Exercise Biochemistry and Metabolism Laboratory Capabilities

The Exercise Biochemistry and Metabolism Laboratory (EBML) at the University of Texas at San Antonio was established fall 2005 by Dr. Donovan Fogt to investigate mechanisms by which the body adapts to short-term and chronic exposure to stressors such as exercise, environmental, or dietary manipulation.  Current research activities include the effects of fatigue and dehydration on human exercise physical and cognitive performance. By understanding the physiology behind the performance limitations, we hope to help design new and creative evaluations or devices to help prevent compromised human performance and undue casualties in the civilian and military settings.

perform capab

Additionally, this laboratory is working to elucidate factors contributing to the development and progression of hypokinetic (too little movement) diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. We evaluate the role of exercise and nutrition as preventative and therapeutic modalities for these conditions. Current subject populations include, but are not limited to, healthy normal-weight, overweight, and at-risk adults, coaches and athletes from a variety of sports and competitive levels, as well as soldiers and airmen of the armed services.

Hands-on laboratory or field experience

A number of undergraduate and graduate students obtain pre-professional training in the laboratory each semester and summer. Therefore, the EBML is both a classroom and a career development center. By stressing the critical thinking skills and study approaches involved with complex, applied exercise physiology topics, young scientists and medical professionals gain a better understanding of the development and application of knowledge associated with their field. Successful students not only conduct data collection and analysis but can also generate their own questions and conduct logical discussions about complex physiology-related problems. Since the spring of 2006, I have directly supervised >50 students outside of the traditional classroom in a variety of professional development capacities through field- or laboratory-based instruction. An additional number of students have benefited from Kinesiology courses’ laboratory sections some of which are conducted in the EBML under Dr. Fogt’s instruction.

EBML Equipment (current):

·         Two indirect/open circuit calorimetry systems (Parvomedics True One 2400 ) for analysis of expired gases for resting energy expenditure and during exercise for evaluation of whole body metabolic response to exercise

·         Three desktop and two laptop computers, four printers

·         Computerized cognitive testing/scoring

·         Research-grade infrared thermographic camera (a second to be purchased; FLIR Systems, Inc. Boston, MA, USA)

·         Trackmaster treadmill, Lode Excalibur cycle ergometer, 2 Monarch cycle ergometers

·         Cardiocard electrocardiogram (ECG) system for resting or exercise heart monitoring

·         Automated external defibrillator (AED) and other safety equipment

·         Phlebotomy equipment and supplies

·         Bodyweight scale accurate up to 600 lb

·         Bioelectrical spectroscopy for determination of hydration status and body composition

·         Hydrostatic weighing tank and Harpeden skinfold calipers for body composition

·         Hologic Discovery A – dual-energy x-ray scanning denistometer and BodPod air displacement plethysmography unit for body composition

·         Sensewear energy expenditure analyzers (BodyMedia Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

·         Fifteen Polar 800RS series heart rate monitors with heart rate variability capabilities

·         Three Lactate Pro portable blood lactate analyzers, 3 One Touch portable blood glucose monitors, Cholestech blood lipid analyzer

·         HemataSTAT-II blood hematocrit and Hemocue Hb 201+ automated hemoglobin analyzers

·         Two portable Oximax N65 pulse oximeter for determination of blood oxygen saturation

·         Two core thermometer probes

·         Osmomette III freezing point depression osmometer for determination of solution osmolality and hydration status from urine, saliva, or plasma

·         MultiskanEX microplate photometer with automated washing system and BioMate3 spectrophotometer for protein and enzyme kinetic measurement

·         Nanopure Diamond deionized/ultrapure water system

·         IEC Centra CL3 refrigerated centrifuge and various benchtop centrifuges for sample processing

·         Dedicated refrigerator and minus 80°C freezer – cold enough to suspend biological activity

·         Essential facilities and small equipment typical of a biochemical laboratory

·         Locker rooms with shower and restroom facilities


EBML General Capabilities

Human Physical Performance Assessment

The EBML regularly performs leading edge endurance performance testing for recreational, collegiate, and elite athletes across a number of sports. The laboratory personnel’s expertise as well as the state-of-the-art equipment is comparable to that at the actual U.S. Olympic Training Centers or Gatorade Sports Science Institute. The lab also regularly performs resting metabolic rate testing and body composition assessment in support of individuals’ weight management goals. The EBML personnel’s’ knowledge of operational applications are sought by coaches, athletes, and potential research collaborators.

Routine physical evaluations performed by EBML:

·         Submaximal & Maximal Oxygen Consumption/ Aerobic Capacity

·         Submaximal & Maximal Anaerobic Capacity/Lactate Threshold

·         Resting Metabolic Rate

·         Body Composition Analysis

·         Muscle Strength and Endurance Capacity

·         Agility & Muscle Power Testing


Relevant Highlights:

·         Park, SW, M Brenneman, WH Cooke, DL Fogt. Heart rate variability predicts anaerobic threshold in cyclists. Manuscript in preparation. December, 2012.

·         Kerksick, CM, J Wismann-Bush, D Fogt, AR Thomas, L Taylor IV, B Campbell, CD Wilborn, T Harvey, M Roberts, P LaBounty, M Galbreath, B Marcello, C Rasmussen, RB Kreider. Changes in weight loss, body composition and cardiovascular disease risk after altering macronutrient distributions during a regular exercise program in obese women. Nutrition Journal 9: 59-78, 2010.

·         Treviño, RP, DL Fogt, T Jordan-Wyatt, L Leal-Vasquez, E Sosa, C Woods. Diabetes risk, low fitness, and caloric insufficiency levels among children from poor families. Journal of the American Dietetics Association 108: 1846-1853, 2008.

·         Kjkjk Zhang, JO, LL Ji, DL Fogt, VS Fretwell. Effect of exercise duration on postprandial hypertriglyceridemia in men with metabolic syndrome. Journal of Applied Physiology 103: 1339-1345, 2007.

·         Williams, MB, PB Raven, DL Fogt, JL Ivy.  Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 17: 12-19, 2003.


Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation Studies

Fatiguing operational environments often include several stressors in combination with sleep deprivation resulting in additive or synergistic effects. Therefore, there is a clear need to evaluate the effects of sleep deprivation in combination with measured exposure to additional common stressors, such as physical activity and dehydration.

The EBML has the necessary equipment and facilities for subject health screening, testing, and supervised subject monitoring during prolonged protocols of progressive fatigue. The laboratory complex has been used to collect data on 15 subjects every 3 h for up to 72 h of combinations of sleep deprivation, physical work, and dehydration. The laboratory complex also has indoor and outdoor spaces for the proposed subject exercise bouts such that environmental exposure can be limited to 60-70°F and ≥60% relative humidity. The lab complex has a safety monitoring plan including a favorable subject-to-emergency life-saving-trained investigator ratio, automated external defibrillator (AED), and an emergency response plan including campus and city police and emergency response units.

Non-invasive measures of heart rate variability (HRV) are accepted surrogates for changes in ANS balance. HRV parameters are especially attractive as measures of fatigue, because of known autonomic heart rate regulation changes at the onset of fatigue. We have recently employed linear mixed-effects (LME) modeling to demonstrate an objective relationship between fatigue level and cognitive function during 24 h sleep deprivation and fatigue level and HRV during a controlled, 48 h period of sleep deprivation. Widely varying patterns of change in fatigue levels were accompanied by changes in both cognitive performance and HRV. In both investigations, statistical modeling demonstrated significant linear relationships between fatigue level and cognitive performance, as well as between fatigue level and HRV. The relative ease with which HRV parameters can be measured suggests that this technique could be used for objective, real-time measurement of fatigue levels. An example protocol is shown below:


example protocol

Relevant Highlights:

·         Fogt, DL, JE Kalns, DJ Michael, WH Cooke.  Linear mixed-effects modeling of relationship between heart rate variability and fatigue arising from sleep deprivation. Aviat Space Environ Med 82: 1104-1109, 2011.

·         Fogt, DL, JE Kalns, DJ Michael. A comparison of cognitive performance decreases during acute, progressive fatigue arising from different concurrent stressors. Military Medicine 175: 939-944, 2010.

·         Fogt, DL, PJ Cooper, CN Freeman, JE Kalns, WH Cooke. Heart rate variability to assess combat readiness. Military Medicine 174: 491-495, 2009.


Tissue analysis

The lab complex is equipped for collection, storage and analysis of human blood, muscle, urine, and adipose tissues. We can determine tissue-specific protein expression, quality/capacity of cellular metabolism, and determination of hormonal responses to dietary and exercise manipulations.

tissue capab

EBML Collaborative Partners

Comprehensive evaluation of the body’s responses to its environment can only be suitable accomplished through collaborative scientific inquiry, shared resources and expertise. The collaborative research partners of the EBML are listed below and select collaborative capabilities are highlighted in a subsequent section.

·         Booz Allen Hamilton, DOD Contractor

·         Laboratory of Applied Autonomic Neurophysiology, The University of Texas at San Antonio

·         Laboratory of Human Nutrition, The University of Texas at San Antonio

·         Paul Cox, DOD Contractor, PERL Research

·         Mobile Health Laboratory, University of Texas at San Antonio

·         Institute for Surgical Research, Brooks Army Medical Center

·         Rescue Athlete, Special Operations Performance Training

·         Hyperion Biotechnology, Inc., DOD Contractor

·         Thomas Walker, Chief, Applied Physiology Research, 711th Human Performance Wing

·         Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 37th Training Wing, US Air Force

·         The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

·         The University of Texas at San Antonio Department of Intercollegiate Athletics


Capabilities demonstrated through collaborations with PERL Research.

The UTSA EBML has had a long-standing partnership with PERL Research to establish cutting-edge solutions for operational challenges. The collaborative projects described below demonstrate the depth of this collaboration’s scientific and engineering knowledge of operational applications.

1. Minimal Footprint/Maximal Output Sensor Devices – An operational device for fatigue assessment will only be as effective as the validity of the physiological and supporting data behind the primary fatigue assessor (i.e., HRV). The ability to synchronize between environmental measurement and HRV-predicted fatigue and implied cognitive capacity will allow associations between objective and subjective data more robust.


The new and creative computing model we have begun developing will derive its data from relatively few on-body sensors gathering intra-individual and near-individual data while an integration/gateway unit accesses a vast wealth of data available over a network including relevant environmental and recent fatigue/sleep/work histories.

By integrating “off-the-shelf” and novel technologies, we will minimize the number of sensors and sensor types required for a robust and valid objective fatigue level determination. A combination of sensors will allow for maximal communication of the body’s subjected stress, position, and related factors that would affect the primary physiological parameters. Essentially, the system will be able to differentiate between normal and abnormal physiological responses over a myriad of environmental influences. Our outcome measure will be developed to incorporate the following operationally-relevant usability goals:1) ease of installation, 2) ease of use, 3) adequate longitudinal performance in a natural setting and 4) affordable for customers.

2. Thermographic Imaging for Remote Triage – The UTSA and PERL Research collaboration has been developing a mathematical prediction algorithm to assist combat medics critical scoring of wounded soldiers. The key component of our work is a dynamic thermographic imaging sensor integrated with decision support algorithms for based on autonomic nervous system information from heart rate variability and other non-invasive tests. This thermographic device is a commercially-available and highly portable camera such as those already employed by the military for other applications.

We anticipate that data from our ongoing collaboration will contribute to the development of a robust, field-capable diagnostic tool for measuring autonomic functional capacity to identify the “risk” of an individual succumbing to stress and dictate appropriate intervention strategies prior to cognitive or physical performance decrements. Furthermore, we anticipate that our new and creative research findings will ultimately be integrated with development of real-time monitoring of physiological status such as that proposed in the Warfighter Status Monitoring system.

Capabilities demonstrated through collaborations with Hyperion Biotechnology, Inc.

In a progressive series of studies, the EBML and Hyperion Biotechnology, Inc. developed a protocol to simulate a 24-72h duty cycle, using sleep deprivation with other stressors to increase fatigue level gradually. Using this model, we have demonstrated that an individual’s level of subjective fatigue can predict cognitive performance over 24h of exposure to several combinations of operationally-relevant stressors. Thus, regardless of stress combination, increased subjective fatigue can be utilized to predict cognitive performance in real-time. We tracked and modeled simultaneous changes in fatigue level, cognitive performance and resting HRV. The significant linear relationship between an HRV parameter and level of fatigue is novel and potentially useful. The ability to measure fatigue level, as well as the implied autonomic reserve capacity, using simple non-invasive techniques could lead to systems capable of identifying individuals with high levels of fatigue. From a practical standpoint, an HRV monitoring device incorporating this analysis paradigm might be programmed to alert a user of the need for rest when the level of fatigue is sufficient to cause a critical reduction in cognitive performance. This objective measurement of fatigue “risk” could also be used for the development of targeted intervention strategies, i.e. strategies designed to circumvent specific levels of decrease in cognitive or physical performance. Importantly, linear mixed-effects modeling allows for determining the best fit coefficients for each individual. Using this new and creative approach, it is possible that HRV monitors could be tuned to provide a response that is tailored to a specific individual.

Relevant Highlights:

·         Fogt, DL, JE Kalns, DJ Michael, WH Cooke.  Linear mixed-effects modeling of relationship between heart rate variability and fatigue arising from sleep deprivation. Aviat Space Environ Med 82: 1104-1109, 2011.

·         Fogt, DL, JE Kalns, DJ Michael, WH Cooke. Measurements of fatigue level using heart rate variability data. U.S. Patent: UTSK:420USPI, Filed April 13, 2010.

·         Fogt, DL, JE Kalns, DJ Michael. A comparison of cognitive performance decreases during acute, progressive fatigue arising from different concurrent stressors. Military Medicine 175: 939-944, 2010.

·         Fogt, DL, PJ Cooper, CN Freeman, JE Kalns, WH Cooke. Heart rate variability to assess combat readiness. Military Medicine 174: 491-495, 2009.

·         D Fogt, PJ Cooper, CN Freeman, JE Kalns, WH Cooke. Cardiac interbeat intervals to assess combat readiness. American College of Sports Medicine, Seattle, WA, May 27, 2009.


Capabilities demonstrated through collaboration with U.S. Air Force.

In 2006, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) considered purchasing back-mounted hydration systems for all incoming recruits participating in basic military training. In contrast to the standard issue canteen, a hands-free back mounted hydration system offers seemingly easier access to fluid and consists of a 3 L water reservoir, which is marketed as requiring less refill time in addition to less daily refills.

A collaboration between the 59th Clinical Research Squadron (USAF), Dr. Fogt, and Hyperion Biotechnology, Inc. evaluated whether equipping BMTs with back mounted hydration system (BM) would prove more effective than the standard issue (SI) water canteen with respect to physiological alterations indicative of hydration status during the 5 week USAF Basic Military Training course. We determined that hydration status can be maintained at high levels during USAF BMT in a hot environment using either the standard issue canteen or back mounted hydration systems. The USAF training instructors are promoting adequate hydration practices with the traditional standard issue canteen, which remains a simple and cost effective way to prevent attrition due to the effects of dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Therefore, our data did not support widespread issuance of the back mounted hydration system on the premise of improved hydration during USAF BMT military training.

Relevant Highlights:

·         Fogt, DL, LC Brosch, DC Dacey, JE Kalns, NS Ketchum, P Rohrbeck, MM Venuto, JB Tchandja, ML Brunning. Hydration status of Air Force military basic trainees after implementation of the back-mounted hydration system. Military Medicine 174: 821-827, 2009.

·         L Brosch, D Fogt, J Kalns, D Dacey, A Fitzpatrick, R Kaufman, J Latham, P Rohrbeck, M Venuto, M Brunning. Hydration status of Air Force military trainees after implementation of the back mounted hydration system. (Advanced Technology Applications for Combat Casualty Care (Department of Defense), St. Pete Beach, Florida, August 13-15, 2007).