Sunday, December 13, 2015

Being a Lab Rat for a SUP Athlete Nutrition Study

Dr. Jose Antonio is a professor of exercise and sports science at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, and he's an avid paddler. I heard about him from Adam Pollock, a SUP racer / gear rep who was at the Lovers' Key race in November. Adam told me that Dr. Antonio was doing a study of the effects of a high protein diet on SUP athletes, and that folks from the CGT race team should sign up to be test subjects. I like science, and I like SUP racing, so participating in the study was a no-brainer for me.

This is the basis of the study, as I understand it:

A) SUP racing is getting popular, but compared to other sports there have been few scientific studies of the effects of different types of training and nutrition on SUP athletic performance.
B) Studies of some other sports have found that a high protein diet increases athletes' fitness and performance a lot.
C) A high protein diet might be effective for SUP athletes, too, so it's worth testing scientifically.

This is how the study is being done, as I understand it:

A) Adam Pollock recruits a bunch of Florida SUP racers to be Dr. Antonio's research subjects.
B) Subjects use the fitness tracker website "" to record everything they eat and all the exercise they do, for a week. Dr. Antonio's lab technician Anya Ellerbroek "friends" them on the website to collect their data.
C) After a week of logging their "baseline" nutrition and exercise, subjects go to Dr. Antonio's lab to get tested. Subjects are weighed and have their body fat/muscle composition analyzed in a futuristic device called the "Bod Pod." They also do a 500 m sprint test on a SUP ergometer, which is kind of like a stationary bicycle for standup paddlers. The SUP ergometer can record how much power you generate relative to your body weight; a proxy for your likely SUP performance.
D) The Dr. sends you home with big jugs of protein powder, and you supplement your normal diet with a certain number of grams of protein per kg of your body weight, every day for 8 weeks. During that time you train normally. (My baseline protein intake was ~100g/day, which is low, so the 50g of additional protein I'm getting through the supplement should make a big difference.) There's an additional wrinkle to the study, which is that one group of subjects takes the protein in the morning and another group at night. It's a type of protein called casein, extracted from milk, and it's supposed to be absorbed by the body more slowly than other types of protein. The idea is that its slow absorption allows it to be gradually delivered to your muscles as they recuperate from workout damage.
E) At the end of the 8 weeks you come back into the lab to do the bod pod and the SUP erg again to see if your body composition and fitness level has changed.

I did the testing on Friday with my CGT race team buddy Matt Kearney. Below are some pictures from the testing.

Matt in the orgasmatron bod pod. You have to strip down to tight underpants because any low density materials like clothing in the bod pod will inflate your fat percentage estimate. Matt was 11.8% fat, which is considered "Lean" and I was 12.6% fat, which is considered "Moderately Lean". Below lean is "Ultra Lean" (5-8% fat) which is the level found in elite athletes like Mark Athanacio. I would like to get from the moderately lean down into the lean category, but I don't reckon it's realistic for me to get into the ultra lean category at this point.

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Matt on the SUP ergometer, with Dr. Antonio in the background. Dr. Antonio has the same style philosophy as me, i.e., just because you have a PhD doesn't mean you can't wear shorts and a t-shirt to work. Matt also has good style. He's wearing his "Chattajack" (ultra long distance SUP race that he did in Tennessee this fall) shirt and sporting his signature Man-Bun hairdo.

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Me on the SUP ergometer.

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Video of the SUP ergometer

SUP erg from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Just stepped off the SUP ergometer. Man, it gets results quick!

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Me with one of the enormous jugs of protein the Dr. Antonio sent me home with. It's "cookies and cream" flavored. It tastes kind of funky if you mix it with water, but it's not that bad if you mix it with milk.

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