Using caffeine and nitrate supplementation to augment adaptation to high intensity exercise training. Sport & Health Science PhD Studentship (Funded) Ref: 3117

About the award

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants.  The studentship funding is provided for up to 42 months (3.5 years)

Ten generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, 5 offered by the University of Exeter and 5 by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of:  Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 26 May 2018 (GMT), with interviews taking place between 25 June and 6 July 2018.  The start date will be January 2019.

Please note that of the 10 Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to 5 studentships will be awarded.

Supervisor information

Exeter Academic Lead:  Professor Andrew Jones

Queensland Academic Lead:  Dr Michael Leveritt

Project Description

Caffeine and dietary nitrate supplementation have both been shown to enhance performance in a single bout of endurance exercise. Caffeine acts at a central level to increase arousal and reduce the perception of effort during exercise, while nitrate supplementation acts at a peripheral level to enhance the efficiency of energy use during exercise. Both supplements enable individuals to exercise for longer periods and/or exercise at a higher intensity, which ultimately enhances performance in endurance exercise tasks. The respective research groups at UQ (caffeine) and Exeter (nitrate) have conducted extensive investigations to explore and understand the effects of these supplements on acute exercise capacity and performance. However, much less research has been conducted to date on the capacity of these supplements to augment adaptation to longer periods of exercise training.

High intensity exercise training results in superior physiological adaptation, performance and health outcomes compared with moderate intensity training. Having inexpensive, safe and readily accessible nutrition interventions that could potentially facilitate individuals training at a higher intensity in each session is likely to have significant benefits in both clinical and athletic populations. Understanding the physiological mechanisms associated with any improved adaptation will allow future nutrition and exercise training interventions to be designed to elicit the greatest improvement in both health and performance.

The proposed program of research for this PhD would involve initial work reviewing literature, designing research protocols and pilot testing which could be conducted at either UQ or Exeter given the staff expertise and facilities at each site. The initial experimental study would be a high intensity exercise training study with participants assigned to three groups in addition to a control group that performs training without any additional supplementation of caffeine or nitrate. The supplement groups would consume either caffeine alone, nitrate alone or a combination of caffeine and nitrate before each training session to augment training quality. Principal outcome measures would include cardiorespiratory fitness, oxygen uptake kinetics, vascular function and cytokine/chemokine markers of inflammation. This phase of the research program will be conducted at Exeter.

The next phase of the research program will be conducted at UQ and will involve the translation of the findings of the initial phase into a more applied study involving either clinical and/or athletic populations that are currently involved in many other studies at UQ. The populations used in this phase will be dependant on the type of adaptations that are most likely to be augmented by the supplements used in the study conducted at Exeter. Potential populations include cancer patients, team sport athletes and/or endurance athletes.


Application deadline:26th May 2018
Value:Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcripts and details of two academic referees. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified on 20 June 2018, and must be available for interview between 25 June and 6 July 2018

Please quote reference 3117 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BA or BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.