Dr. George A. Brooks Profile

Dr. Brooks's research focuses on Exercise Physiology and Metabolism, more specifically how the human body uses lactate, fatty acids, carbohydrates, and amino acids.

The Lactate Shuttle
One of the questions being studied in Dr. Brooks's lab is the role lactic acid plays in the human body during exercise.

A working hypothesis to come from his research is the Lactate Shuttle, a mechanism that allows the muscle to utilize lactate as fuel when the muscle uses up its normal source of fuel.

In short, lactate is the link between oxidative metabolism and non-oxidative metabolism.

[View a PowerPoint illustration of the Lactate Shuttle]

Lactate and the Brain
Most recently, Dr. Brooks collaborated with neurosurgeons at UCLA to understand brain metabolism after a traumatic brain injury.

The brain can use lactate, but not glucose. If the brain shuts down and brain lactate is present, the injured have better chances for recovery.

Understanding the mechanism that allows the brain to use lactate has broad implications not just in neurosurgery, but with our overall understanding of the brain. 

Crossover Concept
A second working hypothesis is the Crossover Concept, which describes how the body switches between fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

How does the body select fatty acids, carbohydrates, and amino acids during exercise, while sleeping, or working on the computer?

Dr. Brooks is asking these questions in part to address the obesity epidemic in this country.

Dr. Brooks: Q&A

What led you to the questions you are now investigating in your research?

As a track athlete in college, I became intimately familiar with all the things athletes deal with, such as breathing, circulation, matabolism and nutrition. In reading to understand my own performance I came to realize that there were vast deficiencies in the literature.

So rather than believe antiquated ideas, I decided to become an exercise physiologist. And, the more I learned, the more I realized that lessons learned on the track and in the research have vast implications for human health and disease.

How does your research affect your classroom and/or lab?

My research is about how the body functions, and that's what I teach. My experiences in the lab and in teaching at Berkeley have allowed me to co-author what is widely considered to be the best textbook in the field.

So, my teaching and research are seamless, and in my view, that's what makes a Cal experience. Students being taught by scholars who made the discoveries.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

In the last decade I have been pleased that my research has morphed from the theoretical to the applied. Hence, I have been delighted that my ideas have proven to be useful to scientists and clinicians alike.

IB Research in Daily Life

Several years ago, Dr. Brooks was asked to be a member of a scientifc panel that reviewed the recommended amount of diet and exercise.

One of the more significant changes the panel made was based in part on the research of Dr. Brooks: exercise at least one hour a day, twice the recommendation made by the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health.

November 2005