Dr Leigh Breen PhD, FHEA

Dr Leigh Breen

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Metabolism

Contact details

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Breen's expertise centres on understanding the regulation of muscle metabolism in health and disease. Dr Breen has a particular interest in how exercise and nutritional interventions can modify metabolic processes to enhance musculoskeletal remodelling, leading to improved health and performance outcomes.

Feedback and office hours

Dr Breen's office hours are 3-4pm on Tuesdays. Dr Breen is located in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences.


  • BSc (hons) Sport and Exercise Sciences (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • MSc Exercise Physiology (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • PhD Exercise Metabolism and Nutrition (University of Birmingham)


Dr Breen is affiliated to the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at UoB, who achieved an ‘outstanding’ score in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment, with 90% of research ranked as world-leading/internationally excellent.

Prior to joining UoB in 2013, Dr Breen completed his PhD training at UoB in 2010 under the supervision of experts in the field of Exercise Metabolism. In 2011, Dr Breen received a Young Investigator of the Year Award at the European Congress for Sports Sciences (ECSS) for work involving stable isotope tracers to study muscle protein metabolism in exercising humans. Subsequently, Dr Breen undertook a post-doctoral fellowship in the internationally distinguished laboratory of Prof Stuart Phillips (McMaster University, Canada) investigating the influence of exercise, nutrition, and inactivity on muscle metabolic health across the lifespan. During this time, Dr Breen developed a keen interest in musculoskeletal ageing, and undertook extensive specialist training in stable isotope tracer methodology and muscle biochemistry techniques to characterise mechanisms of age-related musculoskeletal deterioration.

Since re-joining UoB, Dr Breen has continued to develop his research in musculoskeletal metabolism and has substantial funding to support this work (including BBSRC, Wellcome Trust, Abbeyfield Foundation, The Physiological Society). Dr Breen has currently authored/co-authored ~42 publications in the field of exercise, nutrition and musculoskeletal metabolism. Dr Breen has been invited to speak at several international conferences/symposiums and acts as peer-reviewer for many highly respected scientific journals in the exercise, nutrition and muscle metabolism field.


At the undergraduate level, Dr Breen teaches on the 'Molecular of Adaptation to Training’ module as part of the BSc Sport and Exercise Sciences programme (available to 3rd year students). At postgraduate level, Dr Breen is module lead for 'Nutrition and Metabolism', part of the MSc in Exercise and Sports Sciences.

Postgraduate supervision

Currently, Dr Breen’s research group consists of 3 PhD students and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. In addition, since 2013 Dr Breen has successfully supervised 6 MRes and 2 MSc students. Dr Breen welcomes applications from potential post-graduate students with interests aligned to his research agenda.


Dr Breen's expertise centres on understanding the regulation of muscle metabolism in health and disease. Dr Breen has a particular interest in how exercise and nutritional interventions can modify metabolic processes to enhance musculoskeletal remodelling, leading to improved health and performance outcomes. Dr Breen has received extensive training in the use of analytical techniques to study musculoskeletal metabolism in a variety of patient populations at the whole-body and molecular level. More specifically, Dr Breen is interested in how these nutrition and exercise interventions can be applied in:

  •  Athletic populations - To enhance muscle remodelling with different modes of training and improve athletic performance.
  • Older individuals - To maintain/restore muscle mass, functional capacity and improve quality of life.
  • Overweight/obese individuals - To assist in weight management and offset complications associated with metabolic disease.

Other activities

Dr Breen is a certified strength and conditioning coach with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and has a keen interest in the practical application of exercise metabolism and nutrition research.


  • B. Shad, J. Thompson, L. Breen. Does the muscle protein synthetic response to exercise and amino acid-based nutrition diminish in old age? A systematic review. Ageing Research Reviews. 2016 (in review).
  • M. McLeod, L. Breen, L. Hamilton, A. Philp. Live long and prosper: The importance of skeletal muscle strength for healthy ageing. Biogerontol. 2016. Epub ahead of print.
  • J. Mckendry, A. Pérez-López, D. Luo, M. McLeod, B. Smeuninx, J. Yu, A Philp, L. Breen. Short Inter-Set Rest Duration Impairs Resistance Exercise-Induced Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis in Young Males. Exp Physiol; doi: 10.1113/EP085647 [Epub ahead of print].
  • B. J. Shad, B. Smeuninx, P. J. Atherton, L. Breen. The mechanistic and ergogenic effects of phosphatidic acid in skeletal muscle. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015; 40(12): 1233-41.
  • A. Philp, S. Schenk, J. Perez-Schindler, D. L. Hamilton, L. Breen, E. Laverone, S. Jeromson, S. M. Phillips and K. Baar2­. Differential regulation of myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis following acute endurance exercise in mice. J Physiol; 2015. 15; 593(18): 4275-84.
  • M. C. Devries, L. Breen, M. Von Allmen, M. J. MacDonald, D.R. Moore, S. M. Phillips. Low-load resistance training during step-reduction attenuates declines in muscle mass and strength and enhances anabolic sensitivity in older men. Physiol Reports; 2015. 3(8). pii: e12493.
  • A. J. Hector, G. R. Marcotte, T. A. Churchward-Venne, C. H. Murphy, L. Breen, M. von Allmen, S. K. Baker, S. M. Phillips. Whey Protein Supplementation Preserves Postprandial Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis during Short-Term Energy Restriction in Overweight and Obese Adults. J Nutr; 2015; 145(2): 246-52.
  • D. R. Moore, T. A. Churchward-Venne, O. C. Witard, L. Breen, N. A. Burd, K. D. Tipton, S. M. Phillips. Maximal stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis requires a higher relative protein intake in healthy older versus younger men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci; 2014; pii: glu103.
  • J. F. Grosset, L. Breen, C. E. Stewart, K. E. Burgess, G. L. Onambélé. Influence of exercise intensity on training-induced tendon mechanical properties changes in older individuals. AGE. 2014; DOI 10.1007/s11357-014-9657-9.
  • D. Di Donato, D. W. D. West, T. A. Churchward-Venne, L. Breen, S. K. Baker, S. M. Phillips. Aerobic exercise intensity affects skeletal muscle signalling myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis in young men. Am J Physiol Endo; 2014; doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00487.
  • C. McGlory, M. Phil, S. Galloway, D. L. Hamilton, C. McClintock, L. Breen, J. R. Dick, J. G. Bell, K. D. Tipton. Temporal changes in lipid content and anabolic proteins in human skeletal muscle with fish oil supplementation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids; 2014; doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2014.03.001.
  • T. A. Churchward-Venne, L. Breen, D. M. Di Donato, A. J. Hector, C. J Mitchell, D. R. Moore, T. Stellingwerff, D. Breuille, E. A. Offord, S. K Baker, S. M. Phillips. Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men: a double blind, randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.068775.
  • O. C. Witard, S. R. Jackman, L. Breen. K. Smith, A. Selby, K. D. Tipton. Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and following resistance exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; doi; 10.3945/ajcn.112.055517.
  • T. A. Churchward-Venne, L. Breen, S. M. Phillips. Alterations in human muscle protein metabolism with aging: Protein and exercise as countermeasures to offset sarcopenia. Biofactors. 2013; doi: 10.1002/biof.1138.
  • L. Breen, K. A. Stokes, T. A. Churchward-Venne, D. R. Moore, S. K. Baker, K. Smith, P. J. Atherton, S. M. Phillips. Reduced ambulatory activity blunts myofibrillar and mitochondrial muscle protein synthesis and impairs metabolic health in older adults. J Clin Endocrinol & Metab. 2013; 98(6): 2604-12.
  • D. J. Wilkinson, T. Hossain, D. S. Hill, B. E. Phillips, H. Crossland, J. Williams, P. Loughna, T. A. Churchward-Venne, L. Breen, S. M. Phillips, T. Etheridge, J. A. Rathmacher, K. Smith, N. S. Szewczyk, P. J. Atherton. Effects of Leucine and its metabolite, β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on human skeletal muscle protein metabolism. J Physiol. 2013; 591(Pt. 11): 2911-23
  • L. Breen, S. M. Phillips. Interactions between exercise and nutrition to prevent muscle waste during ageing. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013; 75(3): 708-15.
  • M. J. Robinson, Burd, N. A, L. Breen, T. Rerecich, Y. Yang, A. J. Hector, S. K. Baker, S. M. Phillips. Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men. Appl Physiol Nutr & Metab. 2013; 38(2): 120-5.
  • Y. Yang, T. Churchward-Venne, N. A. Burd, L. Breen, M. A. Tarnopolsky, S. M. Phillips. Myofibrillar protein synthesis following ingestion of soy protein isolate at rest and after resistance exercise in elderly men. Nutr & Metab. 2012; 9(57).
  • C. J. Mitchell, T. A. Churchward-Venne, D. W. D. West, N. A. Burd, L. Breen, S. K. Baker, S. M. Phillips. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2012; 113(1): 71-7.
  • L. Breen and T. Churchward-Venne. Invited Perspective - Leucine: The muscles anabolic ‘trigger’, but what more? J Physiol. 2012; 590(pt. 9). 2065-2066.
  • L. Breen and S. M. Phillips. Nutrition Supplement Series: A to Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012; 46(6). 454-456.
  • L. Breen and S. M. Phillips. Nutrient interaction for optimal protein anabolism in resistance exercise. Curr Op Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012; 15(3), 226-232.
  • Y. Yang, L. Breen, N. A. Burd, A. Josse, A. J. Hector, T. Churchward-Venne, M. A. Tarnopolsky, S. M. Phillips. Dose-response of myofibrillar protein synthesis and whole-body protein turnover to protein ingestion with and without resistance exercise in older adults. Brit J Nutr. 2012; 1-9.
  • M. M. Farnfield, L. Breen, K. A. Carey, A. Garnham, D. Cameron-Smith. Activation of mTOR signalling in young and old human skeletal muscle in response to combined resistance exercise and whey protein ingestion. Appl Physiol Nutr & Metab. 2012; 37: 21-30.
  • L. Breen and S. M. Phillips. Skeletal muscle protein metabolism in the elderly and interventions to counteract ‘anabolic resistance’. Nutr & Metab. 2011; 8(68).
  • L. Breen, A. Philp, O. C. Witard, S. R. Jackman, A. Selby, K. Smith, K. Baar, K. D. Tipton. The influence of carbohydrate-protein co-ingestion following endurance exercise on myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis. J Physiol. 2011; 589(16), 4011-4025.
  • N. A. Burd, D. W. D. West, D. M. Camera, L. Breen. The no-growth ‘growth-factor’: no role for early IGF-1 signalling in ‘bulking’ up muscles. J Physiol. 2011; 589(11), 2667-8.
  • L. Breen, A. Philp, C. S. Shaw, A. E. Jeukendrup, K. Baar, K. D. Tipton. Beneficial effects of resistance exercise on glycemic control are not further improved by protein ingestion. PLoS ONE. 2011; 6(6), e20613.
  • L. Breen, K. D. Tipton, A. E. Jeukendrup. No effect of carbohydrate-protein on cycling performance and indices of recovery. Med Sci Sports Ex. 2010; 42(6), 1140-48.
  • G. N. L. Onambélé-Pearson, L. Breen, C. E. Stewart. Influences of carbohydrate plus amino acid supplementation on differing exercise intensity adaptations in older persons: skeletal muscle and endocrine responses. Age. 2010; 32(2), 125-38.
  • G. N. L.Onambélé-Pearson, L. Breen, C. E. Stewart. Influences of Exercise Intensity in Older Persons with Unchanged Habitual Nutritional Intake: Skeletal Muscle and Endocrine Adaptations. Age. 2010; 32(2), 139-53.
  • K. E. Burgess, S. J. Pearson, L. Breen, G. N. L. Onambélé. Tendon mechanical properties in elderly populations: effect of gender. Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 2009; 27(6), 820-5.
  • L. Breen, G. N. L. Onambélé-Pearson, C. E. Stewart. Functional benefits of combined resistance training with nutritional interventions in older adults: A review. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 2007; 7, 326-40.

View all publications in research portal