The Exercise and Performance Nutrition Laboratory has quickly evolved into an extremely well-equipped teaching and research laboratory. Many different forms of technology are available in the EPNL that are used as part of ongoing research and as part of classes within the Exercise Science program. The information provided below outlines the equipment and associated techniques available to our students that can be incorporated into various research studies and partnerships.
Measuring aerobic capacity is commonly referred to as a VO2 assessment. This form of assessment is considered the gold standard to determine one’s level of aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is measured in the EPNL using a metabolic cart, typically while subjects are walking, jogging and cycling. To further assess fitness status, EPNL researchers can collect blood samples to measure changes in markers of energy metabolism and can also attach electrodes to the participants’ chest to assess their heart function.
Anaerobic Capacity (Wingate)
Anaerobic exercise is characterized as any form of exercise that is fast, quick, explosive and very high intensity. Measuring anaerobic capacity gives researchers an idea of one’s capacity to perform this type of exercise. Many types of exercise testing may be used to assess one’s capacity to perform anaerobic exercise. Within the EPNL, anaerobic capacity is commonly assessed using the Wingate test. This cycle-based test is 30 seconds in duration and requires a participant to pedal as fast as they can against a resistance that is standardized to their body weight. Based on the results of this test, peak and average power production and how quickly someone fatigues can all be assessed.
The EPNL also houses a small biochemistry laboratory that has the capability to process and store nearly any biospecimen. Equipped with multiple centrifuges, spectrophotometer, ultra-low temperature freezer, pipettors and other equipment, the EPNL research team routinely collects and processes samples prior to analysis for various target biomarkers.
While the analytical capabilities of the EPNL are rapidly expanding, the lab currently has equipment to assess changes in various metabolites such as glucose and lactate, hemoglobin and hematocrit, hormones like growth hormone, insulin and testosterone, cytokines, and other cellular targets. With valuable partnerships established within our research network, the EPNL can collect, process, store and analyze nearly any important biomarker commonly used as part of exercise and nutrition research studies.
The sampling of various tissues is a common feature of research studies completed in the EPNL. Finger stick sampling of blood for changes in glucose, hemoglobin A1C, cholesterol and lactate are all easy to complete and easy to assess. Many studies require the sampling of venous blood using single stick venipuncture or multiple sampling techniques involving the placement of a catheter. Additionally, sampling of urine can be used to assess protein metabolism or the retention of various nutrients. Finally, researchers in the EPNL are also trained and equipped to sample skeletal muscle, usually from the thigh, as part of various research techniques.
Body Composition Assessments
Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)
To assess changes in fat, fat-free and bone tissues as part of various exercise and nutritional assessments and interventions, the EPNL has a Hologic QDR Discovery A DEXA. This piece of equipment uses x-rays to scan the entire body and measures the amount of bone, muscle and fat in the arms, legs and trunk. In addition to body composition assessments, this device can also be used to measure bone density in the spine, hip and forearm. Below are pictures of the DEXA in use as well as short video.
Bioelectrical Impedance Spectroscopy (BIS)
To assess changes in fat mass, fat-free mass, muscle mass, and body water, an Impedimed SFB7 bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy device is used by the EPNL. This piece of equipment requires appropriate hydration prior to testing and passes a low-level electrical current through electrodes in contact with the person’s hands and feet.
This signal is able to accurately and reliability compute an individual’s body mass, body composition, and body water while appropriately tracking changes across time. We commonly use this device as part of our community testing and lecture seminars as well as our research studies. It takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare for the test and 5 minutes to complete.
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
To assess changes in lean mass, fat mass, total body water, an InBody 570 bioelectrical impedance analyzer (BIA) is used as a non-invasive technique used to assess body composition. BIA measures the impedance or resistance of body tissues to an electrical current that is passed through the body. It can be used to track changes in body composition over time and evaluate the effectiveness of weight loss or exercise interventions. The InBody 570 is a safe and easy-to-use tool for assessing body composition, and it is commonly used in both clinical and research settings.
The EPNL has several ways to assess cardiovascular attributes. Students and researchers in the EPNL can use 12-lead ECG to assess heart function at rest and in response to various forms of exercise. In addition, the EPNL has the capability to assess heart rate responses to exercise as well as heart rate variability over a 24-hour period using several types of heart rate monitors. These devices are used regularly as part of teaching and research protocols to appropriately measure changes in heart function in response to exercise and other research interventions.
We use various cognitive tests in the EPNL to assess cognitive function in research studies. These tests include the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery, the Stroop Color Word Test, and the Trail Making Tests to name a few. The NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery is a comprehensive set of tests designed to evaluate cognitive abilities, including attention, working memory, processing speed, and executive function. The Stroop Color Word Test is a classic test that assesses cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control while the Trail Making Tests A and B assess visual-motor speed and task switching ability. Our lab also has a Dynavision D2, an interactive light board with 64 3D targets, that can be used to assess and train various aspects of cognition and executive function, including reaction time and decision making.
These tests can be used to assess cognitive function in research studies, clinical settings, and educational settings. They can help to identify cognitive deficits and track changes in cognitive function over time. Through the application of cognitive tests in our research studies, we gain insights into the underlying mechanisms of cognitive function and identify potential interventions to enhance cognitive health. Overall, cognitive testing is an important tool for understanding cognitive function and promoting healthy aging.
Energy Expenditure & Metabolism
Assessing changes in resting metabolism and how many calories are burned throughout exercise are extremely important measures for many of the research studies completed in the EPNL. To measure these outcomes, the EPNL has two ParvoMedics metabolic carts (pictured below) with the capability of quantifying energy expenditure during exercise as well as at rest. Many studies published by researchers in the EPNL have assessed changes and differences in resting metabolism over the course of entire athletic seasons, between different types of athletes and in response to exercise and nutrition interventions completed in recent research studies.
Fecal Collection and Microbiome Analysis
EPNL staff is also trained at collecting and preserving freshly collected stool samples as part of various clinical investigations. Recent projects have included analysis including RNA Later preservation, OmniGene preservation, and Whatman paper evaluation. Samples are routinely sent to other laboratory shotgun metagonomics as well as metabolomic analysis.
Muscular Fitness (Strength, Power and Endurance)
The EPNL has several techniques that can be used to assess strength, power and endurance. Many of these techniques are taught as part of classroom instruction and are regularly incorporated into research projects completed by students and faculty. The EPNL houses a large power rack that allows for determination of one-repetition maximum (1RM), a direct measure of one’s strength. In conjunction with 1RM measurement, the EPNL regularly uses TENDO power analyzers which have a lanyard that connects to the end of the bar that measures how quickly the bar is moving during a weight lifting movement, which can be used to assess changes in power and speed development.
In addition to 1RM, the EPNL has a Biodex isokinetic dynamometer that allows students and researchers to assess static and dynamic force and power production (see video), the rate at which fatigue is developed in various muscles and the presence of any muscle imbalances across a joint.
Lastly, the EPNL has load-cells that can be interfaced to a computer that are used as part of isometric assessments to measure strength. These devices offer very quick, reliable and sensitive assessment of force production in a format that is 100% portable. This allows EPNL team members to collect high-quality strength data outside of the laboratory.
Pulmonary Function Testing/Spirometry
Assessments of pulmonary function are important parameters that are used to detect various respiratory disorders such as COPD and asthma. In addition to their use in hands-on laboratory classes, these techniques are implemented as part of research studies to assess pulmonary function both at rest and after acute bouts of exercise.
Ultrasound muscle morphology is a method used to evaluate the structure and composition of muscles in the body. This technique captures high-quality images of targeted muscles and evaluates features such as muscle thickness, pennation angle (angle of muscle fibers), and length of muscle fibers. Prior to testing, it is recommended to allow for 5 minutes of rest to ensure proper redistribution of bodily fluids. This technique is useful for identifying muscle abnormalities, monitoring changes over time, and evaluating the effectiveness of exercise interventions. Ultrasound muscle morphology is a non-invasive and reliable tool for assessing muscle health and function, making it a valuable addition to both lecture seminars and research studies.