The trip to St. Petersburg, Florida for the 18th Annual International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), was one that I will remember for the years to come. As a new professor, this opportunity to be amidst the brightest minds in the realm of Sports Nutrition with relevant topical lectures represented a metaphorical “buffet for the mind.” The ISSN Conference was geared towards a diversified audience that may include health practitioners, researchers, college students, registered dietitians, sports nutritionists, as well as athletes. The purpose of this conference was to provide a platform where discussion on various “hot” topics surrounding sport nutrition can occur such as sport supplements, elucidation of the physiological mechanisms behind nutraceutical interventions, dietary archetypes, as well as nutritional effects on performance.
Purpose and Various Topics from the Conference
The strength of each annual ISSN conference was fourfold: (1) meeting and hearing top researchers on novel paradigms in sports nutrition; (2) reconnecting with colleagues from around the world; (3) embracing the common goal of bridging the practical gap between scientific evidence and performance/health/wellness; (4) providing passionate students valuable opportunities to be involved in networking sessions and research poster presentations.
Personally, this year’s conference was duly memorable since it was my first professional conference as a professor! It was so amazing to meet various researchers, dietitians, and students from across the country and expatiate on the newest research surrounding popular topics such as probiotics, mechanisms of muscle growth (muscular hypertrophy), creatine, caffeine, intermittent fasting, plant based protein, standardization of body composition assessments, nutrient timing considerations, etc. Honestly, a “buffet for the mind,” doesn’t fully illustrate the amount of knowledge one can obtain from a 3-day conference at the ISSN! Delicious!!!
Some major topics of interest from this conference included: the nuances surrounding the gut microbiota and probiotic supplementation, the effects of NSAIDs on bone and muscle health within soldiers (really cool empirical data presented!), the rationale behind standardizing body composition assessments (how to measure fat, fat-free mass and study the results), top tips from dietitians for success in nutritional practice and performance, an evolutionary lens into the history behind the field of Sports Nutrition, a brief review surrounding the literature surrounding intermittent fasting, as well as the effects of stressful conditions upon protein homeostasis.
Practical Takeaways and Reflection on Topics
A few practical takeaways from this conference included understanding how one should look at recovery and recuperation strategies to optimize performance in active individuals. Moreover, there needs to be a diversity of thought even within sport nutrition paradigms such that one shouldn’t be dogmatic on a dietary approach as a “one size fits all” methodology. In other words, there needs to be individuality in how to approach the goals/needs of an individual (physique vs performance has varied dietary needs). I loved a quote from one of the speakers, where they mentioned that “athletes train and eat, they don’t diet and exercise.”
I was personally blown away by the novelty of research unpacking the hot topic of probiotics upon gut health. A common question to begin studying this popular topic is to wonder if one can use the results of any published study on probiotics to be translated to athletes for performance. The speaker provided considerable evidence to unpack the mechanisms related to gut health and nutrient absorption, as well as discuss the current scientific evidence surrounding the specificity of probiotic strains, dosages, as well as the timing of probiotics.
One other topic that brought further questions than answers would be surrounding the standardization behind body composition assessments. The practical purpose of measuring body composition is to ascertain one’s fat mass and fat-free mass (which will also include muscle mass). The speaker presented original data to suggest a need to be meticulous in how to minimize biological error in any pre vs post body compositional assessment through standardized protocols to look at “real” change over time. Practically speaking, when using a method of body compositional assessment, one should try to standardize every step as best as possible (time of day considerations, ideal fasted conditions, interpret outcomes within the context of error) to gain a higher level of confidence in the data outcomes. It was mind blowing at the amount of artificial error presented when proper standardization steps were not carried out even with the best equipment available in labs such as a DEXA, Bod-Pod, InBody devices, etc. Additionally, how one reads the scientific literature on measured outcomes of body composition needs to be interpreted holistically and cautiously to ensure confidence in the results.
Poster Session Summary
I was blessed to use my remaining scientific data from my dissertation to present a poster presentation at this annual conference. My data discussed the nuances surrounding the effects of a novel supplement known as Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) (try pronouncing this!) upon indices of mitochondrial function and antioxidant capacity with exercise training. In other words, does the use of this supplement with chronic aerobic exercise training (cardio anyone?) present favorable adaptations behind mitochondrial function? In short, my data did not provide statistically significant evidence of favorable improvements on mitochondrial function (the activity of the electron transport chain complexes…remember biology? ) or practically relevant antioxidant benefits compared to placebo in conjunction with exercise training. Presently, buying this PQQ supplement at a local supplement store for the goal of mitochondrial function with exercise may not be necessary. More research as always is warranted .
Data Blitz Game Session and Concluding Perspectives
Lastly, this conference also had a fun competitive game event known as the “data blitz,” where chosen speakers presented original non-published scientific evidence (purpose, methods, results, conclusions) in 60 seconds! There was prize money for the best presentations based upon pre-selected judges. It was so entertaining to see various speakers attempt this challenge! Wow!!!
Overall, I believe the topics presented at this conference will further motivate me to develop the sports nutrition course at Vanguard University to include newer topics to help students understand this dynamically evolving field. Additionally, I am so thankful and blessed to have attended this conference in the beautiful state of Florida and look forward to future opportunities to also bring some students to experience a true “buffet of the mind,” in the realm of sports nutrition.