June 9, 2015

SEC Faculty Travel Grant Visit Leads To Study On Hydration

Dr. Smith, Dr. Holmes and Dr. Johannsen talk to local high school athletes about the importance of nutrition and hydration
Dr. Smith, Dr. Holmes and Dr. Johannsen talk to local high school athletes about the importance of nutrition and hydration

By: Bryant Welbourne
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Water, food and oxygen quickly come to mind when thinking about the necessities of life. But how much do we think about them when we are not thirsty or hungry? Even worse, what if our bodies are deprived of these essentials and our brain doesn’t tell us? Thankfully, researchers around the world spend time considering these issues, including the unique matter of hydration.

Hydration is essential to how we function, and it is especially crucial when taking part in physical activities… when we lose fluids at an accelerated pace. While many research studies have been conducted on hydration in professional and collegiate student-athletes, studies on young athletes are hard to find.

On a recent SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program visit, Dr. Neil Johannsen, an Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University, traveled to Mississippi State University to meet with faculty to develop a study that will monitor hydration in local high school athletes.

The visit started with Dr. Johannsen meeting with Dr. Megan Holmes, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Mississippi State.

“Dr. Holmes and I were both graduate students at Iowa State University and we co-chaired a talk to the International Society of Sports Nutrition early in our careers,” said Dr. Johannsen. “When we both matriculated to SEC universities, we immediately started to discuss collaboration possibilities.”

With backgrounds in exercise physiology, Dr. Holmes and Dr. Johannsen are intrigued by how hydration in children can affect their development.

“We want to better understand hydration practices in kids which may influence their participation and performance in physical activities because there are numerous benefits for them as a result of being active, including improved overall health, better academic performance and positive psychosocial development,” said Dr. Holmes.

The SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program works to enhance collaboration that stimulates scholarly activities by allowing faculty members from each SEC university to travel to other Conference universities to exchange ideas, develop grant proposals and conduct research.

The first planned activity on this particular visit was for Dr. Johannsen to provide a lecture on his previous work and future study ideas. More than 120 Mississippi State students and faculty attended the lecture that included overviews on the benefits of physical activity, exercise myths and several studies he performed at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The second day of the visit started with a tour of Mississippi State’s Department of Kinesiology, including the research lab. The lab contains several pieces of exercise equipment and machines, including an ultrasound machine. One study taking place during the tour monitored a test subject’s range of motion while wearing combat boots. The study is a partnership between Mississippi State and the U.S. military.

Following the tour, Dr. Holmes and Dr. Johannsen met with other Mississippi State faculty, including Dr. JohnEric Smith, who will provide assistance to the group, to discuss the upcoming project. The study will monitor hydration levels in members of a local high school track and field team during its season. The group outlined the details of the project that included the equipment needed, the variables to monitor and other specifics.

“We want to monitor the athlete’s level of hydration on a weekly basis because they might not be drinking enough to replenish their body every day,” said Dr. Johannsen. “If an athlete is hydrated on Monday but does not drink enough fluids after practice early in the week, they may be dehydrated going into practices and events later that week.”

The last activity of the visit was for Dr. Johannsen, Dr. Holmes and Dr. Smith to talk with the local high school track and field team about the importance of hydration and nutrition. The two hour roundtable discussion provided the team an opportunity to ask questions ranging from general health, to what to eat and drink before a track and field meet, to the number of hours of sleep needed each night.

“I was pleased that our travel grant visit included a community outreach component,” said Dr. Holmes. “The panel discussion provided us a platform to disseminate state-of-the-art research directly to an audience for whom the original research was done.”

Dr. Holmes and Dr. Johannsen’s visit was funded by the SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program that is overseen by SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference. SECU works to support and promote the academic endeavors of the students and faculty at the Conference’s member institutions.

“Given our experience, the SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program is a necessary entity to enhance interuniversity collaborative efforts, particularly given the struggle for research funding in our current environment,” said Dr. Johannsen. “This program shows the value the SEC places on research collaboration among its universities.”