Essentially, there are two things. First, protein turnover occurs and when protein breakdown supersedes protein synthesis, you lose muscle (which makes sense). Second, stimulating protein synthesis is a bit more difficult as you age. From what we know, stimulating the process of building new proteins requires a threshold; a threshold of protein and leucine.
For example, in young individuals, around 20-25 grams of high quality, bioavailable protein with 2-4 grams of leucine will stimulate protein synthesis. For older individuals however, it seems that even though protein synthesis can be stimulated, the actual response is lower. This means that for any given amount of protein, the muscle building response will be lower for older individuals. Thus, it makes sense that the first line of defense might be to simply increase the amount of protein being consumed during each meal or snack, to essentially overcome this decrement.
In this image, we see the protein synthetic response to just 20g of protein in both young and elderly individuals. As you can see, elderly still have the ability to stimulate protein synthesis, but the reaction is much lower. For younger individuals, the muscle building response to a given amount of protein is higher, compared to elderly consuming the same amount.
Essentially, this means that as you age, the response to protein diminishes and becomes weaker than when you're young. This means that ingesting higher amounts (like 40 grams instead of 20 grams) is probably adventageous for older individuals looking to stave off age-related muscle loss.
Eating Protein Before Bed And The Elderly
In response to the fact that with age, muscle loss occurs and protein synthesis decreases, a team of researchers tested how pre-bed protein ingestion might affect protein synthesis. Further, considering the fact that protein synthetic responses to food might diminish with age, they had multiple groups of varying protein ingestion amounts to observe any differences.
In this study, 48 older mean (mean age = 72) were randomly placed into 1 of 3 different testing groups.
Shortly after consumption, the subjects went to sleep while getting blood drawn (without waking) at regular intervals throughout the night to assess how their body's responded to the different protein amounts.
Essentially, this setup allows the researchers to first, observe how different dosages of protein influence protein synthesis and second, whether or not leucine is the major driver (group 3). This allows them to observe if the age-related decline is more associated with the total amount of amino acids present, or if it's an issue of stimulating the process in the first place.
The results showed that by and large, having a higher dose of protein before bed and even just a protein source, regardless of amount was beneficial in terms of stimulating the processes that prevent muscle loss
In these graphs, we see levels of amino acids that are in the blood, available to be used for building new proteins. As you can see, amino acid availability was highest and lasted the longest when 40 grams of protein were consumed.
In response to ingesting protein, it seems pretty cut and dry that at least consuming 20 grams of protein before bed time is very adventageous for older individuals looking to potentially reduce age-related muscle decline. Even further, when protein amounts were increased to 40 grams, protein synthesis was significantly higher, breakdown was lower and net balance (protein turnover) was overwhelmingly positive, meaning that synthesis was greater than breakdown.
Considering the findings, it seems quite clear that ingestion of some form of protein, at least casein in this case, can be quite beneficial for older individuals looking to reduce age-related muscle loss. While 20 grams will be better than nothing, it seems that having a higher amount is a bit better of an idea, simply because it's more effective.
If you have an elderly relative or friend, or happen to be in a position of providing advice to the elderly, suggesting that they begin using some form of protein supplement before bed may be extremely valuable in helping them retain their muscle mass and function. This could be further compounded if they decide to also use a resistance training protocol as well.
Why This Should Matter To You
Age-related muscle decline is a very real issue, and not only for males. While resistance training is one of the best ways to combat this issue, the simple act of consuming a protein shake is a bit easier and likely easier to get your grandparents to comply. Just the simple act of consuming protein before bed, regularly could be the difference between elderly individuals being able to take care of themselves, or potentially even prevent a future injury.
Considering the nature of the intervention in this study, the results are extremely relevant and fairly easy to employ for just about anyone.
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Can Heat Exposure Get You Jacked?
Have you ever used the sauna at your gym, either before or after you lift? Now, there’s research that might be indicating that that trip to the sauna might be doing a bit more than simply “warming up” your muscles or helping to “sweat out the toxins.”
No, today we’re talking about some really cool information that leads us to believe that using the sauna regularly might actually help increase your muscle size, when combined with a sound resistance training and nutrition protocol.
At first, it seems a bit weird. Going in the sauna to build muscle? Sounds a bit too good to be true.
However, just as with cold, the body needs to respond to heat in order to survive and one of the main mechanisms it does so is by increasing expression of what are know and Heat Shock Proteins (HSP).
Interestingly, there have been quite a few studies completed that seem to indicate having some heat exposure will lead to greater increases of mass. While some are in rats, others are not, which begs the question of whether or not this is actually legitimate.
The main reason why this idea has even been considered is because of the role that HSPs play. Apparently, these proteins play a role in translation, one of the final steps of protein synthesis. It’s thus thought that by inducing expression of these proteins, that protein synthesis may be amplified.
To be clear, this isn’t a smoking gun like steroids, but yet one of the other potential tools that you may want to consider.
It's at least seems plausible that the addition of direct heat exposure in accordance with a resistance protocol may in fact increase signaling of specific pathways associated with protein synthesis. It’s then possible that adding some form of heat therapy along with training may increase the rate of growth and recovery.
The purpose of the study was to observe the protein synthetic response to resistance training alone in untrained individuals and then study them when exposed to some form of heat and exercise.
Researchers recruited 8 healthy, untrained males and placed them into the study protocol, which lasted 5 weeks in total, with only two resistance training sessions, separated by 3 week washout periods. This was a randomized crossover design, meaning that all participants were included in both experimental procedures.
In session 1, subjects were exposed to a single leg, isokinetic leg extension protocol, of 4 sets of 6 reps without exposure to external heat; before which, muscle biopsies were taken. Upon completion of the protocol, muscle biopsies were taken.
Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a standard in the field. It’s a shame that we can’t see these things with full resistance protocols, but such is research. In order to keep tight control and to be able to see some bit of "cause and effect" this sort of research is needed. However, it does in fact at least open the door for future research that is more relevant in the real world.
In session 2, these same subjects underwent the same protocol with the opposite leg. Only this time, the subject’s exercised leg was exposed to a microwave therapy unit, which is meant to induce similar reactions in the muscle, as would exposure to true heat. Again, upon completion, biopsies were once again taken from the trained limb and then once more, at 1 hour post exercise.
When exposed to heat, molecular responses to resistance training, which we think are relevant for muscle growth, were significantly increased.
Here, with Akt phosphorylation, we can see that there was a significant increase at the 1-hour post exercise mark, only for the heat exposure group. This is important because Akt is an upstream mediator of mTOR, which is largely regarded to be a primary player of initiating protein synthesis.
Overall, seeing significant increases of Akt phosphorylation with heat compared to no heat, is certainly enticing to say the lease.
Then unsurprisingly, we see a significant increase of mTOR phosphorylation, only for the heat exposure group.
Based on these findings, it's at least seems plausible that the addition of direct heat exposure in accordance with a resistance protocol may in fact increase signaling of specific pathways associated with protein synthesis. It’s then possible that adding some form of heat therapy along with training may increase the rate of growth and recovery.
Take These Findings With A Grain Of Salt
The Training Plan Was Lackluster
Keep in mind that this is a laboratory study, where muscle biopsies were taken and control needed to remain very high. The type of exercise completed during this study is not very similar to what you would expect in the real world.
However, that’s not necessarily cause for dismissing the results.
The training program used and the population of which it was used on was appropriate given the circumstances, since their goal was to stimulate some form of overload-induced protein synthesis.
Just understand that any responses observed here may be drastically smaller than what would be observed with a full resistance training protocol, that is used more often.
Remember that the point of this study was not to determine muscle growth, but observe the effect of heat on certain parts of the muscle building process. We cannot directly assert that heat exposure will actually result in more growth. Just that it seems to positively affect certain aspects of the process.
Unknown If Real World Heat Will Work
Keep in mind that the researchers used a heating unit that costs around 10 grand, and uses microwave technology to specifically heat muscles. This may and likely is, far different from whole body heat exposure that you would get from a sauna or hot tub.
In the case of whole body exposure, it may take much longer to activate the same responses within specific muscles using a sauna or hot tub, compared to what they used in this study.
You just need to keep in mind that spending 5 minutes in the sauna every once in a while will probably not produce similar responses.
It’s likely that you’ll need to regularly expose yourself to heat for fairly long durations, and you’ll need to do it consistently. But you can also get creative. For example, you could probably dangle your legs in a hot tub after a leg workout to get more direct heat exposure to those specific muscle groups.
This Is Just Another Tool
Mainstream media likes to take these recommendations and say stupid stuff like “1 glass of wine as good as an hour of exercise!”
First, no it isn’t and second, I don’t want you to assume that exposing yourself to heat will build an appreciable amount of muscle, because it probably won’t.
I place this suggestion in the same category as a nutritional supplement. The benefit is likely minimal, but If used regularly and consistently, may provide some long-term benefit. One that probably isn’t terribly noticeable.
However, this research does indicate an interesting idea to say the least, and it’s one that you can use with ease and with fairly minimal risk to your overall health. I can tell you that I for one will be implementing sauna and hot tub exposure more regularly after my training sessions.
Using This Information
Based on the findings of this study, heat exposure may actually be a meaningful additive to your training program. Personally, I suggest using it similarly to your protein in that you can expose yourself to heat, around the training session.
This would mean something like sitting in the sauna before or after training or doing so afterwards.
Just keep in mind that when using these types of heat methods, you need to actually increase the temperature of your whole body or at least find some way to directly heat the target muscle (legs in a hot tub).
Because of this, I suggest trying to stay in a sauna or hot tub for at least 15-minute variables.
Personally, my goal is on training days to spend at least 15-minutes completely exposed, in either a hot tub or sauna, after workouts. On rest days, I’m going to try doing 15-minute intervals, for extended periods of time.
Just ensure that you’re always safe. Don’t spend ridiculous amounts of time in either the sauna or hot tub, as it can become unsafe. When in doubt, always have a partner and err on the side of caution.
So, will heat exposure increase muscle mass? At this point, it’s difficult to say. The protocols used in this study were lackluster, and they used a heating device that is 10 grand and only applicable in the laboratory.
It’s hard to say whether or not consistent, full body heat exposure will produce the same results, but the idea is theoretically sound.
Overall, I suggest placing heat exposure in the same category as supplements like creatine in that it might work, but only if used consistently. Further, any benefit you do observe, will likely be minimal and probably one of those benefits that you never directly notice.
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Test Yourself On This Subject
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In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about the really cool subject of circadian rhythm and how it influences just about everything in our daily lives from being able to sleep and wake at a similar time each day, all the way to how we search for and digest food.
Your circadian rhythm rules far more than you could ever really consider, and these researchers believe that the patterns of eating you display, play a major role in how the body functions.
Keep in mind, some of the terms that will be introduced here may be a bit confusing, but I’ll do my best to clarify them as best I can. As you'll soon find out though, the actual suggestions from this information will be fairly easy to employ.
A Brief Summary Of Circadian Rhythm
Our circadian rhythm is a process that incorporates many different stimuli, ranging from our environment, like sunlight or lack thereof, as well as the food availability we have. However, that’s a very broad description.
Technically, the environment provides what are known as zeitgebers. Zeitgebers are essentially cues in the environment that then stimulate some process in the body. Light from the sun, for example, is the most apparent of all zeitgebers. The sun in most of us, acts as a cue to wake. In current times, it’s effect is not as apparent, but spend a few days camping without a phone and you’ll soon understand the power of the sun in influencing your sleep/wake cycle.
As the sun rises, it initiates hormonal output in the body, which leads to us waking from slumber. After a day or so of repeatedly waking at a similar time, due to the sun rising, this creates a coordinated symphony of hormonal responses, which leads to you sleeping and waking at a fairly normal time.
It’s sort of like how when you have a normal schedule of waking, you might occasionally wake at the same time, yet do so without an alarm. In this case, your alarm would be some form of zeitgeber, which if utilized repeatedly, would create a typical schedule that the body responds to.
Light / Dark is a zeitgeber, which influences the response of the Suprchiasmatic nucleus (the main coordinator of circadian rhythm). In the periphery however, you also have Food Entrainable Oscillators, which are cells that respond according to your schedule of eating. When food is present, this send signals, which then initiate hormonal responses, which then influence hunger and satiety. It's a beautiful symphony of responding to stimuli, which at one point, probably meant the difference between successfully foraging for food, or dying.
As you can see in the image above, food availability or when you typically eat also acts as a zeitgeber, which then influences important hormones such as ghrelin, leptin and even hormones like cortisol and insulin. And as we’ll get into, this can actually be a powerful tool for successfully dieting, without really making much of an effort.
Your circadian rhythm extends further than simply how you sleep and wake. Cues in the environment such as light, you alarm and even food availability influence hormonal responses in the body. When you have a fixed schedule of waking and sleeping and even eating, you can potentially optimize this whole process, which may help positively influence your life.
A Brief Explanation, Continued
I wanted to make sure I added this section so that you have a bit better understanding of how this actually works.
Your circadian rhythm or this synchronized response to the environment begins up in the brain, in a region known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is located in the hypothalamus. This for example, is labeled SCN in the image above.
From here, you also have what are known as entrainable oscillators. These are cells in other tissue outside of the brain, such as the stomach, adrenal glands, liver, etc. (see previous image for more).
For the most part, you can consider the SCN as the mob boss and the oscillator cells in the periphery to be its minions. The SCN coordinates everything to get these oscillators on track with the “master” rhythm but the responses from the minions can influence how the boss (SCN) responds.
Overall, the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, located in the brain, controls circadian rhythm, but cells in the periphery also play an integral role by sending feedback of food availability. Essentially, the pattern that you eat food "trains" these cells to respond accordingly, which then influences how the entire system functions.
How This Relates To Meal Timing
As mentioned, within the periphery you hold these oscillator cells, which respond to stimuli and coordinate these stimuli with the entire circadian rhythm system.
For example, cells within the stomach contain what are known as Food Entrainable Oscillators or FEOs for short. These are cells that adjust their function, based on when food is regularly available.
In this case, these are extremely important since these cells contain ghrelin, the hunger hormone. When released, this hormone leads to hunger and of course searching for food.
The crazy thing is that when these cells are activated according to a normal schedule of food availability, these cells release ghrelin in anticipation of the normal feeding schedule.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
As you can see, once you’re in a normal schedule of eating, you can expect that just before a normal scheduled eating period, ghrelin secretion increases, stimulating hunger, which leads to you searching for and consuming food.
Thus, it stands to reason that you should be able to “train” and manage hunger, simply by eating at fairly regular intervals, each day.
Cells that release the hunger hormone, ghrelin, seem to act according to a typical schedule of eating, being secreted prior to when you normally eat. This is a survival mechanism to ensure that you search for food. Theoretically, you should be able to train these cells to secrete ghrelin according to scheduled intervals, which may be very powerful for controlling hunger and thus managing food intake.
When considering this scenario, we also can’t forget about leptin secretion, which is essentially our counterpart to ghrelin.
Leptin acts a satiety hormone, to essentially indicate when you’ve had enough food. This hormone, secreted by adipose tissue (fat) is essentially meant to act as a mechanism to ensure that we stop eating when we’re full and also so that we dial back food intake when we’ve reached a high enough body fat level.
In obese individuals, we actually see leptin resistance. Since body fat is so high, you’d expect there to be a high level of leptin, telling the brain to stop food intake. At a certain point though, it seems leptin simply doesn’t work as well as intended, creating this perpetual loop of consuming food when it isn’t required.
Anyways, this routine of ghrelin secretion before meals and leptin secretion after can create a perfect environment of managing hunger and then ceasing food intake when it’s appropriate.
What This Means For You
Essentially, this all means that if you want to easily manage your food intake, regardless of your eating habits, it’s best to attempt to create a fairly normal schedule of eating.
In light of not diverging too much, this whole concept is one of the most important factors in the success that many find with intermittent fasting.
For the most part, you’re just shifting this circadian rhythm to coincide with your fasting schedule. It’s also in my opinion, one of the reasons why paradoxically, most don’t experience hunger while fasting.
Since expressions of ghrelin-containing cells are regularly inactive during the fasting period, there’s no secretion, which means you just simply don’t get hungry. But I digress.
Overall, it seems quite clear that if you want an optimal eating pattern and even appropriate hormonal response to the eating pattern, having a fairly regular schedule of eating and not eating would be advised.
To understand the power of this process, I suggest attempting to have a fairly normal eating schedule, regardless of the format you’re using. If you want to have 4 meals a day, that’s fine and if you want to use some form of fasting, that’s also fine.
Just keep in mind that regardless of the format of your eating, to leverage the potential of this information, you should have a fairly regular schedule of eating.
Your schedule of eating may play a far more significant role than you think. It seems that your schedule of eating influences how the body functions in terms of response to food, including hunger prior to eating and of course, satiety after.
Being able to control hunger is the million dollar questions in terms of weight loss. Fortunately, the simple act of eating according to a schedule might just be the answer you need to successfully manage food intake.
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Yes, lower meal frequency displayed more optimal attributes, but it's difficult to say what will happen long term... However, we can see that with lower meal frequency, weight loss variables such as [hunger, satiety, metabolic rate, insulin and glucose control] were all favorably adjusted...
Meal Frequency: The Argument Rages On...
Meal frequency or how often you consume food has been a topic of discussion for years.
Many people take meal frequency to actually be a driving force behind how your metabolism functions and further, how easily you lose weight.
It’s postulated that by having fewer meals, and thus larger ones, you create this metabolic environment that is unsuitable for markers of health. It’s thought that because of the large amount of food, this leads to higher insulin secretion, poorer control over blood glucose and potentially higher levels of hunger in between.
Additionally, many people at least somewhat literate with exercise science believe that a higher frequency of eating will “stoke the metabolic fire” even though this theory has been pretty much debunked.
It’s because of many of these thoughts that the scientists in the present study tested subjects for 36 hours multiple times in a metabolic ward and evaluated insulin, blood glucose responses, relative appetite and also how the body utilized nutrients when meal frequency is higher and of course, lower.
12 male participants, under the age of 40 were recruited for this study. The authors mentioned that this was an all male study to avoid potential differences of energy expenditure at the hands of menstrual cycle fluctuations.
After initial screening, all preliminary tests were taken (glucose testing, insulin testing, etc.). Further, this study took place inside of a metabolic ward, essentially a chamber that monitors gas exchange (what fuels your body is burning).
Upon beginning, subjects were placed into 1 of 2 groups. Group one consumed total calories within 3 meals while group two consumed total calories across a total of 14 meals. Measurements indicated that total energy intake did not differ between groups, meaning that frequency of meal intake rather than total calorie intake is what’s being evaluated here.
This study was a 2-way crossover design that included a washout period of at least 1 week. This means that both groups completed both trials but waited at least 1 week in between. This is fairly standard for a crossover design and this allows researchers to observe reactions to both protocols to avoid potential outliers or mishaps.
Each time each participant entered the metabolic chamber, testing proceeded for 36 hours. During that time, all energy intake, expenditure and other testing (insulin, glucose, nutrient partitioning, etc) was completed.
Summary Of Procedures
12 males participated in a crossover design, testing the effect of low frequency (3 meals) versus high frequency (14 meals) of the same calorie amount on measurements like insulin control, glucose control, appetite and how the body actually uses nutrients when consumed. This was completed in a metabolic ward, increasing the confidence we have in the measurements reported.
Energy Expenditure & Nutrient Partitioning
As you can see, energy intake between groups was not different. However, we see two distinct areas in which the differing meal frequencies did have some effect.
Interestingly, we actually see a significant difference in Rest Metabolic Rate (RMR) between groups. And more interesting is that the low frequency meal group actually displayed a higher RMR than the high frequency group, which goes in the face of most people’s idea of higher frequency meal consumption.
Second, it’s important to point out the increase in protein oxidation with lower frequency. At first glance, this may be reason for alarm, but really, it’s just because the amount of protein per meal is higher.
When a large bolus of protein is consumed, the amount of protein that gets oxidized just increases for a number of different reasons. But that makes sense. The body is constantly oxidizing proteins and synthesizing new ones. It makes sense that as protein intake increases, so to would the body’s responses of oxidation and synthesis (2).
Overall, there were no major differences between the two groups apart from potential benefit in terms of RMR for the low frequency group. The change in protein oxidation is likely explained by the larger amount of protein per meal and lis likely not cause for concern.
Metabolic Markers (Glucose, Insulin & Free Fatty Acids)
When measuring blood glucose and insulin responses, we see a fairly typical response here. For the low frequency group, we see distinct time points in which insulin is elevated, which reflects when food was consumed. In the higher frequency group however, we don’t really see any large spikes, which makes sense because the insulin response would be relative to the amount of glucose ingested and the type of carbohydrate consumed (more + fast glucose = larger insulin response).
In terms of free fatty acid availability, it’s difficult to know if this is relevant, especially because total fat oxidation wasn’t different between groups. It’s important to at least point out that even though the low frequency diet had a tendency for higher amounts of free fatty acids, that didn’t actually result in more fat being oxidized. Thus, even though it might free the fat from cells, you still need to metabolize them for energy to actually see any meaningful body composition change. Keep in mind that long term that might be relevant.
Hunger & Satiety
In what might actually be the most important variable, we can see that when larger meals were consumed, we see a drastic dip in hunger and a drastic uptick in satiety, compared to higher frequency, which really had almost no effect.
This is highly relevant and important since hunger is one of the biggest reasons diets fail. By consuming larger meals, digestion slows and you stay fuller for longer, allowing for better control over appetite.
The effect that larger meals with lower frequencies has on appetite and feelings of fullness cannot be discounted here.
This Was Very Short Term
Keep in mind that the time points that individuals were studied was a very short amount of time, evaluating specific responses to food and food frequencies.
Thus, the findings here are not indicative of what will happen long term. However, it’s likely that the effect of lower frequency, larger size meals on appetite and satiety may actually be relevant long term.
Keep in mind, in other articles, I’ve discussed how ghrelin cells that secrete the hunger hormone ghrelin, operate on a circadian rhythm of when you normally eat, secreting just before meals.
Theoretically, if you’re on a higher frequency diet schedule and these cells adapt, you may be having secretions of ghrelin making your hungry, very often throughout the day, which might make dieting much more difficult. Keep in mind this is theoretical but certainly plausible.
14 Meals May Be A Bit High
Make sure to notice that 14 meals is a bit high and not recommended. There’s simply no reason to consume this amount of meals. Not to mention, unless you’re consuming 4 thousand calories a day, the amount of protein you're consuming per meal may be inadequate for actually stimulating muscle growth. Studies indicate there is a certainly threshold that needs to be hit and if you’re only consuming 10-15 grams per meal, you may not be hitting it (3).
A better approach would be to have a maximum of 5-6 meals per day, all containing 30+ grams of high quality protein. In that case, we might see a difference.
Individual Responses Don’t Always Paint The full Picture
It’s important to remember that even though many of these measurements may play a role in weight changes, no single one is indicative of what will happen.
Surely, we see more optimal responses with lower frequency compared to higher frequency. Better insulin and glucose control, better control over appetite and satiety, etc. Together, those variables make a decent diet.
But remember with studies like this, we don’t see a huge effect on either side. Yes, lower frequency displayed more optimal attributes but it’s difficult to say what will happen long term. Surely many people have found success with higher frequency diets so it’s still possible.
However, we can see that with lower frequencies, most variables that are relevant to weight loss (hunger, metabolic rate, insulin and glucose control) were favorably changed with lower frequencies. Thus, it at least reveals that initially, lower frequencies may be appropriate.
How To Use This Information
Overall, it seems that having a lower frequency of meal intake might be optimal. Keep in mind though that’s relevant to your food intake.
If for example, you’re consuming 200 grams of protein per day, you may need to increase the number of meals you eat. Just keep most of them similar in terms of energy and protein amount per meal.
Additionally, other research indicates that having regularly dispersed dosages of adequate amounts of protein is best for building and maintaining muscle. Thus, consider dispersing your meals to ensure that you’re consuming in the range of 30-60 grams of protein per meal (4).
Overall, it seems fairly obvious that there isn’t a huge benefit of higher frequency meals and doing so may actually be ill advised. However, we don’t know how this would change if the higher frequency of meal intakes was more like 5-6, rather than 14.
While 3 even meals may be appropriate, 14 small meals certainly are not.
Why This Should Matter To You
Many people accidentally assume that higher frequency meals would potentially be more advantageous for weight loss, but a mounting body of evidence, including the present, indicates that’s probably not the answer. Further, if you’re hoping to favorably adjust your body composition, this information gives you additional guidance to do so.
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Why This Should Matter To You: Many people have made claims that rest periods have to be short for growth. However, this information clearly shows us that having “adequate” rest is probably far more important for growth than any potentially side effects of shorter rest periods. It matters because it provides really important information about optimizing your training. This study showed almost double the growth with just a 2-minute increase of rest between sets. I’ll let you figure out why this is important.
Purpose Of The Study
The purpose of the study in question was to evaluate differing responses to resistance training when rest periods are only 1 minute long (SHORT), compared to 3 minutes (LONG).
Essentially, there is this school of thought that rest periods should be kept to a minimum for a number of different reasons. First would be a large increase of metabolic stress (the pump). Since the time frame of clearing metabolites is short, it’s often not ample enough, leading to a build up.
Second, it’s thought that muscle fatigue is a driver of hypertrophy and thus if fatigue increases as a result of short rest periods, this may hypothetically advantageous.
Essentially, this group of scientists wanted to observe whether or not shorter rest periods are actually advantageous for growth or if it’s a better idea to rest longer.
23 male volunteers were recruited for this study and were considered to be resistance trained. Only 21 finished due to non-compliance.
Once accepted into the study, subjects were placed into 1 of 2 groups, groups being according to rest length. The SHORT group completed resistance training with 1-minute rest while LONG completed resistance training with 3 minutes of rest.
All participants took part in the same resistance training protocol. The only manipulation was the rest period duration.
For a period of 8 weeks, subjects participated in resistance training 3 times per week, using a full body, bodybuilding routine consisting of 7 exercises including:
Sets were performed 8-12 repetitions per sets, for 3 sets per exercise, taken to failure.
It’s important to note that having a range of reps here is appropriate. Theoretically, the longer rest periods should allow for higher amounts of repetitions (volume), which may be advantageous for growth.
Additionally, measurements of growth were obtained. First, ultra sound was used at the beginning of the study and at the end, to observe changes in muscle thickness. Additionally, tests for muscle strength and muscle endurance were taken. Lastly, total volume load was calculated to allow us to observe the difference in volume afforded by each rest period and then compare that to the findings.
Total volume load was significantly greater for the LONG rest group compared to the SHORT rest group (51,385 ± 9420 vs. 44,755 ± 12,166 kg, respectively).
The LONG rest group increased elbow flexor muscle thickness by 5.4% compared to only 2.8% (non-significant) in the short duration group. LONG rest wins here.
LONG group increased Triceps Brachii thickness by 7.0% compared to only 0.5% in the SHORT rest group.
Both groups observed significant increases over that of baseline, but only LONG was significantly different from SHORT. In fact, the increase for LONG was about double that of SHORT. 13.3% increase for long compared to 6.9% for SHORT. Both were significantly increased from baseline. LONG was significantly greater at post than pre training AND that of the change for SHORT.
Both groups observed significant increases of muscle thickness for the Vastus Lateralis (outside quadriceps muscle) compared to baseline. 11.5% increase for LONG cared to 10% increase for SHORT.
Bottom line: Almost every measurement for muscle thickness favored LONG duration rest periods. In some cases, the advantages were almost double in favor of LONG rest.
1 RM Squat
There were significantly greater increases in 1 RM squat strength for LONG compared to short. While both showed significant improvements, the LONG group displayed a 15.2% increase of strength compared to only 7.6% increase for the SHORT group.
1 RM Bench
Only the LONG group displayed a significant increase of 12.7% compared to only 4.1% observed for the SHORT duration rest group.
Bottom line: LONG duration rest periods were favored all around for improvements of strength.
Both groups displayed a significant improvement in Muscle endurance performance (50% of 1 RM to failure). LONG displayed a 23.2% increase where SHORT displayed a 13.0 % increase. As you can see, LONG displayed almost a double increase over that of SHORT, despite them both being significant improvements from baseline.
Overall, based on these findings, it seems fairly straight forward that LONG rest periods of around 3 minutes are superior compared to much shorter duration rest periods, with the specific goal of increasing hypertrophy, strength and endurance.
Keep in mind that while this study showed pretty much conclusively that longer rest periods are beneficial for growth, shorter rest periods still have their place. If your goal is fat loss, moving your anaerobic threshold or if you want a high level of fitness (think crossfit) then shorter rest periods will provide their own benefit.
However, if your goal is increasing muscle thickness and strength, rest periods should be taken advantage of. Clearly the benefits of resting a bit longer outweigh the theoretical and unproven benefit of shorter rest periods, specifically in terms of muscle growth, strength and strength endurance.
I suggest for most workouts, keeping rest periods for larger compound movements around 3 minutes with isolation movements curtailed back to around 2 minutes. Isolation movements typically require a bit less rest than larger movements. Plus, having 3 minute rest periods between every set may become quite time consuming if you have many exercises to do.
Just keep in mind that longer rest periods are probably more advantageous if your goals are increasing strength and muscle size.
The Results Aren’t Surprising
Really, the findings aren’t surprising at all. If you’re to consider that above all else, total volume increases are probably the number on driver of growth, then it makes sense that we saw the differences we did in this study.
Having a longer duration of rest allows for the muscle to recover and metabolites to be cleared from the muscle, allowing for a higher ability to contract and to contract for a longer period of time than compared to much shorter durations of rest.
Having longer rest periods means more recovery and more ability once you end up actually doing the set. I mean, is it surprising that 3 minutes of rest would allow you to recover to a greater extent than only 1 minute? Not to mention, is it then surprising that longer durations would mean greater effort put forth during each set?
Personally, it’s not surprising at all. If volume is a major determinant of muscle growth, it makes sense that if longer rest periods allow you to increase that amount, then it should theoretically lead to greater gains.
There Was A Clear Winner
Rather than continuing to regurgitate what I’ve already said, let me say it one last time. Overall, LONG rest was superior and in fact, many of the measurements showed almost double the growth of the SHORT duration group.
Granted, SHORT rest periods may be advantageous for a number of different scenarios such as fatigue resistance, anaerobic threshold (repeated sprint ability), fat loss, metabolic conditioning, etc. So, shorter rest periods can’t be discounted.
But if the goal is increasing strength and muscle growth, we have to consider the most important aspects. For me, that’s ensuring that neural drive recovers (strength) and fiber recovery and metabolite clearance on the muscle growth side.
Having longer duration rest periods allows you to maximize both of those aspects. Sure, metabolic stress or the pump might be important but if your sets are intense enough, maintaining a pump after only 3 minutes of rest probably won’t be an issue.
Overall, LONGer rest periods won in just about every scenario.
Why This Should Matter To You
Many people have made claims that rest periods have to be short for growth. However, this information clearly shows us that having “adequate” rest is probably far more important for growth than any potentially side effects of shorter rest periods. It matters because it provides really important information about optimizing your training. This study showed almost double the growth with just a 2-minute increase of rest between sets. I’ll let you figure out why this is important.
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The purpose of the study was to evaluate how supplementing with creatine affects levels of strength when the subject is practicing a concurrent training approach.
Unfortunately, when you're providing the body with differing signals (resistance and endurance), the ability of the body to fully take advantage of both, becomes impaired, which means that neither adaptation is getting the love it needs to thrive. This is why most bodybuilders and powerlifters don't run and why most endurance runners don't lift like a bodybuilder.
Why Study This?
First and foremost, this is extremely valuable for a number of different populations. People that are athletes, active military or are just plain active all the time can benefit from this information.
See, strength training and endurance training have differing adaptations. When you lift, you get stronger. When you run you become fatigue resistant. Unfortunately, the mechanisms that drive these adaptations are actually polar opposites of one another and if you want to use both, typically one of the two variables suffers. Either you lose fatigue resistance or you lose strength. Being able to appropriately manage both is what makes champions.
If creatine is able to reduce strength loss at the hand of endurance training, this could revolutionize athletic ability.
31 resistance training individuals were recruited for the study. Upon being accepted, subjects underwent a V02 max test, anaerobic threshold testing and 1 RM and strength endurance (4 x 80% of 1 RM to failure) measurements on Leg Press and Bench Press. Here's a table of measurements taken at baseline:
Upon completion of baseline testing, subjects were placed into a group receiving Creatine supplementation or a Placebo group.
Each training session, separated by at least 72 hours was completed using a protocol of Aerobic exercise --> Passive Recovery --> Resistance Training --> Passive Recovery --> Aerobic Exercise --> Passive Recovery --> Resistance training.
In total, there were 4 training sessions that followed the above procedure. However, it's important to note that there were two different protocols using the structure above.
1. Cardio was Continuous and Resistance training focused on Strength (1 RM)
2. Cardio was intermittent and Resistance training focused on Strength Endurance (4 x 80% of 1 RM to failure).
It's important to know this because they measured effectiveness according to these protocols (i.e. results were different when comparing performance in each protocol.
In a double blind fashion, subjects were provided with 20 grams of Creatine Monohydrate per day, for 7 days (a standard loading protocol for creatine), followed by 5 grams per day for the remainder of the study. Keep in mind this is fairly typical for most users. Just keep in mind, a loading protocol is not totally necessary. Further, you have to break it up over multiple doses unless you want to spend the day on the toilet.
When viewing leg press strength, there was only a significant increase of leg press strength when creatine supplementation was paired with Continuous Aerobic exercise and strength-based training.
In terms of bench press strength, along with creatine supplementation, we see an improvement of strength relative to the control for when creatine was paired with the two training protocols.
Hard To Know If This Will Be Beneficial
It's important to understand that the real world situations in which this would be applicable will be drastically different. For example, the conditions on a football field will be much different from this procedure, so it's difficult to know if this ability to maintain and even increase strength with creatine will actually happen.
Further, a real world training procedure will likely be a bit more intensive, which could affect recovery and performance to a much greater extent, meaning it's difficult to know if taking creatine would have an effect. Truth be told, the benefit was small to begin with so it's hard to know if this benefit would be observed real world.
This Method Of Endurance and Resistance Training May Reduce Interference Alone
Note: this section may be complicated for many. Read with caution.
When using resistance training and endurance training at the same time, this sutiation can create issues with recovery, strength ability and performance. The reason for this is that the adaptations that occur from each are differing, meaning they conflict. When you resistance train, you're increasing size and strength of the muscle. When you endurance train, you're actually reducing muscle size and making them more fatigue resistant and optimized for long durations of muscle contraction.
Unfortunately, when you're providing the body with these differing signals, the ability of the body to fully take advantage of both, becomes impaired, which means that neither adaptation is getting the love it needs to thrive. This is why most bodybuilders and powerlifters don't run and why most endurance runners don't lift like a bodybuilder.
When you endurance AND resistance train at the same time, your number one goal is to reduce this "interference" effect that occurs.
Now in order to avoid this interference effect, there is a theory that if you pair exercise modalities that rely on similar mechanisms, then there will be less of this interference. Here's a brief audio recording that will do a better job of explaining this concept than me trying to write it.
Essentially, the idea is that potentially pairing exercises that rely on similar mechanisms may help to avoid interference. For example, strength (1 RM) is largely dependant on central mechanisms such as neural output or the efficiency of motor unit output. Longer duration cardio also relies on central mechanisms. While long duration cardio certainly relies on the muscle, performance is much less contingent on muscle contraction specifically and rather based on a constant signal to continue contracting.
Strength endurance and intermittent cardio is much more dependant on peripheral mechanisms, such as the ability of the muscle to contract repeatedly at a high intensity and other variables like muscle glycogen.
Essentially, it's important to understand that the benefit observed here: 1. may not be entirely due to creatine supplementation and 2. may not be indicative of how real world athletes combine endurance and resistance training.
Don't Expect Creatine To Make Or Break Your Performance
It's important to keep in mind that creatine won't make or break your performance or ability to recover. In fact, almost every single supplement won't either. People place way too much stock into supplements and unfortunately it doesn't pan out. Not to mention, if there is a supplement that actually works, it catches the eye of the FDA and is almost always banned.
Even if you're just bodybuilding, if your training, nutrition and recovery strategy is subpar, no supplement will help you. If you're trying to optimize concurrent training without having everything else in line, you can forget about a supplement helping.
Why This Should Matter To You
This sort of information is important because while most people don't notice, almost all athletes concurrently train resistance and endurance, in the hopes of improving performance. If there are methods to help improve that performance, it's important we investigate. Not to mention, this doesn't need to be just for you. Imagine how this sort of information could influence your child's football or baseball training...
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Spot Reduction: Fallacy or Possibility?
In a recent study, Italian researchers out of the University of Rome set out to shed light on an age-old argument of spot reducing body fat.
For likely decades, many unassuming people have fallen victim to the idea (myself included at one point) that simply working target body areas with exercise will allow for a reduction of localized body fat. Most often, you’ll see people doing so with sit ups or arm exercises to hopefully reduce unsightly body fat around those regions.
Before getting into this research, let it be known I understand why people do this. It’s logical at first: if I want a six-pack, I should probably work that area directly.
However, there are a few flaws here. First, it’s important to remember that fat loss is a bit more complicated than just exercising and dropping pounds. This is confirmed by most of the overweight people you see working out intensively, yet never seem to get thinner.
Overall, fat loss from a biological standpoint is fairly simple: reduce energy intake and increase energy output. Unfortunately, fat loss attempts are rarely so simple.
The reason body fat reduction is so difficult to prove (or disprove) is because while some people may or may not have success with body fat spot reduction, there are hundreds, if not thousands of other variables that could be playing a role.
Currently, the consensus is this: spot reducing body fat, probably isn’t strictly possible. Each human body responds to exercise and fat loss differently. Essentially, if spot reduction could occur, you’re essentially losing weight and body fat, but deciding where that body fat comes from. If this were strictly possible, everyone would be trying to cash in on the specific mechanisms.
Lastly, as we’ll get into the study at hand, if there was one method that I believe would be plausible for spot reduction, it would probably be the method used in this study.
16, middle-aged women participated in the study. Participants were separated into one of 12 groups.
Group 1: Completed Resistance Training For Upper Body, followed by a 30 minute Cycle Ergometer test at 50% of V02 Max.
Group2 : Completed Resistance Training For Lower Body, followed by a 30 minute Arm Ergometer test at 50% of V02 Max.
Essentially, group 1 did upper body resistance training followed by lower body aerobic training (cardio) Group 2 on the other hand, completed a lower body resistance program followed by 30 minutes of upper body-based cardio.
The course of the training tests was 12 weeks, 3 times per week. Prior to this training procedure, measurements such as DEXA and body composition tests were carried out.
Resistance Training Protocol
Group 1 was exposed to an upper body resistance protocol, using the following exercises:
Group 2 was exposed to a lower body resistance protocol prior to cardio using the following:
All resistance training sessions were completed in the following fashion:
Aerobic Training Protocol
The upper body resistance training group was then exposed to a lower body aerobic sessions using a cycle ergometer for 30 minutes at 50% of V02 max (predetermined). The lower body group on the other hand used the same intensity, yet used an arm cycle ergometer instead.
Essentially, these subjects trained either upper body or lower body and then completed cardio afterwards, using opposite muscle groups. Essentially, the idea is like this:
You resistance train specific muscles, which should theoretically release fatty acids from the target area. Thus, these fatty acids are available in the blood stream. Then since lower intensity cardio is optimized for metabolizing fatty acids, the previously released fatty acids (from resistance training) should theoretically be metabolized, in a sense, spot reducing body fat. (Largely theoretical, keep in mind).
Overall Body Mass was not significantly changed across groups (above image). However, it did seem that there was a tendency for spot reduction of respective muscles that were being worked (colored squares above).
As you can see, while not significant, there was certainly a tendency for the specific muscle groups that were resistance trained to show a reduction of fat mass. For example, in the upper body resistance group (red square), these individuals had a tendency to reduce fat mass in the upper limbs. Alternative, this wasn’t the case for the lower body resistance group.
However, when we look at the fat mass changes in the lower limb, the opposite is true for the lower limb resistance-training group. Fat mass in lower limbs had a tendency for reduced fat mass with almost no change in limbs for the upper resistance group.
Essentially, when upper body resistance was employed, there were reductions of upper body fat mass as a result of this procedure, but no real change for lower limbs. When lower body was resistance trained, lower limbs lost fat and upper body didn’t. I.E. These subjects were spot reducing.
If that doesn’t convince you, take a look at these graphs.
In the left graph, we see a clear association between the target muscle group that was resistance trained and a change in fat mass. While changes from baseline may not be significant, there was a clear group difference in terms of area worked and fat amount reduced.
If there is a way to spot reduce, this idea is probably the best
Truth be told, this method of training is actually one that I’ve promoted for some time. Think about it really, higher intensity exercise is always touted for “long term” fat loss, rather than fat loss during the exercise session, whereas low intensity cardio is usually touted to be great at burning fat during the training session.
Thus, it stands to reason that pairing the two training styles would be optimal. Use high intensity exercise to free fatty acids from storage for metabolism, and then use normal cardio to actually “burn off” those freed fatty acids. That’s essentially what they were trying to do here and quite frankly, it’s not a bad idea.
Really, for years everyone has said spot reduction isn’t possible. It’s more about global fat loss, is the primary argument against this theory. However, is it really hard to believe that you can manipulate the tissues that are releasing these fatty acids?
I mean, lets think for a second. This theory is sort of out there. It seems like it’s probably not possible. But really, if you’re hoping to specifically reduce body fat on your arms, it makes sense to at least exercise those areas. Just keep in mind that spot reduction of body fat probably is a result of overall fat loss, but you’re just potentially manipulating where that fat comes from.
Let it be clear, this isn’t definitive. I personally think that if there is in fact ways to spot reduce, this method is probably the best. I.e. Workout target body parts at a fairly high intensity and then do some cardio afterwards.
I mean, the use of this method at least wouldn’t hurt to try.
Resistance Training Was Lackluster
Sure, it's a laboratory study, but the resistance training was lack luster. Personally, I'd love to see a few things changed.
First, It would be great to see if different rep ranges, taken close to failure, would make a larger difference. I personally think that if the resistance protocol was a bit more metabolically demanding, the results might have been significant.
Second, there was no progressive overload or an inkling of periodization. If there was benefit of either resistance program, eventually the body adapts, making each subsequent workout less effective. Results may have become significant if progressive overload or some other form of periodization was incorporated.
Further, if intensity was higher and a greater variety of exercises were used, results may have been different. It's at least important to point out that this lackluster training program almost produced results. Imagine if it was actually a programmed fat loss specific training procedure...
The Approach To Use This Method
First, if you’re trying to lose some body fat, your best bet is to go for overall fat loss. Keep in mind that the “global fat loss” idea is probably still true. With this method you’re just trying to manipulate exactly where that reduction comes from. Just keep in mind this theory of spot reduction isn’t proven so your best bet is to go for overall fat loss and then try to manipulate it.
This means, you should first, probably be in a calorie deficit of some form. Second, continue exercising as normal, hitting various rep ranges and intensities.
From here, I suggest using some form of metabolic resistance training for target areas. Complete a difficult resistance training routine and then use some cardio afterwards. Just keep in mind; you should also have some normal resistance training mixed in as well.
Here are a few examples of how I would use this method (and already do).
Chest / Back / Shoulders
Spot reducing has been somewhat of a topic of discussion, but largely one that is overall ignored and considered to be impossible
However, the potential for this to work really doesn’t surprise me. Of course total body fat loss is most important, but its it hard to believe that you can manipulate where that fat actually comes from? Truthfully, it’s not hard to believe that contracting certain muscle groups would promote release of fat from that specific area.
Overall, this theory is largely unproven but logic and at least the findings of this study indicate the idea is at least plausible. Not to mention, if you’re specifically hoping to reduce body fat in your arms, and are using an effective dieting approach, it’s at least worth trying. Just keep in mind that in addition to the theoretical notion of this idea, you’ll probably need to continuously use this method consistently to potentially see any benefit.
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because most of us have been saying spot reduction isn’t possible. Currently, there isn’t strong evidence to say otherwise, but this research indicates that it may be possible. Further, the protocol they used was logical, meaning that the potential for this to work may be real and not based on some ridiculous training procedure or magical supplement. Further, it’s always prudent to re-evaluate sentiments you believe to be truth.
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The purpose of this study was to observe differing responses to resistance training when subjects either chose their own exercises or were assigned a specific order of specific exercises.
Why Study This
Auto-regulation is a method of training that takes your current feeling and ability into consideration on a daily basis.
For example, you might work with a coach who programs back squat for a given percentage of your 1 rep max. The problem with doing this is because each day, you’ll have different ability. Some days you’ll feel strong, some days you won’t. Some days you might just be in a better mood, or perhaps you had a gigantic workout the day before, making you feel tired.
Essentially, by using auto-regulation, you can adjust the weight you’re using based off of performance and how you feel.
Hypothetically, this should allow the subject to put forth greater effort for their selected exercise by taking advantage of how they feel rather than blindly following a program. I mean, we’ve all been there. Some days, you just don’t really want to squat.
Let’s say you do some warm up sets and feel better than usual. Based on this feeling and how well your warm-ups are going, you can increase the weight or repetitions you’ll perform sets with to reflect feeling good i.e., you increase weight more than normal.
If however your warm up sets are poor and things are moving a bit slow, you can address this by reducing the weight you’ll use on future sets, or even make the decision to move on.
Essentially, auto-regulation allows you to adjust weight and reps based on how you currently feel, rather than sticking to a percentage that was programmed weeks or even months ago. This method takes the person into consideration rather than just the program.
However, most studies on this and even practitioners, use this method for quantitative measures only such as the weight you’re using, the sets and reps.
In this study, the researchers wanted to observe how auto-regulating the exercises themselves would pan out. For example, let’s say you had back squat programmed. With this method (as in the study), one group had the option to choose exercises rather than having a fixed selection.
Hypothetically, this should allow the subject to put forth greater effort for their selected exercise by taking advantage of how they feel rather than blindly following a program. I mean, we’ve all been there. Some days, you just don’t really want to squat. This team of researchers was trying to observe if selecting exercises in a similar manner to traditional auto regulation would provide similar benefits.
17, resistance trained (3+ years with high strength) underwent a 9 week training protocol that incorporated progressively increased mesocycles and daily undulating periodization. 1 Group had predetermined exercises while the other group was able to choose exercises for each muscle group. The researchers wanted to observe if selecting exercises on a daily basis based on performance or feeling is more effective than simply following a training program.
32 strength-trained males were recruited for the study. After initial testing for inclusion into the study, only 17 males were actually used.
Keep in mind that these were resistance trained individuals requiring the ability to squat at least 1.75 times body weight (200 lb. person = 350 squat) and 1.3 times body weight bench (200 lb. person = 260 bench). Further, these subjects had to be training for at least 3 years. Overall, it’s safe to say this was a resistance-trained population with proficiency in the target movements.
It’s important to point out that this is beneficial, as untrained individuals may see improvements that will make results almost useless. In addition to noob strength gains, untrained individuals can also display a learning effect with movements like squat and bench. I.e. the just get better at the movements and thus get stronger, which isn’t necessarily because of training variables but rather that they just get more efficient at the movement.
After initial 1 RM testing, subjects were placed into 1 of 2 groups, running in parallel. Group 1 was considered the ‘fixed’ exercise selection group (FES) while Group 2 was considered the Auto-regulated exercise selection group (AES)
Over the course of 9 weeks, subjects trained 3 times per week, using a resistance training protocol. Subjects throughout the course of the study were provided with the ability to use the following exercises:
Overall, the available exercises in my opinion were typical of most bodybuilding type workouts. Further, the fact that real exercises were used rather than a leg extension measurement machine, like most other research, brings more real world relevance to these findings.
For the Fixed Exercise Group, subjects underwent the following fixed protocol (but still used DUP).
For AES however, subjects chose 1 exercise per body group from this pool of exercises. Further, they were not required to use different exercises throughout each week. If they wanted to use leg press all three days, they could.
Subjects underwent 9-weeks of 3 workouts per week. Throughout this 9 week program, despite subjects having the ability to choose exercises (AES only) they trained using a daily undulating periodization model, while also progressively increasing volume from one mesocycle (3 weeks) to the next.
Essentially each week went like this:
Then, each “block” or Mesocycle (lasting 3 weeks) went like this:
It’s important to understand that doing so is quite relevant. Progressive overload or continually increasing the stress placed on the body is a primary consideration when attempting to build muscle and strength. Otherwise, there’s no reason for the body to improve.
Overall, the design of training in my opinion was very appropriate.
It should be acceptable to swap exercises in and out on the fly. If you have a leg day planned, it’s certainly acceptable to say you’d rather do goblet squats than leg extensions, for example. Additionally, the same can be said for the weight you use. If dropping weight on a given day will make the workout more effective, then that should be taken advantage of.
Selecting exercises (AES) led to a significant increase in volume load over that of FES, potentially leading to the conclusion that selecting exercises on a day to day basis, may result in greater growth over time. While other parameters measures didn’t provide drastic results, the time frame of improvement used in this study for trained individuals is short, thus hard to draw definitive conclusions. Overall, tendencies seemed to reveal a benefit of selecting exercises rather than having fixed ones.
As we can see, when subjects were able to select their own exercises, there was a significant increase in total volume load, a metric thought to be a primary driver behind muscle growth. Further, in figure B, we also see that over the course of the 9 week study, volume significantly increased from baseline for AES, while FES did not improve.
Overall, it appears that self-selecting exercises leads to greater volume, which could translate to greater growth.
Lean Body Mass
Technically (apart from some statistical procedures), there weren’t any glaring improvements of lean body mass as a result of the training procedures as you can see in the table above. However, there was a significant main effect of time for both, essentially meaning that both groups improved over time, just not significantly in relation to each other.
However, it’s important to point out that these subjects were fairly well trained, for years. At this point, increasing muscle size can become quite difficult and slow, meaning that 9-weeks of training (that might actually be less volume than they are accustomed to) is only a small amount of time to observe significant growth in a trained population.
Essentially, this lack of highly significant change might not be due to the training but rather the training status of the subjects.
As we can see, there was a significant main effect of time in terms of maximal strength, which really isn’t entirely surprising. There was potential significance for the AES group when using a statistical measure called confidence interval analysis, but overall, the difference between groups was not drastic.
Selecting Exercises May Increase Effort Put Forth
It’s important to keep in mind that selecting exercises you favor may have a benefit larger than most think. For example, let’s say you have a coach that prescribes squatting, but you absolutely hate doing them. You do them because you’ve heard “you have to squat” and because a coach told you to. But what if you enjoy leg press more?
Unless you’re specifically attempting to get better at the squat and use it for it’s potential benefit, you aren’t required to use a barbell squat. In terms of building leg size and strength, for most people the leg press will suffice. Not to mention, if you enjoy doing the leg press, it’s likely you’ll put forth much more effort, making it overall more effective for what you’re working towards.
While having a plan is essential, you should incorporate exercises that you actually enjoy doing.
Compound Movements May Have Been The Reason For More Volume
For the Fixed Exercise group, these individuals completed each exercise, 9 times throughout the study. For the AES group, they could complete each exercise as many times per week or as few as they desired, per muscle group.
As it turns out, the AES group opted for compound movements more often than the FES group was exposed to them. This is important because by and large, compound movements will allow for greater volume, per set than compared to accessory movements.
For example, the total volume you can complete per set for the back squat will be significantly higher than total volume per set for a leg extension. If the AES group selects leg press 14 times throughout the study while FES only completes it 9, the AES group will automatically have a higher volume.
Thus, this increase in volume may be simply because when choosing exercises, people opt for the compound movements more often. Something to be considered.
Untrained Individuals May Have a Different Response
If these subjects were untrained, the observations may have been different. I personally think that first and foremost, autoregulation is for intermediate to advanced individuals. As a beginner, you just don't have a grasp on how you really feel and how well you'll perform.
For instance, a newbie might just avoid squats outright than realizing sometimes you just have to "deal," potentially missing out on building a strong based on strength that the squat would provide. I.e a trained individual will know the difference between needing to rest or just being a bit sore, for instance.
I personally think as a beginner, there should be a base of key movements that should be used. As you become more advanced, you can begin to make smarter decisions with your training (using autoregulation sensibly). Decisions that you may not have been able to make as an untrained individual.
Just food for thought.
Based on these findings, while fairly small, there certainly seemed to be a tendency for more improvement when exercises could be self administered, rather than having a fixed schedule.
However, I think that it’s important to point out that this procedure is different from “just winging it.”
I still think that having some fairly pre-determined program is probably best for long-term progress. However, it makes sense to allow for flexibility, even with a pre-determined program.
For example, it should be acceptable to swap exercises in and out on the fly. If you have a leg day planned, it’s certainly acceptable to say you’d rather do goblet squats than leg extensions, for example. Additionally, the same can be said for the weight you use. If dropping weight on a given day will make the workout more effective, then that should be taken advantage of.
The differences between these two exercises won’t be drastic and will still at least hit the target muscle groups, all with the potential benefit of increasing your enthusiasm at the hand of an exercise you actually want to do.
Overall, I suggest building a training program that incorporates exercises you actually enjoy doing. Then on a day to day basis, adjust said program to fit your current feelings and ability, but do so in way that still pushes you in the direction you desire (i.e. don’t just skip workouts or exercises for no reason. Make smart changes that align more closely with how you currently feel).
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because it provides us with direction for building program designs that takes the individual’s ability, perception and feeling into account on a daily basis. Each person is an individual with different goals, abilities and preferences. This research leads us to conclude that those individual differences should be leveraged when building programs.
It’s also important to consider how this information could be valuable for large athletic teams that often are prescribed with 1 training program for hundreds of individuals. Thus, rather than prescribing 1 program, coaches could begin applying principles of auto-regulation to improve the response of the athlete.
Note Of Conflict Of Interest
In light of transparency, I have worked with these researchers and consider some of them to be my friends. At no time was my interpretation of this manuscript biased or based on these relationships.
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Purpose Of The Study
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the difference between a moderate amount of protein intake vs. a high amount of protein in terms of improving recovery in response to resistance training. Further, this was done, while controlling for total energy and protein intake.
Additionally, previous research has revealed that improvements observed with a higher amount of protein may actually be beneficial due to nutrient timing - i.e. other findings of improved recovery from training at the hand of higher amounts of protein may have seen the results because protein was consumed around the workout, rather than simply because the total protein was higher.
That last point about nutrient timing is really important. So, most people talk about protein and generally agree that the most important factor of protein and growth is total protein intake. Essentially, if total protein throughout the day is high, then muscle growth or maintenance should be similar. By this logic, you could consume all your daily protein in the morning before training and you should expect to see similar growth.
However, and this is a big however; It's important to note that nutrient timing, while secondary to total protein, can still play a major role in growth, over a long period of time.
When you exercise, you upregulate processes in the body that optimize muscle building, such as protein synthesis and GLUT-4 translocation. When this occurs and nutrients (like all of the macros) are present, you have the greatest likelihood of improving muscle mass and ensuring those nutrients are shuttled to the muscle.
Thus, it's very likely that in this "heightened" state of muscle building in response to exercise, that the body may use nutrients more efficiently, resulting in improved recovery. Keep in mind, I'm not saying that nutrient timing is more important than total intake. What I'm saying is that it's relevant and could play an integral role in muscle growth.
Why Study This
There are so many different arguments about protein. Studies like this help us sift through the bullshit and find a real answer. Some people say you need upwards of 3 grams per lb. of bodyweight, while others like one of the authors of the study think you need more like 0.8 grams per lb. of body weight. Research like this helps us observe responses to different amounts of protein, allowing us to draw more concrete conclusions.
14, resistance trained individuals took part in this study. Inclusion criteria of this study included:
Upon completion of strength testing, ensuring that each subject met inclusion criteria, subjects were placed into 1 of 2 groups, based on total calorie and protein intakes. Total calories intakes were adjusted according to their baseline calorie intake to ensure that total calories were within a "maintenance calorie amount."
It's important to take note that even though protein amounts differed between groups, they still maintained a normal total calorie amount. If for instance, the high protein group simply increased protein on top of their maintenance calories, they would now be consuming many more calories than before, which would likely improve recovery and potentially increase muscle mass significantly.
If however, the moderate protein group reduced protein intake (which they did), but did so without adjusting total caloric intakes, they may have observed poorer recovery ability, confounding the results. By maintaining total calories, we can observe how differing protein amounts affects recovery, rather than attributing differences to total calories.
Subjects were placed into 1 of 2 groups, which were based on either a moderate amount of protein (1.8 g/kg/day) or a high amount of protein (2.9 g/kg/day), while maintaining other typical calorie amounts. This was a 10-day crossover design, meaning that each group completed each procedure (moderate and high protein amounts), with a washout period of 24 hours in between. Upon completion of that 24 hour mark, participants switched to the opposing protein procedure.
For a clearer picture, as a 205 lb. individual this is the amount of protein you would consume based on your assignment:
Training & Peri-Workout Nutrition
Participants were provided with a pre-workout beverage containing 0.4 g/kg of a whey protein concentrate/isolate mixture. For a 205 lb. individual, this would equate to around 37 grams of protein, per beverage, which is typical of a pre-workout protein beverage. However, the actual protein amount was reported to be closer to .32 g/kg, making the beverage contain closer to around 30 grams for a 205 lb. individual.
30 minutes after completing their pre-workout beverage, subjects underwent a strength and exercise assessment (workout). The training procedure was administered as follows:
Lastly, on days 8-10 of each 10 day period, subjects were assessed on muscle soreness using a 0-10 visual analogue scale (0 = none, 5 = noticeable, 7 = uncomfortable, 10 = severe). This, by the way, is when resistance training was completed.
In terms of performance (black and blue ovals), we can see that only for back squat in the moderate protein group was there a significant decrease in performance by day 3 on average. With bench press, we actually see a slight, yet nonsignificant increase in performance for the moderate protein group.
For a finding like this, this decrease in performance was observed for the high protein group as well, just non-significantly. Although as you can see, the difference between non-significant and significant isn't very much. However, it's really not surprising, regardless of the protein amount, that performance would decrease. You're taking a very impactful exercise, such as the squat, and completing this movements to failure, 3 times, 3 days in a row. I think just about anyone's performance in the squat would suffer.
Additionally, it's not really surprising that the change would be drastic for squats and not as much for bench and row. Just consider for a moment how taxing taking squats to failure is, vs taking a bent over row to failure. I think you get the picture.
However, when observing the other variables in the green box, we do see a fairly drastic difference in terms of feelings of muscle soreness onset and the feeling of being uncomfortable. Even though it's not significant, i'd say it's close to borderline significant. There was certainly a trend for decreased feelings of soreness with a higher amount of protein.
However, keep in mind that we're talking about almost a 100 gram difference here, and differences between measurements were by and large insignificant. But also, keep in mind this is an acute study, over the course of months or even years, it's possible those differences become very significant.
The researchers tested for levels of creatine kinase, which is a metabolite that is indicative of muscle damage. As you can see, CK levels were significantly increased each subsequent trial and were not different based on protein intake.
Muscle damage is an interesting concept. In grad school, I had a professor named Carlos that brought up the idea of the repeated bout effect. This theory in essence postulates that muscle damage really only occurs when presented with novelty, or exercises / exercise sets/reps that you aren't used to or when you're a beginner. Otherwise, muscle damage probably doesn't play the role that many people think it does. In fact, I wrote an article on this very same subject here.
So essentially, we see this increase in muscle damage arguably because taking squats or any other exercise to failure using 80% 1RM for 3 sets, 3 days in a row, would increase muscle damage in almost every one. So, while we don't see differences here between protein groups, it's probably not because of the protein amount, but rather that muscle damage was going to happen, regardless.
Basically: 1. It's difficult to state that muscle damage is even extremely relevant and 2. Is this relevant for normal training, where high amounts of muscle damage probably won't happen to the extent we see here. I'm hypothesizing that we don't see a difference here simply because the stimulus causing the damage is too intense. I.E. No amount of calories or protein for that matter, would inhibit the muscle damage brought on by this training protocol.
Lastly, the researchers tested something called Phase Angle. This is essentially an electrical test that tests cellular membrane integrity. If this amount decreases, as observed with the moderate protein group, that's a potential indicator of damaged cellular membrane integrity or muscle damage.
This Was Short Term
It's important to remember that this test was short term. While increasing or at least maintaining adequate amounts of protein are suggested, it's unknown how this will play out long term. Based on the findings, it seems reasonable that consuming a moderate amount of protein (around .8 to 1 gram per lb.) is adequate when compared to a higher amount of protein.
Additionally, we did observe at least a tendency for higher amounts of protein being beneficial. But again, this is during a training protocol that likely elicited more muscle damage and thus soreness / decreased performance than we would probably normally see (due to the repeated bout effect).
Essentially, it's hard to determine if a moderate amount of protein performs the same as high amounts of protein, when the time frame is extended and people are exercising under the demands of a normal routine. Based on this study, for normal every day training, 0.8 grams per pound is likely adequate. Further, if training intensity or requirements drastically increases over a short period of time, it may be beneficial to increase that amount of protein, accordingly.
Protein Requirements Aren't An Exact Science
Consider two theories behind muscle growth. 1. Increasing protein synthesis frequently over time is arguably the leading theory behind muscle growth. 2. The other part of that theory is protein turnover, or the ratio of protein breakdown to synthesis. I.E. If the amount of protein you're synthesizing is greater than the protein being broken down, you should theoretically increase muscle mass.
The point of all this research is to 1. Find the optimal amount of protein to consume daily and 2. Find the minimum effective amount. Essentially, why would you want to consume 400 grams of protein if you could maximize the response at 100 grams, right?
The problem is, it's hard to tell from individual to individual what's the optimal amount of protein or even the minimum requirement. Is this number based solely on lean mass? What about style of training? What about frequency of training?
Literally, any variable could contribute to effective protein synthesis or ineffective protein synthesis. This higher recommendation amount however, is essentially to give a cushion. To.. provide a little bit of leeway to ensure that your protein synthesis rate is higher than that of protein breakdown.
So, do you need 4 grams of protein per pound of body weight for growth? Probably not. Can you get away with .8 grams per pound? Possibly.
This research suggested that, but there was a strong tendency for superiority of a higher protein intake. It's hard to know if say, the exercise protocol was increased by two days, would those tendencies become significant?
Personally, I'd say the observations in this study displayed the low end of plausible protein intakes; the minimum effective dosage if you will. However, i'd suggest erring on the side of caution and consuming closer to 1 gram per pound of body mass. Really, the difference there isn't large, but it provides a bit of leeway over that of .8 grams / lb. Not to mention, there are additional benefits of consuming higher amounts of protein, such as improved ability to control appetite. Remember that protein provides benefit outside of just building muscle.
Disclaimer: I have not read all of the current data with regards to protein intakes, but have read some. These suggestions are an extrapolation based on the information herein and should be taken as such.
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because it adds additional information to the "protein requirement" argument. Many people throw around protein recommendations without actually understanding why that amount is being suggested. Further, this information provides what is probably the minimum effective dosage of protein, at least giving you an initial starting point, allowing for manipulation based on your individual response.
Copyright: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo
Purpose Of The Study
The purpose of this study was to determine how the timing of resistance training may influence how you sleep in terms of quality, latency (how long it takes you to actually fall asleep) and how long you sleep. Additionally, the researchers wanted to observe changes of nighttime blood pressure, as poor sleep quality and duration may be associated with ailments such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity (1).
Why Study This
For starters, some research indicates that up to 30% of adults experience some form of insomnia. There is also some research to suggest that resistance training may be beneficial for improving sleep quality and other sleep related metrics. If improved sleep is one of the benefits you receive from resistance training, understanding when to exercise based on the side effect you need may be quite helpful. Not to mention, it's cool to see that the time that you exercise can actually influence your sleep. The body is truly amazing (2).
It's important to remember that while this was a fairly standard bodybuilding approach, results from other styles of training. For example, another very similar study from the same laboratory tested all of this using cardio exercise as well. With their findings, other time points had different effects...So while this may have been a bodybuilding study, it's important to remember that training with a different style of exercise may produce drastically different results.
Subjects between the ages of 18-25 were recruited from Appalachian State University to take part in this study. Subjects included in this study were either sedentary or recreationally active. Note, it's important to remember that these were fairly untrained individuals. Responses observed in this study may different from the responses that a trained individual would experience.
During the first visit, subjects were exposed to a 10RM test protocol, using 9 different exercises including:
Subjects were randomly assigned to a training group. All groups completed exercises by using 65% of their tested 10RM for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each. Subjects were assigned to train at either:
Following resistance training, subjects used a headband sleep monitor, which measured sleep architecture and blood pressure to evaluate the effect of each resistance training protocol on sleep.
Essentially, all subjects completed the same training protocol: 3 x 10 with 65% of their 10RM. They either trained at 7 am, 1 pm or 7 pm. After that, they had sleep monitored to observe if and how each training time affected sleep. Keep in mind, there are some very important considerations that we'll dive into shortly.
Results Are Far From Conclusive
Studies like this are quite difficult to draw definitive conclusions from. Any number of variables could be influencing sleep, so it's difficult to determine how much of an effect resistance training really did have on these subject's ability to sleep. According to changes from the control measurements, it does seem that there was an effect of resistance training and further, that the time of day exercise was completed influenced which side effect was experienced.
Sleeping Was Done At Home
Typically in a study like this, subjects would sleep on site, in order for researchers to evaluate throughout the night. In this study, subjects slept at home and self administered the sleep monitor. The researchers chalk this up to a beneficial point, since sleeping in a laboratory or an unfamiliar environment, could negatively influence the subject's ability to sleep well or even at all.
Personally, I view this as a confounding factor because there are any number of variables that could go wrong. For instance the headband could come off. In a lab setting, a technician could notice a malfunction and correct it immediately. When the subject administers the test at home, the researchers have no way of knowing what actually happens.
These Were College Kids
These were college kids, instructed to refrain from caffeine and alcohol, both of which negatively influence sleep. I'll let you decide for yourself if college students 1: refrained from caffeine and alcohol and 2: followed protocol exactly.
Changes Are On Average
Certainly there was benefit of resistance training, regardless of time. But it's difficult to pinpoint that a specific time of training might have a specific result. It's likely that each individual person would respond individually to certain time points of training.
You have to remember that each person has an individual rhythm of responses to any number of stimuli. Each individual could have a different response to the time in which they exercise. I suggest trying out training at different time points and then observing how each affects your sleep patterns.
Different Training Styles May Change The Response
It's important to remember that while this was a fairly standard bodybuilding approach, results from other styles of training. For example, another very similar study from the same laboratory tested all of this using cardio exercise as well. With their findings, other time points had different effects. For example in the cardio study, training at 7AM using cardio was more effective at reducing time awake after awakenings. This is different from the resistance training study where the 7 pm group reduced awakening time the most (3).
So while this may have been a bodybuilding study, it's important to remember that training with a different style of exercise may produce drastically different results.
Essentially, if you have difficulty sleeping and don't exercise, adding a resistance training or aerobic exercise routine to your schedule may have a significant impact on your ability to sleep. Further, adjusting the time in which you train may provide a different response, such as time to sleep onset or times awoken during the night. I suggest first adding exercise into your routine and then adjusting the time point of that training session to see which works best for you.
If you already train and still have trouble sleeping, it may be in your best interest to explore different training time points, based on your ailment and schedule.
It's important to remember though that the style of training you use may have significantly different responses from another.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because some research reports that up to 30% of adults suffer from insomnia. This research suggests that exercise can significantly influence sleep properties, which may help many people that don't exercise for one reason or another. In a world where everyone takes a pill for their issues, this research shines light on a naturally, often free alternative for improving sleep issues.
A Little Extra Advices
I’ve come to realize in the past couple of years that sleep is of the utmost importance. Because of this, I personally take supplements to help with my sleep. However, I’ve chosen only a couple things to help because they are backed by sound research and are also thought to not cause dependency. My current sleep stack along with why is as follows:
~10 mg of melatonin
~5 g Taurine
Currently, one of the leading theories behind muscle growth is the stimulation of protein synthesis frequently, a process in which new contractile components and proteins are generated in response to resistance training. It's thought that when stimulated multiple times over a long period of time that this leads to muscle growth.
Thus, the purpose of this study was to observe if periodic bolus' (large amounts in a single serving) of protein is more optimal for stimulating protein synthesis than many small "pulses" of protein for stimulating this muscle building process.
Why Study This
This is actually quite important for a few reasons.
1. Many people eat small meals throughout the day in hopes of "stoking the metabolic fire" (which isn't true, btw). If a bolus of protein is more optimal, this may force those individuals to rethink their position.
2. Many people like myself practice intermittent fasting which incorporates fewer, larger doses of all ingredients. These findings may have implications for the person using this style of dieting.
3. This may provide insight into the best methods for consuming protein if your goal is to improve muscle mass. If bigger meals are more appropriate and you currently eat many small meals, the findings may required you to switch your methodology.
Eight, recreationally active young males were recruited for this study. Participants underwent a 10 repetition maximum test of bilateral leg extension to determine weight amounts for the upcoming study. This preliminary test was run 1 week prior.
Prior to beginning the resistance training protocol, the subjects were injected with what is known as a phenylalanine tracer. Phenylalanine is an amino acid and researchers can trace this amino acid by taking muscle biopsies, where they literally remove part of the muscle and study it. Observing the amount of phenylalanine that has been absorbed (or not absorbed, is a good indicator of this amino acid being incorporated into new muscle tissue (1).
Afterwards, subjects were exposed to a resistance training protocol consisting of 8 sets of 8-10 repetitions, using their previously defined 10 RM weight (taken a week prior), using 2 minutes of rest in between sets. A fairly typical procedure for testing protein synthesis changes.
The image above displays when biopsies and blood samples were taken from the subjects in group 1 (bolus). The asterisks [ * ] indicate when blood was drawn (Immediately after training, 4 times per hour until the 3rd hour and then once at 5 hours post). Muscle biopsies [ upward arrows ] indicate when muscle biopsies were taken.
The Protein Procedures
This study was a crossover design, meaning that the participants were involved in both procedures, separated by 30 days. This type of gap is typical for a crossover design.
Trial 1: Upon completion of the resistance training protocol, subjects were provided with a single bolus dose of whey protein of 25 grams. Typically, this is the amount of protein that would be suggested normally. Upon completion of drinking the whey, all other measurements (image above) were taken for the duration of the trial.
Trail 2: Upon completion of the resistance training protocol, subjects were provided with 10, 2.5 gram doses of whey (equalling 25 grams total), every 20 minutes until the 25 gram mark was reached. During this time, blood draws and biopsies were the same as trial 1. The only difference however, was that no per-workout biopsy was taken during trial 2.
Whey May Act Differently Than Normal Proteins
It's important to remember that even though it took 60 minutes for the whey to really enter the bloodstream in the form of amino acids, this is extremely fast, and much faster than that of normal protein, from say, steak or chicken.
Even though steak or chicken will provide a large dose of protein, the digestion rate of that type of protein is much slower than that of whey. So essentially, even taking in 25 grams at a single time, the rate of amino acids entering the bloodstream will look more like that of pulse dosages. Just because it was all consumed at once doesn't mean all will enter the bloodstream at the same time.
It's possible that this significant increase of amino acids in the blood and of course the drastic rise in protein synthesis observed with whey, would not be the same with regular proteins.
Whether or not that's actually relevant long term remains to be determined. If you want immediate protein synthesis as revealed in this study, I suggest consuming whey close to the workout and then following up with normal proteins about 2-3 hours after drinking whey (since it will take some time for the amino acids from normal proteins to breakdown and actually reach the bloodstream).
This is also one of the arguments against using casein, since the entrance of amino acids into the bloodstream is slower. Again, whether that matters long term remains to be determined.
Acute Increases In Protein Synthesis Aren't Necessarily Important
It's really difficult to say if this immediate increase of protein synthesis is actually relevant, long term. Long term muscle growth is of course more associated with long term, consistent increases of protein synthesis, so it's difficult to know if a difference of a few hours is meaningful.
However, consider the images above, with how quickly protein synthesis rises and further, how much high protein synthesis is at the 3 hour mark, compared to the PULSE doses.
Over time, these extra 3 hours could really stack up. Over 6 workouts, that's potentially 18 hours MORE of increased protein synthesis. Over the course of a year, that could equate to 1008 hours EXTRA protein synthesis. That in my opinion could be significant.
Further, as displayed in the graph above, the rate of protein synthesis at the 3-5 hour mark was much higher for BOLUS than PULSE. Who's to say that that increase wouldn't continue or if the PULSE dose even reaches the same level. Surely more research is required but based on these findings, It makes sense to consume a fairly fast digesting protein around the workout, followed by a full protein source later on, like steak or chicken.
Protein AROUND The Workout
It's important to note that this doesn't mean that you need to consume your protein only immediately after training, but rather sometime around the training session.
Personally, I prefer having protein before a workout. Considering that it takes probably 40-70 minutes for the amino acids to actually hit your bloodstream, those amino acids should be reaching the bloodstream close to the end of your workout, which is a prime opportunity for growth.
While the anabolic window per se isn't very important (if total protein intake is high), increased anabolism does exist after training, so supplying the muscle with amino acids during that time is certainly appropriate.
The Anabolic Window
The anabolic window, or the time just after training is a fairly controversial subject. Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld recently indicated that the post workout window isn't as important as previously thought (3).
Essentially, consuming protein immediately after the workout is not as big of a deal if total protein throughout the day is adequate. For example, if 2 people consumed the same amount of protein, yet one consumed evenly through the day and the other consumed most of their protein after training, there probably wouldn't be a huge difference.
However, it's important to note that after training, you are certainly in a more optimal position for growth, so it makes sense to try and take advantage of it. It's just that you won't lose gains if you don't consume protein immediately. Either way, it's still strongly advised that you consume adequate protein both in total and around the workout.
Based on these findings, if you're chasing an optimal increase of protein synthesis around the workout, it's probably best for you to consume that protein in a full dose, around 20-40 grams of protein, rather than smaller ones. Further, it's important to remember that this was whey and the responses observed in this study may be drastically different when compared to a normal protein source like steak or chicken.
For an optimal response, I suggest having a bolus of whey either before, after or before and after resistance training, with a follow up meal a few hours afterwards.
Additionally, as mentioned in a recent article about protein synthesis and milk, it may be in your best interest to make sure you mix that whey with a fat and carb source, such as whole milk, for a maximum response.
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because it provides information on the optimal ways to stimulate processes, which are thought to be drivers of muscle growth. By knowing that a BOLUS of protein is more optimal than PULSES, you can begin to mold your dieting approaches around this information for the result you desire.
Essentially, these researchers wanted to observe if [a rapid rise in glucose and subsequent dip] actually leads to increased hunger. Further, this research provides us with more insight into just how the body works to regulate appetite and hunger, which of course could answer many of our obesity questions and issues.
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect that acute hypoglycemia has on feelings of appetite and hunger. Essentially, the researchers injected subjects with glucose. Afterwards, they measured their glucose levels to confirm they were hypoglycemic and then did a series of tests to understand each of the subject's feelings of hunger and appetite.
Why Study This
It's important to study this because many consider hypoglycemia to be a major driver of hunger and food seeking behaviors.
When you eat carbohydrate (and even protein to some extent), this carbohydrate is broken down to a simple form of sugar known as glucose, which happens to be a primary energy source for both of us. As glucose rises, so too does insulin, which drives that glucose out of the blood and into various tissues, such as organs, muscle and yes, even sometimes body fat.
It's thought that a drastic increase and, thus decrease of blood glucose (because of a large insulin spike) drives us into hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar status, which then sends signals to the brain to seek food, increasing hunger and appetite.
Essentially, these researchers wanted to observe if this actually occurs (the hunger part). Further, this research provides us with more insight into just how the body works to regulate appetite and hunger, which of course could answer many of our obesity questions and issues.
Fifteen, middle-aged men were recruited for this study and separated into either a control group or experimental group. Control group was provided with a saline solution, administered intravenously while the experimental group was given a 10% glucose intravenous injection. Additionally, 1 hour before the trial, each subject was provided with a light breakfast (cereal bar).
This study was single blind and crossover, meaning that the researchers knew which group participants were in but participants did not. Further, both groups completed each of the procedures (experimental and control), separated by a 2 week washout period.
During each procedure, blood was drawn from individuals 5 times. Once prior to the infusion, 3 times during the infusion, separated by 1 hour each and then once, 1 hour after completion of the infusion. During this time, immediately before each blood draw, subjects completed an assessment that covered many different "subjective measurements," to distract subjects from primary questions about hunger and appetite, since the subjects were unaware of the primary objective of the study.
It's important to notice that the subjects were unaware of the primary focus of the study. This is really important since many of the measurements in this study are based on subjective feelings, or how the subject actually feels. If the subjects know that the point of the study is to observe feelings of hunger and appetite, that fact alone could influence their responses. For example, many subjects want to "please" researchers and may say they are less hungry than they actually are, if they know what the researchers are actually looking for.
As we can see, in comparison to the saline solution infusion (clear circles), there was a drastic increase in both blood glucose and of course insulin, when observing the experimental group. But really, that's to be expected. However, right at the 11:00 hour mark, once insulin and blood glucose reach low points, this is around the time we should expect subjects to be getting hungry if this whole process does in fact increase hunger.
After completion of the infusions, each subject was given a test that is sort of a subject feelings test. It covers a bunch of different topics, including questions about hunger, appetite, satiety and fullness. These questions are mixed into a bunch of different questions to ensure that the subjects don't know which variables are actually being tested.
Surprisingly however, in terms of hunger and appetite, there were no differences between groups. In fact, on the hunger scale, ratings were exactly the same between groups (graph A).
Again, we see no real differences between groups. Around 9:00 we see a slight increase in feelings of satiety, however, none of these measures reach statistical significance and groups were not different from one another. A somewhat surprising finding, to say the least.
This Was a Glucose Infusion
It's extremely important to remember that this was a study using glucose infusion, not actual food. Reactions that the body has towards nutrients may be drastically different when comparing actually eating food and intravenous injections. It's very possible that had these subjects eaten actual food, their hunger responses may be different.
The primary reason they used injection is because the kinetics of digestion will be different for everyone, meaning that the speed and extent of glucose entering the blood and the subsequent insulin response will be different from person to person. By injecting, the researchers can ensure that blood glucose will rise in an expected manner.
Additionally, by injecting glucose, they can observe if feelings of hunger after the meal are specifically attributed to a rise and fall of glucose and insulin. In this case, this natural response to blood glucose did not result in hunger, differing from common belief.
Hunger May Be Attributed Elsewhere
Keep in mind that many people to in fact experience immense hunger, shortly after having meals, especially those that are high in sugar. So, somehow there is a relationship here.
My hypothesis is that when it's an actual meal being ingested, the way that nutrients are broken down and eventually enter the bloodstream may initiate other unknown hunger signals, which respond to hypoglycemia (the state after insulin removes sugar from the blood, in response to a high glucose meal.
Additionally, and this is theoretical, it's possible this has something to do with the hunger hormone, Ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone, secreted by cells in the gut, specifically the stomach. While these cells do secrete the hormone on a circadian rhythm, or a specific daily schedule, these cells are also sensitive to stretch.
Before a meal, you get hungry. One of the reasons is that these cells are not stretched, indicating an empty stomach. As a result, ghrelin is secreted, eventually making you hungry.
My theory is that a quick and drastic emptying of the stomach may cause issues with ghrelin secretion, due to a rapid stretch and relaxation of these cells (when these cells are stretched due to food being in the stomach, ghrelin secretion stops).
Potentially, under real circumstance when food is being consumed, a rapid excretion of food may initiate hunger signals. I mean, really it wouldn't be surprising. Fiber, for example has a hallmark attribute of slowing food removal from the stomach, which results in feelings of satiety, so if other foods act the opposite of that, it's not surprising to me that quick removal from the stomach may result in hunger.
Again, purely theoretical.
Based on the findings of this study, it's possible that a rise and fall of glucose and insulin is not the sole reason many people get hungry shortly after eating. Further, it may or may not have any influence on hunger and appetite at all.
I suggest experimenting on yourself, since you're the one that will get hungry or not. Try having one, high glycemic meal, after being fasted and then assess hunger afterwards. Then, on a separate day, do the same, with a low glycemic meal, comprised of protein, fat and carbs and then assess hunger.
Based on your findings, you can adjust your food intake to fit your individual needs.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because it provides more information about how different nutrients affect feelings of hunger and appetite, which is really a million dollar question. Finding ways to control hunger is easily the most important factor in a calorie restricted diet, so understanding how to manipulate hunger may be the key to success. Further, this information provides more information with regards to glucose and insulin playing a role in hunger, as it relates to food. At least with this study, it casts doubt on the idea that insulin and blood glucose drops are the sole reason for post meal hunger.
Structuring Workouts: Why Exercise Order Matters
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of exercise order on 1 RM strength and muscle thickness, over the course of a 12 week training program. Essentially, this study is attempting to determine if you should in fact, place the most important exercises (to you) first in the lineup of exercises....
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of exercise order on 1 RM strength and muscle thickness, over the course of a 12 week training program. Essentially, this study is attempting to determine if you should in fact, place the most important exercises (to you) first in the lineup of exercises. Doing so theoretically should improve growth of those target muscle groups since you're fresh and not fatigued, allowing you to put forth greater effort (power production, total volume, the weight you use, etc).
Why Study This?
This is important to study because based on the findings of this study, exercise order may or may not be extremely important. For example, if placing the barbell squat before leg extensions meant DOUBLE the growth of your quadriceps muscle, compared to the opposite order, which would you choose?
Studies like this allow us to understand if the order you complete exercises makes a difference for the target outcome. The findings of research studying this concept could literally shape program design for almost every individual that wants to lift weights or exercise.
See, the back squat allows for an incredible amount of volume, per repetition. Essentially, the squat provides you with the largest and strongest muscle building stimulus, so it makes sense for those to be first. Many people consider the use of pre-exhaustion (using small muscle exercises first) as a means of stimulating growth, but really, you're just reducing the amount of work you can do with the compound movements, which is suboptimal.
31 male Brazilian Navy Sergeant students were recruited to take part in this study. These subjects were not traditionally resistance trained but were of military grade athleticism. After recruitment, subjects were placed into 1 of 3 random groups:
Large muscle group exercises would be considered compound movements, like the squat, bench and deadlift. Small group exercises would be like a dumbbell biceps curl or any other isolation movement.
At the beginning and end of the study, 1 RM assessments were completed. Further, muscle thickness assessments were taken with the use of ultrasound. Ultrasound is one of the gold standard methods of assessing changes in muscle thickness as a result of resistance training. In fact, I've been exposed to this procedure on multiple occasions during my time at The University of Tampa.
Resistance Training Protocol
The following exercises and exercise orders were completed during this study:
Participants completed these exercises using a linear periodization method, exercising 2 times per week, separated by at least 72 hours.
"From the first to the fourth week, four sets of each exercise were performed with light intensity (12 to 15 repetitions) with one minute of rest between the sets. From the fifth to the eighth week, three sets of each exercise were performed with moderate intensity (eight to 10 repetitions) with two minutes of rest between the sets. From the ninth to the twelfth week two sets of each exercise were performed with high intensity (three to five repetitions) with three minutes of rest between the sets."
As you can see above, there were some mixed findings.
Essentially, this table is telling us that when compound movements were placed first in the workout, the changes observed for compound movements was greater than the changes observed when small exercises were placed first (for the compound movements).
Alternatively, the group placing small muscle group exercises first, observed more pronounced changes for small muscle group exercises than did group 1.
When it comes to muscle thickness, there was not a profound effect as a result of the training program. Above we can see that the only meaningful changes was in triceps muscle thickness, which was observed in group 2 (small groups first).
Regardless of the magnitude of the change, these findings are in line with the underlying theory of exercise order.
Despite No Strong Findings, They Do Reflect The Current Theory
Even though the findings were astounding, there still was some significance, which reflect the idea of exercise order impacting growth. Based on these findings, if a more rigorous training program were to be utilized, I'd wager the findings would be far more significant.
Things May Be Different For Beginners
As just mentioned, the training was a bit subpar, which is typical for studies like this. These subjects only trained twice per week, which isn't very much. Sure they used a periodization model, but this doesn't necessarily reflect real life.
To really study this sort of subject, we need trained weight lifters that regularly complete compound movements to be used for this type of thing. Consider for a moment that new beginners will likely fatigue fairly quickly when resistance training, regardless of the exercise being used.
When looking at trained individuals, the typical amount of weight they'll use for compound movements will likely be significant and quite fatiguing. This means that the order of exercises will be very significant. For example, a trained person will likely be able to bench 3-4 times as much as they can bicep curl, meaning that they'll require peek muscle ability during those compound movements.
For a beginner however, the gap between bench strength and biceps curl strength likely won't be massive. This means the order of the exercises won't have as large of an impact on each other, as say would a very experienced lifter.
The Underlying Theory Is Sound
Here are two scenarios that you can consider when evaluating the theory of exercise order.
1. Let's say that your goal was to produce a maximum amount of strength for the back squat. A true 1 Rep Max Test. When you're attempting to complete this feat of strength, would it make sense to complete a full workout of isolation movements, beforehand? Likely not, since it would lead to immense fatigue, resulting in a subpar performance.
2. Your goal is to increase the size of your legs entirely. You have both the back squat / other squat variants of squatting with a barbell, plus isolation movements such as leg curls and leg extensions. For the purpose of increasing muscle size as a whole, which order do you place them in? You need to consider that total volume (weight x reps x sets) is a driving factor in muscle growth. So which exercises will give you the most bang for your buck?
If you answered squat, you're probably right. See, the back squat allows for an incredible amount of volume, per repetition. Essentially, the squat provides you with the largest and strongest muscle building stimulus, so it makes sense for those to be first. Many people consider the use of pre-exhaustion (using small muscle exercises first) as a means of stimulating growth, but really, you're just reducing the amount of work you can do with the compound movements, which is suboptimal.
Based on the findings, it makes sense to place priority muscle groups first. This also extends to the purpose of your exercises as well. I suggest that you decide on target muscle groups and target muscle purpose (build muscle, increase strength, etc.) before going to the gym and letting your intended result drive the exercise order.
Overall, you should place the most important (to you) exercises first, followed by secondary muscle groups and focuses.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because this sort of research may drive how you structure all of your workouts. Further, it helps shed light on the most optimal ways to train, which eventually improves everyone's ability to get in better shape, faster.
While many other research papers have been devoted to the effect of resistance training and amino acid intake on protein synthesis following exercise, hardly any research had been done on the effect of protein synthesis from a whole food source, such as milk.
This study was one of the first to examine the impact that different types of milk had on markers of protein synthesis and amino acid uptake.1
The main reason the authors wanted to perform this study was to see if there would be any difference between consuming skim milk and whole milk after resistance training. This would better inform weight lifters on which type of milk they should prefer after a resistance training session in order to maximize muscle growth.
Volunteers of this study were randomly placed into 1 of 3 groups, which were provided different types and amounts of milk, 1 hour prior to completing a leg-based resistance exercise routine.
Thus, the research compared drinks that were matched by weight and protein (Skim milk vs. whole milk) and compared drinks that were matched by calories (whole milk vs. isocaloric skim milk). This was done in order to know whether whole milk is more advantageous than skim milk just because whole milk has more calories or because of something special in the whole milk, like the greater amount of fat.
In order to increase the calories in the isocaloric skim milk, the researchers added sucrose, or table sugar, to skim milk.
Following the ingestion of these drinks, the researchers measured net muscle protein balance, which was determined by measuring amino acid balance (specifically threonine and phenylalanine as markers) across the leg.
Wait, What's Protein Balance?
Throughout the day, you have a constant breakdown and build up of various proteins in the body, including those which make up skeletal muscle. It's postulated that as long as protein "build up" is greater than protein "breakdown," muscle growth can occur.
Protein balance measurements would simply be to determine which of the two sides (breakdown / build up) happening to a great extent. (Balance would be an equal amount of protein breakdown to protein build up.
Despite low significance, based on the results, it's safe to extrapolate that if the sample size was larger, the effect observed with whole milk would likely be significant meaning superior for growth. Overall, the researchers conclude that these results suggest whole milk may allow for increased utilization of amino acids need for protein synthesis, over that of skim or low fat, milk variants.
Total Protein Intake Was Low
The amount of protein necessary to maximize muscle protein synthesis is somewhere between 20 – 40 g, depending on the age and weight of the individual. The amount of protein used in this study was between 8 – 14.5 g. Thus, the significance of the results may be diminished if enough protein was used to maximize protein synthesis. Put another way, these results might not matter if you are downing 40g of protein after you work out anyway. However, we do not know this for certain.
Results Here Might Not Represent Long-Term Muscle Growth
Previous studies have shown that changes in muscle protein synthesis do not necessarily correlate with long term changes in muscle growth.2 That is, just because someone measures as having high rates of protein synthesis repeatedly does not necessarily mean that they will gain more muscle than someone who repeatedly measures with lower protein synthesis.
This study didn’t actually even measure the protein synthetic response, but instead measured amino acid uptake, meaning that what they measured is actually even one step farther away from practicality and long term predictive power.
Why this should matter to you
While the study is limited in its statistical power and relevance, there are some key takeaway points:
Overall, this should matter because it gives us an idea of how to best optimize the protein synthetic response to exercise, which is the current leading theory behind muscle growth. If you could have a better potential to grow muscle using whole milk vs. skim, this is important and valuable information.
About The Author
The purpose of this study was two fold:
Why study this?
This specific style of study is actually quite important because it sheds light on the most optimal way to use cardio for weight reduction. There's currently a large divide in the community with regards to high intensity training and low intensity training so this sort of information gives us a more clear direction.
Further, if you're just looking to get in better shape, this research will provide information about which form is best. If perhaps, cycling was more efficient than running (just an example), you could decide to use that form of exercise more often for more effective and efficient results.
12, healthy and moderately trained men were recruited for this study. Subjects were chosen based on being part of a club/county endurance cycling group and all had moderate experience for at least 3 years.
"Twelve subjects performed a graded exercise test to exhaustion on a cycle ergometer and on a treadmill; the results of this test were used to measure fat oxidation over a wide range of intensities for each subject during 2 different modes of exercise. The data were then used to determine whether the maximal rate of fat oxidation and the intensity at which it occurs were different when walking or cycling. The order of the trials was assigned to the subjects in a randomized cross-over design, and the tests were performed 5 to 7 days apart"
Essentially, subjects were required to do what is known as a graded test. For example, on the cycle, the participants started with a cycling pace of 95 W, meaning their overage power output was 95 W. Afterwards, their pace was increased by 35 W, every 3 minutes until exhaustion.
For the running test, subjects walked on a treadmill at 7.5 km / hour, starting at a 1% gradient. From here, the gradient was increase by 2% until an RER of 1.0 was reached. From here, the subjects ran at 10 km / hour at a 10% grade. Speed was increased by 2 km every 3 minutes until exhaustion.
Time Out! What's RER?
RER is taken using a gas exchange mask. It's a scale that measures your breath and determines how much carbohydrate and fat you're using as fuel. It's essentially a way to say "hey, you're preferentially burning fat (or carbohydrate) as fuel. Essentially, once this number is below 1.0, fat oxidation rises. For example: a 1.0 would be almost pure carbohydrate usage whereas a .70 would be almost entirely fat usage.
The researchers had runners walk until 1.0 to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure just trying to get to a fat burning state. For example, if the subjects were above 1.0 before starting, they may not ever get to a point that fat is being preferentially burned, rendering the study useless.
During this time, the researchers evaluated things like the rate of fat oxidation.
Throughout the course of the exercise session, the researchers could see at which time point and intensity, fat oxidation was highest, meaning that highest amount of fat being burned. From here, they can compare the results to a similar test, using running instead of cycling.
Lastly, during the testing, values for V02 and fat oxidation / carbohydrate oxidation were accounted for.
The researchers did this to be able to provide a representation of intensity and fat oxidation on the individual level. For example, the researchers can compare the subjects V02 to the amount of fat they're are using as fuel. After observing this for multiple subjects, we can begin to draw conclusions as to which amount of intensity is optimal for oxidizing fat.
Essentially, we can look at relative V02 (volume of oxygen consumption, as a metric for how hard you're working) and then look at the amount of fat being burned. Eventually we can begin to say "ok, at this level of V02, we can expect fat oxidation to be at this level, etc. It just brings a bit more real world application to the study.
When observing the relative amount of fat burning for each protocol, it was revealed that when running, the starting point and overall amount and rate of fat oxidation was significantly greater than baseline and over that of cycling. Overall, there was a clear advantage to running, compared to cycling.
Again, we see that for running, the starting point of fat oxidation rates is significantly higher for runners, compared to cycling. Further, we can see that the shift towards carbo utilization occurs at a very similar intensity, meaning that the mechanisms are the same, yet running is just a better option for fat burning.
Cyclists May Be More Efficient At Cycling
One very important consideration is that these individuals were regular cyclists for at least 3 years. When trianing constantly and consistently for a given sport, a primary adaptation is greater efficiency of movement and utilization of fuel.
It's highly probably that since these individuals were trained cyclists, the amount of energy they use during activity, during that specific activity (cycling) could be significantly less. By using running, of which the cyclists are not familiar, it's possible that the increased energy expenditure is simply due to the fact that these individuals were not trained runners.
Essentially, it's very possible these findings are not because running is superior, per se, but rather because running is a novel stimulus, meaning the body burns more energy trying to keep up with energy demands. Essentially, we'd need to repeat the study, using seasoned runners in the same capacity as the cyclists used in this study to determine if the effect seen in this study is due to novelty of exercise or if running is in fact, superior.
Running Is More Intensive
Another factor to consider is that running as a whole is far more intensive in terms of what is required to move, meaning a greater amount of energy being needed and used.
For example, running requires coordinated movement of legs, torso and arms, where as cycling is primarily dependent on lower limbs. Surely cycling involves other muscle groups to some extent but it's safe to say that they level of activity required by running for many muscle groups is greater than what is required to stay on a stationary cycle.
Perhaps the increased energy demand of running is the explanation for these findings. It's certainly possible and doesn't necessarily nullify the results. If running requires more energy, then you'll use more energy to satisfy that need.
Small, Concise Population
Another important consideration is the sample size. Only 12 participants from a very specific group of individuals were chosen. Further, due to technical issues, only 6 of the 12 had blood drawings. This could potentially make the findings less strong, to say the least.
I personally would have liked to see a population of trained cyclists, trained runners and untrained, overweight individuals, to determine how training status affected the findings. If this could be done, we could draw some serious conclusions.
Overall, these findings aren't conclusive enough to say stop cycling at the hand of running. Surely it opens the door to possibility, but due to the factors I discussed, it's difficult to definitively say running is better. Certainly, running is much more difficult, at least for me, leading me to believe that energy expenditure will probably be greater.
Additionally, it's hard to know if the benefit of running over cycling was simply because it was a novel stimulus to those whom regularly cycle. Further, it's hard to know if these trained cyclers were simply more efficient at cycling (very possible).
I'd suggest using a combination of running and cycling if you're looking to drop some pounds, using cardio based exercises, potentially placing greater emphasis on running over cycling. However, it's also important to consider preference. While these findings indicate greater effectiveness using running, it's hard to know exactly why. If you hate running but enjoy cycling, this information isn't strong enough to warrant abandoning the exercise you enjoy.
After all, if you're more likely to actually exercise and put forth greater effort using a method you enjoy, that will likely be more effective than forcing yourself to do something you don't enjoy.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because it sheds light on which form of exercise may be superior for losing body fat specifically. Further, it may also provide us with information regarding how important novel exercise is if you're looking to change, even as an experienced athlete. It also matters because it at least gives us an idea of which form of cardio may be more effective, allowing you to choose exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. This research is not definitive by any means but certainly provides another stepping stone towards objective exercise prescription.
The purpose of this study was to determine if static stretching completed on non-lifting days would accelerate muscle and strength gains for beginners, compared to lifting weights alone. In essence, they had young beginners lift weights 3 times per week. One group stretched on two of the off days while the other group did not stretch. Afterwards, they observed growth between groups.
It's quite interesting to determine if something other than actually lifting can result in improvements. The fact that stretching on off days might improve performance is interesting to say the least.
Why Study This
This is interesting. In other articles, I've written about stretching and how it can negatively impact strength and performance. However, that's specifically when stretching is completed prior to exercise, such as during a warm up. Further, this negative effect is even greater if the stretch is static, or a "hold" stretch, rather than dynamic (2, 3.
As other research has shown, stretching on non-lifting days might actually improve performance. Why? It's uncertain, but doing so may provide greater range of motion and perhaps even a better body awareness. The authors also note, that it's possible that stretching might produce a similar muscle damaging effect as often observed with passive stretch as a result of weight training (4, 5, 6).
Fun Fact: Resistance stretches the muscle, which as a beginner can result in muscle damage in different forms, which can lead to a super-compensation once it repairs - i.e. you're bigger and stronger so that further damage can't occur. The authors of this study postulate that might be a reason for the results.
Essentially, it's good to study this because there are mixed messages with regards to stretching and performance. Further, it's quite interesting to determine if something other than actually lifting can result in improvements. The fact that stretching on off days might improve performance is interesting to say the least. Further, this sort of information can provide guidance for better usage of stretching.
32 young individuals (16 women, 16 men) were recruited for the study as beginners (exercise less than 2 times per week.
Once recruited, subjects participated in an 8 week resistance training protocol while being placed randomly into 1 of 2 groups:
Once placed into their respective groups, subjects completed a 1 RM test for the following exercises:
Participants of the stretching +weight training group underwent the following procedure on off days:
Both groups executed the workout 3 times per week, for a period of 8 weeks. Subjects completed 1 RM testing prior to the study. The group with stretching included then stretched on off days, 2 times per week for the duration of the study. The weight training group without stretching simply rested on off days.
Upon completion of the study, participants underwent a second testing of 1 RM to observe strength improvement differences.
In the above graph, you can see that upon testing 1 RM values the second time, both groups observed significant improvements in strength for all exercises. Further, the group that added stretching on off days also observed a significant improvement in strength gains OVER THAT of the weight training only group, for knee extension and leg press. As for knee curls, the improvement was still significant, just not from the weight training only improvements.
In essence, the group that stretched significantly improved over baseline and then were significantly greater than that of the weight training only group, which was also significantly greater than baseline. This means that it's likely the stretching had a very potent effect on amplifying strength gains from the training alone.
The fact that we don't know or have an idea of the mechanism also reduces our confidence that experienced individuals might observe the same effect. If we knew the mechanism, we could say "hey that won't apply to an experienced lifter" or alternatively "hey, that mechanism works regardless of experience."
1. These Were Beginners
Arguably, the most important consideration here is that these were beginners. Beginners see rapid advances in strength and muscle growth, regularly, since the exercise is a novel stimulus, promoting an adaptation. Thus, it's unknown if this will translate to people outside of the "beginner" phase.
It's suggested that if you want to use this information, play around with it and see if you notice an improvement. Just know, it may take a long time so if you decide to test it out for yourself, do so for a period of 8-12 weeks minimum.
2. The Training Plan
The training plan used in this study was pretty standard for research, and not the greatest for actually observing growth. If these individuals actually resistance trained as most would, with free weights and far greater volume, the results may have been even more profound.
3. No Mechanisms To Explain the Result
Unfortunately, the researchers didn't study or measure any potential mechanism behind the potent effect of stretching. Their hypothesis is that doing the stretching places mechanical stress on the muscle, as with resistance training, causing a stretch effect. As mentioned, stretching might create similar scenarios in the muscle as is observed while lifting, creating a stimulus to improve strength and muscle.
Some other research on animals indicates that stretching under load, might produce what is known as hyperplasia, or the generation of new muscle fibers. Otherwise, this is fairly uncommon, at least in human models, so it's difficult to say that's the likely mechanism.
Either way, there was a clear advantage of stretching on off days. Perhaps it lead to improved recovery at the hand of improved blood flow as a result of stretching. Pehaps stretching led to better muscular control or perhaps doing so improve range of motion, improving ability.
Really, we don't really know. Further, the fact that we don't know or have an idea of the mechanism also reduces our confidence that experienced individuals might observe the same effect. If we knew the mechanism, we could say "hey that won't apply to an experienced lifter" or alternatively "hey, that mechanism works regardless of experience."
If you're a coach, using stretching on off days for new clients or young athletes, may improve performance, accelerating growth. However, it's important to note that this effect is currently, beginner specific and may not prove useful for the experienced.
If you are a beginner yourself, it may be beneficial for you to use static stretching on off days, stretching target muscle groups each time.
If you're experienced, it's unknown if using this information will prove beneficial. However, it's certainly possible and in most cases, improved flexibility and range of motion won't be a bad thing. If you're experienced and interested, I suggest stretching target muscle groups on off days (not before or after workouts).
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because this is another resource to put the notion of stretching and performance to the test. As previous research has proven stretching before events to be detrimental, this information provides actual, potential benefit of stretching for beginners. Further, this information presents an additional variable you can use to potentially improve performance, muscle and strength.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of 12 weeks of High Intensity Interval Training on body composition changes in young males. It is however, important to note that this is not the traditional HIIT training I often speak of. As we'll touch on briefly, this study evaluated what most would consider to be interval training and not HIIT in the sense that is often used in research of extremely high intensity, short sprints.
It's because of this fact that the findings may be a bit more reasonable for normal populations that are overweight. As I wrote about in a recent article, if intensity is too high, it's unlikely the person will continue, since it really sucks. If we can make "high intensity" relative to the athletic ability of the client, then we have something that might acutally produce results outside of the laboratory.
Why Study This?
This topic is important to study because it's a widely prescribed method of training. Theoretically, HIIT should be effective for improving body composition, but it's good to test these methods in different populations, in ways that are relative to the population's athletic ability.
For example, many people whom are overweight, and even those in shape, find that tradition HIIt is just too strenuous and difficult. I for example, rarely use HIIT training, since it makes me sick. As with this study, the researchers used a slightly different method of HIIT. One that is by all means, difficult, yet may be more applicable to beginner populations, who are overweight.
Lastly, many people believe HIIT to be the answer to most issues. Studies like this either corroborate or refute those claims.
Adjusting percentages is a great way to accurately make load changes, even when your lifting. For example, your 5 rep max might be significantly different when you're fresh, than compared to after you're already 5 sets in. If you program your training to use 90% of your 5 rep max, but you're fatigued, your training will suffer. By adjusting those percentages to reflect your fatigue level, you'll get more out of your training.
Participants: For this study, 46 males, whom were both inactive and overweight were recruited for this study. 25 participants were then placed into either an exercise group or control group, which did not exercise.
During the 12 week study, participants were instructed to avoid strenuous activity and caffeine intake for 24 hours prior to the training session. The reason for this is because strenuous activity could reduce the subjects ability during the training session, making them less effective. Additionally, caffeine has been linked to things like improved power output and fatigue resistance, which could skew results.
Testing: Subjects reported to the laboratory after a 10-hour, overnight fast. The training protocol was carried out 3 times per week, for 12 weeks.
Subjects were instructed to cycle at 80-90% of their heart rate max for 8 seconds (sprint) and then cycle at a cadence of 40 RPM, for 12 seconds. This interval style of training was repeated for a total of 20 minutes. Here's a more clear idea of how the study was carried out:
It's important to also point out that using their heart rate max as a metric is pretty great. Consider for a moment how difficult HIIT actually is.To be able to maintain sprinting at your true 80-90% Heart rate max would be damn near impossible. By adjusting each subsequent set to the new 80-90% Heart rate max, you're adjusting based on your current ability, not the ability you had at peak performance with no fatigue.
Adjusting percentages is a great way to accurately make load changes, even when your lifting. For example, your 5 rep max might be significantly different when you're fresh, than compared to after you're already 5 sets in. If you program your training to use 90% of your 5 rep max, but you're fatigued, your training will suffer. By adjusting those percentages to reflect your fatigue level, you'll get more out of your training.
Diet: Subjects were not placed on a calorically restrictive diet. Typically, it would make sense to restrict calories, since it may augment the effectiveness of HIIT. However, in research, you can't because if the subjects do have a change in body composition, yet were dieting, it's difficult to say that body change came from diet or exercise. By only changing one variable, we can see whether or not that variable actually works.
Further, now we can carry out studies, combining this protocol with calorie restriction and compare the results of both studies to get a more accurate idea of how these training methods work when dieting is included.
Other Tests: Subjects were also provided with DEXA scans, the gold standard machine used to test body composition changes as a result of any intervention.
Total Body Mass & Body Fat Percentage
When measured by DEXA, it was determined that the exercise protocol used during this study resulted in significant decreases in total body mass (P < 00.5) for the exercise group with no change observed for the control group. Further, metrics like fat mass and fat free mass (increase) were also significantly changed in the group using exercise. In fact, health metric observed in this study, as shown in the first table, was improved in some manner.
Abdominal & Trunk Fat
When evaluating changes to the abdomen and trunk region in terms of fat mass, researchers observed changes in almost all regions. For leg fat, we at least see a trend for reductions of fat, but surprisingly we see an increase in leg lean mass, indicating a muscle growth, fat loss effect. Clearly, this method was effective in some manner.
Fat Free Mass (Muscle)
Lastly, the researchers also observed significant improvements in both leg and trunk fat free mass, indicating that the resistance and intensity involved with this study was adequate enough to stimulate some form of muscle growth. An interesting finding to say the least. Further, noticing that only trunk and legs increased lean mass tells me that it actually occurred, since the muscle growth should be specific to the stress. Since cycling doesn't require much input from arm musculature (other than balance), we wouldn't expect there to be any growth.
Even in the absence of a calorie deficit as presented, these subjects observed significant reductions of fat mass in addition to even building some lean mass. If a calorie deficit were to be introduced, it's likely the changes would have been drastically different (in a good way).
This Protocol Is More Reasonable For Normal People
The researchers put these subjects on a protocol that is actually reasonable and able to be completed by normal people. Traditional studies on HIIT use Wingates, which no one has access to. Further, Wingates are hard, even for trained individuals. Place an overweight sedentary person on a Wingate and the best data you'll get is how fast they leave the building.
By using a method that others can implement, it means the findings may translate into the real world.
This May Be A Good Alternative To HIIT
While this isn't a true HIIT protocol, it might be one that normal people can use, adjusting intensity as they go. If you're new to exercise, have time constraints and want to get in shape, using this method of high intensity sprints, interspersed with moderate activity, might be a reasonable way to get in shape.
This Probably Won't Be Effective For Trained Individuals
If you're highly trained, this probably won't work for you. Since these were beginners, any significant change to their routine will provide an improvement.
If you're highly trained, this simple protocol probably won't result in any drastic change. Further, it's likely a trained individual will not see actual muscle growth from this or any other HIIT protocol. It's certainly possible, yet less likely the more experienced you are.
Then again, if you adjust the intensity and durations of sprints / the whole session to reflect your athletic ability, you may see benefit.
Resistance Training May Boost Effectiveness
The last important point to keep in mind is that these individuals did not use resistance training. I'd imagine that if they had, results would be even greater. Perhaps future studies can evaluate this protocol in the same population, while including resistance training and dieting approaches.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because it provides us with more information with regards to HIIT methods. Further, this also indicates that at least for beginners, with no experience, using a traditional interval approach, rather than a brutal HIIT approach can be used successfully, at least for some time, for changing body composition. It provides more information on how to actually prescribe HIIT, depending on the individual. Further, this should provide you with a bit of direction in terms of what you need to do to get in shape, relative to your current body composition and ability.
This study provides real world application, which is important.
The fact that people suffering from wasting diseases, cancer, depression, anxiety and pain, successfully use the plant in different forms to improve quality of life, yet it's still federally considered a schedule I drug (no medical use), should tell you there's a clear agenda.
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are easily the biggest culprit behind addiction and accidental overdose. In fact, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, of the 20.5 million Americans, whom are 12 or older and have a substance use disorder, 2 million of those individuals were addicted to some form of prescription pain killer (1).
Just this past week, our President signed an executive order to combat this terrible issue in our country, yet again fails to recognize the safe and potential alternative to the opioid epidemic: Marijuana.
The stigma against marijuana is one that has always baffled me, considering that many of the opposition has no issue with getting black out drunk. It's quite clear, regardless of what many think (including our elected officials) that marijuana does in fact have therapeutic benefit.
Consider that many pharmaceutical companies have synthesized THC analogue medicines, to mimic the effects of marijuana, while slipping past the apparent stigma of the plant itself. The fact that people suffering from wasting diseases, cancer, depression, anxiety and pain, successfully use the plant in different forms to improve quality of life, yet it's still federally considered a schedule I drug (no medical use), should tell you there's a clear agenda.
Fortunately, research is being done and eventually the evidence will overcome this ridiculous stigma.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate how the use of Medical Cannabis (MC) can potentially serve as a safe alternative to regular opioid use. Further, the study was to observe the relative effect that Medical Cannabis has on reducing opioid usage, despite addiction.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Acetaminophen, the active pain killer ingredient in Tylenol, sends upwards of 78,000 Americans to the emergency room, each year. Not to mention, it's one of the leading culprits behind acute liver failure. Still want your Excedrin after a night of drinking?
Why Study This
Addiction is terrible and many times out of the individual's control. The truth is, those who aren't or who have never been addicted to a substance, don't understand the repercussions of being a part of the endless loop of craving and satisfaction.
Addiction isn't a lack of will power and it's certainly not always the individuals fault. With addiction comes rationalization and self-hate. To be bound by the grips of a substance, of which you don't enjoy despite needing it is a terrible situation.
Further, when it comes to opiate addiction, many times it's at the recommendation of a licensed professional in power. After which, the patient becomes hopelessly addicted to such powerful substances that literally change how the brain functions. I've seen opiate addiction first hand, and I myself have struggled with addiction. It's a terrible situation to be in and removing yourself from it, is often seemingly impossible.
Even apart from opiates, pharmaceutical pain killers are dangerous. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Acetaminophen, the active pain killer ingredient in Tylenol, sends upwards of 78,000 Americans to the emergency room, each year. Not to mention, it's one of the leading culprits behind acute liver failure. Still want your Excedrine after a night of drinking? (2, 3).
As a personal anecdote, I suffer from a Migraine Disorder. I'm also habitually addicted to Caffeine because of it (caffeine is an ingredient which reduces migraine symptoms or prevents them). When I take Excedrin, I'm not taking 1-2. I'm taking 4-6 pills at a time. Even then, the pain doesn't subside, I just get high (and not in a good way).
The need for safe, natural alternatives for pain management is more important than ever. Further, the need for substituting highly active and dangerous substances with the same is incredibly valuable.
Lastly, this research stands in the face of the ignorance our elected officials are choosing to stand behind. Further, this isn't just my opinion. Base don the information you'll read, it will be quite clear to you that we've entered a period of blatant disregard for medical practice, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The findings of this study were based on surveys taken by 1513 participants, whom were members of medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine (66.1%), Vermont (24.3) and Rhode Island (9.7%).
These were individuals whom experience chronic pain in some fashion (as this would be a requirement for a medical cannabis card). From here, the survey was dependent on the participants use of opiates. For example, if the participant answered yes to regularly taking opiate pain medications, they would then move on to questions such as "Have you noticed a change in opiate usage since you began using medical cannabis, etc." Further, this was then continued to encompass other potential drug usage, such as benzodiazepines (sleep) and other related drugs that often provide symptom relief for depression and migraine.
Essentially, the participants were asked questions about their drug usage, with relation to certain issues (pain, depression, insomnia, migraine) and then were surveyed to determine how much LESS these individuals used prescription pharmaceuticals, after beginning to use medical cannabis. I.E. Is Marijuana a reasonable substitute for powerful pharmaceuticals.
Figure 1. Percent of respondents with a reduction in opioid pain medications, agents for anxiety, migraine, drugs to improve sleep, alcohol consumption, and antidepressants. Total N that regularly used each group of drugs is in parentheses. Lower number on each bar is the % that reduced use ‘a lot’. Upper number is the total that reduced use. ap ⩽ 0.0001 versus antidepressants. bp ⩽ 0.0005 versus alcohol.
With regards to subjects using opioid medications, an astounding 76.7% of responders indicated that they reduced opiate use as a result of using Medical Cannabis instead. Further, over 40% of those responders indicated drastic reductions of opiate use.
Further, as you can see in the graph above, all other subsets of pain showed a significant reduction of opiate usage as a result. If we were to scale the benefit observed by this study to the American Population whom is addicted to opiates, we'd see a significant reduction of opioid usage in 1.52 million of the 2 million people addicted.
If that doesn't convince you, nothing will. If you want an answer to the opioid epidemic, here it is.
Subject Perception Of Cannabis
Apart from simply making it public knowledge that cannabis is both safe and effective, we also have to deal with how people perceive its use. Even in a world where people regularly consume alcohol, which is by and large dangerous, while providing almost zero medical benefit, marijuana is surrounded with stigma and fear. These are the most common keywords being used by participants with relation the questions of what you like most (a) and least (b) with relation to medical cannabis usage:
Based on many of the keywords being highlighted (larger words means they were used most often when responding), it's clear that many of the negative associations with medical cannabis aren't due to danger or negative side effects, but rather stigmas surrounding the plant, such as stigma itself, getting high, the smell and even cost.
Essentially, apart from possible financial agendas, it's quite possible that many of the stigmas revolving around marijuana are not necessarily due to symptom, but rather a collective fear and uncertainty around the idea of smoking marijuana. The fact that people are being prescribed opiates (apart from their pain relieving effect, which does exist), rather than potentially exploring the therapeutic benefit of cannabis due to stigma should show you the shift that needs to occur with our thinking on the substance.
1. This isn't just a cry to get high.
Many people's arguments revolving avoiding cannabis use for pain relief is this idea that the patient just "wants to get high." That may be the case, but assuredly it's not the only reason. Further, if they do want to "get high" is that actually a bad thing? Do you view intoxication by alcohol in a negative light because the person just "wants to get drunk?" Just because it is a substance with psychoactive effects, doesn't mean it isn't useful.
As you can see above, the benefits extend further than just getting high.
2. We need more real research.
This type of information is certainly valuable. They examined real world people who ahve stopped using opiates at the hand of marijuana.
What we need is real research to determine if marijuana can be used as a first line of defense against pain. Realistically, it would make sense to curtail opiate prescription and delegate their use to severe cases, which require the power that opiates provide. It's quite possible that marijuana could be a reasonable substitute for less urgent pain conditions, potentially reducing the risk of patients contracting irreversible addiction that can't be beat.
We collectively need to put this unnecessary stigma behind us so we can study it to the extent we need.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because there is an opioid epidemic, with a potential, real solution that is being ignored. Opioid (and any other) addiction is serious and it gets ignored by those who haven't experienced its grips. Medical Cannabis does in fact have therapeutic use and should be explored as an alternative for pain relief. It's important for us to constantly re-evaluate sentiments we hold dear, especially when avoiding those sentiments could mean a better quality of life for many.
The purpose of this study was to observe what benefit, adding strength training would have on endurance performance.
Basically, they recruited athletes whom are experienced with endurance exercise (long duration cardio) and then began incorporating strength training workouts into their routine. After a period of time, they tested these subject's performance in an endurance event to see if the strength training had in fact improved performance.
This sort of research is important because it allows us to observe whether or not using other training methods will actually improve performance in your target event.
Why Study This?
This type of research is actually quite important.
One of the main focuses of training for sport is training specificity. This essentially means that you'll need to train in a similar fashion to your performance. This makes sense. Consider for a moment, an olympic weight lifter. It makes sense that in order to be good at olympic weightlifting, said athlete should practice olympic weight lifting.
Doing so not only results in a likely improvement of strength and power, but also efficiency of movement, meaning the body is able to complete the movement efficiently and effectively.
Conversely, it would make sense for an endurance runner to primarily focus on endurance running to improve their performance for many of the same reasons as above.
However, most athletes do however at least dabble in other forms of exercise, to sort of tie up loose ends. If you're always training with the same methods, training can eventually become stagnant, boring and in-effective. Further, by training with other methods, you're allowing growth in other ways, that may potentially improve performance within the target event.
This sort of research is important because it allows us to observe whether or not using other training methods will actually improve performance in your target event. It allows coaches and athletes alike to know which methods of training should be implemented or avoided based on the target performance goal and further, which work better than others.
Lastly, people often claim that weightlifters / bodybuilders can benefit from endurance training to some extent and vice versa. This sort of research allows us to observe if, how and to what extent that actually holds true.
Twenty-eight, female endurance athletes were recruited for this study. All participants were considered "well-trained" in either running or cycling, and were not involved with a strength training program for the at least 1 year, leading up to the study.
Women were placed into two groups:
The study commenced for 11 weeks after which, participants were exposed to both a strength test and a 40 minute endurance test to observe the effect of adding strength training, on both variables (strength performance and endurance performance).
First, it's important to note that these individuals were exposed to only lower limb exercises. For a true endurance athlete, this is likely beneficial. Given that either running or cycling are leg-dominant activities, improving leg strength / ability would be beneficial whereas improving those aspects for upper body musculature will not be as beneficial. Further, exercising only lower limbs will help avoid training too much, for little benefit. Lastly, risking an increase in upper body size may reduce efficiency and economy of movement when running or cycling, so most endurance athletes do not put much emphasis on upper body work.
Second, many of these movements allow for decent transfer into performance. In particular, calf raises may provide some benefit, since flexing the calf muscle under weight is very similar to what occurs during a runners stride (pushing off the pavement with the foot follow through).
Third, the fact that they are doing squats on the smith machine is not of major concern. These are endurance athletes looking to improve performance, not powerlifters. Perhaps using a free wight squat would provide benefit long-term, but the learning curve for properly executing a free weight barbell squat is steep. With a short time-frame of a study, it's simply not feasible, especially because these individuals are not strength trained.
Lastly, the researchers used a sort of undulating periodization method. This study used a linear approach by starting with higher reps (volume) in the beginner, while moving towards lower rep, strength-focused work later in the study. This mimics a typical linear periodization approach. Further, within each block (weeks 1-3, 4-6, 7-11), participants worked on different weight and rep ranges, simulating an undulating approach.
Personally, I believe this to be an optimal method to use, especially for beginners on a time frame.
When testing 1 RM strength after the protocol, the endurance + strength training groups observed significant increases in 1 Rep Max strength (40.4 ± 14.7% in E+S (p < 0.01).
Really, though, this isn't surprising. These athletes were specifically including training that is specific to increasing strength. The fact that the strength training group increased 1 RM strength and the endurance only group did not, only strengthens the idea of training specificity.
Again, we see only a significant increase in muscle fiber cross sectional area (increase in size of the muscle) in the strength training group. Again, expected.
Lastly, when observing a 40 minute, all out endurance test, there were no significant differences in performance when comparing the strength training + endurance training to endurance training only.
If your goal is to improve endurance, it may be more beneficial to train with resistance in ways that are more specific to or more closely promote the adaptations which are needed to actually improve endurance abilities.
Training Specificity Is King
Really, it's not all that surprising that the strength training didn't result in significant (really any) improvement in endurance ability. The reason for this is quite simple in that the two modes of exercise rely on different mechanisms for performance.
Strength improvement is very neural-based in that it's largely dependent on how quickly and frequently your brain can provide a message to the muscle to contract. Whereas endurance improvement has a lot to do with factors like VO2 max, or the maximum volume of oxygen your muscle can take in and utilize, fatigue resistance, utilization of different fuel types, running economy / efficiency. The differences of adaptations between the two methods makes it difficult for either to have a significant impact on the other.
Strength-Endurance Resistance Training May Be Better
What may actually be more beneficial is including both strength-focused resistance training and strength-endurance type resistance training.
Certainly, getting stronger at least doesn't result in decrements of improvement (as observed above). However, using more strength-endurance type resistance training may actually be more beneficial for improving endurance performance.
Utilizing higher-repetition sets may provide adaptations which are more similar to that of endurance, such as prolonged contraction (high rep sets) and fatigue resistance (since higher repetition sets will be more dependent on fatigue resistance, rather than simply brute strength). Further, using this style of resistance training may provide other adaptations like clearance of metabolites that result from prolonged exercise.
If your goal is to improve endurance, it may be more beneficial to train with resistance in ways that are more specific to or more closely promote the adaptations which are needed to actually improve endurance abilities.
Strength May Provide Different Benefit For Different Endurance Events
It's quite possible that if the endurance test was shorter and higher intensity, that the strength group would potentially observe an increase in performance. Since a shorter, higher intensity run would be more closely related to strength ability, it's possible an improvement would reveal itself.
Really, I think the endurance event was simply too "endurance focused" to actually observe any significant benefit at the hand of strength training.
What About Using Endurance For Strength?
It's extremely difficult to extrapolate that these results would be the same if the training focuses were switched (strength athletes incorporating endurance).
I would wager that the results would be similar. Perhaps strength athletes may see an improvement of metabolite clearance when doing hypertrophy style exercise, but otherwise, it's likely there will be no major benefit. However, keep in mind that it's difficult to know for sure, just based on this information. This is my own opinion on the matter.
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because it allows us to understand what you should and probably should not use for training, depending on your style of training and sport. If you're an endurance athlete, using strength training will improve strength, but probably won't improve your performance with regards to long duration endurance events. Further, the opposite is probably true (strength athlete incorporating very long duration endurance exercise). Really, if you're looking for improvement, it's better to more closely match your desired outcome of performance, in terms of exercise (i.e sprinting cardio would likely provide more benefit for strength purposes than will long duration cardio).
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of resistance training, diet, and resistance training + diet on bod composition changes (fat mass and lean body mass). This study was carried out using premenopausal women.
This study recruited 40 women ages ranging from 25-40 years old. These women were all premenopausal, had normal daily activity levels, yet were not intentionally exercising.
In essence, the researchers wanted middle aged women, whom were healthy, yet not really exercising on a regular basis. This is a great cohort to study, since it allows us to observe how either of these variables (resistance training and diet) affects body changes, for beginners. Further, it then allows us to view how a combination of the two differs from either alone.
This type of research is important because it provides a starting point for those looking to get in better shape, yet aren't sure the proper route to take.
From here, subjects were placed into one of four groups:
Note: Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is determined by gas exchange. You sit in a room or under a device which measures gas exchange through breathing and eventually determines the amount of calories you burn at rest for a given amount of time, which is then extrapolated for a daily amount.
For subjects included within the "diet" or "diet + RT" group, the researchers manipulated calorie intake on an individual basis.
Using formulas, (harris benedict), researchers determined estimated Resting Metabolic Rate (using things like height, weight activity, etc.). Afterwards, subjects then underwent actual RMR testing.
According to how closely the estimated matched the actual RMR testing, the researchers manipulated intake. For example, if the subjects RMR was within 10% of the estimated RMR, then this individual followed the actual RMR number.
If the RMR was 10% greater than the estimated, then the calorie intake for that individual was set at 10% LESS than the actual RMR. If actual was 10% less than predicted, calorie intake was set at 10% above actual.
Here's a more clear example:
It might seem a bit strange, but this technique is optimal since everyone's metabolic rate is unique. If measured RMR is close to Estimated, it's probably fairly accurate. This procedure is just done to try and better match the subject's ACTUAL RMR rather than just taking the testing and estimations as gospel. It's always better to have an average.
Note: this method was also used for individuals completing resistance training. The fact they exercised did not change the nutritional protocol.
When it comes to an exercise protocol for a study like this, the above is pretty much as good as it gets. The researchers used a full body routine, using typical bodybuilding style ranges of repetition and weight.
Theoretically, this range should provide a decent stimulus for increasing muscle mass, while also being fairly metabolically demanding. Further, this is a decent route since if they began incorporating things like HIIT or metabolic resistance training, they run the risk of skewing results (because weight loss may then be attributed to excess high intensity cardio).
Overall, there aren't many confounding factors when it comes to their exercise prescription in this study.
In the above, you can see that there is very little difference between groups. However, there was a significant decrease trend for diet only (β = -1.35; 95% CI = -2.03, -0.67; P = 0.0004) and diet + resistance training (β = - 1.68; 95% CI = -2.51, -0.85; P = 0.0006).
In the above figure, we see that all conditions were significant with regards to reducitons of body fat % (except control).
All three groups showed significant decreases in body fat mass. However, the researchers executed additional statistic for this test and concluded that diet + resistance training had a greater decrease in terms of time and extent, than resistance training alone. There was no significant difference in this rate when comparing to diet only.
In the above, the researchers determined that the only group to show a significant increase in lean mass was the resistance training only group (β = 0.76; 95% CI = 0.32, 1.2; P = 0.002).
Honestly, this makes sense. These participants focused solely on resistance training while also consuming a normal amount of calories. This is a perfect recipe for muscle growth, while any of the others (calorie deficits) were not optimal for this outcome.
What This Means
Based on the findings in this study, it's increasingly more safe to assume that including both a restriction of calories in addition to a resistance training protocol yields superior changes in body composition that if you were to only implement resistance training or simply diet, alone.
Really, this isn't groundbreaking at all. It makes sense that a combination of exercise and diet would yield superior results. However, it at least provides us a metric for how much of a difference we should expect.
It tells us that while either diet or exercise may work for changes, combining the two is certainly a better option if you want quicker and more drastic results.
Moving forward, I would assume that subjects would likely see even greater results if some form of cardio type training was intermittently added to the protocol. Albeit, it's unknown to what extent this would occur.
Future studies should include three - four additional groups
Surely that may prove difficult but it's certainly something worth considering, given that many people decide that jogging is the best way to get in shape. Surely the scientific community agrees that diet and resistance training is the superior route but many lay-persons don't necessarily follow that logic.
Why This Should Matter To You
It matters because it sheds light on the subject of dieting and resistance training plus the relationship they have with each other when it comes to weight loss. Arguments over importance of training and diet have been taking place for years. This research at least sheds light on the theory that a combination of diet and exercise is superior. Further, it strengthens the notion that there is not quick fix. If you want real results in a reasonable amount of time, you'll need to work for it.