Papers that’ve inspired my practice

I think everyone who’s anyone or aspiring to be could write this post, and what’s great about this as a subject is that everyone’s efforts would be different. In this post I hope to reflect on a few articles that I’ve read over the years that have either inspired me to act, write or think. Please feel free to comment, share or add to the list too.

  1. Stellingwerff, Boit & Res, 2007: Nutritional strategies to optimise training and racing in middle-distance athletes (available here, or via Researchgate)

This is what got me started. The paper that kicked off my interests big time, and helped outline the idea between training and nutrition in a context that I could relate to, and was involved in (still am). Whilst this paper is approaching 10 years old now, I think much of what is written still stands, and most athletes could go a long way through simply trying some of these practices out; logging their responses in their training diaries and giving themselves time to improve and adapt to a periodised nutritional approach. But it isn’t just about the athletes; it’s also a way for sports scientists and nutritionists to learn from how an athlete feels and responds to fuelling. This paper was the beginning of my muscle to mouth and mouth to muscle philosophy.

 Training involves meticulous planning, in which there is an ideal time, place, duration, and intensity of training that is periodized for optimal performance. This same rigorous approach should also be applied to nutritional interventions.

2. Phillips, 2014: A Brief Review of Higher Dietary Protein Diets in Weight Loss: A Focus on Athletes (available here, or via Researchgate)

This paper is exceptionally well written. I can’t say any more than that. Whilst the science and the content are excellent, the writing is concise in a way that I am striving to replicate in my own work; elaborating and evidencing points where necessary, but keeping it short and sweet. Stuart Phillips (@mackinprof) has crafted a great read here and with it being open access no one has any excuses not to hit download. The topic itself is interesting and something that sits alongside further work from the Phillips group and some work with boxers that Kevin Tipton was involved in (available here). With the current and seemingly constant ethical debate about weight categories in combat sports, this paper will likely remain current for years to come.

3. Mündel & Jones, 2010The effects of swilling an L(-)-menthol solution during exercise in the heat (available here)

I can tell you exactly where I was when I saw the data presented for this paper: Northumbria University, the closing session of ISENC 2013. I’d been struggling to get to grips with a topic for my PhD thesis, after being promised the world by a genetics company and nothing coming of it. This was it. The first study to take mouth-swilling a step beyond carbohydrate and out of it came some convincing evidence. The premise being that exposing the mouth to a cold stimulus, whilst exercising in the heat, improves thermal perception and time trial performance then improves. Fascinated Dr Nic Berger and I worked out my proposed thesis and I’ve not looked back since. Menthol has led to some interesting results in other studies (see here, here and here) and I’m currently collaborating with some of the authors in these works to move my PhD thesis forward.

4. Jones & Carter, 2000: The Effect of Endurance Training on Parameters of Aerobic Fitness (available here and via Researchgate)

This paper was something I thumbed through most weeks over the course of my MSc, in preparation for our physiology exam and to work my way through the reference list. This is the second oldest paper on the list but it’s arguably the best. Clearly written, it covers all the aerobic bases that an endurance junkie such as myself would want to read about. Sports science is often cluttered with cloudy definitions and this creates a sense of uncertainty even in experienced academics (so I’m told!) and readers. This paper really broke things down for me, and helped me not only pass my exam but it was as if all the pieces of the aerobic jigsaw were now in the right place, making the pretty picture they were supposed to. The figures within the text are also clear, making this a great teaching tool.

I challenge people to write a better opening to a conclusion:

Endurance exercise training results in numerous adaptations to the neuromuscular, metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory and endocrine systems. These adaptations are reflected in improvements in the key parameters of aerobic fitness, namely the V.O2max, exercise economy, the lactate/ventilatory threshold and the CP which will influence the oxygen uptake kinetics. An improvement in one or more of these parameters will result in an improvement in endurance exercise performance consequent to a rightward shift at various points on the velocity time curve. The latter will allow an athlete to exercise for longer at the same exercise intensity or to sustain a higher speed for a given exercise duration.

5. Armstrong, Hubbard, Jones & Daniels, 1985: Preparing Alberto Salazar for the heat of the 1984 Olympic Marathon (available here)

I came across this paper surprisingly recently (September 2015) and it brought home a couple of points:

  • Individual strategies and interventions will provoke individual responses
  • Even the best have bad days; it is the sports scientists’ job to lessen their impact
  • Maladaptations may occur despite well reasoned intentions (see first point)

For an athlete of Salazar’s condition, talent and, judging by this paper, preparation, 1984 in the heat of LA didn’t go to plan. The stats in this paper regarding Salazar’s fluid losses are staggering. But more interestingly this is a rare case of an elite athlete participating in a case study (see Jones 1998 and 2006 for work with Paula Radcliffe), but rarer still a well documented and honest reflection of an unsuccessful result. Whilst we may not want to shout about our negative outcomes they are still valuable as it adds insight and creates a fuller picture of the whole. Reading this led me to write up a negative result from our work with an ultra runner as an abstract (available here or via Researchgate). We have comparative data on the same athlete from a successful result which has revealed some interesting differences (manuscript in preparation).

That’s it for now – I could easily double this list, as I’ve neglected to add papers from Tim Noakes, Louise Burke, Asker Jeukendrup and Inigo Mujika to name but a few. I look forward to seeing what future reading holds, and I’m sure this list will evolve periodically.



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