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Dana M. Lis and Keith Baar

Nutritional strategies to improve connective tissue collagen synthesis have garnered significant interest, although the scientific validity of these interventions lags behind their hype. This study was designed to determine the effects of three forms of collagen on N-terminal peptide of procollagen and serum amino acid levels. A total of 10 recreationally active males completed a randomized double-blinded crossover design study consuming either placebo or 15 g of vitamin C–enriched gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen (HC), or gummy containing equal parts of gelatin and HC. Supplements were consumed 1 hr before 6 min of jump rope. Blood samples were collected immediately prior to supplement consumption and 4 hr after jump rope. A subset of blood samples (n = 4) was collected for amino acid analysis 1 hr after ingestion. Consumption of an equivalent dose of each supplement increased amino acids in the circulation similarly across all interventions. N-terminal peptide of procollagen levels tended to increase ∼20% from baseline in the gelatin and HC interventions but not the placebo or gummy. These results suggest that vitamin C–enriched gelatin and HC supplementation may improve collagen synthesis when taken 1 hr prior to exercise. However, large variability was observed, which precluded significance for any treatment.

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Dana M. Lis, Daniel Kings and D. Enette Larson-Meyer

Some track-and-field athletes implement special diets aiming to improve health and/or performance. An evidence-based approach to any diet is recommended to minimize the risks associated with unnecessary dietary restriction, which may potentially do more harm than good. Four prevalent diets are reviewed in this study: (a) gluten-free; (b) low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP); (c) vegetarian; and (d) fasting diets. Recently, gluten-free diets and low FODMAP diets have emerged as novel regimes thought to improve gastrointestinal health and reduce the risk of exercise-associated gastrointestinal symptoms. No direct beneficial outcomes have been associated with avoiding gluten for clinically healthy athletes. Indirectly, a gluten-free diet is associated with other dietary changes, particularly FODMAP reduction, which may improve adverse gastrointestinal symptoms. Vegetarian diets can optimally support athletic demands. However, attention is required to ensure adequate energy and intake of specific nutrients that are less abundant or less well absorbed from plant sources. Finally, fasting is a long-standing concept that is undertaken on a voluntary and obligatory basis. Despite limited supporting research, voluntary fasting is a popular alternative to conventional diets perceptually offering health and body composition benefits. Strict obligatory fasting guidelines likely require the implementation of tailored nutrition strategies to help athletes cope with athletic demands. Overall, a multitude of factors influence adherence to special diets. Even when adherence to a special diet is a necessity, education and advice from an accredited dietitian/nutritionist are recommended for track-and-field athletes to optimize nutrition for health and performance.

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Dana M. Lis, Trent Stellingwerff, Cecilia M. Shing, Kiran D.K. Ahuja and James W. Fell

Adherence to a gluten-free diet (GFD) for nonceliac athletes (NCA) has become increasingly popular despite a paucity of supportive medical or ergogenic evidence. This study aimed to quantify the demographics of NCA and determine associated experiences, perceptions, and sources of information related to GFD. Athletes (n = 910, female = 528, no gender selected = 5) completed a 17-question online survey. Forty-one percent of NCA respondents, including 18-world and/or Olympic medalists, follow a GFD 50–100% of the time (GFD > 50): only 13% for treatment of reported medical conditions with 57% self-diagnosing their gluten sensitivity. The GFD > 50 group characteristics included predominantly endurance sport athletes (70.0%) at the recreationally competitive level (32.3%), between 31 and 40 years of age (29.1%). Those who follow a GFD > 50 reported experiencing, abdominal/gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms alone (16.7%) or in conjunction with two (30.7%) or three (35.7%) additional symptoms (e.g., fatigue) believed to be triggered by gluten. Eighty-four percent of GFD > 50 indicated symptom improvement with gluten-removal. Symptom-based and non-symptom-based self-diagnosed gluten-sensitivity (56.7%) was the primary reason for adopting a GFD. Leading sources of GFD information were online (28.7%), trainer/coach (26.2%) and other athletes (17.4%). Although 5–10% of the general population is estimated to benefit clinically from a GFD a higher prevalence of GFD adherence was found in NCA (41.2%). Prescription of a GFD among many athletes does not result from evidence-based practice suggesting that adoption of a GFD in the majority of cases was not based on medical rationale and may be driven by perception that gluten removal provides health benefits and an ergogenic edge in NCA.

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Dana Lis, Kiran D.K. Ahuja, Trent Stellingwerff, Cecilia M. Kitic and James Fell

Athletes employ various dietary strategies in attempts to attenuate exercise-induced gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms to ensure optimal performance. This case-study outlines one of these GI-targeted approaches via the implementation of a short-term low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet, with the aim to attenuate persistent running specific GI symptoms in a recreationally competitive multisport athlete (male, 86 kg, 57.9 ml·kg·min-1 V02max, 10–15 hr/week training, with no diagnosed GI disorder). Using a single-blinded approach a habitual diet was compared with a 6-day low FODMAP intervention diet (81 ± 5g vs 7.2 ± 5.7g FODMAP s/day) for their effect on GI symptoms and perceptual wellbeing. Training was similar during the habitual and dietary intervention periods. Postexercise (During) GI symptom ratings were recorded immediately following training. Daily GI symptoms and the Daily Analysis of Life Demands for Athletes (DALDA) were recorded at the end of each day. Daily and During GI symptom scores (scale 0–9) ranged from 0–4 during the habitual dietary period while during the low FODMAP dietary period all scores were 0 (no symptoms at all). DALDA scores for worse than normal ranged from 3–10 vs 0–8 in the habitual and low FODMAP dietary periods, respectively, indicating improvement. This intervention was effective for this GI symptom prone athlete; however, randomized-controlled trials are required to assess the suitability of low FODMAP diets for reducing GI distress in other symptomatic athletes.

Open access

Louise M. Burke, Linda M. Castell, Douglas J. Casa, Graeme L. Close, Ricardo J. S. Costa, Ben Desbrow, Shona L. Halson, Dana M. Lis, Anna K. Melin, Peter Peeling, Philo U. Saunders, Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, Oliver C. Witard, Stéphane Bermon and Trent Stellingwerff

The International Association of Athletics Federations recognizes the importance of nutritional practices in optimizing an Athlete’s well-being and performance. Although Athletics encompasses a diverse range of track-and-field events with different performance determinants, there are common goals around nutritional support for adaptation to training, optimal performance for key events, and reducing the risk of injury and illness. Periodized guidelines can be provided for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of intake of food and fluids to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competition. Some Athletes are at risk of relative energy deficiency in sport arising from a mismatch between energy intake and exercise energy expenditure. Competition nutrition strategies may involve pre-event, within-event, and between-event eating to address requirements for carbohydrate and fluid replacement. Although a “food first” policy should underpin an Athlete’s nutrition plan, there may be occasions for the judicious use of medical supplements to address nutrient deficiencies or sports foods that help the athlete to meet nutritional goals when it is impractical to eat food. Evidence-based supplements include caffeine, bicarbonate, beta-alanine, nitrate, and creatine; however, their value is specific to the characteristics of the event. Special considerations are needed for travel, challenging environments (e.g., heat and altitude); special populations (e.g., females, young and masters athletes); and restricted dietary choice (e.g., vegetarian). Ideally, each Athlete should develop a personalized, periodized, and practical nutrition plan via collaboration with their coach and accredited sports nutrition experts, to optimize their performance.