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Sport Health Exercise & Nutrition

The Sport, Health, Exercise and Nutrition (SHEN) research group within the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation has recently been identified as an emerging area of research excellence. Research expertise span the breadth of the sport, health and exercise nutrition discipline, combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies to provide richer insights into our research findings. 

Interests lie across the whole course of the lifespan, supporting children and adolescents with nutritional strategies to support their growth, metabolic health and educational attainment, whilst also working with different levels of athletes to support their sport performance aspirations by evaluating the effectiveness of pre, during and post exercise nutritional strategies. At the other end of the spectrum, we have specific expertise and interests in assessing and improving protein intake alongside exercise interventions for optimising healthy ageing in older adults and those with comorbidities, evaluating how nutritional interventions are delivered in clinical practice in conjunction with national governing bodies and highlighting areas for improvement. From an applied sport performance perspective, we have an extremely strong track record, particularly in adult males, with emerging application in females, in understanding exercise stress, recovery, muscle function and adaptation and the role of nutritional strategies to positively impact on this continuum and indeed how such strategies might influence other systems, such as the gut microbiome and metabolome. There is also a strong focus on how we can support recreationally active individuals by implementing nutritional strategies which might impact on aspects of their life such as sleep and bone health, whilst also exploring how factors such as circadian rhythms, diurnal variations, eating patterns, time-restricted feeding/intermittent fasting, gastrointestinal function, and appetite regulation (e.g., gut hormones and gastric emptying) might influence improved metabolic health and body mass loss/maintenance goals.

A lot of the research that we do is intended to be true to life, working with key stakeholders and members of the public to shape our research, making a concerted effort to design our studies using the most robust tools available to us, whilst also considering the applicability, meaningfulness and sustainability of different nutritional strategies in real-world environments (applied sport, clinical populations, educational settings). We thereby endeavour to use a food first / functional food approach where possible and an important, emerging arm of our research now is to empower the populations that we are working with and educate them to make better food choices in line with their current lifestyle, exercise, health and sporting aims. We have started to do this by using mobile applications to collect and track real time data, whilst enriching this quantitative approach, by gaining first hand qualitative insights into how acceptable our findings are for the end user.

The group consists of 11 academic members of staff and seven PGR students who have vast amounts of experience working with various organisations, sports clubs, education authorities and industry partners, such as NUFC and SAFC Academies, Durham Cricket Club, Durham Women FC, Ouseburn Trust, CoolMilk, Dairy UK, NHS Trusts, Naturex, GSK, Iprona, Cherry Marketing Institute, British Gymnastics, English Institute of Sport (now UKSI), Danone, NUFC senior squad, FIFA, and The FA.

Academic Team

PGRs / Thesis Title / Submission Year

  • Kirsty Boak / Moo’ving towards better hydration and cognition in school children: current practice and experiences of key stakeholders / 2026
  • Emmy Campbell / Optimising sports nutrition in academy football / 2026
  • Christopher Clayton / The Effects of macro-nutrient distribution and meal frequency on body composition and Protein Turnover / 2026
  • Jess Riman / Developing an understanding of the nutritional landscape within gymnastics to design an evidenced based education resource for gymnastics coaches / 2024
  • Catrin Roberts / Moo’ving towards better hydration and cognition in school children: applying novel neuroimaging technology to determine a neurophysiological basis / 2026
  • Emma Squires / Getting to the stone: A further exploration into European tart cherry supplementation as an aid in recovery / 2025
  • Jacob Wood / The effect of sleep loss on gastrointestinal function, appetite regulation, and metabolic health / 2025

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