High-intensity athletes, burn victims, people experiencing prolonged high fever and people suffering from starvation are affected by negative nitrogen balance. When more protein is broken down by a person's body than taken in, negative nitrogen balance occurs. Protein breakdown occurs more quickly than protein synthesis and creates the imbalance.
Negative nitrogen balance is a concern for athletes and people trying to recover from illness or injury. Athletes depend upon their muscles and the build-up of new muscle mass to perform in their sports. When they expend energy and fail to provide enough nutrients to their bodies for recovery, negative nitrogen balance occurs, and they lose valuable muscle tissue. This is counterproductive to their training efforts. In addition to the loss of muscle tissue, the metabolic rate of people experiencing negative nitrogen balance slows down. A reduced metabolism increases body fat. Burn victims and people suffering with serious infections require protein supplements to replace damaged tissue. Burn victims in particular require a high rate of tissue replacement and often need high amounts of supplemental protein. Fevers brought on by infection cause an increase in protein metabolism, and typical poor appetite during illness further exacerbates protein destruction.
To counteract negative nitrogen balance, people supplement with protein powders or alter their diets to include more protein. When they experience symptoms of weakness, fatigue and wasting, assessment for negative nitrogen balance is necessary. Timely efforts to correct the imbalance mitigate the loss of skeletal muscle and build healthy tissues.