Skip to main content

Take part in Nutritional Physiology research

Research in the Nutritional Physiology Laboratory focuses on the effects of nutrition and exercise on muscle metabolism and health. Projects recruiting participants are posted on this page.

How to take part 

If you are interested in taking part in one of the studies below, please first read the inclusion criteria to ensure you are suitable for the study. You can then email the researcher who is running the study for more information or to schedule a screening visit.

Studies currently recruiting participants

Title:

The bioavailability of multiple novel, sustainable, non-animal derived proteins sources in healthy older adults.

Researcher Name:

Ino van der Heijden 

Brief Summary:

The age-related loss of muscle mass, termed sarcopenia, is accompanied by impaired functional capacities and an increased risk for developing chronic metabolic diseases. Consequently, adequate dietary protein intake is required to preserve skeletal muscle mass in older adults.

Due to the growing environmental, ethical, and economic issues of producing animal-based proteins, more sustainable alternatives are needed. Mycoprotein, spirulina, chlorella, pea and lupin protein are novel, non-animal derived protein sources that may represent alternative protein sources to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. However, the ability of these protein sources to stimulate muscle mass accretion is unknown. Therefore, in the present study we will assess the postprandial bioavailability of mycoprotein, spirulina, chlorella, pea, and lupin protein when compared to the animal-derived milk protein.

Who is eligible?

Healthy males and females aged 55 – 80 years old with a body mass index between 18.5 – 30 kg/m2. Exclusion criteria are any diagnosed metabolic (e.g. Diabetes), cardiovascular or liver diseases, elevated blood pressure (>150/90 mmHg), allergies to mycoprotein/Quorn/edible fungi, edible algae, lupin/legumes, or milk, and smoking.

What is involved?

This study involves 7 visits to the Nutritional Physiology lab (on St Luke's Campus):

Visit 1 (~1.5h): screening and consent

  • Your eligibility will be assessed via a health screening and informed consent will be gained if you agree to take part.
  • Anthropometric, blood pressure and body composition measurements will be performed.
  • A fasting blood sample will be taken.
  • You will be asked to complete a 3-day food diary and 3-day activity log to establish habitual dietary intake and level of physical activity.

Visit 2-7 (~6h each): experimental trial visits

  • You will consume a standardized meal provided by the research team on the evening before each experimental trial visit.
  • You will be rested in bed in semi-supine position for 6 consecutive hours.
  • A cannula will be inserted in the back of your hand for repeated blood sampling.
  • You will be asked to consume a protein drink.

Compensation allowance:

£150

Title:

The effect of vegan or animal protein ingestion on the recovery of skeletal muscle function following strenuous exercise (VAMPIRE)

Researcher names:

Kiera Wilkinson and Amy Booth 

Brief Summary:

Strenuous exercise can cause muscle soreness and reduced muscle strength. It is widely acknowledged that nutritional supplements derived from animal protein sources, including whey from milk, aids recovery when taken immediately after strenuous exercise. However, the effect of vegan protein supplements is less understood, and how they affect recovery of strength and soreness is not known.

This study will assess the effect of daily post-exercise vegan (pea) and animal (whey) protein ingestion compared to placebo over 7 days of recovery from strenuous exercise in healthy, non-vegetarian male and female participants. Muscle strength and soreness will be measured daily, and recovery mechanisms will be investigated in muscle biopsies taken 3, 24 and 48hours after exercise. Participants will have an equal chance of being randomised to consume pea, whey, or placebo.

Who is eligible?

Men and women, age 18-40 years, recreationally active but not involved in structured resistance training.

What is involved?

Prior to starting the study: completion of 3 day food diary and health screening questionnaire.

If you are eligible, you will come to the laboratory on 12 separate occasions over a 2 week period. All food will be provided for the duration of the study. You will undergo:

  • Test muscle strength and function 3 maximal leg kicks & 5 sets x 30 maximal leg kicks
  • Measure of muscle soreness (rating on a visual scale)
  • Blood sampling to measure markers of muscle damage
  • Blood flow analysis to see the effect of the polyphenol in the supplement (A cuff that is usually used to measure blood pressure will be inflated around your forearm to reduce blood flow. Change in blood flow is measured using ultrasound techniques)
  • MRI scans (measure your thigh volume)
  • Muscle biopsy of both thighs taken before strenuous exercise, 3hours, 24hours and 48hours post strenuous exercise (Small sample of muscle from both your thighs. This muscle biopsy will be done under local anaesthetic and you will likely have mild soreness and bruising but it will not prevent you from performing you general daily activities)
  • Strenuous exercise: 10 sets of 30 resisted quadriceps contractions (one leg)
  • Supplementation of either vegan protein, animal protein or placebo
  • Consumption of a heavy water tracer (this allows us to measure how much your muscle has recovered)

Compensation allowance:

£200.

 

Title:

Quorn In Community Health Experiment (QUICHE)

Researcher Name:

George Pavis

Brief Summary:

We have shown that replacing meat in the diet with a meat substitute (Quorn) reduces cholesterol. However, most of this research has been carried out in a small population of young, predominantly white individuals. We are interested in seeing whether these results can be repeated in a larger, community-based study, which we feel is of particular importance given our understanding of COVID-19 risk factors. 

The study involves eating either Quorn or meat for 4 weeks, 4 self-administered fingertip blood samples, and weekly questionnaires. We will provide all food and study materials with regular deliveries. No lab visits are required and all data collection can be performed over teams/zoom/etc.

We are looking for individuals who:

  • Would identify as BAME 
  • Are aged between 18 and 70 
  • Have a BMI over 27.5
  • Are not a vegetarian or vegan

If you would like more information, please contact George Pavis

Title:

The muscle protein synthetic response of algal and fungal protein in healthy young adults

Researcher Name:

Ino van der Heijden

Brief Summary:

Dietary protein and muscle contraction are required to support muscle growth and health. However, the production of animal-based proteins is associated with a number of environmental and ethical issues. Therefore, there is a need to develop sustainable dietary proteins to support our nutrition.

Algae and fungi are novel, sustainable produced non-animal derived dietary protein sources. However, their capacity to stimulate muscle growth remains to be established. Therefore, in the present study we aim to assess the muscle protein synthetic response of two different algae protein sources (i.e. spirulina and chlorella) and one fungus derived protein (i.e. mycoprotein) alongside a single bout of resistance exercise in healthy, young, non-resistance trained individuals.

Who is eligible?

Healthy, recreationally active males and females aged 18 - 40 years old with a body mass index between 18.5 – 30 kg/m2. Exclusion criteria are any diagnosed metabolic (e.g. Diabetes), cardiovascular or liver diseases, elevated blood pressure (>140/90 mmHg), allergies to mycoprotein/Quorn/edible fungi, edible algae, followed structured resistance exercise (>3 times per week) and smoking.

What is involved?

This study involves 2 visits to the Nutritional Physiology lab (on St Luke's Campus):

Visit 1 (~2h): screening and strength testing

  • Your eligibility will be assessed via a health screening and informed consent will be gained if you agree to take part.
  • Anthropometric, blood pressure and body composition measurements will be performed.
  • You will be asked to complete a 3-day food diary and 3-day activity log to establish habitual dietary intake and level of physical activity.
  • You will be asked to pratcise the resistance exercise used in the study to make yourself comfortable with the exercise

Visit 2 (~9h each): experimental trial visit

  • You will consume a standardized meal provided by the research team on the evening before the experimental trial visit.
  • You will undergo a continuous intravenous infusion of an amino acid stable isotope.
  • You will be rested in bed in semi-supine position.
  • You will be asked to do a single bout of resistance exercise.
  • Repeated blood and muscle samples will be collected throughout the day.
  • You will be asked to consume a protein drink.

Compensation allowance:

£100

Title:

Comparing the muscle protein synthetic response following ingestion of pea protein, mycoprotein and a mycoprotein/pea blend in resistance trained individuals

Researcher Name:

Sam west

Brief Summary:

Dietary protein is vital for the preservation of health and optimal adaptation to training. Plant proteins are considered inferior to animal proteins with respect to their ability to stimulate an acute muscle building response and therefore support long-term muscle reconditioning. Pea protein is a highly commercially available plant proteins source (available as supplements, food ingredients etc.), yet there is no research investigating its ability to stimulate a muscle building response. We aim to assess the effect of consuming pea protein on muscle protein synthesis rates and compare these results to mycoprotein, a source known to elicit a robust anabolic response. We will also be testing whether blending mycoprotein and pea together provides any additional benefits. In this study, we will be using two types of blends to assess whether the process by which a protein source is produced effects the muscle building response.

Who is eligible?

We are inviting healthy, young adults aged 18-40 years to take part in this study. We are looking to recruit adults who take part in resistance training (>3 times per week). Subjects must also have a BMI within 18-30. Exclusion criteria are any diagnosed metabolic (e.g. Diabetes), cardiovascular or liver diseases, elevated blood pressure (>150/90 mmHg), chronic use of prescribed use of over the counter medicine, allergies to mycoprotein/Quorn/edible fungi, and smoking.

What is involved?

This study involves 2 visits to the Nutritional Physiology lab (on St Luke's Campus):

Visit 1 (~2h): screening and strength testing

  • Your eligibility will be assessed and you will have the chance to ask any questions. If you agree to take part, informed consent forms and health questionnaires will be completed.
  • Anthropometric measures such as height, weight and body composition will be taken.

  • Strength testing to determine your 3-rep max on the leg press, leg and extension and Romanian deadlifts.
  • You will be asked to complete a 3-day habitual food intake diary.

Visit 2 (~9h each): experimental trial visit

  • You will undergo a continuous intravenous infusion of an amino acid stable isotope.

  • We will take repeated blood samples throughout the day.
  • Multiple muscle samples will also be taken throughout the day.
  • You will perform a full body resistance exercise workout.
  • Consume a protein beverage.

Compensation allowance:

£100

Title:

Effects of vitamin D supplementation on muscle protein synthesis (VIPER)

Researcher Name:

Raquel Revuelta Iniesta and Amy Booth

Brief Summary:

Healthy adults maintain muscle tissue by continuously building up and breaking down muscle proteins throughout the day. Studies have shown that vitamin D is essential for maintaining muscle mass by activating cellular pathways involved in building muscle. Although, various candidate molecules have been identified in animal models, it is not known whether these pathways are activated in humans. Interestingly, animal studies indicate that 20% of Vitamin D is stored in human muscle cells, which may help maintain optimal vitamin D levels during winter in Northern latitudes when there is not much sunlight. We would like to investigate whether vitamin D helps build muscle up following 12 weeks of vitamin D supplementation and if so how this happens.

Who is eligible?

You have been chosen if you are:

  • A healthy adult male or female
  • Between the ages of 18-45 years
  • Do not exercise or do some form of occasional exercise or physical activity

Unfortunately, you will not be able to partake if:

  • You have been abroad to a sunny warm place located below 37°N latitude
  • You have used sunbeds
  • You have taken (or are taking) vitamin D supplements in the last 30 days prior to this study
  • You are allergic to lidocaine and/or cow’s milk protein
  • You are a regular smoker
  • You have been diagnosed with a chronic condition

What is involved?

If you are interested in taking part in the study, there will be several steps to the project. We would ask that you come to the Nutrition and Physiology Research Unit, St Luke's Campus, University of Exeter on three occasions.

Visit 1 will take approximately 90 minutes 

Appointments will be arranged at most convenient time

This visit consist of the following:

  • Show you the facilities and exercise involved in the intervention
  • We will measure your body composition using an Air Displacement Plethysmography (BodPod, Life Measurement, Inc.).
  • We will ask you to complete a few forms: vitamin D food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), a 4 days diet diary and a 4 day activity log (on two occasions)

Visit 2 and 3 will take approximately 8 hours

  • We will provide with a standard meal for you to eat the night before your visits.
  • The next morning you will arrive at the lab after a 10 h overnight fast.
  • We will ask you to lie down on a bed. We will then insert a cannula into a forearm vein. This cannula will be used for an infusion of labelled amino acids.
  • We will insert a second cannula into a hand vein for blood sampling. After the first blood sample has been taken, your hand will be placed in a hot box (~55 °C) to keep it warm. In total, we will take 16 blood samples throughout the day from the same cannula.
  • We will take 4 small muscle samples (muscle biopsy) from your upper leg.
  • 90 minutes after the first biopsy you will be asked to perform an exercise session. This will involve 4 sets of 10 reps leg extension and leg press with all-out effort. There will be a 2 minute rest between sets. Exercise will only be performed in one leg.
  • After completion of the exercise, you will be asked to consume 20g of whey protein bolus
  • In visit 1, you will be given either placebo or vitamin D supplementation to take for the next 12 weeks (one spray shot per day) until your next visit.
  • In visit 3, we will measure your body composition using an Air Displacement Plethysmography (BodPod, Life Measurement, Inc.) as well as all of the above.

Compensation allowance:

£200

Title:

Exploring muscle breakdown during exercise recovery

Researcher Name:

Kiera Wilkinson and George Pavis

Brief Summary:

This study will allow us to explore how muscle responds to heavy exercise. We will characterise rates of muscle protein breakdown and synthesis 24 hours after heavy exercise with a post exercise protein polyphenol or placebo supplementation. This will inform strategies to help people recover from heavy exercise.

Who is eligible?

Men and women, age 18-40 years, recreationally active but not involved in structured resistance/ weight training.

What is involved?

Visit 1:

You will be asked to attend the laboratory on St Luke’s campus (St Luke's Campus) to take some basic measures of height and weight. Then, we will familiarise you with the exercise protocol, so you can get a feel for the study. You will then be given a post exercise protein or placebo supplement to consume every day for 7 days.

Visit 2 (~1hour):

Following 7 days of supplementation, you will come into the laboratory to perform the heavy exercise (10 sets of 30 resisted quadriceps contractions in one leg) and we will give you the supplement and breakfast. We will also give you lunch and dinner to take home with you.

Visit 3 (~8hours):

The morning after visit 2, we will measure muscle soreness upon arrival. Then, we will place a cannula into a forearm vein. This will be to infuse a stable isotope amino acid ‘tracer’. We will also place a cannula into a hand vein to take repeated blood samples. These will be in place for 6 h whilst you rest in bed.

To assess the rate of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown we will take a small muscle biopsy (a small piece of muscle tissue) from your leg. Six muscle biopsies will be taken in total, 3 from one leg and 3 from the other. This muscle biopsy will be done under local anaesthetic and you will likely have mild soreness and bruising but it will not prevent you from performing you general daily activities.

Compensation allowance:

£100

Title:

Assessing the muscle protein synthetic response following the ingestion of a variety of protein rich whole foods compared to an isolated protein source.

Researcher Name:

Freyja Haigh

Brief Summary:

To date, most of the literature investigating the role of dietary protein in muscle growth has focused on isolated protein sources. However, dietary protein is most commonly consumed within a whole food source. Consuming dietary protein within a whole food matrix may additionally stimulate muscle growth. The idea being, there may be other components within food, capable of producing a greater response.

The aim of this study is to assess the effect of consuming a variety of whole food sources, on the stimulation of muscle growth compared to an isolated protein source following a single bout of lower body resistance exercise.

Who is eligible?

  • Males and females, aged 18-40
  • BMI between 18.5 and 30
  • Resistance trained (>6 months (>3x a week))

What is involved?

If you are eligible, you will come to the laboratory on 2 occasions.

Visit 1 (~1.5h)

  • Completion of health screening and informed consent.
  • Anthropometric, blood pressure and body composition measurements will be performed.
  • Test leg muscle strength from a leg extension and leg press exercise to assess 3 RM.
  • Completion of a 3-day food diary to establish habitual dietary intake.

Visit 2 (~9h)

  • Blood and muscle biopsy samples will be taken.
  • Completion of resistance exercise – 3 sets of 10 reps leg press and leg extension.
  • Consumption of a whole food source

Compensation allowance:

£100

Title:

The effect of time-restricted feeding during Ramadan on markers of metabolic health

Researcher Name:

Ashwaj Alarfaj

Brief Summary:

Time-restricted feeding (TRF) involves refraining from food (fasting) for >12 hours every day. Intermittent fasting (IF) involves >20 hours of fasting for only a few days of the week. There is growing evidence demonstrating beneficial effects of IF on metabolic health, such as reduced blood glucose concentration, improved insulin sensitivity and favourably altered blood lipid profiles, which are thought to be due to reduced liver and muscle lipid content (Mindikoglu et al., 2017). However, a recent review has suggested that the effects of TRF on these parameters are not clear (Antoni et al., 2017). The present study aims to recruit healthy Muslims fasting during a month (Ramadan) for 17hrs/day in order to study the effects of TRF on blood, and muscle lipid metabolism.

Who is eligible?

  • Healthy Muslims fasting Ramadan
  • Age: 18 - 40 years old

What is involved?

  • Four MRI scans
  • Repeated 2 mL blood samples will be taken
  • Glucose monitoring
  • Wearing an activity watch
  • Completion of a food diary

All activities will take place at the Nutritional Physiology lab (on St Luke's Campus).

Compensation allowance:

£100

Title:

The impact of dietary branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) restriction on the development of insulin resistance and anabolic resistance during forearm immobilization in healthy, young volunteers.

Researcher Name:

Tom Jameson  

Brief Summary:

Immobilising an arm in a cast leads to muscle loss. This may occur because of a reduced ability of muscles to get important nutrients from the blood. High levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which come from the diet, may also prevent muscles from getting important nutrients from the blood. Thus, reducing BCAAs in the diet whilst a limb is immobilised may reduce muscle loss. We will measure how arm muscles of young people obtain nutrients from their blood after they have had their arm in a cast for 2 days and fed a normal diet or a diet with very little BCAAs, for 2 days.

Who is eligible?

  • Healthy recreationally active males and females
  • Aged 18-40 years old
  • Non-smokers
  • Not on any medication

What is involved?

  • 4 visits to the laboratory at St. Luke’s Campus.
  • Intravenous infusions, blood sampling and forearm muscle biopsies on 2 visits.
  • Ingestion of a diet low in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or a regular control diet for 2 days.
  • 2 days of forearm immobilisation.

Compensation allowance:

£175

Title:

Does a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement enhance cycling time trial performance?

Researcher Name:

James Rutherford

Brief Summary:

Pre-exercise nutritional supplements are widely used by both recreational and elite-level athletes to enhance exercise performance. The majority of these supplements contain caffeine which is largely responsible for any performance improvement as it is well established through research to increase alertness, reduce fatigue and lower the perception of effort during exercise. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements (MIPS) typically contain caffeine in addition to other potential performance-enhancing ingredients in order to create an ‘all in one’ pre-exercise supplement.

The effect of MIPS is an emerging area of research that has mostly focused on how they impact strength/power exercise. However, with regard to endurance exercise, there is little evidence-based information about their effect. Therefore, this study aims to find out if taking a MIPS consisting of caffeine, beta-alanine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) has any beneficial effect on endurance exercise performance.

Who is eligible?

  • Healthy males and females aged 18-50
  • Been an endurance cyclist for at least the previous 6 months
  • Not currently taking prescription medication
  • Not currently using performance-enhancing nutritional supplements
  • Not currently taking concentrated stimulants

What is involved?

Four visits to the nutritional physiology labs at St Luke’s Campus, with the first being a VO2max test to assess suitability to participate. This is followed by a familiarisation visit and then two test days.

  • Oxygen & carbon dioxide analysis on all visits, plus blood sampling during test days
  • Controlled breakfast on test days
  • Consumption of a pre-exercise drink on test days
  • 30 minutes continuous cycling followed by a 15-minute best effort time trial

Compensation allowance:

£100