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2013 ISSN Conference Part I: Practical Application Presentations

Quick Hit Summary

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) held their 2013 annual conference in Colorado Springs. Many presentations, both from an "applied" and "research" point of view were given during this 2 day event. In Part 1 of our review, we discuss those that fell on the "applied" side of the equation. Specific ones include those presented by Brandon Marcello, PhD (Nutrition Strategies for Stanford Athletics), Alicia Kendig, MS, RD & Jennifer Gibson, MSc, RD (Logistical Issues & Nutrition Strategies for Summer & Olympic Sport Athletes), Paul Cribb, PhD (Nutrient Timing), David Sandler, MS (Research vs. Training Application), Carla Sanchez, IFBB Pro (Creating a Competitive Physique) and Shawn Phillips (The Anatomy of A Successful Supplement). Additionally I share with you my thoughts on "The Art of a Successful Disagreement" and a few tidbits on the expo portion of the event.

2013 ISSN Conference Review

This will be a 2 part article series reviewing the 2013 International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference. In Part I of the series, we'll focus on the "applied" sports nutrition presentations. In Part II, our attention will shift and we'll hone in on the "research" sport nutrition presentations.

Many of the presentations could have fallen in either of these categories as obvious overlap is present between the categories. However, for reading ease (and to prevent me from wasting time by endlessly debating which one deserves to be put in which category!) I'll follow the ISSN's breakdown of the events.

10th Annual ISSN Conference – "We've Come a Long Way Baby"

Figure 1. ISSN Logo. Image used with permission.

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend the International Society of Sports Nutrition (*ISSN*) conference . Since it was the 10th Year Anniversary of the conference, the theme was "We've Come a Long Way Baby". Although this was my first year in attendance, thus preventing me from saying that I've been along "with them" for the ride, I felt this theme effectively summed up my personal journey in sports nutrition to date. A journey which began 12-14 years ago; a time when my idea of "re-search" was flipping through the muscle/health magazines and buying whichever supplements they suggested, assuming I could afford them on a high school student's budget (luckily I had an early mentor who helped steer me away from some of snake oil ones – Thanks Brian Putchio!). A journey which, fast forward to the present date, has led me to train or provide nutritional counseling to a great group of dedicated athletes/individuals, learn from excellent mentors and earn degrees in both Exercise Physiology as well as Nutritional Science – Dietetics.

In regard to the 2013 ISSN conference, I met individuals from all sectors of the human performance field – sports nutrition, physical preparation/strength and conditioning, exercise physiology/sports nutrition research, personal training, supplement formulation, etc. Having individuals from various backgrounds made for a great cross-flow of information. It was great to be in an environment where everyone was willing and open to share their thoughts vs. walling themselves off from others.

While at the conference, I also had the opportunity to meet various individuals who, unbeknownst to them, greatly influenced my early thoughts and habits with respect to sports nutrition. This includes Dr. Susan Kleiner whose book, Power Eating, was the first one I read on sports nutrition. Likewise, I had the opportunity to engage in many great conversations with Dave Barr; a man whose articles I highly admired as they called out and dispelled various supplement myths that were being tossed around the industry back in the early to mid 2000's. I also met Dr. Jose Antonio, one of ISSN's co-founders and a man truly passionate about the industry. Add into the mix individuals like Anthony Almada, who pioneered creatine monohydrate supplementation here in the USA and many more highly intelligent and accomplished individuals. Yet, despite all their accolades, they were extremely personable and more than willing to engage in conversation with me. Thus, you can understand why I enjoyed my 1st ISSN conference. Plus the ISSN had great food and festivities associated with it that were also enjoyed on my end.

The ISSN conference was structured such that two presentations were going on at the same time. In one conference room was a "Practical Application Track" and in the other, a "Research Track." Over the two day event, I bounced between both settings. For the purpose of this conference review post, I've decided to split it up into two parts, the first of which I'll share today, covering the "Practical Application Track" presentations. Later in the week I'll share my observations form the "Research Track". However, before we get into the presentations, I want to share with you some thoughts…

The Art & Beauty of the Intelligent Disagreement

As mentioned above, the ISSN Conference proved to be a great place to share and learn from a wide variety of highly intelligent individuals. Did I necessarily agree 100% with all the viewpoints that were shared by presenters, those individuals I engaged with during “hallway discussions", etc? No, of course not, but the opportunity to engage with these individuals did lead to some excellent conversations. And in all honesty, I greatly appreciate hearing the thoughts of individuals who disagree with me. It is in these instances where the “art” and "beauty" of disagreements takes place for those willing to swallow their pride and admit they may be wrong (and yes I am wrong from time to time ;-)…. I say this as listening to differing opinions forces me to

  • A) Reevaluate my original research/personal experience that led me to form my initial opinion + relevant new information
  • B) Evaluate the research/personal experiences that led another to form their opinion on a given topic.

Upon evaluating things, I may determine that either A) I stand by my original opinion, which I now have a much deeper understanding of post review of the subject matter B) I accept their conclusions or C) my new viewpoint is a highbred version of both mine and his/her opinion. Either way, the beauty of the disagreement comes to fruition as my follow-up work has taken me to a higher level of understanding vs. where I was at prior to the disagreement. As I’ve said in the past, I’m always open to accepting new ideas given the reason to accept them is critically evaluated and justified (ie – I’m not going to blindly accept an idea just because someone “said so”). As the American writer Alvin Tofler once said,

"The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those that cannot read or write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

Tying into this same discussion, I also try not to dismiss any individual’s idea as crazy without trying to evaluate the claims with an open minded, but still critical approach. As has often been observed throughout the history of physical performance and human health, some “crazy” ideas make pretty good sense in the end despite being labeled foolish initially (Remember when higher protein diets & creatine was labeled as “dangerous”? Steady state cardio (not HIIT) was best way to increase endurance for ball/team/speed sports? Dietary cholesterol & saturated fat was taboo in "healthy" diets?). Pulling up another of my favorite quotes, as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said,

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

For all the reasons mentioned above, I kept an open mind to all of the ideas shared throughout the conference.

Applied Sports Nutrition Track

Brandon Marcello, PhD – Nutritional Strategies for Performance: Stanford University Athletics

Dr. Brandon Marcello is the Director of Sports Performance at Stanford University. In his presentation Dr. Marcello shared some of the challenges of providing nutritional support via proper supplementation for their student athletes. By NCAA law, they are prohibited from distributing "muscle building supplements." Although I recalled these laws from when I assisted as an intern with the UW-Badgers S&C department, I had forgotten how stringent the regulations were; A university is unable to distribute creatine, protein powders (defined as supplements with < 30% of total kcal from protein), substances with individual amino acids added, etc. For a complete list of these supplements, I refer you to NCAA Bylaw In my mind, this ruling presents an obvious issue; Athletes currently have to turn to outside sources for their supplements, which may be of questionable quality, etc vs. directly receiving ones that have been carefully evaluated by their respective university’s sports performance staff..

Switching gears here, one of the cool ideas I took away from the presentation was the education strategies used at Stanford to educate its athletes with respect to nutrition. Along with normal social media, mobile menus, etc, they also included a "three day nutrition homework assignment" in each athlete's weekly training folder that followed a format similar to the following:

  • Monday – Read handout with sports nutrition/nutrition information
  • Tuesday – A knowledge based question from Monday's handout (ex – basic multiple choice, etc)
  • Wednesday – An applied based question from Monday's handout (ex – open ended, how do you "apply" what you learned type of question)

Depending upon the setting and student-athlete population you work with, I felt this was an excellent way to educate the athletes on basic sports nutrition principles.

Alicia Kendig, MS, RD – Sochi 2014: Nutrition Strategies for Winter Sport Athletes

Alicia Kendig is one of the sport nutritionists with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and works primarily with the winter sport athletes. From a sports nutrition standpoint, some of the general issues her athletes face include environmental extremes (altitude and cold), limited access to fresh fruits/vegetables since it was "winter" during peak competition season and simply providing enough kcal to support training/competition needs while at remote locations.

Ms. Kendig then went into discussion on issues specific to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. From a logistical standpoint, challenges included 1) Cuisine is quite different than what they're used to in the United States 2) They're limited in the amount of food options they can send over; Russia isn't allowing any GMO foods into county. 3) Water quality concerns 4) Logistical concerns with providing nutrition support to 3 different Olympic village locations within Russia.

Jennifer Gibson, MSc, RD, IOC Dip Sport Nutrition – London 2012: Olympic Games Nutrition Support Strategies

Jennifer Gibson is another sport nutritionist with the USOC who works primarily with summer sport athletes, in particular weight class athletes (wrestling, judo, etc). For anyone who has had to cut weight while still maintaining high performance output, you can appreciate the challenges Ms. Gibson faces on a daily basis while working with this group of athletes. I'm not going to go too much in detail on her specific nutrition support strategies at the moment. They'll be shared in a later interview with her on CasePerformance; likely this fall once the world championships for the respective sports she works with are over.

Video Source1

One interesting point Ms. Gibson shared with us was how the USA created its own "Team USA Olympic Village & Training Center" at one of universities there in London. This was done as the emotional drain of being in such a high energy/excitement environment present at the actual Olympic Village took its toll on athletes. Thus, by staying in their private "Team USA Olympic Village" prior to their competitions, athletes were able to conserve their energy for the actual events they were competing in vs. expending it on all the hoopla present within the World's Olympic Village. I refer you to the above video for a look at Team USA's Olympic Village at the 2012 London Games.

David Sandler, MS, FISSN – Supplement Research vs. Training Application

Prior to entering the supplement industry, David Sandler was a full time strength and conditioning coach at the University of Miami and had also served as an assistant university professor at Florida International University. With this as a background, it made for an excellent discussion on using supplement research in an applied setting.

One of the points he touched on was on interpreting research and applying it to athletes. As he mentioned, very few studies use high level experienced trainees/sport athletes. Thus, the results obtained in a given population study may/may not apply to your particular situation. Furthermore, research "can't test every dosage and every combination" of a given supplement or supplement stack. Building off these points, Mr. Sandler noted how we must remember that a presence/lack of statistical significance does NOT always equate to a presence/lack of effect with respect to real world significance. Therefore, it takes a degree of trial and error on behalf of the user to find what works best for them; or as I have discussed elsewhere, letting the RE-search guide the ME-search

Another point he made during his presentation which I agreed with 100%, was in regard to the ergogenic effects of most supplements. As he noted, the hope is that they will provide the user "Herculean Strength", "Cheetah Speed", "Burn Fat & Get Ripped", etc. However, in all reality, in his own words, most effective supplements will only lead to a "marginal increase in performance (a few % or a few reps more, etc) provided you continue to workout regularly." Does this make the supplement bad? Of course not; even a small improvement, say 2-3%, can have huge effects in competitive settings where the slightest edge in performance can be the difference between first and last place. Rather, David Sandler's statement puts into perspective the impact that a particular ergogenic nutraceutical will likely have on performance given you train hard enough (not to be confused with completely overtraining and frying your system!) to take advantage of the benefits.

Paul Cribb, PhD – The Latest Applications for Nutrient Timing for Athletes

When I first got into sports nutrition, the big topic was "Nutrient Timing." At the time, the center of any nutrient discussion usually focused around the magical 30 min-2 hour post workout window where it was absolutely "critical" to consume protein/carbs immediately post workout and again within the two hour window if you didn't want all your hard work and effort to be for naught. Since then, a lot of bullets have been flung at this original hypothesis. In truth, the absolute necessity of slamming a protein/carb shake within seconds of completing your workout is likely unwarranted; I refer you to JISSN's recently updated position statement on Nutrient Timing.) Thus, the focus of his talk was more focused on nutrient timing throughout the day (~ every 4 hrs) vs. during the special two hour post workout window. Unfortunately I'm missing a page of my notes where he mentioned his specific recommendations so I'll just share my general recommendations – 25 to 35 g of protein every 3-4 hrs, with lower quality protein in the upper range. (I will note, I kind of like having a 10-12 fast/24 hrs for AMPK reasons. This would obviously include your sleeping hours.) Consuming more protein at one sitting obviously won't kill you; it will get used by the body; just not directly for skeletal muscle purposes. For those looking for greater discussion on the subject, my friend Adel Moussa recently wrote a solid post on daily protein distribution .

With respect to carbohydrates, Dr. Cribb poked fun at the futility of the GI index and the general lack of consistency in GI readings. For instance, using carrots as an example, he referenced about five different GI values. Furthermore, GI doesn't really take into account a typical serving size which further wrinkles things up. Now glycemic loads do take into account serving size, but trying to bounce between both numbers makes things confusing. Thus, Dr. Cribb avoids the whole glycemic issue when providing recommendations. Rather, he recommends breaking carbs down into two simple categories 1) High Energy Carbs (starches, higher sugary foods, etc) 2) Low Energy Carbs (non starchy fruit and vegetables). Save the high energy carbs for post workout meals and use low energy carb sources for the remainder of the day.

Carla Sanchez – Creating a Competitive Physique Without Stepping on Stage

Carla Sanchez has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years as both a competitive athlete (she was an IFBB Pro) and as a figure model coach/personal trainer. I'll touch on a few points she made in her presentation:

  • It's important for women to readjust their line of thinking. In particular, they need to remove the word "skinny" from their vocabulary and replace it with "fit" and "strong." The motto NEEDS to be "I want to be strong" or "I want to be fit", NOT "I want to be skinny."
  • Building off some of the discussion points that Dr. Paul Cribb made during his talk at ISSN, she recommended higher energy carb sources (starches, more sugary ones, etc) be used during the first 3-4 hrs post workout and low energy carbs sources (non-starchy fruits/vegetables) to be used during the remainder of your meals. She also felt that if one wanted to have a cheat meal, he/she should squeeze it into these first 3-4 hours post workout.
  • In terms of scars that one may have, she mentioned that she's had great success with silicone scar sheets. Personally I can't say I've talked with anyone who has used them. Thus, curiosity did get the best of me and I did find some evidence to support its use on keloid and hypertrophic scars.
  • A final point of emphasis Ms. Sanchez made during her talk was to stop laying out in the sun 24-7. In her experience as a figure competitor and coach, this usually leaves the skin looking dry and flat come competition day. With spray on tans now available, she felt that one has no excuse to prematurely age their skin by baking it under the sun.

Shawn Phillips – The Anatomy of A Successful Supplement

The final presentation of the conference was given by Shawn Phillips entitled, "The Anatomy of a Successful Supplement." In it, he discussed the perfect formula for creating a successful supplement. As with most things, there really isn't a perfect formula. However, according to Mr. Phillips, key factors that seemed to be present in most supplement success stories include 1) Keep it simple and focused 2) Be first- As Shawn noted, the second guy to step on the moon could have run a marathon on it or some other crazy feat. Yet, his name will always pale in the history books to that of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon 3) Be Your Own Customer 4) Have your product tell a story 5) Products in which people can physically "feel" results from quickly will do well. 6) Know the crowd that desires what you offer and go after them vs. trying to go after everyone. A few thoughts that popped into my mind while he was discussing the various points…

Point #1: Keep it simple and focused – I couldn't help but think of all the "kitchen sink" propriety blended supplements that have 80 million ingredients in undisclosed amounts claiming to serve every ergogenic/health benefit known to man/woman (including the ability to scratch your back for you in those hard to reach places!). However, quite often when examining the ingredient label I note that minute amounts of each one are present within their "do everything supplement" vs. simply having a few ingredients in effective doses that serve a specific purpose….(FYI- This "kitchen sink" approach to supplements was something I joked around with Adel Moussa about in one of our past interviews together.)

Point #2: Be First – I have not read every physical performance website article posted on the web. Thus, I can't say that I'm the "first" to ever do something with any sort of certainty, but I will share with you some unique things I've tried to do in order to make CasePerformance the best I could…

Figure 2. The "other" box for facebook messages.

  • For those who honor us by joining the CasePerformance Community on Facebook , I take the time to send each individual a personalized note (not a generic one!). They may run 1-3 weeks behind depending on how crazy my schedule is, but they are sent. As a side note, building off this point – If you have "liked" us on our facebook page, but have not received a note from me, PLEASE check the "other" box in your message folder (refer to Figure 2). Depending on how "tight" your facebook security settings are, messages from CasePerformance may get filtered into it. If you haven’t received a message from CasePerformance in either the "other" or "inbox" message sections, PLEASE contact us because a facebook glitch may have prevented the note from being delivered; I say this as I am always extremely fascinated to hear the background, experiences and training/nutrition strategies of those who grace us with their presence on facebook.
  • A straight forward admittance that I'm No Guru and as much as I hate to admit it, lack knowledge in more than one area; But I am continuously learning so maybe someday…!
  • Two part newsletter sent out during the month in which Part I is ENTIRELY focused in on the lives of those in the CasePerformance Community (CP Member of the Month Interview, CP Community Member Performance Tip/Discussion) whereas Part II is focused on the news at CasePerformance (Article/website news, CP Performance Tip/Discussion). I have them specifically ordered in this fashion, with the community member emphasized first, because ultimately it is THEIR STORY which is of greatest importance; thus the CasePerformance news gladly takes a back seat to their accomplishments! Also, if you check out our Newsletter Archives, you'll see that we had some very unique newsletters dedicated to women/motherhood and men/fatherhood in May-June 2013 newsletters.
  • An entire section of the website dedicated towards helping others learn how to Understand Research/Being Savvy Consumers. [FYI Specific articles in the section which have been quite popular include Evaluating Dietary Supplements and "Re"-search Leads to "Me"-Search.]

Point #5: Products one can "feel" quickly do well – Thoughts of all the "Pre-Workout Nitric Oxide Supplements" instantly popped into my mind. Often they're marketed as supplements which will lead to outrageous increases in muscle blood flow, etc. For those of you who follow my writings, youknow that I am quite skeptical on this blood flow enhancing effect of most Nitric Oxide" supplements. However, the end users of these supplements often claim that they are effective because they can "feel" it working, thus leading to greater sales. I would agree that they are feeling something; however, in my opinion, more often than not, what they're feeling is the high doses of caffeine, beta alanine, etc that are commonly found in these supplements… ergogenic supplements in their own rights but also ones that can be purchased much cheaper in isolation vs. pre-mixed propriety blends.

The ISSN Expo – "Trick or Treating/Halloween" for the Fitness Minded Individual

Along with the research/applied sport nutrition presentations that took place during the conference, the ISSN also featured a supplement expo. This was like trick or treating for the fitness minded individual with everyone sharing samples of their products. Here at CasePerformance, it's our policy not to directly name specific supplements/manufacturers. Thus I'll share with you a few quick general observations that I made…

  • It's absolutely amazing how far the taste quality of protein bars have improved during the last 10-12 years. I recall that the first ones I ever ate when starting to train were absolutely horrid. I absolutely felt like I was eating chalk with some random coating surrounding them. Now they dang near taste like candy bars while still providing great nutrient quality.
  • Of the supplements there, many emphasized "All Natural", "Added Probiotics", "Purer Processing Techniques", etc
  • It's always fun for me to listen to manufacturers/distributors discuss why their products are superior to all the other products on the market

Also, before I forget, I must take a moment and extend a big time thanks to all those who distributed caffeine containing pre-workout "uppers". These sample products were the only thing that kept me "awake" during my drive home through the great plains of the USA…. and anyone who has had to drive through eastern Colorado, Kansas & Iowa in one day know EXACTLY what I'm talking about!

Bottom Line

That wraps up my discussion on the "Practical Application Track" at the ISSN conference. Stay tuned for Part II of this series where I share my thoughts on the "Research Track" presentations.

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Written on July 06, 2013 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: July 18, 2013

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.