dried solubles are almost always heated at a very high temperature. This heat process destroys many valuable amino acids and makes the feed compound unbalanced to the horse causing him to not get the full value of his protein and also taxes his system excreting all those out of balance amino acids.


The horse can convert amino acids into energy. This pathway is not the most efficient method to obtain energy, but the system has many checks and balances. Amino acids that can be converted into sugars are called glycogenic. Amino acids that can be converted to fat are called ketogenic. A few amino acids can do both.( isoleucine - lysine - tyrosine ).


Whether your horse is a champion racehorse or a backyard pony, the amount and quality of the protein you feed will affect him or her one way or another. Protein in general should never be fed in excess to any horse. Too much protein or protein with the wrong amino acid profile will tax the system of your horse and cause him or her to be less than he should be. This information should help you make good decisions for your horse so he or she can be all you hoped for. If you have been depending on your feed company to make all the right decisions for you -think again!.

Protein is a collection of amino acids. Every protein source is a different combination of amino acid types. Some of these combinations are very good and some are not so good. The horse’s system needs amino acids that match his needs. Total protein of your horse feed is a worthless term, unless you know the amino acid profile. Your feed tag might say 14% CRUDE PROTEIN but to the horse it might only be 8 or 9% usable protein. The more unusable protein the horse consumes the more he has to excrete. This over feeding of unusable protein stresses the horse`s system. Excess protein can contribute to higher heart and respiratory rates, higher rates of sweating and dehydration. Some studies have concluded that performance horses do not need additional protein for good performance. These studies however do not take in to account the quality of the protein and how it might contribute to the gradual weakening of supportive tissue, bone loss, muscle atrophy and the weakening of blood vessel walls that eventually lead to bleeding or breakdown.

To produce new cells the horse`s D.N.A. has a recipe for every different kind of cell in the horse. When you feed your horse, the protein he consumes is broken down into individual amino acids. The blood stream carries these amino acids to the site they are needed, much like a conveyer belt. Lets imagine that each new cell the horse needs that day is a cake. Millions of D.N.A. cooks are standing along the conveyer belt waiting for the raw materials to bake that cake. As the raw materials pass by the cooks start grabbing all the components of their cake. When all the materials have reached that cook he grabs a little energy to bake the cake and “ walla” a new cake or cell has been created. If for some reason in four hours the cook is still missing one ingredient, he must put every component he has gathered up until that point back on the conveyer belt and start all over again. If the cook is short just one ingredient or can find no energy to bake the cake, no new cake or cell can be created.


LYSINE - An essential amino acid & high percentage constituent of muscle. Usually the most limiting amino acid in grain diets. Precursor for acetyl coa ( a critical nutrient for carbohydrate metabolism ). Large percentage constituent of collagen. Precursor for carnitine. Normal metabolism requires RIBOFLAVIN-NIACIN - B6 - IRON.

METHIONINE - An important essential amino acid constituent of muscle. Possible link in endochondral ossification. Regulates cell metabolism & growth. Low methionine creates folic acid deficiencies. Normal metabolism requires B12 - FOLIC ACID - B6 - MAGNESIUM.

PHENYLALANINE - An essential amino acid constituent of muscle. Precursor for catecholamine - which are adrenalin like substances. - Can be an effective pain killer and may enhance acupuncture. Normal metabolism requires - IRON - B6 - & COPPER. Precursor for tyrosine.

CYSTEINE - Precursor for cystine, necessary component of glutathione & the production of mucopolysaccharides (joint fluids ). Maintains integrity of red blood cells and is involved in the production of red blood cell membrane. Important in energy metabolism. Has the ability to clear out lungs. As cystine, component of muscle & hormones. Protects against per oxidation & is a detoxifying agent. Normal metabolism requires MAGNESIUM & ZINC.

ARGININE - An important constituent of muscle. Precursor for high energy compounds such as CREATINE. Primary in the removal of the waste products of muscle work (urea cycle ). Precursor of PROLINE (main component of collagen ) Collagen is the supportive tissue of skin, tendons, cartilage & connective tissue.

GLYCINE - Required in high levels for optimum growth & healing. Required for the production of D.N.A. Raises blood sugar levels. normal metabolism requires COPPER & CHOLINE.

TYROSINE - A constituent of muscle. Precursor for dopamine, norepinephrine, & epinephrine ( adrenalin ). Stress increases requirement. Normal metabolism requires FOLIC ACID & COPPER.

TRYPTOPHAN - A low level but essential constituent of muscle. Regulates growth hormone. precursor for serotonin ( platelet clotting factor ). Pain killer- controls hypertension & anxiety. Raises blood sugar & increases zinc absorption. Normal metabolism requires - B6 & MAGNESIUM.

LEUCINE - An essential amino acid & high percentage constituent of muscle. Major metabolic regulator. Reduces muscle breakdown. Stimulates insulin release. Normal metabolism requires THIAMIN - RIBOFLAVIN - BIOTIN & COPPER.

CARNITINE - Speeds usage of fats. increases adenosine triphosphate levels -ATP Aids conversion of amino acids to fuel within the muscle. Improves stress & exercise tolerance.

HISTIDINE - An essential amino acid constituent of muscle. Aids copper transport within the system. Reduces the effects of arthritis. Precursor for histamine - an important neurotransmitter. Normal metabolism requires COPPER - ZINC & VITAMIN E.

TYROSINE - A constituent of muscle. Precursor for dopamine, norepinephrine, & epinephrine ( adrenalin ). Stress increases requirement. Normal metabolism requires FOLIC ACID & COPPER.

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