As I type this, I’m speeding towards Loughborough. If you’re not familiar with Loughborough, it’s a town in Leicestershire, famous for its ornate bridges, its handmade sausage rolls and the army of gleaming 80ft tall killbots that guard its borders.
Okay, I might have made all that up because there’s no phone signal on this train and I can’t get Wikipedia. What I do know about Loughborough is that its home to the GSSI (Gatorade Sports Science Institute) where I’ve agreed to undergo a barrage of testing. To put it in the simplest terms, the folks at GSSI like to poke and prod athletes in order to find out what makes them tick.
By their use of the term “athletes” I can only assume they sent the email to the wrong person. Or maybe they have some sort of subdivision that is particularly interested in the study of hairy little midgets who run like their legs are made of jam.
Anyway, we’re nearly there, so I’ll just cut and paste the list of tests that I’ll be undergoing to give you an idea of what I’ve let myself in for…
If you agree to take part in this study, you will be asked to undertake all or some of the following tests:
- Have your height measured using a wall-mounted and calibrated measurement device (called a stadiometer). You will stand with your back against the wall, shoes off, and a calibrated platform is adjusted to touch the top of your head.
- Have your body weight measured. You will be asked to enter a private cubicle before and after exercise and stand on a scale nude or in as little clothing as you are comfortable with. A member of the study staff will record your weight from a reader outside the room.
- Have your resting blood pressure measured.
- Provide two blood samples which will be used to determine markers (which are specific chemicals) of metabolism, nutrient status, cholesterol level, muscle breakdown and/or immune status. The blood draw (approximately 2.5 teaspoons) will be taken from a needle inserted into a vein in your arm. Specifically, your blood will be analysed for the following:
- Full blood count (e.g. white and red blood cells, haematocrit, haemaglobin)
- Metabolic panel (e.g. glucose, lactate, sodium, potassium, insulin)
- Metabolomics (e.g. individual biomarkers associated with exercise, health and performance)
- Lipid panel (e.g. cholesterol, triglyceride)
- Iron panel (e.g. ferritin, iron).
All the blood results will be provided in your participant feedback report, other than the metabolomic data. These latter data will be assigned an anonymous code and analysed separately by a PepsiCo laboratory in the United States.
- Provide a urine sample prior to exercise to determine your hydration status. A small volume of this sample will be stored at -80 °C and then shipped with the stored blood sample for further metabolomic analysis in the US (these results will not be made available to you). Finally, a small volume of urine may be analysed with a pregnancy test to check eligibility for a DEXA body composition scan.
- Provide a saliva sample that will be analyzed for stress and/or immune markers and may also be analysed for hydration status. The collection process will require you to passively drool into a collection tube and/or chew on a small cotton rope to produce the sample.
- Have measurements recorded of your waist, neck, chest, arms, and legs to allow for estimations of body composition.
- Have your body composition measured using a DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scanner. You will be asked to lie on a soft platform for 5-10 minutes and undergo a low dose x-ray. The amount of x-ray radiation that you will receive is the same as during a European air flight. If you are female and at least seven days within your current menstrual cycle, you will first asked to undergo a pregnancy test to ensure DEXA eligibility. This is voluntary and results kept strictly confidential. If you do not wish to undergo either the pregnancy test or DEXA scan, there is space on the Consent Form to indicate this preference.
- Have your body composition and total body water measured using bioelectrical impedance analysis. You will be asked to stand quietly on a platform while holding hand grips for one minute. You will have sensors attached to your hands and feet that will measure your body composition and the water content in your body.
- Have your body composition determined using a BOD POD air displacement chamber. You will be asked to sit quietly in a bathing suit inside a large chamber. Through subtle changes in pressure inside the chamber (pressure changes are like being in an airplane on take-off and landing), your body composition (lean muscle versus fat mass) will be estimated.
- Complete a General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). The GHQ is a paper and pencil questionnaire which includes questions about your current or previous health status.
- Break for wagon wheels and fizzy pop.
- Complete a paper and pencil questionnaire regarding any history with stomach or digestive complaints, nutrition habits, sleep and training history.
- Maximal Oxygen Uptake (VO2max) – an exercise test in which in the intensity gets more strenuous until you are no longer able to continue exercising. During the test you will continuously breathe into a mask while we collect the air you breathe out. This process is called “indirect calorimetry” and allows us to determine the oxidation rates of carbohydrate and fat stored in your body.
- Wingate Power Test – a 30-second cycling test in which you will be asked to pedal as quickly as you can against resistance.
- Muscle Strength – You will squeeze a handgrip dynamometer and also undertake some isometric and isokinetic testing on a Humac Norm machine (this measures the amount of force you can generate using the muscles associated at a number of different body joints).
- Assess reaction time performance using a series of flashing lights which you have to extinguish by pressing on them as they appear on a large electronic display board (D2).
- GCSE drama
- Complete a motor skills (hand to eye and whole-body) agility test using the I-Span system.
- Dietary Consultation – Interview about you and your sport, and your sports nutrition needs and interests.
- Assess athlete’s ability to run in clown conditions. This will be measured by placing the candidate on a special treadmill while wearing big floppy shoes. They will then be required to complete a short run at intense effort, while being pelted with confetti and custard pies. Depending on the results, a second test may then be conducted, this time incorporating something hilarious involving a ladder and a bucket of water.
I might have made a few of those up. Anyway, I’ll let you know how it goes, but I imagine it’ll be something like this…