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Myths and Methodologies: Standardisation in Human Physiology Research—Should We Control the Controllables?

Lucy H. Merrell, Oliver J. Perkin, Louise Bradshaw, Harrison D. Collier-Bain, Adam J. Collins, Sophie Davies, Rachel Eddy, James A. Hickman, Anna P. Nicholas, Daniel Rees, Bruno Spellanzon, Lewis J. James, Alannah K.A. McKay, Harry A. Smith, James E. Turner, Francoise Koumanov, Jennifer Maher, Dylan Thompson, Javier T. Gonzalez, and James A. Betts

The premise of research in human physiology is to explore a multifaceted system whilst identifying one or a few outcomes of interest. Therefore, the control of potentially confounding variables requires careful thought regarding the extent of control and complexity of standardisation. One common factor to control prior to testing is diet, as food and fluid provision may deviate from participants’ habitual diets, yet a self-report and replication method can be flawed by under-reporting. Researchers may also need to consider standardisation of physical activity, whether it be through familiarisation trials, wash-out periods, or guidance on levels of physical activity to be achieved before trials. In terms of pharmacological agents, the ethical implications of standardisation require researchers to carefully consider how medications, caffeine consumption and oral contraceptive prescriptions may affect the study. For research in females, it should be considered whether standardisation between- or within-participants in regards to menstrual cycle phase is most relevant. The timing of measurements relative to various other daily events is relevant to all physiological research and so it can be important to standardise when measurements are made. This review summarises the areas of standardisation which we hope will be considered useful to anyone involved in human physiology research, including when and how one can apply standardisation to various contexts.

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Volume 34 (2024): Issue 3 (May 2024)

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Contaminants in Dietary Supplements: Toxicity, Doping Risk, and Current Regulation

Jesús Zapata-Linares and Guillermo Gervasini

Athletes, both amateur and professional, often resort to the consumption of nutritional supplements without professional supervision and without being aware of the risks they may entail. We conducted an exhaustive literature search to determine the most common substances found as contaminants in dietary supplements. For each substance, we analyzed its mechanism of action, clinical indication, health risk, and putative use as doping agent. In addition, we evaluated the current regulation of these supplements. Contamination of nutritional supplements (accidental or intentional), especially with steroids and stimulants, is a hazardous situation. The prolonged consumption of these products without being aware of their composition can cause serious health risks and, in the case of professional athletes, a possible sanction for doping.

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Effect of Menstrual Cycle Phase and Hormonal Contraceptives on Resting Metabolic Rate and Body Composition

Megan A. Kuikman, Alannah K.A. McKay, Clare Minahan, Rachel Harris, Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale, Trent Stellingwerff, Ella S. Smith, Rachel McCormick, Nicolin Tee, Jessica Skinner, Kathryn E. Ackerman, and Louise M. Burke

The cyclical changes in sex hormones across the menstrual cycle (MC) are associated with various biological changes that may alter resting metabolic rate (RMR) and body composition estimates. Hormonal contraceptive (HC) use must also be considered given their impact on endogenous sex hormone concentrations and synchronous exogenous profiles. The purpose of this study was to determine if RMR and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry body composition estimates change across the MC and differ compared with HC users. This was accomplished during a 5-week training camp involving naturally cycling athletes (n = 11) and HC users (n = 7 subdermal progestin implant, n = 4 combined monophasic oral contraceptive pill, n = 1 injection) from the National Rugby League Indigenous Women’s Academy. MC phase was retrospectively confirmed via serum estradiol and progesterone concentrations and a positive ovulation test. HC users had serum estradiol and progesterone concentrations assessed at the time point of testing. Results were analyzed using general linear mixed model. There was no effect of MC phase on absolute RMR (p = .877), relative RMR (p = .957), or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry body composition estimates (p > .05). There was no effect of HC use on absolute RMR (p = .069), relative RMR (p = .679), or fat mass estimates (p = .766), but HC users had a greater fat-free mass and lean body mass than naturally cycling athletes (p = .028). Our findings suggest that RMR and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry body composition estimates do not significantly differ due to changes in sex hormones in a group of athletes, and measurements can be compared between MC phases or with HC usage without variations in sex hormones causing additional noise.

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Omega-3 Status Evaluation in Australian Female Rugby League Athletes: Ad Libitum Fish Oil Provision Results in a Varied Omega-3 Index

Ryan Anthony, Nicola Jaffrey, Caitlin Byron, Gregory E. Peoples, and Michael J. Macartney

Optimal omega-3 status, influenced by increased intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is vital for physiological health. This study investigated the impact of ad libitum fish oil supplementation on the omega-3 status of female athletes in a professional rugby league team during a competitive season. Twenty-four (n = 24) athletes participated, and their omega-3 status was assessed using the Omega-3 Index (O3I) and arachidonic acid (AA) to EPA ratio through finger-prick blood samples taken at the start and end of the season. They were given access to a fish oil supplement (PILLAR Performance, Australia) with a recommended daily dose of four capsules per day (2,160 mg EPA and 1,440 mg docosahexaenoic acid). At the beginning of the season, the group mean O3I was 4.77% (95% confidence interval [CI: 4.50, 5.04]) and the AA to EPA ratio was 14.89 (95% CI [13.22, 16.55]). None of the athletes had an O3I exceeding 8%. By the season’s end, the O3I was a significantly increased to 7.28% (95% CI [6.64, 7.93], p < .0001) and AA to EPA ratio significantly decreased to a mean of 6.67 (95% CI [5.02, 8.31], p < .0001), driven primarily by the significant increase in EPA of +1.14% (95% CI [0.77, 1.51], p < .0001). However, these changes were varied between the athletes and most likely due to compliance. This study has demonstrated that using the objective O3I feedback scale is possible with elite female rugby athletes, but individual strategies will be required to achieve daily intake targets of EPA + DHA.

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Coingestion of Collagen With Whey Protein Prevents Postexercise Decline in Plasma Glycine Availability in Recreationally Active Men

Thorben Aussieker, Tom A.H. Janssen, Wesley J.H. Hermans, Andrew M. Holwerda, Joan M. Senden, Janneau M.X. van Kranenburg, Joy P.B. Goessens, Tim Snijders, and Luc J.C. van Loon

Whey protein ingestion during recovery from exercise increases myofibrillar but not muscle connective protein synthesis rates. It has been speculated that whey protein does not provide sufficient glycine to maximize postexercise muscle connective protein synthesis rates. In the present study, we assessed the impact of coingesting different amounts of collagen with whey protein as a nutritional strategy to increase plasma glycine availability during recovery from exercise. In a randomized, double-blind, crossover design, 14 recreationally active men (age: 26 ± 5 years; body mass index: 23.8 ± 2.1 kg·m−2) ingested in total 30 g protein, provided as whey protein with 0 g (WHEY), 5 g (WC05); 10 g (WC10), and 15 g (WC15) of collagen protein immediately after a single bout of resistance exercise. Blood samples were collected frequently over 6 hr of postexercise recovery to assess postprandial plasma amino acid kinetics and availability. Protein ingestion strongly increased plasma amino acid concentrations (p < .001) with no differences in plasma total amino acid availability between treatments (p > .05). The postprandial rise in plasma leucine and essential amino acid availability was greater in WHEY compared with the WC10 and WC15 treatments (p < .05). Plasma glycine and nonessential amino acid concentrations declined following whey protein ingestion but increased following collagen coingestion (p < .05). Postprandial plasma glycine availability averaged −8.9 ± 5.8, 9.2 ± 3.7, 23.1 ± 6.5, and 39.8 ± 11.0 mmol·360 min/L in WHEY, WC05, WC10, and WC15, respectively (incremental area under curve values, p < .05). Coingestion of a small amount of collagen (5 g) with whey protein (25 g) is sufficient to prevent the decline in plasma glycine availability during recovery from lower body resistance-type exercise in recreationally active men.

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Becoming a World Champion Powerlifter at 71 Years of Age: It Is Never Too Late to Start Exercising

Cas J. Fuchs, Jorn Trommelen, Michelle E.G. Weijzen, Joey S.J. Smeets, Janneau van Kranenburg, Lex B. Verdijk, and Luc J.C. van Loon

This case study assessed body composition, muscle strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, and metabolic health of the present female world champion powerlifter in the 70+ age category who started resistance exercise training at 63 years of age with no prior experience with structured exercise training. Measures of body composition (magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scanning, leg volume); strength (one-repetition maximum leg press and extension, maximum voluntary contraction, and handgrip strength); physical function (short physical performance battery); cardiorespiratory fitness (peak oxygen consumption); and metabolic health (oral glucose tolerance test) were assessed. In addition, a muscle biopsy was collected to assess muscle fiber type distribution and cross-sectional area (CSA). Where possible, data were compared with previously (un)published sex- and age-matched data using z scores. Skeletal muscle mass index was calculated by dividing limb muscle mass by height squared. Data from the control groups are expressed as mean ± 95% confidence interval. Our participant (age: 71 years; body mass: 64.5 kg; body mass index: 27.6 kg/m2) reported a good bone mineral density of 1.09 g/cm2 (T score between −1 and +1) and very low values of abdominal and organ body fat (i.e., between 20% and 70% lower compared with a reference group of postmenopausal women). In addition, she showed a 33% greater skeletal muscle mass index when compared with healthy, older female control subjects (7.9 vs. 5.9 [5.7–6.2] kg/m2; n = 61) as well as 37% greater muscle quadriceps CSA (63.8 vs. 46.6 [44.5–48.7] cm2; n = 48) and 46% greater Type II muscle fiber CSA (4,536 vs. 3,097 [2,707–3,488] μm2; n = 19). Absolute leg press muscle strength was 36% greater (190 vs. 140 [132–147] kg; n = 30) and handgrip strength was 33% greater (33 vs. 25 [23–26] kg; n = 48) when compared with healthy, age-matched controls. In conclusion, even for resistance exercise naïve individuals, starting exercise at an advanced age can lead to improvements in body composition and muscle strength allowing older adults to reduce the risk for developing metabolic syndrome, live independently, and even compete at a world class level.

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Caffeine, but Not Creatine, Improves Anaerobic Power Without Altering Anaerobic Capacity in Healthy Men During a Wingate Anaerobic Test

Alisson Henrique Marinho, Marcos David Silva-Cavalcante, Gislaine Cristina-Souza, Filipe Antonio de Barros Sousa, Thays Ataide-Silva, Romulo Bertuzzi, Gustavo Gomes de Araujo, and Adriano Eduardo Lima-Silva

There is a lack of evidence on the additional benefits of combining caffeine (CAF) and creatine (CRE) supplementation on anaerobic power and capacity. Thus, the aim of the present study was to test the effects of combined and isolated supplementation of CAF and CRE on anaerobic power and capacity. Twenty-four healthy men performed a baseline Wingate anaerobic test and were then allocated into a CRE (n = 12) or placebo (PLA; n = 12) group. The CRE group ingested 20 g/day of CRE for 8 days, while the PLA group ingested 20 g/day of maltodextrin for the same period. On the sixth and eighth days of the loading period, both groups performed a Wingate anaerobic test 1 hr after either CAF (5 mg/kg of body mass; CRE + CAF and PLA + CAF conditions) or PLA (5 mg/kg of body mass of cellulose; CRE + PLA and PLA + PLA conditions) ingestion. After the loading period, changes in body mass were greater (p < .05) in the CRE (+0.87 ± 0.23 kg) than in the PLA group (+0.13 ± 0.27 kg). In both groups, peak power was higher (p = .01) in the CAF (1,033.4 ± 209.3 W) than in the PLA trial (1,003.3 ± 204.4 W), but mean power was not different between PLA and CAF trials (p > .05). In conclusion, CAF, but not CRE ingestion, increases anaerobic power. Conversely, neither CRE nor CAF has an effect on anaerobic capacity.

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Trehalose Improved 20-min Cycling Time-Trial Performance After 100-min Cycling in Amateur Cyclists

Nathan Gobbi de Oliveira, Luana Farias de Oliveira, Rafael Pires da Silva, Tamires Nunes Oliveira, Gabriella Berwig Möller, Juliana Murasaki, Manoel Antônio Ramires, Rafael de Almeida Azevedo, Guilherme Giannini Artioli, Hamilton Roschel, Bruno Gualano, and Bryan Saunders

Carbohydrate (CHO) supplementation during endurance exercise can improve performance. However, it is unclear whether low glycemic index (GI) CHO leads to differential ergogenic and metabolic effects compared with a standard high GI CHO. This study investigated the ergogenic and metabolic effects of CHO supplementation with distinct GIs, namely, (a) trehalose (30 g/hr), (b) isomaltulose (30 g/hr), (c) maltodextrin (60 g/hr), and (d) placebo (water). In this double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced, placebo-controlled study, 13 male cyclists cycled a total of 100 min at varied exercise intensity (i.e., 10-min stages at 1.5, 2.0, and 2.5 W/kg; repeated three times plus two 5-min stages at 1.0 W/kg before and after the protocol), followed by a 20-min time trial on four separated occasions. Blood glucose and lactate (every 20 min), heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion were collected throughout, and muscle biopsies were taken before and immediately after exercise. The results showed that trehalose improved time-trial performance compared with placebo (total work done 302 ± 39 vs. 287 ± 48 kJ; p = .01), with no other differences between sessions (all p ≥ .07). Throughout the 100-min protocol, blood glucose was higher with maltodextrin compared with the other supplements at all time points (all p < .05). Heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion, muscle glycogen content, blood glucose, and lactate were not different between conditions when considering the 20-min time trial (all p > .05). Trehalose supplementation throughout endurance exercise improved cycling performance and appears to be an appropriate CHO source for exercise tasks up to 2 hr. No ergogenic superiority between the different types of CHO was established.

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Volume 34 (2024): Issue 2 (Mar 2024)