Professorial Inaugural Lecture by Professor John O'Hara
From the Laboratory to the Mountain and back again
Professor John O’Hara’s research journey has been wide-ranging, including interests in the applied and hard sciences. His particular passions are exercise metabolism in relation to sports performance and the effects of high altitude on the human body.
In this lecture entitled From the Laboratory to the Mountain and back again, John will summarise his research evaluating the effects of ingesting different types of carbohydrates before and during exercise on fuel use and exercise performance. From his laboratory studies at sea level he will highlight that not all types of carbohydrates are equal and that different strategies before and during exercise may be beneficial for optimal fuel use and exercise performance. Professor O’Hara will also talk about his research on post-exercise liver and muscle glycogen repletion for subsequent exercise performance.
In addition, he will discuss his most recent work, which has taken the laboratory to the mountain to assess fuel use during exercise. He will focus on these unique data, which challenge the assumptions of the existing literature on fuel use at altitude. Furthermore, John will provide insights into his future laboratory-based research.
John O'Hara is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Physiology.
John has been at Leeds Beckett University for nearly 22 years, based at Headingley Campus. He started there as an undergraduate student on the BSc in Sport and Exercise Science in 1995, before completing a Masters in Sport and Exercise Science. Throughout this period he was mentored by Professor Carlton Cooke, who started off his academic career by initially employing him as a research assistant and part-time lecturer. He then went on to work as a full-time lecturer and was subsequently promoted to Senior and then Principal Lecturer, achieving a Readership in 2012.
During the early part of his academic career with Leeds Beckett he went onto complete his PhD with Professor Roderick King. His PhD studies focussed on pre-exercise carbohydrate ingestion: rebound hypoglycaemia, fuel utilisation and endurance capacity in male cyclists. This research set a consistent theme of fuelling before, during and after exercise, which continues to run through his research today. In 2011, John was awarded a ‘Promising Research Fellowship’, which allowed him to develop a key research collaboration with Professor Tom Preston and Dr Douglas Morrison at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. This enabled him to integrate the use of stable mass isotopes into his research and that of his PhD students, to assess exogenous and endogenous (liver and muscle) carbohydrate oxidation during exercise. This collaborative approach underpins his research philosophy, and has also allowed him to use magnetic resonance spectrometry and muscle biopsy techniques to evaluate the repletion of glycogen in the liver and muscle post-exercise.
John has many other research interests, and has always had curiosity for how the body functions at altitude, being a keen outdoor enthusiast. As an accredited sport scientist with the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, he has led the support of several high altitude expeditions. This has included the Army’s attempt to summit Mount Everest via the West Ridge in 2006, which was led by Dave Bunting MBE. In 2013, John was award a ‘Research Leadership Award’ to develop research collaborations with Professor David Woods and the Defence Medical Services. This award allowed the evaluation of fuel use, cardiac and hormonal responses at altitude, as well as assessing the differences in physiological responses between simulated and terrestrial altitude. The success of this collaboration has more recently been played out through John leading the University’s involvement in the British Services Medical Research Expedition to Dhaulagiri in 2016.