Alaaddine El-Chab

  • Alaaddine El-ChabAlaaddine El-Chab is originally from Lebanon. He completed his PhD in June 2016 and his thesis title is 'The effect of dietary standardisation on the reliability of performance, nutrient oxidation and blood biomarkers'.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I completed my masters degree at Oxford Brookes in Applied Sport and Exercise Nutrition.

    Tell us about your research project.

    The overall objective of my PhD is to investigate subjects’ adherence to dietary standardisation practices. Why is it so important for subjects participating in studies to follow the instructions given by researchers? Well because the outcomes of a research study can be influenced by how each subject prepares. For example, a study that measures the effect of a specific food on physical performance must ensure that subjects begin testing in a similar state of preparedness. Ideally, subjects should be tested in an identical state of nourishment and health. In order to achieve this state, researchers conducting a sport science or nutrition study, use one of the following dietary standardisation techniques as a tool to help subjects replicate their diet; controlled diet, food diary, and dietary recall. If uncontrolled, some dietary components can add noise to the results and make it more difficult to detect changes associated with the intervention. 

    However, the most striking result to emerge from the data we collected was that approximately 70% of studies either did not check the compliance of subjects to the diet given or did not mention it. This raises an important question on whether participants in these studies are really replicating the same amount of food they were told to consume or not. In this situation researchers can be misled into thinking that their subjects are starting each session in the same state of preparedness.

    So we decided to evaluate the ability of athletes to replicate a diet when a controlled diet, food diary and dietary recall were used as dietary standardisation techniques. At group level, we did not find any differences in mean energy and macronutrient intakes between visits for any method, which suggested good subject reproducibility. Nevertheless, important within-subject differences were apparent. The range of percentage coefficient of variation for all variables was between 2.7-5.8% for controlled diet, 10.1-18.6% for food diary, and 7.1-11.7% for dietary recall. We demonstrated that traditional statistical methods can obscure important individual variability in pre-experimental standardisation.

    Next, we wanted to measure whether the differences in nutrient intakes found in the previous study could have any effect on the results of studies. More specifically, we investigated the effect of a 15% difference in the carbohydrate intake of trained cyclists on performance, nutrient oxidation during exercise, and blood biomarkers were examined. The findings of this study may provide valuable information for researchers by alerting them to the benefits of paying closer attention to pre-experimental dietary preparation. 

    Finally, I will also be testing a new method to control nutrient intake prior to experimental trials. This method is characterised by the provision of liquid pre-packaged meals instead of solid pre-packaged meals. This new method will have some advantages over the current gold standard and could be presented as an alternative.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    Albert Szent-Gyorgyi once said ‘Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought’. And this is the most exciting part of a PhD. As a research student, I have the opportunity to think critically, come up with hypotheses and test them. Surprisingly, I realised that finding the answer to a research question is not the most enjoyable part of research but the journey that I go through trying to answer that question. The challenges, the mistakes, continuously learning something new, the achievements, meeting new people (participants), and the ups and downs are all part of this journey and I love it.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    Brookes provide a multitude of training covering many areas that help research students to graduate with different essential skills. 

    What are your future plans?

    My ultimate goal is to become a lecturer in order to transfer all the knowledge that I have gained during my academic years to future generations and to develop original research ideas.