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Christopher Kirk, Carl Langan-Evans, and James P. Morton

Body mass (BM) manipulation via rapid weight loss (RWL) and rapid weight gain (RWG) is a common practice among mixed martial art (MMA) athletes to ensure qualification for the division in which the athlete wishes to compete. Professional MMA competitors in California are required to weigh in twice: 24 hr prior to competition and immediately prior to the bout after they have typically engaged in RWG. In analyzing data from five MMA events sanctioned by the Californian State Athletic Commission, the authors used Bayesian analyses to compare bout winners (n = 62) and losers (n = 62) in terms of in-competition BM (in kilograms) and the amount of BM regained between the two weigh-ins (in kilograms). These data do not support the hypothesis that differences in in-competition BM (Bayes factor [BF10] = 0.667, d = 0.23) or the amount of BM regained between the two weigh-ins (BF10 = 0.821, d = 0.23) determine winning or losing. In addition, there was no statistical difference between bouts ending via strikes, submission, or decision for either in-competition BM (BF10 = 0.686, ω2 < 0.01) or the amount of BM regained between the two weigh-ins (BF10 = 0.732, ω2 = 0.054). In conclusion, the authors report for the first time that the magnitude of RWG does not predict winning or losing in a professional cohort of MMA athletes. In addition, they also report that MMA athletes typically compete at a BM that is at least 1–2 divisions higher than the division in which they officially weighed-in. These analyses may provide impetus for governing bodies and coaches to enact changes at both professional and amateur levels to reduce negative health consequences associated with extreme RWL and RWG.

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James C. Morehen, Carl Langan-Evans, Elliot C.R. Hall, Graeme L. Close, and James P. Morton

Weight cycling is thought to increase the risk of obesity and cardiometabolic disease in nonathletic and athletic populations. However, the magnitude and frequency of weight cycling is not well characterized in elite athletes. To this end, we quantified the weight cycling practices of a male World Champion professional boxer competing at super middleweight (76.2 kg). Over a 5-year period comprising 11 contests, we assessed changes in body mass (n = 8 contests) and body composition (n = 6 contests) during the training camp preceding each contest. Time taken to make weight was 11 ± 4 weeks (range: 4–16). Absolute and relative weight loss for each contest was 12.4 ± 2.1 kg (range: 9.8–17.0) and 13.9% ± 2.0% (range: 11.3–18.2), respectively. Notably, the athlete commenced each training camp with progressive increases in fat mass (i.e., 12.5 and 16.1 kg for Contests 1 and 11) and reductions in fat-free mass (i.e., 69.8 and 67.5 kg for Contests 1 and 11, respectively). Data suggest that weight cycling may lead to “fat overshooting” and further weight gain in later life. Larger scale studies are now required to characterize the weight cycling practices of elite athletes and robustly assess future cardiometabolic disease risk. From an ethical perspective, practitioners should be aware of the potential health consequences associated with weight cycling.

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Carl Langan-Evans, Colum Cronin, Mark A. Hearris, Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale, and James P. Morton

In response to the ongoing sex data gap, the present study provides a qualitative exploration of females’ nutritional experiences in elite sporting environments. Semistructured interviews were conducted with multiple participant groups (n = 18), including athletes (n = 7), practitioners (n = 6), and researchers (n = 5) across differing disciplines within professional sporting organizations and/or national governing bodies. Combined content and thematic analysis provided an insight into the specific factors influencing current sport nutrition practices. A common theme highlighted among all participant groups was the paradoxical struggle between adequate fueling for training and competition demands, and the fear this may impact body mass and body composition goals. This tension was identified as being rooted within athletes’ perceptions of body image and driven by other participant groups and wider societal ideals. Each participant group also highlighted influences on cravings and approaches to food and dietary supplementation, centered around individual perceptions and challenges driven by symptomology associated with the female menstrual cycle and contraceptive use. To address these challenges, all participant groups called for more research to inform future change and continuing education pathways. In summary, this study contributes to providing a more complete understanding of elite female athlete sport nutrition experiences than currently exists. Multiple perspectives highlight the complexity of providing sport nutrition support to elite female athlete populations and directs future research, and practice, to reconsider one-size-fits-all approaches and acknowledge unique individual contexts which may influence these areas.

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Karen A. Smith, Robert J. Naughton, Carl Langan-Evans, and Kiara Lewis

This mixed methods study aimed to investigate weight cutting practices of female taekwon-do athletes internationally and explore their experiences of “making weight.” A survey of weight loss practices and eating behaviors was completed by 103 taekwon-do athletes from 12 countries, which illustrated that 72.5% of athletes engage in both acute and chronic weight loss practices prior to competition and that there were higher levels of disordered eating within this athletic population than nonweight cutting athletes. Semistructured interviews were conducted with five international-level competitors; thematic analysis of the interviews identified that the women in general felt weight cutting was “horrible—but worth it” and the women believed that (a) weight cutting is unpleasant, difficult, and challenging; and (b) weight cutting provides a competitive advantage. The implications of this study are that weight cutting is widespread among high-level competitive female taekwon-do athletes and this is unlikely to change given the perceived advantages. Efforts are needed to make sure that the women are knowledgeable of the risks and are provided with safe and effective means of making weight.

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Andreas M. Kasper, Ben Crighton, Carl Langan-Evans, Philip Riley, Asheesh Sharma, Graeme L. Close, and James P. Morton

The aim of the present case study was to quantify the physiological and metabolic impact of extreme weight cutting by an elite male mixed martial arts athlete. Throughout an 8-week period, we obtained regular assessments of body composition, resting metabolic rate, peak oxygen uptake, and blood clinical chemistry to assess endocrine status, lipid profiles, hydration, and kidney function. The athlete adhered to a “phased” weight loss plan consisting of 7 weeks of reduced energy (ranging from 1,300 to 1,900 kcal/day) intake (Phase 1), 5 days of water loading with 8 L/day for 4 days followed by 250 ml on Day 5 (Phase 2), 20 hr of fasting and dehydration (Phase 3), and 32 hr of rehydration and refueling prior to competition (Phase 4). Body mass declined by 18.1% (80.2 to 65.7 kg) corresponding to changes of 4.4, 2.8, and 7.3 kg in Phases 1, 2, and 3, respectively. We observed clear indices of relative energy deficiency, as evidenced by reduced resting metabolic rate (−331 kcal), inability to complete performance tests, alterations to endocrine hormones (testosterone: <3 nmol/L), and hypercholesterolemia (>6 mmol/L). Moreover, severe dehydration (reducing body mass by 9.3%) in the final 24 hr prior to weigh-in-induced hypernatremia (plasma sodium: 148 mmol/L) and acute kidney injury (serum creatinine: 177 μmol/L). These data, therefore, support publicized reports of the harmful (and potentially fatal) effects of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts athletes and represent a call for action to governing bodies to safeguard the welfare of mixed martial arts athletes.

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Wee Lun Foo, Jake D. Harrison, Frank T. Mhizha, Carl Langan-Evans, James P. Morton, Jamie N. Pugh, and Jose L. Areta

Athletes from weight-sensitive sports are reported to consume low-fiber diets (LOW) to induce acute reductions in body mass (BM). However, evidence supporting their efficacy is anecdotal. Therefore, we aimed to determine the effect of a LOW on acute changes in BM. Nineteen healthy males (32 ± 10 years, 1.79 ± 0.07 m, 77.5 ± 8.1 kg) consumed their habitual diet (∼30 g fiber/day) for 7 consecutive days followed by 4 days of a LOW (<10 g fiber/day) that was matched for energy and macronutrient content. Participants also matched their daily exercise load during LOW to that completed during habitual diet (p = .669, average 257 ± 141 arbitrary units). BM was significantly reduced in LOW versus habitual diet after 4 days (Δ = 0.40 ± 0.77 kg or 0.49% ± 0.91%, p < .05, effect size [ES] [95% confidence interval] = −0.53 [−1.17, 0.12]) and on the morning of Day 5 (Δ = 0.58 ± 0.83 kg or 0.74% ± 0.99%, p < .01, ES = −0.69 [−1.34, −0.03]). LOW resulted in moderately higher hunger (Δ = 5 ± 9 mm, p = .015, ES = 0.55 [−0.09, 1.20]), a decline in stool frequency from 2 ± 0 to 1 ± 0 bowel movements per day (p = .012, ES = 0.64 [−0.02, 1.29]) and stool softness decrease (p = .005). Nonetheless, participants reported the diet to be tolerable (n = 18/19) and were willing to repeat it (n = 16/19). Data demonstrate for the first time that consumption of a short-term LOW induces reductions in BM.

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Samuel G. Impey, Kelly M. Hammond, Robert Naughton, Carl Langan-Evans, Sam O. Shepherd, Adam P. Sharples, Jessica Cegielski, Kenneth Smith, Stewart Jeromson, David L. Hamilton, Graeme L. Close, and James P. Morton

We examined the effects of whey versus collagen protein on skeletal muscle cell signaling responses associated with mitochondrial biogenesis and protein synthesis in recovery from an acute training session completed with low carbohydrate availability. In a repeated-measures design (after adhering to a 36-hr exercise–dietary intervention to standardize preexercise muscle glycogen), eight males completed a 75-min nonexhaustive cycling protocol and consumed 22 g of a hydrolyzed collagen blend (COLLAGEN) or whey (WHEY) protein 45 min prior to exercise, 22 g during exercise, and 22 g immediately postexercise. Exercise decreased (p < .05) muscle glycogen content by comparable levels from pre- to postexercise in both trials (≈300–150 mmol/kg·dry weight). WHEY protein induced greater increases in plasma branched chain amino acids (p = .03) and leucine (p = .02) than COLLAGEN. Exercise induced (p < .05) similar increases in PGC-1α (fivefold) mRNA at 1.5 hr postexercise between conditions, although no effect of exercise (p > .05) was observed for p53, Parkin, and Beclin1 mRNA. Exercise suppressed (p < .05) p70S6K1 activity in both conditions immediately postexercise (≈25 fmol·min−1·mg−1). Postexercise feeding increased p70S6K1 activity at 1.5 hr postexercise (p < .05), the magnitude of which was greater (p < .05) in WHEY (180 ± 105 fmol·min−1·mg−1) versus COLLAGEN (73 ± 42 fmol·min−1·mg−1). We conclude that protein composition does not modulate markers of mitochondrial biogenesis when in recovery from a training session deliberately completed with low carbohydrate availability. By contrast, whey protein augments postexercise p70S6K activity compared with hydrolyzed collagen, as likely mediated via increased leucine availability.