December 12, 2017

A look back: Exercise Physiology and CSEP’s first 50 years

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. A signature initiative is a celebration of the contributions of Canadian researchers to exercise physiology over the past 50 years. The objective is to highlight significant Canadian contributors and their contributions to exercise physiology, health and fitness, nutrition and gold standard publications globally as well as provide insights on future research directions in these areas. These achievements have been organized into a series of short historical communiqués on prominent Canadian contributors and will be published on a monthly basis.

A 50th anniversary celebration of CSEP member contributions to the understanding of exercise physiology: a focus on Nutrition, Exercise Science

Terry Graham 1

1Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph

This is an area of science that has not been extensively explored by exercise physiologists in general and this is also true specifically for Canadian scientists. This is ironic as both nutrition and exercise are intimately related, often impacting on the same tissues, the same metabolic processes and the same health issues. However, both the Society and individuals have made major contributions, particularly in the areas of protein and muscle, bone health, and the impact of supplements such as creatine. The integration of exercise and nutritional sciences is rapidly developing into a major part of our field.

An early, insightful initiative was the development of the Sport Nutrition Advisory Council (SNAC) within the Sport Medicine and Science Council of Canada (SMSCC) in 1987. This important program was led by Marilyn Booth (SMSCC), Marielle Ledoux (U Montreal) and Mike Houston (U Waterloo). As documented in other reports in this series, CSEP (then CASS) was one of four founding organizations of the SMSCC and Marielle Ledoux was the first SNAC chair followed by Mike Houston. Mike went on to become the first CSEP President in 1992.

SNAC was created due to an identified need by the medical teams for international sport teams for nutritional support for the athletes. A simple example of the lack of knowledge and access to information at this time could be highlighted by a conversation that I had with the athlete who held the Canadian women’s record for the marathon for several decades and had finished 8th in the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984. She asked me what I thought of fluid ingestion during the marathon. I assumed she meant which fluids were best, but in fact, she wondered if she should start to consume fluids in the race! Truly nutritional support was lacking!

A SNAC manual and work books were developed and workshops were held provincially. The initiative grew, a registry of sport nutritionists was developed with detailed terms of reference and a handbook for conducting courses in sport nutrition (lead by Marilyn Booth). The demise of SMSCC in 1998 also resulted in the end of SNAC. The resources was transferred to the Coaching Association of Canada under the leadership of Susan Crawford. While SNAC has ceased to exist, the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific has taken a very active, effective role in providing nutritional advice to elite athletes (Gord Sleivert played a major part in developing this expertise).

CSEP played a major role in organizing the 2001 International Sport Nutrition Conference in Edmonton in association with the 8th world championships in athletes. (The lead organizers were Vicki Baracos (U. Alberta) and Terry Graham (U. Guelph) and the proceedings were published in CJAP in 2001. This was followed up in the 2013 CSEP conference when Lawrence Spriet (U. Guelph) and Trent Stellingwerff (Canadian Sport Institute Pacific) together with the sport nutrition section of Dieticians of Canada, organized a series of symposia which resulted in APNM publishing a special issue on Sport Nutrition in 2014.

A number of CSEP members have incorporated aspects of nutrition into their research program, but understandably this has usually only as a complement/perturbation and not as a major, long-term focus. I have divided the work into three major topics for clarity.

Nutritional aids to enhance work/exercise capacity.

Two nutrition-performance topics where CSEP members have conducted world-leading research are hydration and caffeine ingestion. Oded Bar-Or (McMaster U.) conducted extensive studies with children in areas of hydration as well as carbohydrate metabolism. He frequently remarked insightfully that children are not merely young adults. Subsequently there have been significant contributions to hydration and performance by other CSEP members. Stephen Cheung (Brock U.) and Glen Kenny (U. Ottawa) hold senior research chairs in environmental ergonomics and physiology, respectively and have a large research program which includes a strong focus on thermoregulation and hydration in hostile, usually work environment. In addition, Lawrence Spriet has had a research program on sport hydration with a particular emphasis on hockey.

Lawrence together with Terry Graham published a large series of papers with some of the strongest support for caffeine as an ergogenic aid. (In this area of research, Graham also collaborated with Eric Richter and others at the U. Copenhagen). In addition, Enzo Cafferilli (York U.) and Mark Tarnopolsky (MacMaster U.) published critical studies showing that fundamental aspects of muscle excitation-contraction are positively influenced by caffeine.

During this period scientists at Defense and Civil Institute for Environmental Medicine (Doug Bell, Andre Vallerand, Tom McLellen, etc) lead by Ira Jacobs, conducted extensive studies employing caffeine, creatine and other nutritional supplements in association with military operations in harsh environments.

Nutritional aids to enhance training.

Perhaps the earliest investigations in this field was the use of creatine supplements and much of the initial work was conducted by Lawrence Spriet in collaboration with Eric Hultman (Karolinska, Sweden) and colleagues at McMaster, particularly George Heigenhouser. A second area where Canadians have produced some of world leading work is that of protein and amino acids for recovery from exercise. Mark Tarnopolsky and Duncan MacDougall (McMaster U.) in 1988 produced a land mark finding that athletes, and especially endurance athletes required a larger protein intake than other adults. This work has resulted in others (eg. Peter Lemon (Western U.) investigating protein or amino acid ingestion during recovery from exercise. Stu Phillips (senior research chair in skeletal muscle health, McMaster U.) followed up this work and has a world-leading program on proteins and muscle metabolism. Phil Chilibeck (U. Sask) and colleagues have also contributed significantly to this field in studying a wide range of nutritional aids (creatine, specific amino acids, etc) and muscle protein metabolism.

Nutrition and health.

This is a third field where CSEP members have been world leaders. A number of Canadians (particularly Angelo Tremblay, Jean-Pierre Despres and Claude Bouchard U. Laval, Bob Ross (Queen’s U.) have contributed significantly to understanding obesity and this is reviewed (CSEP Prevention of Metabolic Disorders) elsewhere. Within the nutrition field, the work of Angelo Tremblay (research chair in physical activity, nutrition and energy balance) is particularly significant as he has often incorporated ingestion of specific foods in the investigations and assessed factors such as appetite.

Don Bailey (U. Sask) pioneered investigations in bone health and exercise in the 1960’s and 70’s. His studies focused on the skeletal changes during adolescence and injury risk. Subsequently, Phil Chilibeck (U. Sask) and colleagues expanded this topic and others in extensive research programs in nutrition and exercise, with particular emphasis on not only the skeleton but also protein and muscle integrity. They have often examined aspects of aging and also, with regard to bone health, adolescent and teen age girls. It is particularly noteworthy that some of their program frequently has gone beyond administering nutritional supplements and could be described as going ‘from farm to fork’ as they have assessed food products such as pulses and lentils.

Similarly, Terry Graham and Lindsay Robinson (U. Guelph) developed a significant research program examining postprandial metabolism with various foods. This included numerous studies demonstrating that caffeine and also coffee itself resulted in insulin resistance in skeletal muscle, the impact of ingestions of fats on triglyceride metabolism and also how altering the composition of different breads alters the postprandial metabolism. The subject pool has often been older individuals who have or at risk for type 2 diabetes.

It is also noteworthy that several CSEP members (Bob Ross, Angelo Tremblay and Terry Graham) have been recognized by the Canadian Nutrition Society with major awards. The evolution of the journal is further evidence of the integration of these disciplines. In 2005 the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology evolved into Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (currently it ranks in the top 50% for nutritional sciences and top 20% for sport sciences), many departments have brought in faculty who specialize in nutrition and at U. of Guelph, the department of exercise physiology merged with nutritional sciences in 1995 and is now formally called Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. There are now across Canada a number of blossoming, integrative programs combining exercise and nutrition with nutraceuticals, food additives, eating patterns, quality of various lipids, amino acids, etc. being integrated with exercise sciences. Canada and CSEP are positioned to be world leaders in this area of science.

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