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Sports performance, exercise, and nutrition research group

The Sports Performance, Exercise, and Nutrition research group has a multidisciplinary focus that broadly covers the Sport and Exercise Sciences. The research of this group is principally concerned with maximizing human performance in sport and exercise settings. 

Research group summary

Our research explores the acute and chronic responses to sports performance and various exercise modalities. The group has a strong research record investigating the interactions between diet, nutritional interventions, environmental conditions, and other scenarios that can alter human performance. Key areas of interest to the group are biomechanical, metabolic, and physiological factors that result in fatigue, alter sleep, circadian rhythms and exercise performance. Our psychology research explores optimising learning and performance in sport (such as attentional focus, visual information processing, motivation, feedback, competitive environments), the psychological benefits of sport and exercise participation (including youth life skill development, and cognition), and imagery use in sport.

Our work is internationally renowned for identifying and resolving practical problems in the sport and exercise sciences. We regularly undertake research collaboratively with external organizations, sports clubs, individual athletes and colleagues in other universities nationally and internationally. The strong applied emphasis of our work leads us to collaborate with key research users, including sports coaches, physiotherapists, medical staff, nutritionists, General Practitioners, and strength and conditioning specialists.

The group includes researchers and postgraduate research students all actively engaged in a wide range of research projects.

Current projects

Currently we are undertaking work examining the effects of nutritional supplements including Astaxanthin, protein and extracellular buffer supplementation on exercise performance in a variety of groups including elite athletes and the elderly.  Other colleagues are examining foot biomechanics and sporting performance, whilst others are continuing their work in the football sciences.

External funding

Recent publications

Blennerhassett, C., McNaughton, L.R., Cronin, C., and Sparks, S.A. (2018). Development and implementation of a nutrition knowledge questionnaire for ultra-endurance athletes. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 29(1):39-45. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0322.

Bridge, C.A., Sparks, S.A., McNaughton, L.R., Close, G.L., Hausen, M., Gurgel, J., and Drust, B. (2018). Repeated exposure to taekwondo combat modulates the physiological and hormonal responses to subsequent bouts and recovery periods. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(9):2529-2541. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002591.

Brown, D.R., Gough, L.A., Deb, S.K., Sparks, S.A., and McNaughton, L.R. (2018). Astaxanthin in exercise metabolism, performance and recovery: a review. Frontiers in Nutrition. 4:76. DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00076.

Caruana Bonnici, D., Greig, M., Akubat, I., Sparks, S.A., Bentley, D., and Mc Naughton, L.R. (2019). Nutrition in Soccer: A brief review of the issues and solutions. Journal of Sport Science and Exercise, 1(1): 1-10 (In Press). DOI: 10.1007/s42978-019-0014-7.

Doncaster, G., Marwood, S., Iga, J., and Unnithan, V (2016). Influence of oxygen uptake kinetics on physical performance in youth soccer. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(9), 1781-1794.

Doncaster, G., and Unnithan, V. (2019). Between-game variation of physical soccer performance measures in highly trained youth soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1912-1920.

Gough, L., Brown, D.R., Deb., S.K., Sparks, S.A., and McNaughton, L.R. (2019). The effects of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on cycling performance and acid base balance recovery in acute normobaric hypoxia. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(13): 1464-1471. DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2019.1568173.

Gough, L.A., Rimmer, S., Sparks, S.A., McNaughton, L.R., and Higgins, M.F. (2019). Post-exercise supplementation of sodium bicarbonate improves acid base balance recovery and subsequent high-intensity boxing specific performance. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6:155. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00155.

Hilton, N.P., Leach, N.K., Sparks, S.A., Craig, M.M., McNaughton, L.R. (2019). Enteric-coated sodium bicarbonate attenuates gastrointestinal disturbances and alters acid-base responses. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (In Press).

Hilton, N.P., Leach, N.K., Sparks, S.A., Gough, L.A., Craig, M.M., Deb, S.K., McNaughton, L.R. (2019). A novel ingestion strategy for sodium bicarbonate supplementation in a delayed-release form: a randomised crossover study in trained males. Sports Medicine Open, 5(4). DOI: 10.1186/s40798-019-0177-0.

Langley, B., Cramp, M., Morrison, S. C. (2018) The influence of running shoes on inter-segmental foot kinematics, Footwear Science, 10, pp. 83-93.

Mosher, S., Gough, L., Deb. S.K., Saunders, B., McNaughton, L.R., Brown, D., and Sparks, S.A., (2019). High Dose Nitrate Ingestion Does Not Improve 40 km Cycling Time Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists. Research in Sports Medicine, (In Press). DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2019.1586707.

Page, R.M, Marrin, K., Brogden, C.M., Greig, M. (2019). Physical Response to a Simulated Period of Soccer-Specific Fixture Congestion. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(4):1075-1085. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002257.

Page, R.M., Marrin, K., Brogden, C.M., Greig, M. (2015). Biomechanical and Physiological Response to a Contemporary Soccer Match-Play Simulation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(10):2860-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000949.

Pugh, J.N, Sparks, S.A., Doran, D.A., Fleming, S.C., Langan-Evans, C., Kirk, B., Fearn, R., Morton, J.P., and Close, G.L. (2019). Four weeks of probiotic supplementation reduces GI symptoms during a marathon race. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 119(7):1491-1501. DOI: 10.1007/s00421-019-04136-3.

Sheridan, A., Marchant, D.C., Williams, E.L., Jones, H., Hewitt, P.A., and Sparks, S.A. (2019). The Presence of Spotters Improves Bench Press Performance: A Deception Study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7):1755-1761. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002285.


Research staff

  • Professor Lars McNaughton
  • Dr Matt Greig
  • Dr Craig Bridge
  • Dr Greg Doncaster
  • Dr Ben Langley
  • Dr Pascual Marques
  • Dr Kelly Marrin
  • Dr Richard Page
  • Dr Andy Sparks

Postgraduate research students (PhD)

  • Craig Atherton
  • Mitchell Finlay
  • Nathan Hilton
  • Nicholas Leach
  • Daniel Tinnion

Postgraduate research students (MRes)

  • Ben Dobson
  • Mark Forshaw
  • Lucy Lucketti
  • Georgia Maudsley
  • Sam Napier