The ISSN 2019 Vegas- Post Conference Review
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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- As an academic society, The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) is fully committed to the advancement of sports nutrition research and practice, and as such has been on my radar for quite some time.
- The Annual Conference and Expo of the ISSN brings together some of the best and brightest in the industry, offering both research-heavy and real-world-friendly type of presentations in an environment which stimulates meaningful, long-format conversations and exchanges among its participants.
- Personally, despite knowing all about the stellar reputation of the organisation, I knew I was taking a bit of a gamble when crossing the Atlantic in a 20 000 km return journey- if nothing else, this was my first official time off work in 2019, a big chunk of which would be spent travelling and combating jet lag.
- I am happy to report that it looks like I hit the jackpot in Las Vegas! My efforts were rewarded with an incredible line-up of presenters, industry heavy weights, all-star researchers, fellow CISSNs as well as up-and-coming sports nutritionists from all over the world.
- Innovative ideas? Check. Industry leaders and up-and-coming practitioners all working together to break the silos? You bet. Sin City, supplements and rock and roll? You’d better believe it!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- (PERSONAL LEVEL)
(Not so warm) welcome to the land of the free and home of the brave.
AKA Kamil’s Adventures in Wonderland
ISSN VEGAS 2019- OR WHY I DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE ELSE!
Every year, the International Society of Sports Nutrition organises an annual summit which attracts the best and brightest in the industry, including its own certified professionals members, sports nutrition aficionados, market leaders and supplement companies as well as affiliated bodies and universities. This time round, the conference was held at Tropicana (DoubleTree by Hilton) in sunny Las Vegas. The ISSN hosts several smaller-scale events of this kind at regular intervals throughout the year, however it is the annual gathering which is widely recognised as the flagship event.
One look at the speakers’ bios and you immediately realise why that is the case. Heck, one might even venture to conclude that, collectively, there would be enough brain power at the conference to power a small city! Sports nutrition scholars par excellence, researchers extraordinaire, established industry leaders as well as all-star practitioners were all to be found there. The impressive lineup of speakers also featured the up-and-coming nutrition experts and industry heavy-weights in the making.
Additionally, some of the brightest grad students made their presence felt with an important contribution during the expo while presenting on the findings of the latest scientific papers coming out of their institution.
But what if you don’t even science, bro? Or worse still, you only like research when it supports your position? Luckily, you don’t need to attend. You might also wish to make use of the cross icon located in the top right corner of your browser.
Okay, I am kidding (kinda). One of the principal aims of the ISSN is to elevate the sports nutrition industry- a large chunk of which works outside of the academia. So even if you are not a battle-scarred PubMed warrior, you could elect to attend the ‘practical application track’ type of presentations, which whilst still grounded in science, tilted more towards ‘applied’ end of the spectrum. A full list of topics discussed can be found here.
Irrespective of your educational background and appetite for science, there was an expo jam-packed with some of the most innovative and research-driven companies in the business for everyone to enjoy: Chemi Nutra, Dymatize, Now Foods and many others had their stands at the ISSN 2019 Vegas.
The conference agenda could be summed up as the game of halves and half-nots- only a part of the lectures were given in front all attendees. The research and practical application track division meant that the participants could pick between 2 presentations given in parallel, allowing depending on their areas of interest. Frankly, I wish I could split myself in half to attend all of the presentations- at times, it felt like having to pick between my mum and dad! Sadly, we still have some way to go before cloning becomes easily accessibly. In the interim, I will make sure to geek out on the presentations I have not been able to attend once they are published in on the ISSN website.
(MACRO LEVEL) OBSERVATIONS
So what did I learn exactly from such a star-studded cast of presenters? I could try and list the most salient points of each of the presentation I attended during this 3 day event, but whilst an excellent exercise in brevity, it wouldn’t do the justice to the quality of information presented (unless you believe it’s possible to explain the magic of Christmas on a napkin!).
Instead, here’s my list of the most impactful commonalities shared by the ISSN presenters:
The most knowledgeable individuals are way past the Dunning-Kruger effect in their developmental curve, and tend to freely admit if there is something they don’t know. Rarely, if ever, would they speak in absolutes (thank God!). Sounds like a good start, if you ask me!
Best practices need to be correct at the level of detail AND context, the latter being determinant of its applicability.
Best practitioners are adept at minimizing cognitive biases characteristics of system 1 and system 2, as outlined in Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
- When faced with a vague question, they are likely to request a more detailed and contextualised phrasing. This force the audience to formulate better questions and allows for more accurate answers.
- Insatiable level of intellectual curiosity forces them to ask probing questions while building on the existing body of knowledge, without the fear of venturing into an uncharted territory.
At the 2019 ISSN Vegas, we got the taste of various communication and presentation styles. In my opinion, the most memorable speakers know how to sprinkle their X factor into the lecture in a way which greatly enhances the content. For example, you will be hard pressed to find a more energised and witty speaker than the ISSN president, Dr Shawn Arent, Ph.D., CSCS*D, FACSM, FISSN (Professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health at Rutgers University Director of the Rutgers Center for Health & Human Performance). Great content aside, many will likely remember the presentation given by Eric Rawson PhD FACSM (Professor and Department Chair at Messiah College) thanks to the smooth and articulate delivery which made it a real pleasure to listen to. Technical mastery of the intricacies of molecular mechanisms was a stand-out feature of the lecture given by Mike Roberts PhD (Associate Professor at Auburn University). Finally, the approachable and friendly demeanour of the ISSN CEO, Dr Jose Antonio, PhD, FNSCA, FACSM, FISSN (Program Director and Associate Professor, Exercise and Sport Science at NSU) helped everyone feel welcome and genuinely happy to be a part of this experience.
(MICRO LEVEL) TAKE-AWAYS
As mentioned before, while distilling all the knowledge imparted upon the participants during the lectures is beyond the scope of this write up, there were several findings presented which stuck with me:
Disclaimer: At the time of the writing, none of presentations have been released to the public, so I am going off memory. Since what follows is a set of MY own personal take-aways (relative to my interest and understanding of the subjects matter discussed), it’s always a good idea to double check with the source.
'I feel the need for speed. All About Stims'
The activity of CYP1A2 enzyme (part of the cytochrome P450 family) influences both caffeine and estrogen metabolism. It looks like women might be able to get more out of their cup of coffee as higher levels of estrogen (or more specifically estradiol) might limit the enzyme’s ability to metabolise caffeine. Of course, coffee is much more than liquid caffeine so it would be interesting to tease out whether some of the polyphenols found in your cup of java play a role in this phenomenon.
Also, caffeine anhydrous seems to be the inferior choice as compared to good ol’ coffee in terms of its influence on insulin sensitivity (GLUT4 translocation mediated)
Dr Lonnie Lowery PhD RDN
Associate Professor at the University of Mount Union
co-host of ironradio.org
PS: It was super cool to finally meet Dr Lowery in person, whose work on stimulants and protein I have been following from afar for over a decade! In particular, I really enjoyed discussing the myths surrounding ‘adrenal fatigue’ and the relationship between adrenergic receptors and certain stimulants.
'The Endocannabinoid System in Health, Disease and Human Performance'
Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is much more complicated than your average CBD oil vendor would have you believe. This system acts through two main receptors, CB1 and CB2, both of which have different effects (CB1 is present in the brain but seems to negatively impact glucose metabolism, while CB2 acts primarily in the periphery). CBD does not act as a direct receptor agonist for CB1 and CB2 (no binding affinity) but rather affects their signalling indirectly. It is not clear at present just how pure many of the widely available CBD-oil formulations are, so do your research and keep your eyes peeled for some of the new promising ECS-targeted formulations which are currently being developed.
'Train Hard but Sleep Well: Why Sleep Matters for Health and Performance in Athletes'
Sleep is one of the most underappreciated aspects of human performance, especially when we consider how much impact it has on virtually every parameter of our day to day activities. Circadian rhythm is nothing to be trifled with- we would all do well to get a better handle on some of its main regulators (light, temperature). Understanding the basics tenets of sleep architecture goes a long way in promoting naturalistic sleep and as such should be a priority for any health-conscious individual. Athletes are at risk of developing sub-optimal sleeping patterns due to high training loads and competition related stress and anxiety. This is particularly deleterious as a good night's sleep before competition is tantamount to good performance. Insufficient and/or poor quality sleep will affect motor control, reactivity, energy levels and cognition of the athlete, to name but a few. There are some exciting developments on the technological front when it comes to measuring sleep quality, but many of the existing modalities do a very poor job at analysing sleep cycles.
Dr Jaime Tartar PhD
Professor & Research Director
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, NSU Florida
CEO of Society of Neurosports
PS: Society of Neurosports, the world's leader in providing science-based sports neuroscience information, might be the reason why I am very likely to cross the Atlantic once again this year. NeruoSports is the only non-profit academic society dedicated to promoting the integration of neuroscience with exercise & sport science. Their annual conference in Florida (15-16th November, 2019) is a must-attend for anyone who is serious about understanding the marriage of neuroscience, exercise and sport science (full program available here)
Creatine Supplementation: from Basic Science to Bro-science and Beyond
Aside from its well-established role in improving physical performance, creatine seems to exert a positive effect on various parameters of cognition. However, it looks like it’s not obvious at present how to best increase brain PCr levels in a reliable manner- it looks like some individual might have a harder time raising their levels in the brain (the increase in PCr level in the muscle doesn’t seem to pose the same set of challenges).
Eric Rawson PhD FACSM
Professor and Department Chair
Paper to Podium: Application of the Carbohydrate Paradox
Carbohydrate periodisation is a multi-pronged strategy utilised by Dr James Morton during his work with the elite cyclist Chris Froome and Team Sky. One of the pros to incorporating bouts of training with reduced carbohydrate availability is enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis (mediated by PGC1a) and oxidative adaptations. Manipulating your carb intake to fuel for the work required is a paradigm whereby selected training sessions are deliberately completed with reduced CHO availability in order to activate pathways that regulate skeletal muscle adaptation. This also allows to maximise glycogen storage, uptake and usage for harder training sessions and competition (train low/smart, compete high).
James Morton PhD
Professor of Exercise Metabolism & Nutrition
Liverpool John Moores University
Team Sky Head Nutritionist
6 Nutrition Lessons Learned from Elite Athletes
When working with elite level athletes, you will notice that some of them are more interested in ‘the why’ (“bakers”) than “the what and how” (“cooks”). In order to communicate effectively with your client, you need to be able to make that distinction. Whilst protein and amino acids have garnered a lot of attention in the context of workout nutrition, we don’t always place enough focus on understanding how to time the carbohydrates properly.
It’s a common misconception that for top athletes money is never an object- not all sports are equally lucrative. Moreover, irrespective of how successful they are in their sport, athletes are not immune to many of the same struggles we all experience in life- you need to account for those variables in your programming. Additionally, consider the following graph, which illustrates the relationship between data, information, knowledge, insight and wisdom
The small print matters, but the best practitioners are able to contextualise it properly and make links across various domains of the existing body of knowledge (and perhaps even beyond).
Andy Galpin PhD CSCS,*D FNSCA
Center for Sport Perormance
California State University Fullerton
It doesn't sounds exactly like the type of event you would want to miss out on, right? Through no fault of my own, however, I nearly did!
(Not so warm) welcome to the land of the free and home of the brave.
AKA Kamil’s Adventures in Wonderland!
June 9th 2019, 10:20 AM
Border Protection Agency, Las Vegas McCarran Airport, Nevada, US.
-“You travel with a lot of supplements, Sir. Do you have any testosterone?“ The quizzical look on the Border Protection Agent’s face reveals just how much critical thinking he has put into this leap of logic.
-“I should have some in my body, I suppose.” I reply as calmly as one can be under the circumstances. I just travelled 10 000 km to attend my first annual conference of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in Las Vegas all the way from Belgium and jet lag is clearly affecting my judgement as to what good sense of humour entails. Luckily, I get off scot-free, even if only after having defended the validity of supplemental tyrosine, creatine, fish oil and a host of others in front of an answer-thirsty BPA investigator.
Just when I thought I was in the clear, I get one more question.
- "What is this thing?"
- "It’s an over-the-counter supplement called methylliber…"
- "I think it’s an amphetamine!" – looks like the agent has made his mind up already.
- …. (slightly perplexed) "I am sorry to differ with you sir, but methylliberine, or dynamine as it is also known, bears NO resemblance to amphetamine whatsoever. They are functionally and structurally different so I am not sure how you would conclu…"
- "How about I perform a reagent test?"
- (in equal parts amused and bemused) "Please, go right ahead"- at least I didn’t get cut off this time!
Of course, the test comes back negative and as I am leaving the airport, I reflect on the irony of the whole situation. After all, before coming to Vegas I reached out to Dr Tim Ziegenfuss PhD FISSN CSCS (CEO of Center for Applied Health Sciences), who kindly agreed to meet me and answer some of the questions I had about this exciting compound. Dr Ziegenfuss was among an elite team of scientists, physicians and pharmacists who helped to commercialise Dynamine and bring it to market. Now, I cannot stress enough how exciting it was to be able to discuss the pharmacokinetics and mode of action with one of the most distinguished industry veterans! I first became aware of the potential cognitive and performance benefits of this xanthine-like compound about a year ago, and was happy to relate the findings of the presentation I gave on the topic of physiology of motivation earlier on this year. As with any novel compound in the early stages of its introduction to the market, we need more studies dissecting its safety record, mode of action and potential application.
After my conversation with Dr Ziegenfuss, I was happy to discover that indeed, there is more research underway. In fact, we both agreed that it would make sense to balance out the (mis)information available online (heck, or even at the airports for that matter!). I will do my best to rise to the challenge in an upcoming article dedicated to methylliberine, so stay tuned!
I quickly came to realise that one of the best things about the ISSN is the type of people you get to meet. Dr Ziegenfuss referred me to one his fellow researchers, Trisha Van Dusseldorp PhD, CISSN and CSCS, (Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at Kennesaw State University, Vice-President of the ISSN) who, at the time of the writing, was conducting the biggest trial on methylliberine to date. As I sit across the table from Dr Van Dusseldorp at one of the post-conference dinners, I am mesmerised- hardly ever do you get to pick the brains of an individual so brilliantly versed in all things sports nutrition (and beyond!). It is one thing to be able to discuss the MOAs of various compounds, study limitations as well as new areas of research in an articulate manner- but something else altogether to do so a jaw-dropping speed while displaying the highest level of scientific rigour and critical thinking par excellence!
Still not convinced? How would you like to casually run into the guy who revolutionised glute training, Bret Contreras PhD CSCS,*D, during your mid-day conference break and find yourself conversing with the likes of Mike T Nelson PhD CSCS CISSN MSME (Carrick Institute Adjunct Professor, lecturer at Rocky Mountain and Georgia Southern University), Andy Galpin PhD CSCS,*D FNSCA (Director of the Center for Sport Performance and Biochemistry and Molecular Lab at CSU Fullerton) and Susan M Kleiner PhD FACN CSN FISSN (Owner of High Performance Nutrition)?
In particular, I was very happy that our paths crossed with Dr Mike T Nelson, who was very generous with his free time, and imparted an incredible array of knowledge bombs during the many informal chats we had over the course the conference. The non exhaustive list of topics we discussed includes: the relationship between ocular movement and dopamine, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, how best to
parameterise perception of stress, the state of the art regarding heat and cold exposure, metabolic flexibility, Heart Rate Variability and RPR.
Talking the talk with the people who walk the walk.
Let me in on a little secret of mine. You see, I don’t normally enjoy socialising all that much, or at least not any more than watching paint dry. Truth be told, even though I might pride myself on having a great operating system, my user interface is lagging behind somewhat. But sometimes you cannot help but feel grateful to be in the same room with people who are genuinely committed to the advancement of sports nutrition research and practice.
As it turned out, informal get-togethers turned out to be a fantastic way of meeting like-minded sports nutrition practitioners. Just to paint the picture: Some of the amazing people I was I was fortunate enough to be able to hang out include Lieutenant Anette Zapp, MA CISSN CSCS of FireSQ fame, who delivered an extremely passionate and eye-opening presentation at the conference on the many challenges faced by the firefighting community. A former tactical athlete in his own right, Richard Buehn MSc CSCS CISSN enriched the discussion with his experience as an army veteran. No less formidable was Scott Forbes PhD (Assistant Professor at Brandon University) with his insights into the latest research he conducted on creatine as well as arginine metabolism- I am very much looking forward to his upcoming presentation at the NeuroSports conference November 15-16th in Florida! I really enjoyed bouncing off ideas with Wendi Irlbeck, MS RDN who gave the lowdown on the benefits of dairy consumption for sports performance. And chances are, I am probably forgetting a dozen of other great people who made this event a real pleasure to attend.
And I don’t say it lightly- take it from the guy who has been known to say that his social needs are on a par with Wolverine!
More than ever before, we are spoilt by the sheer amount of conferences, symposiums, seminars and workshops. The sports nutrition arena is no different- there is a plethora of great events taking place worldwide to pick from.
Whilst a wide breadth of choice is certainly a good thing, too much ‘noise’ might lead to ‘analysis by paralysis’ or ‘information overload’ type of scenarios. No bueno. Worse still, the general societal trend to simplify things all too often results in messages not being nuanced enough to account for various contexts which underpin the ideas put forth. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, after all.
On the other hand, you don’t want to get lost in meaningless minutia, irrespective of your fascination with the latest and coolest in the world of science. Indeed, a case could be made for looking up from your biochem textbooks every now again to ensure you don’t lose sight of what is happening in the trenches.
This begs the question: where to go in your quest for the cutting-edge, highly-contextualised yet real-world-application-friendly information?
After having read this article, I think you might be all that closer to concurring with me that the ISSN is deservedly considered the industry leader in this arena.
However, in the spirit of critical thinking, I would encourage you NOT to take my word for it- if you are interested in furthering your knowledge in this field, you absolutely ought to attend their next annual conference (Daytona Beach, Florida) in 2020 and see for yourself what the fuss is all about! Something tells me, you won't be disappointed. After all, 'Why go anywhere else?'