April 2012

Over 850 delegates and 31 exhibitors gathered at the 5th Exercise & Sports Science Australia Conference and 7th Sports Dietitians Australia update.  The theme from Research to Practice attracted world class keynote speakers who shared their scientific research and findings combined with guidelines and course of action for everyday practice. In this edition of Nutrition Bites, we thought we’d share the summaries of the keynote speakers (and we’ll share the interesting other bits in the May edition soon!)

Professor Tim Noakes – “ Hydration, Hyponatraemia and lessons of the past”

In his usual controversial style, South African hydration expert, Professor Tim Noakes, slammed the likes of Gatorade and the role of sports drinks in setting the agenda on fluid intake during exercise, saying Australians are more likely to do damage by over consumption of fluids rather than suffering any ill-effects of dehydration.

In his keynote address he shared his beliefs that the ‘science’ of drinking during exercise was commercially manipulated with some fatal consequences and, predictably, that these guidelines were associated with a 10-fold increase in annual turnover for Gatorade from $217 million in 1985 to $2.69 billion, eighteen years later.

It should be noted that Prof Louise Burke, head of AIS Sports Nutrition, Advanced Sports Dietitian & key sports science researcher, spent the rest of the day in radio interviews explaining that adapting to run/hunt for live prey in the absence of fluids (as Noakes referred to) was one thing, and ultimate performance, concentration and skill execution in a plethora of sports and various requirements was something entirely different! The take-home message was that over-drinking is unnecessary and dangerous (leading to hypernatremia) and this was often the case for slow-paced endurance athletes who out-drink their sweat rate. The disadvantages of dehydration in the competitive sporting environment continue to exist, affecting mental focus, endurance, perception of effort and core temperature regulation.

Professor Romain Meeusen – “Exercise in the heat – is the brain in control?”

Belgian Professor Romain Meeusen blew us all away with his technical-speak but concluded that it is very unlikely that one neurotransmitter system is responsible for the appearance of central fatigue. He suggested that central fatigue is most likely caused by a complex interplay between the different neurotransmitters systems, with the most important role for the catecholamines DA and NA. Although work to date has given clear observations on external behavioral changes after pharmacological interventions, the exact role of the different brain areas linked to exercise capacity and thermoregulation have yet to be elucidated. He also warned of the potential danger of psychoactive medications like Ritalin® affecting core temperature regulation (increasing the risk of overheating) in children taking the medication when playing sport. (He remarked that he wasn’t aware of any studies as such but extrapolating other findings may suggest caution.)

Professor Peter Brubaker – ‘”Exercise for Cardiovascular Disease Management: Are they Getting the Right “Dose”?”

In his keynote speech, Prof Peter Brubaker demonstrated that the traditional approach for prescribing cardiorespiratory exercise is being replaced by a new paradigm of exercise prescription that focusses on the volume (dose) of physical activity.   He explained that cardiac rehabilitation professionals should demonstrate an understanding of appropriate physical activity goals and be able to assess current physical activity level using both questionnaires and available physical activity monitoring devices and measure and report outcomes for physical activity at the conclusion of the rehabilitation program.  He concluded that since traditional centre-based rehabilitative exercise programs are unlikely to allow patients to reach physical activity goals, behaviourally-oriented programs that employ goal setting and self-monitoring will be necessary.

Dr Roanne Segal – “Exercise & Enhancing Health Outcomes in Cancer Patients”

During her presentation, Dr Roanne Segal demonstrated that historically, clinicians have advised cancer patients to avoid activity; however, emerging research has challenged this recommendation. In the last two decades, it has become clear that exercise plays a vital role in cancer prevention and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that exercise may decrease certain malign, she also presented that data are emerging to support the premise that exercise may extend survival for others. She also demonstrated that research supports that some of the psychological and physiological challenges may be prevented, attenuated, or rehabilitated through exercise.

Professor Robert Newton – Sir Frank Cotton Memorial Lecture “Bigger, Stronger, Faster”

In this presentation Professor Robert Newton explored the priorities and methods for managing the athlete in terms of ensuring greatest mechanical capacity to enhance success. This topic was examined in relation to building the machine, enhancing its capacity, and finally tuning force capacity for specificity to movement requirements.  He explained that total athlete management is essential to provide balance with results in optimal performance while maximising career longevity, exposure and sponsorship, satisfying business imperatives of the organisation and maintaining social and psychological health and relationships.

Need a little healthy meal inspiration?

It’s getting cold here in Melbourne so we thought we’d try something to warm your insides and nourish your soul (and maybe even improve your risotto-cooking skills, too!).

Chicken and asparagus risotto (Serves 6)

Adapted from a www.taste.com.au recipe 


Olive oil cooking spray

600g chicken breast fillets, trimmed

6 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium brown onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

2 bunches asparagus, cut into 4cm lengths

1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind

2 teaspoons lime juice

small basil leaves, to serve 



  1. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Lightly spray both sides of chicken with oil. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate. Cover. Stand for 5 minutes. Thinly slice.
  2. Meanwhile, bring stock to the boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until required.
  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and rice. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine. Bring to the boil. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until liquid is almost evaporated. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 ladle of stock to rice. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock, 1 ladle at a time.
  4. Add asparagus. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, lime rind and lime juice. Top with basil. Serve immediately or cool and freeze for a mid-week meal.

Cooking Notes

To save on dishes, microwave cartons of ready-made chicken stock or make up powdered stock with boiling hot water from the kettle. And if you’re really uncertain about cooking a risotto, click here to watch a how-to video, courtesy of www.taste.com.au.   

Nutritional information (Per serve)







Dietary Fibre


Fat Total


Fat Saturated




Carbohydrate Total


Need to find an expert?

Sports Dietitians can provide advice on issues such as:

  • Maximising energy for sport and health;
  • eating to optimise growth and development;
  • what to eat before competition;
  • recovery nutrition techniques;
  • best fluid choices for exercise and staying hydrated;
  • maintaining appropriate body fat levels; and
  • Education on food choices and tips while travelling.

Make sure you get your accurate and up-to-date sports nutrition information from the professionals for sound science and a proven track record.Click here to find a Sports Dietitian in your local area for individual consults and/or group education sessions.

Play well!

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