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.
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.
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.
Don't Forget To Download The Holiday Eating Guide.
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.
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