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

20. Using caffeine and nitrate supplementation to augment adaptation to high intensity exercise training

UQ academic lead

Dr Michael Leveritt, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Exeter academic lead

Professor Andrew Jones, Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Transfer, and Professor of Applied Physiology, College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Project description

Caffeine and dietary nitrate supplementation have both been shown to enhance performance in a single bout of endurance exercise. Caffeine acts at a central level to increase arousal and reduce the perception of effort during exercise, while nitrate supplementation acts at a peripheral level to enhance the efficiency of energy use during exercise. Both supplements enable individuals to exercise for longer periods and/or exercise at a higher intensity, which ultimately enhances performance in endurance exercise tasks. The respective research groups at UQ (caffeine) and Exeter (nitrate) have conducted extensive investigations to explore and understand the effects of these supplements on acute exercise capacity and performance. However, much less research has been conducted to date on the capacity of these supplements to augment adaptation to longer periods of exercise training.

High-intensity exercise training results in superior physiological adaptation, performance and health outcomes compared to moderate intensity training. Having inexpensive, safe and readily accessible nutrition interventions that could potentially facilitate individuals training at a higher intensity in each session is likely to have significant benefits in both clinical and athletic populations. Understanding the physiological mechanisms associated with any improved adaptation will allow future nutrition and exercise training interventions to be designed to elicit the greatest improvement in both health and performance.

University of Exeter phase

The proposed program of research for this PhD would involve initial work reviewing literature, designing research protocols and pilot testing which could be conducted at either UQ or Exeter given the staff expertise and facilities at each site. The initial experimental study would be a high-intensity exercise training study with participants assigned to three groups in addition to a control group that performs training without any additional supplementation of caffeine or nitrate. The supplement groups would consume either caffeine alone, nitrate alone or a combination of caffeine and nitrate before each training session to augment training quality. Principal outcome measures would include cardiorespiratory fitness, oxygen uptake kinetics, vascular function and cytokine/chemokine markers of inflammation. 

UQ phase

The next phase will involve the translation of the findings of the initial phase into a more applied study involving either clinical and/or athletic populations that are currently involved in many other studies at UQ. The populations used in this phase will be dependant on the type of adaptations that are most likely to be augmented by the supplements used in the study conducted at Exeter. Potential populations include cancer patients, team sport athletes and/or endurance athletes.