Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

Exercise and Nutrition Research Program

Current research

Epigenetic control and the circadian clock: Turning back time on diabetes pathogenesis

This project involves an international network of researchers, led by the University of Copenhagen, with collaborators from Karolinska Institutet and University of California, Irvine. The aim is to further understand the health promoting effects of exercise in people with type 2 diabetes by determining the interaction between circadian rhythms and the metabolic response to exercise and nutrition. This will allow us to define potent, practical, time efficient use of fitness and nutrition that can be implemented to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We will take a “bench to bedside” approach and identify the time of day for optimal exercise-nutrient interventions to induce the greatest improvement of insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.

Funding: Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Grant.

Duration: 2015-2020
Project team: Professor John Hawley; Professor Juleen Zierath (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; Professor Paulo Sassone-Corsi (University of Irvine, California, USA);

Exercise-nutrient interventions to prevent sarcobesity.

There is a growing health burden in Australia arising from the interrelated sequelae of sarcopenia (an age-related loss of muscle mass), obesity and physical inactivity. The coexistence of diminished muscle mass and increased fat mass is referred to as ‘sarcopenic obesity’ or ‘sarcobesity’ and as the proportion of older inactive adults increases, the incidence of this condition will escalate and have a dramatic impact on the lives of an increasing number of the population. We will determine the optimal energy-restriction and diet interactions that will stimulate the highest rates of skeletal muscle protein synthesis and enhance whole body protein balance, while improving weight loss efficiency and glycemic control in obese individuals undertaking an exercise program.

Funding: Collaborative Research Network Grant
Duration: 2014-2016
Project team: Professor John Hawley, Associate Professor Andrew Wilson, Associate Professor Leah Brennan, Professor Luc van Loon, Professor Nuala Mary Byrne, Dr Vernon Coffey.

Interactive effect of manipulations of muscle creatine and glycogen stores on endurance performance and Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) derived measurements of lean mass.

The project will focus on the application of recent knowledge regarding creatine and glycogen loading in sports nutrition. Whereas creatine supplementation has previously targeted intermittent-high intensity sports, the current study will investigate the functional outcome of recent findings of enhanced glycogen storage in a muscle that has previously been creatine loaded by measuring performance of a glycogen-limited exercise task that is weight-sensitive (uphill riding). The methodology will also allow examination of the systematic manipulation of muscle creatine and glycogen content on DXA-derived estimates of lean mass in athletes to enhance the reliability of undertaking physique measurements in active populations

Funding: Australian Catholic University Program Grant
Duration: 2015-2020
Project team: Professor Louise Burke, Professor John Hawley –

Carbohydrate dependence during endurance sport.

There is currently much debate in the public domain regarding the role of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets for enhancing athletic performance and improving health (i.e., weight loss). In a series of independent but related investigfations, we will demonstrate that when highly trained athletes compete in endurance events lasting up to 4 h, carbohydrate-, not fat-based fuels are the predominant fuel for the working muscles and carbohydrate not fat availability becomes rate limiting for performance.

Funding: Australian Institute of Sport Collaborative Research Grant.
Duration: 2015
Project team: Professor John Hawley, Professor Louise Burke