New Year New Blog

It’s been a long and challenging year professionally and personally and I realised that I have not written much on my blog despite the good intentions last year. Time unfortunately is lacking and it becomes challenging to be able to produce meaningful articles for the blog, despite the many drafts that sit in the server 🙂

I have decided to move to the WordPress platform and will abandon the Blogger version as this allows me to have more and better options for the blog. Hopefully, this year there will be more articles here.

It’s been an interesting year in Sports Science. There are many debates in various areas which are likely to produce more interesting research work in 2018. In nutrition, there is a never-ending battle between the carbs-nocarbs camps to optimise body composition. Sadly the debate seems to be confined to the realm of quasi-science and opinion rather than based on experimental evidence. Some good work worth reading is this recent one from John Hawley’s group showing that energy restricted high-protein diet confer no advantage to weight loss in the presence of an appropriate exercise regime. Another interesting article was this one featuring Prof. Tim Noakes as an author suggesting that carbohydrate ingestion in a fat adapted athlete during training could enhance high intensity endurance exercise. The battle continues on social media, books are being published and sold, hopefully more experimental work will help us understanding more about diets. An interesting article in this field was this one about the big Vitamin D mistake and the need to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. I am working on a paper on this topic and the more I read, the more I think that there is a bit of a “drive” to have people on Vitamin D supplementation….will see what happens with that in few months.

Few debates also appearing in the training literature. This recent work from John Kiely continues to challenge the notion of periodisation and this review from Jeremy Loenneke’s lab challenges the notion of muscle size and strength. Finally, Stuart Phillips’ lab published this pretty cool review/meta-analysis/meta-regression indicating that with protein supplementation, protein intakes at amounts greater than ~1.6 g/kg/day do not further contribute RET-induced gains in FFM. So, if you are too keen on protein shakes, you may be connecting your bank account to the sea as the late Professor Mike Rennie used to say in his fascinating lectures. For sure the literature will grow in these areas and we will have access to better information soon.

Finally, the world of wearables is growing and so is the literature. Sleep devices need a lot more work in terms of validation and reliability. A new Cortisol biosensor able to detect cortisol concentration in sweat seems promising. More sweat lactate sensors seem to be promising too as well as Glucose biosensors. A new concept of Lab on a glass was also published suggesting the incorporation of biosensors in eyeglasses, definitively an interesting avenue for sports like Triathlon and Cycling. And finally, it is great to see the work funded form ESPRIT with former collaborators is finally becoming available. This is definitively an area which will grow exponentially and something I am passionate about.

So, this is it for now, the new blog is a new beginning. Let’s see what happens in 2018.



Power BI Dashboards and Athletics Results Seasonality

I am trying to build a PowerBI dashboard to look at the seasonality of best times from the Top List of the IAAF website.
The first example looks interesting. Hopefully I will have the time to finish this in the next few weeks. You can navigate it from the maps indicating the number of results in the top list by the nation of the athletes and check the seasonal distribution.

Power BI Dashboards and Athletics Results Seasonality


4 years in the desert

It is amazing how time goes so fast. Today I celebrate my fourth anniversary living in the desert and working at Aspire Academy in Doha. It is as hot as I found it getting out of the airport (40 degrees C today!) when I arrived from a much colder London. While it seems like yesterday, four years have gone by quickly and a lot has happened professionally and personally. This blog article is a bit of a mix. A reflection on my work here but also on my life here with my family.
So what has happened in the last 4 years?
Quite a lot actually. I have seen four graduations of Aspire athletes with some of our graduates progressing their sporting careers to international stardom and some continuing a healthy lifestyle and  careers in education/army/business. I have worked with the rest of the coaching and sports science team to support the development of many young athletes over the last four years in Doha and abroad.
Getting ready for the Gymasiade 2013 in Brasilia with Coach Carlos Cavalheiro (now head coach of Brazil Athletics), Abubaker Hayder (who won Gold in that even and competed in Rio 2016 last summer) and training partner Adam Mousab (which we hope to see in London this summer)
It is great to see these young men grow in our facilities with the mentoring and support of teachers, parents, coaches and support staff to reach their potential on the international stage. I have written previously about our graduates in Rio Olympics. But it is not all about athletics in Aspire. We have had some great results with the squash programme, with our graduate Abdulla Al-Tamimi climbing the World Ranking in the seniors in the top 40 and reaching the first senior semifinal at the Pittsburgh Open in March this year and the younger boys have reached the podium in international competitions very often.
Table Tennis has also produced some good results with our young athletes Mohamed Abdulwahab and Nawaf Al-Malki and Abdulaziz Mohd winning medals in international competitions.
Finally, we have a new programme in Fencing, and the first few months with the new coaching team in place have been quite exciting.
My department has been providing relentless support to all the athletes in the programme and some senior athletes from national federations on a daily basis with training monitoring, testing, project-based support and many other activities required to make sure each individual athletes has the best chance to get better. Over the last four years, thousands of hours of services have been provided and  gigabytes of data have been analysed, turned into reports and into interventions. The team has also produced 36 articles on peer reviewed journals, which is an incredible accomplishment, considering that we are not an academic institution and all staff has limited time to produce research papers. For me, it is important to apply scientific principles to the activities we conduct and also communicate via peer review publications our work to share knowledge and engage with peer review. Two of my team members joined us and then moved on to more senior opportunities and are doing very well in their new roles. Andrew Murray as a Director of Performance and Sports Science at the University of Oregon and and Thomas Jones as a senior lecturer in Northumbria University have contributed enormously to the activities and culture of the sports physiology unit in Aspire and are now making an impact in sport and research in other cultures/environments. Seeing former staff move to bigger responsibilities and succeed always makes me proud as I always try to support and develop keen and motivated individuals. New staff will join us soon and I am already looking forward to next season for some exciting new projects and activities to support Aspire’s mission to become the World reference.
I have been fortunate to work with colleagues in other departments to organise 3 conferences. Two youth athletics coaching conferences (the last one is available here) and the #trainingload2016 conference (all talks available here and special issue of International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance here) which will be for sure a major milestone in this scientific field for years to come. I was also involved in a big project during the Handball World Championships in Qatar 2015, developing a new analytical solution with Prozone for Handball and conducting a comprehensive study on the demands of elite men’s handball with the scientific and medical commission of the World Championships. This was thanks to the vision of the organising committee, Aspetar hospital, and a fellow former handball player (albeit more successful than me with his Olympic Gold medal) Dr. Nebojsa Popovic, showing how great it is to work in a large campus (Aspire Zone) with amazing expertise and passion for learning and developing new knowledge.
Tracking camera ready before game 1 of Qatar 2015.
On a personal front it has been quite exciting too. I have taken on few new sports and I am enjoying a more active lifestyle since moving here.


I have managed to visit some pretty cool places here in Doha and in nearby countries and taken some nice pictures.












So, it’s been a great 4 years after all.