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Nutrition News from the Netherlands: a Conference, and a Doctoral Defense

Louise Burke, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia

On January 30th, Maastricht, the Netherlands was the site of two exciting events in sports nutrition. The first event was a one-day conference titled "Advances in Training and Nutrition for Endurance Sports: from Theory to Practice". The conference was held at the impressive Papendal Olympic Training Center, under the banners of the Netherlands Olympic Committee, the Netherlands Sport Federation, and the Isostar Sport Nutrition Foundation. How much can you learn in only a day? A lot, thanks to organizers Dr. Fred Brouns, his wife Martina, and Dr. Asker Jeukendrup. They pulled together a stellar panel of speakers and a thought-provoking program, including:

The program was accompanied by a detailed abstract book, which included an important summary section in which the practical guidelines resulting from all papers were integrated. Hopefully, we can look forward to seeing this summary paper appearing in future editions of the Insider publication of the Isostar Sports Nutrition Foundation.

As good as the individual presentations were, the highlight of the day was a panel discussion, tightly chaired by Fred Brouns, which provoked efficient and authorative summaries from the previous speakers on a range of popular topics and issues in sports nutrition. These included the Zone diet (a big thumbs down), L-carnitine supplements (not taken up by the muscle, therefore no benefit to performance), chromium picolinate supplements (no proof from well-designed studies of any strength benefits, although there is some discussion that athletes may have increased requirements for chromium), colostrum and glutamine supplements (no proof to support benefits to the immune system or training adaptations), and post-exercise saline or glucose infusions (a high risk way to ingest fluid or carbohydrate. May be useful to Tour riders who want to sleep rather than eat/drink at the end of each day's stage, however for most athletes and sports events, intake by mouth is cheaper, effective, and more practical).

Dr Asker Jeukendrup
How do you follow up such a scientifically stimulating day?  For some of the conference speakers and audience, the answer was attending the doctoral defense by Asker Jeukendrup. The defense was held the next day in an historic hall at the University of Maastricht. For non-Europeans like myself, it was a surprising and theatrical experience. Asker has been an outstanding and amazingly productive member of the team at the Department of Human Biology at Maastricht University over the past number of years. His doctoral defense highlighted the publication of his thesis in book form, a European tradition that is much more "user friendly" than the bound volumes that most of us with Ph.D.s remember compiling. I bought a copy at the conference, and consequently, found myself awake far into the night, reading "Aspects of Carbohydrate and Fat Metabolism during exercise". This thesis listed no less than 25 publications in peer reviewed journals (phew!) emanating from Asker's PhD studies - including recent papers in Journal of Applied Physiology relating to ingestion of medium chain triglyceride feedings during endurance exercise, and a forthcoming publication in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise on improvement in 1 hour cycling performance following ingestion of carbohydrate.

The defense itself took place "in public", and the audience was treated to a emotionally charged ceremony. Wearing a tuxedo and accompanied by his two best friends, Asker took the stage in front of his panel of examiners. Not to be out dressed by the defendant, they were adorned in full robes and floppy hats. Asker first presented an overview of his thesis for the benefit of the lay audience. Although it was in Dutch, some great slides and my previous night's reading helped me to "go with the flow". Following his summary, the real task was at hand. Asker was questioned by his examination panel. Each member (including many of the speakers from the previous day's conference) was required to ask a tricky question, and Asker had to provide a satisfactory reply to his "highly esteemed opponent". On the stroke of the hour, the ceremony was interrupted by a town-crier-like-person who banged the floor with a huge gavel and declared the “inquisition” completed. The rules of engagement required that at this point, come what may, the panel was to retire and make a decision. Needless to say, this panel returned with good news for the new Dr Jeukendrup, and a huge certificate to solemnize his doctorate.

A reception and party followed, and lingered late into the night. Asker had not one but three recent achievements to celebrate: his marriage to Antoinette, his completed PhD., and his move to Austin, Texas to take up post-doctoral studies with Prof. Ed Coyle. We wish Asker well, and are certain that he will continue to contribute both meaningful research, and color and excitement to the world of sports science and nutrition.

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