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We provide a theoretical framework for cross-layer design in multimedia communications to optimize single-user throughput by selecting the transmitted bit rate and payload size as a function of channel conditions for both additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) and Nakagami-m fading channels. Numerical results reveal that careful payload length adaptation significantly improves the throughput performance at low signal to noise ratios (SNRs), while at higher SNRs, rate adaptation with higher payload lengths provides better throughput performance. Since we are interested in multimedia applications, we do not allow retransmissions in order to minimize latency and to reduce congestion on the wireless link and we assume that packet loss concealment will be used to compensate for lost packets. We also investigate the throughput and packet error rate performance over multipath frequency selective fading channels for typical payload sizes used in voice and video applications. We explore the difference in link adaptation thresholds for these payload sizes using the Nafteli Chayat multipath fading channel model, and we present a link adaptation scheme to maximize the throughput subject to a packet error rate constraint.