Sports and Performance Nutrition – Back to Basics!

In recent years, the government is increasingly focused on healthy eating for children and young people and this is of course becoming even more important with the growing threat to their well-being from inactivity and obesity.

We are delighted to welcome Karl Cogan to this year’s Midlands Science Festival where he will address a Midlands school on the topic of Sports and Performance Nutrition. Karl is a PhD Researcher  in the Exercise Metabolism and Nutrigenomics Research Group, at UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

We caught up with Karl in advance of the festival for a chat…

Why is it important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after playing sport?

A reduction in bodyweight of approximately 2% due to sweat loss can negatively impact both cognitive and physical performance. While loss of body fluid during exercise is inevitable, there is no reason why an athlete should commence exercise in a dehydrated state. Therefore, ingestion of fluid before and during physical activity can help to mitigate the effects of fluid loss on sporting performance. Ingestion of fluid after exercise is important to replace that lost during physical activity.

 

What advice would you give to teenagers around healthy eating at exam time?

This might seem very cliché, but eating a well-balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, and avoiding highly processed foods, will help maintain energy levels and concentration. Try to avoid taking highly caffeinated beverages late a night as this can significantly impact upon sleep quality, and as a result, cognitive function. Late night caffeine fuelled cram sessions are no guarantee of success and I’d certainly advocate a good nights rest instead.

 

Do we need sports supplements or are they a waste of money?

While this might seem like a simple question, unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. For recreational athletes, again, a well balanced diet should provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals required for general health and recovery from exercise. However, sometimes it isn’t always possible to get the nutrients we require directly from whole food. For example, the quantity of food required to meet the nutritional needs of certain athletic populations is difficult to attain through whole food. As a result, supplementation is often required for athletic populations. Additionally, nutritional requirements change throughout our lifespan. Supplementation represents an important intervention that can be utilized to enhance different aspects of health. Consequently, we should avoid exclusively focusing on their use as a means of solely enhancing sporting performance.

 

We have heard that carbohydrates and fat are the two main fuels for exercising muscles. Is protein important too? If so what is important for?

Carbohydrate and fat are the two predominant sources of energy fuelling exercise. Their relative contributions to energy production are influenced by the intensity of exercise, individual fitness level and diet. There is, however, a modest increase over time in the amount of energy derived from protein during prolonged aerobic endurance exercise. While not as important for fuelling performance, protein is crucial for appropriate recovery from exercise with the type, timing and amount required important considerations.

 

There are many sports nutritional myths out there in the media, is saying its necessary to carbo-load before races or a big sports event one of them?

Similarly to hydration, it is important to avoid exercising in a carbohydrate depleted stated, if optimal performance is the desired goal. Generally, for events lasting 60 minutes or less, it is not necessary to carb-load, as carbohydrate availability is not the limiting factor in performance. For longer endurance based events of moderate to high intensity, however, a pre-event carbohydrate loading phase may improve performance. There is no one single answer to any given nutritional question. Like most things in nutritional and exercise science, answers are very much dependent on the individual context of a situation.

 

Apart from the one we all know, calcium is necessary for healthy bones, what else is it good for in the body?

In addition to maintaining healthy teeth and bones, calcium is an extremely important mineral for many different processes within our bodies. It plays an extremely important role during muscle contraction, blood clotting, facilitating nerve signal transmission and release of other hormones and chemical messages.

 

Are muscle cramps caused by dehydration?

There are many hypotheses as to why muscles cramp, for example, dehydration and metabolite imbalances. The short answer is, we don’t know, but it is most likely due to a combination of factors rather than any single cause.

 

 

Celebrate Science in Offaly!

boaAmong a rich programme of key speakers featuring during the festival is Dr. Craig Slattery, a science communicator and Specialist Lecturer at University College Dublin who is originally from Tullamore. Craig will give a special free public talk in the Coffee Club in Tullamore on the morning of November 13th on ‘The Science of Coffee’. Come along and have a free cup of coffee while hearing all about his fascinating topic but remember to book a place and availability is limited so please book now on www.midlandsscience.ie.

Craig will also deliver a presentation at Hugh Lynch’s pub on the evening of November 12th at our Tullamore alchemist cafe. He has undertaken ground-breaking research into diabetes, a growing problem in Ireland & he will be speaking about his work. Gary Donohoe, Head of Psychology at NUI, Galway will join Craig on the night to talk about the Science of the Mind.

There are also a large number of events taking place in Offaly schools during Science Week such as the return of the Reptile Zoo Village, the Science Bubbles show, specialist careers talks, workshops from Trinity College Dublin, young scientist presentations, bacteria experiments and more.

Join us from November 9th-16th in celebrating science, after all it is all around us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Do It!

Craig picWe are really looking forward to working with Dr.Craig Slattery during this years festival! We met up last week and enjoyed a chat to find out a little bit more about his science career to date and what drives him  …

I know you are from Tullamore originally Craig but where has your career taken you over the past decade?
The great thing about science is that it is a truly international endeavor and a science qualification gives you huge flexibility to travel and work overseas. After my PhD, I moved to Australia with my wife and took up a postdoctoral research position in the University of Queensland. It was a hugely enjoyable time and allowed us to travel all over the southern hemisphere. It was also a really fantastic opportunity career-wise. When we returned to Ireland a few years later, I was able to secure research funding on foot of my work in Australia. We really underestimate how well regarded the Irish education system is internationally. Awards from Irish higher education institutes really carry weight and open doors.

Can you tell us what is your current role at UCD?
My current role in UCD is as a Biomedical Researcher and a Specialist Lecturer. I am a member of a team of researchers called the Renal Disease Research Group, which is led by Dr. Tara McMorrow. We focus on a range of diseases and toxicities that can affect the kidneys. At the moment I am focused on diabetes as it is themain cause of kidney disease. We are part of a large EU project that aims to discover new ways to prevent diabetic kidney disease and to find new drugs to treat it.

What advice would you give young students considering a career in science?
Just do it! I know that sounds ridiculously corny but if you have any interest in science you will not regret it. It’s very important to study something that you have a passion for. That way, when things get tough around exam time, your natural interest will help to drive you on. As a bonus, science qualifications are hugely flexible and very attractive to prospective employers across many different fields.

How do you think we could make science more attractive to young people?
The funny thing is I don’t think you have to work very hard to get young people interested in science. Young people are naturally drawn to science. Children are natural experimenters. If you spend 5 minutes with a toddler you very quickly realize that they are constantly asking‘why?’, ‘how?’, and ‘what if?’  And when they figure something out you can see their excitement and satisfaction. That is science … our natural inquisitiveness at work. What we need to do is make sure that this thirst for knowledge and discovery doesn’t get eroded as they grow up. A great way to do that is by encouragingyoung people to keep asking questions as they go through school and try to structure their learning experiences and environments around this.

Is there anything you would really love to investigate further if you had no limitations?
I am fascinated by how the human body keeps track of its biological age over decades. We’re beginning to understand some parts of this puzzle and it’s going to lead to new treatments for a whole range of diseases. But I would be interested to see if we could ultimately manipulate our biological clocks on a grand scale? Could we slow down aging and dramatically extend the human lifespan? Who knows.

Why is it important to host and support events such as the Midlands Science Festival do you think?
The vast majority of scientific research around the world is funded by public money. I think any event that brings scientists and the public into closer contact, allowing the people to see the return on this investment is extremely important. Just as important though is getting people thinking, and talking about science and it’s role in our society. In the past, this sort of event has generally happened at a national level (i.e. in the cities!). Having a Science Festival in the Midlands where people can go to their local pub and hear from a world leading scientist like Professor O’Neill is fantastic and I really hope it is embraced. Added to that, the variety of different types of events that have been organised from school visits and workshops, to coffee mornings and movie nights, really means there is something for everyone.

Fancy a Cuppa?

2 scientists having cuppaDid you know that coffee is..

  • The second most widely used product in the world after oil.
  • It was worth 6 million tonnes per year in the mid 90’s.
  • It is worth €30 billion per year to the producing countries.
  • It is a living to more than 100 million people.
  • It is consumed at the rate of 1400 million cups per day.
  • The world’s second most popular drink after water

A common belief among coffee pundits is that good coffee depends heavily on good grinding. Is this true? Why not come along to our ‘Science of Coffee’ event which is taking place in Tullamore on November 13th this year. We are delighted to have the company and expertise of fellow Midlander; toxicologist and science communicator Dr.Craig Slattery (University College Dublin), to speak about  the fascinating studies that have been done on this much loved drink on the day.

When is the perfect time to drink coffee [according to your body’s circadian clock], how do you make the perfect cup of coffee [boiling points and pressure are important], what does caffeine do to our body, there’s so much to learn! Join us at this very different science festival event, enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and hear all about the science of caffeine in this free public event.

Where: The Coffee Club, Harbour Street, Tullamore
When: November 13th @ 10:30am
During what is shaping up to be a hectic week, this is definitely one we are looking forward to!

In Conversation with Ann-Marie Jennings…

blog_annmarie

It was really inspiring to chat to Ann-Marie Jennings, Clinical Laboratory Manager of ‘Randox Health’ recently about her career path. Ann-Marie is originally from Tullamore in Co. Offaly and is involved in scientific work that could really make a difference when it comes to the diagnosis of a variety of diseases.

You are originally from Tullamore Ann-Marie, where are you living and working now?
I am living in Belfast and working for a Company called Randox Laboratories. I am the Clinical Laboratory Manager of Randox Health which is a service that we provide for personalised and preventative health profiling. I also oversee all the Clinical Research Projects and Clinical Trials that Randox are in which include Bladder Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Brain Injury, Acute Kidney Infection and Sepsis. Studies

What experiences in school or otherwise influenced you to pursue a career in science?
When I was in school I was heavily involved in Sport and had a strong passion for Science. I wanted to try and combine my two interests and decided to study Sports Science and Biology in St Mary’s University in Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. However half way through my second year in University I realised that the course was not for me. I enjoyed the Biology side of the course more so than the Sport side and I felt it best for me to leave this course and enroll in a course that was solely focused on Science. I immediately applied to UCD to study Science and thankfully I was accepted. I thoroughly enjoyed studying Biochemistry and loved the practical side of the subject and got a thrill when my experiments worked!

When I completed my degree I was offered a PhD in the Conway Institute in UCD. I was indecisive as to what I should do as I knew studying for a PhD would be challenging and I had to make sure that this was the right path for me. To help me make my mind up I decided to move to New York where I worked as a Research Assistant in a lab in Columbia University. I thoroughly enjoyed it and knew that studying for a PhD was the next step to take with regards to my Science career and I haven’t looked back since.

What is the best part of the work you do-the part that gives you the most satisfaction?
There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy and give my job satisfaction and in particular the Clinical Research Projects and Clinical Trial Work that I oversee in the Company. We are are the cutting edge of Science and Discovery and I believe that the work that we are involved in really will make a difference with regards to developing better diagnostic tests for the easier diagnosis of a variety of diseases.

What contemporary scientific issue are you most concerned about?
The main concern for me (and the majority of others) is the production and distribution of enough energy to meet increased demands and the elimination or reduction of pollutants in the environment.

What would you say to a student who wanted to pursue a career in science?
My advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career in Science is to firstly choose the correct subjects in Secondary School. I believe that Biology and Chemistry are essential and are the core science subjects that can be applied to a variety of science degrees.

If a student is contemplating a career in Science I would advise them to try and gain some work experience over their Summer holidays. This will give them a better perspective on the role of a Scientist.

What is the most fun thing about science in your view?
The most fun thing about Science for me is that I am constantly learning. No day is ever the same and that’s what I enjoy! It’s never boring!

In Conversation with Claire MacEvilly…

blog_ClaireMacEvillyAs we continue to prepare an exciting line-up of events for the Midlands Science Festival, I recently caught up with Claire Mac Evilly, the Communications Manager of ‘Food for Health Ireland’ at University College Dublin. We are delighted to have Claire as one of our key speakers for this year’s festival and we wanted to find out a little bit more about her love of science and where it all began…..

When did you decide to work in a science field and what inspired you?
I really liked Biology and Home Economics in school so a BSc in Nutritional Sciences was a perfect fit for me. I particularly found that the science behind the food we eat and what reactions happen in the body really interested me. A prize winning nutrition scientist Dr Elsie Widdowson inspired me. She was one of the trail blazers in nutrition research and I did a project on her when I was in transition year. I was lucky enough to get enough points to study in UCC but the story does not end there. I was doing my final year and I got chatting to my advisor at the time. I knew that I didn’t want to do further study in the lab but I was interested in how you translate nutrition science into messages aimed at the public that would encourage them to change their behaviour when it comes to food choice. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to go to Tufts University in Boston to complete a Masters in Nutrition Communications and the journey of getting science out to diverse audiences began!

Why in your view is science so important in society today?
Science is important in society today because I believe we need a society that is excited by science, values its importance to our social and economic wellbeing, feels confidence in its use and supports a representative well-qualified scientific workforce. It is particularly important for Ireland as we need science to help our future economic prosperity and our ability to become an innovative nation depends on the successful exploitation of science and technology.

Do you think there are any really exciting research outcomes we can hope to see in the next 10 years?
In Ireland, we are lucky enough to produce great quantities of milk but is there more to this white liquid than meets the eye? Researchers are currently mining milk to look at the functional ingredients that could be of benefit to human health. Finding out what bioactives are in milk and how can we make more use of them is exciting because it will put Ireland at the forefront of an area of research that has huge commercial potential.

Why is it important for those working in science to take part in such events as the Midlands Science Festival?
Scientists work really hard in the lab or with populations in the field to give them data to publish in scientific journals. Building this body of knowledge is important. But what is also important is about getting the science out to have real impact – on people, on policy, on changing practice. Public engagement events like the Midlands Science Festival provide a unique platform to bring the science to life. It’s not enough to do activities because we think they are worthwhile, we must be clear about impacts we are trying to have and then to go about trying to measure and assess them and the processes we’re using. After the Science festivals are over – that is the critical time. Then we must reflect and consider how we might change and improve what we do and share what we’ve learnt.

Are there are any specific challenges for women in science now?
A real challenge for women in science is to learn the skills to lead and become a good leader. For example, starting an academic lab is like launching a small business. But does scientific training really prepare women for the challenges of leadership like dealing with a difficult co-worker or motivating students? More support needs to be given to women to develop their leadership skills, which will undoubtedly help in the progress of their science.