Project: Carbohydrate overfeeding and low energy availability

The potential for carbohydrate overfeeding to reverse the adverse psychophysiological effects of low energy availability

Deadline 12 May – now closed for applications

Project description:
This project will explore if short-term carbohydrate overfeeding can reverse the negative effects of low energy availability (LEA). LEA is a complex condition that arises when individuals present with severe negative energy balance due to high levels of energy expenditure, inadequate energy intake, or a combination of the two. An increased prevalence of disordered eating and exercise behaviours worldwide is placing more individuals at risk of LEA. Negative outcomes associated with LEA include depression, loss of menstruation, eating disorders/disordered eating, reductions in cognition and focus, impaired bone health, and immunosuppression. Despite these negative outcomes, limited research has been done investigating treatment strategies for LEA, with research typically using long term refeeding. Work is needed to see if these long treatments can be reduced to ensure individuals can get back to optimum health quicker.

Participants will follow 3-days of habitual eating, and 3-days of a carbohydrate overfeeding protocol to put them into a high energy availability state, in a randomised order. Participants will come to the Welkin labs after both conditions and perform cognitive based tasks, a mood state questionnaire, and a muscle damaging protocol.

It is expected that the short-term overfeeding protocol will reduce muscle damage and inflammation, improve cognition, and improve mood state compared to the habitual eating condition. This will serve as preliminary data to show that some of the adverse effects of LEA can be reversed using a short-term feeding protocol, and lead to further research to ascertain whether the same protocol can reverse other psychophysiological parameters.

Tasks and activities to be undertaken by the PGT student:

  • Participant care
  • Assisting and leading the muscle damage protocol.
  • Analysis of blood samples.
  • Analysis of other recorded data (using SPSS).
  • Assisting with writing up the research paper.

Experience and knowledge required/desired:

  • Experience of working with external participants.
  • Experience/knowledge of muscle damage protocols.
  • Knowledge and experience of using SPSS (or other statistical packages).
  • Please note, required experience is more likely to be at postgraduate taught level

Skills, knowledge, experience to be gained:

  • Knowledge of how to take and analyse blood samples for inflammatory markers.
  • Experience of leading muscle damage protocols.
  • Experience working with external participants.
  • Knowledge of the ethical process involved with research projects.
  • Experience of running a research project.
  • Experience of budgeting for a research project.
  • Experience of higher-level data analysis.
  • Experience of writing a research paper.

Project lead: Greg Wright,

School: Sport and Health Sciences