The first round of QUEX PhD candidates are working on the following projects. Please note, these positions have been filled.

18. The influence of Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on exercise performance, sleep and recovery

UQ academic lead

Dr Vincent Kelly, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Exeter academic lead

Associate Professor Joanna Bowtell, Head of Discipline, Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Project background

Montmorency tart cherries (MC) contain high concentrations of phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. We and others have shown acceleration of recovery following running, heavy eccentric exercise, cycling and prolonged, repeat sprint activity with MC supplementation. We have also recently demonstrated enhanced 15-kilometre cycling time trial performance and muscle oxygenation following 7 days of MC supplementation, but the exact mechanisms causing these improvements are currently unknown. In addition, the influence of MC supplements on exercise and sporting performance, when combined with a structured training program, is yet to be investigated in either a controlled laboratory or applied sport setting.

The consumption of MC results in an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women as well as in adults with insomnia and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep in clinical and athletic populations. Reduced sleep quality and duration is associated with obesity, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and low occupational productivity which each have significant social and economic burden. Sleep is also of major importance for elite athletes who have often demonstrated compromised sleep. The influence of MC ingestion on athlete’s sleep and subsequent sporting performance is also yet to be investigated.

The aim of the proposed PhD will be to investigate the influence of MC on training adaptation, exercise performance and sleep in elite athletes in an applied setting and in a controlled laboratory environment. Additionally, to ensure the translation of research into practice, the factors that potentially influence an athlete’s decision to use MC including taste, side-effects and dosage compliance will be investigated. 

Initial investigations will examine the efficacy of different doses of MC on laboratory and field based performance tests in addition to markers of recovery following exercise. Primary outcome measures will include physiological and cognitive measures of performance, full blood count, markers of anabolic/catabolic hormone status, markers of oxidative stress and inflammation (cytokine/chemokine).

Subsequent investigations will examine whether MC use in elite male and female athletes influences sleep quality; the methods used to assess sleep patterns have been extensively described (and validated) by others.

Based on the findings of the exercise and sleep based studies, it is envisaged that a final larger training study will be conducted in Exeter to investigate the influence of long term (8-12 weeks) effect of MC supplementation on training adaptations, exercise performance and sleep patterns. Outcome measures will include state-of-the-art techniques to assess changes in muscle metabolism and gene and protein expression to determine mechanism of action.