Saturday, July 28, 2012

On Short Notice: Insanity vs. TurboFire - What's the Best HIIT Regimen? Plus: USA vs. China, Chews vs. Raisins, Epi-Sesamine vs. Body Fat, Exercise vs. Neurotoxins & More

Figure 1: The latest medal prognosis for Olympia 2012 by researchers at the Department of Economics at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany (Otten. 2012) - I must admit I am curious how accurate this prognosis will be... what's your take? The US or China? Who's going to take the lead?
The Queen has officially opened the Olympic Games 2012 and the games have their first doping case - those of you who followed yesterday's advice to subscribe to the SuppVersity Facebook page are already in the know... anyways, this is not the place for one of my hypocrisy rants, but for the weekly installment of "On Short Notice". Still, in the "honor" of the Olympics *rofl* and the spirit of the SuppVersity - which is, as you all know, the place you will get the news first! - I have compiled the TOP15 from the latest medal prognosis by Sebastian Otten, the chair of the Department of Economics at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany, for you as an appetizer (figure 1). Moreover, I picked more sports and less health, weight-loss, supplementation and nutrition related topics from my ever-growing collection of "On Short Notice" items, which is by the way already so exuberant that there will be another episode of this series either tomorrow or early next week, mostly because otherwise the latest news would come in late... so, let's go for it!

Insanity vs. TurboFire Interval - What's the optimal HIIT regimen?

As part of her recently published master thesis, Sarah A. McGlinchy investigated the differential effects two commercial fitness programs had on the heart rate pulmonary O2 uptake, CO2 output, caloric expenditure and substrate utilization during exercise and recovery, as well as the subjective satisfaction and physical exertion of trained individuals (N=15, four males and 11 females, aged 22.3 ± 1.6 years McGlinchy. 2012).
  • Image 1: Insanity (top) vs. Turbo Fire (bottom) - My HIIT workouts look profoundly different, but this does not mean that those workouts cannot be effective; specifically if you enjoy stuff like this and don't do it alone in front of your TV, but with friends & new friends at the gym. And trust me, I don't even need a study to be able to tell you that a workout you enjoy will be more productive than the "objectively" best workout you hate
    Insanity® Interval Training Protocol - A plyometric cardio circuit workout that is performed after a 9 min warum-up and followed by a 5 min stretch. It revolves around different drills (performed at progressively increasing intensity) that are separated by 30s water breaks, the drills last about 1 min each - the total length of the workout is 41 minutes and 35 seconds (click here to watch a promo video on YouTube)
  • Turbo Fire® Interval Training Protocol - The HIIT 30 variety of a series of DVDs that comes from the same company that sells the P90X DVDs includes a 3 min warm-up, a 3 min cool down with stretching and slow movements to get the heart rate back to normal and a series of five drills of which the first four are repeated twice and the last one three times. Drills last about 1 min and are supposed to be performed with maximum effort each is followed by one minute of active recovery (walking, jogging in place, etc.). Water breaks are allowed during the active recovery. The total length of the workout is 30 minutes and 36 seconds (click here to watch a private workout video on YouTube).
I don't know about you, but based on the part of the videos I saw, before I felt I had seen enough, I would probably prefer the Insanity (Ins) over the Turbo Fire (TF) protocol; not so the study participants, though: After having performed both workouts in a randomized order, their "positive engagement" was slightly more pronounced after the TF protocol (see figure 2, left). It should however be mentioned that neither the the pre- to post- nor the inter-workout differences were statistically significant (with a total number of subjects of N=15, the difference could well have been 7/8, had the subjects been asked to pick one or the other).
Figure 2: Physical exhaustion, tranquility and pos. engagement after workouts (left), respiratory exchange ratio at rest and from min. 5-60 (middle), and time (in s) during the workout, when the heart rate was within the given percentages of the calculated personal HRmax(data adapted from McGlinchy. 2012)
My gut tells me that the part of the preference for the TurboFire (TF) protocol could be due to from a) the shorter overall duration and b) the greater exhaustion the subjects in experienced during the Insanity trial -I mean "insanity"? What else do you expect???

Ignore fatty acid oxidation and total calorie expenditure - pick the one you like!

The significantly less pronounced at the end of the TurboFire Intervals stand in contrast to the total the subjects were working out in the 81-90% HRmax, though. With 1000 seconds (vs. 580s) the latter was significantly longer during the Turbo Fire session. Accordingly, the subjects' respiratory exchange ratio (RER), a measure for the relation of glucose to fatty acid oxidation was significantly higher, as well.

SuppTensity Workout Perform 3 cycles of these 5 drills, each drill lasts 1 min, 45s active recovery  between drills, 2 min between cycles
  • Squats*
  • Push ups
  • Lunges**
  • Clean & press*
  • Rope skipping
use adequately loaded *barbell or **dumbbell
While the former was to be expected, it may appear somewhat odd at first, though, is the higher and longer-lasting post-exercise energy expenditure in the Insanity group (p < 0.05), which could yet be explained by an overall slightly more demanding (figure 1, left > exhaustion) workout, which - and this is just based on what I saw in the videos - appears to have more "complete" drills - or did you see things like push-ups in the Turbo Fire workout? Against the background that the minimal differences in intra- and post-workout energy expenditure and substrate utilization won't have any noticeable effect on the desired outcome variable, i.e. a leaner, still muscular physique, and in view of the fact that"EPOC comprises only 6-15% of the net total oxygen cost of the exercise" (LaForgia. 2006), anyway, I would fully subscribe to Sarah McGlinchy's recommendation to simply pick the workout you like - based on McGlinchy's interpration of her subjects' feedback that would be the ...
  • Turbo Fire® for people who are "looking for more variety of movements with fun music"
  • Insanity® for people for whom "music isn’t a priority", but who look for "intense motivation"
Before I conclude this pretty longish and therefore single "on short notice" item with the implications and go ahead to the promised truckload of "on very short notice" items, I would yet like to add one thing to this recommendation: You don't actually need to buy a DVD to do HIIT. It's actually pretty straight forward to compile your own personal HIIT 1min on, 30s off (alternatively 1min active rest) workout by handcrafting your drills from from simple sprints on the grass or beach, intense rope skipping, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, kettlebell swings, stair climbers and everything else you can think of - if you are at a loss now, check out my botchy sample workout on the upper right - took me ~1min to put that together and I know that each one of you can do better!
Image 2: I am not saying everyone needs one of those workout DVDs, but for those of you (or friends of yours) who are not already fed up with "motivational pics + statements" like the one above, which are handed around on facebook like the WWF cards 20y ago on my schoolyard, it my be worth looking into either of these.
Implications: I don't care whether you like it or not (I don't like those workouts either), but I am 2x more inclined to believe the numerous success stories the producers of these workout DVDs use to plaster the Internet than any of the reports on how great supplement X is working for Mr. Y on and the like.

Do I suggest you buy a DVD or hop around like a jackass in the gym, let alone in front of your TV, when you prefer going to the next best park or beach doing sprints and combine those with your regular strength training program in the gym? Certainly not! Would I rather see you, your friends or family perform any of these workouts than doing exclusively strength training (let alone ultra low volume 1-rep max style) or hours of steady state aerobics if your goal is to get jacked? Abs(!)olutely ;-)

On very short notice

  • Image 3: Not everything that's golden is good - the "golden" raisins for example have been treated with sulfur dioxide, to prevent them from darkening. At least in susceptible persons SO2 can lead to serious allergic reactions, 4-8% of asthmatics are (also) allergic to dietary sulfites and its general safety is still a matter of constant debate - commonly associated health effects are Urticaria, angioedema, and IgE-mediated anaphylaxis (Rangan. 2009).
    Commercial carbohydrate chews not better than plain raisins - I guess this one falls into the "Olympia tribute" category, aside from Albanian weightlifters, wo obviously prefer Stanozolol, most of the athletes probably use carbohydrate supplements in one form or another. Whether anybody relies on resins as is intra-competition carbohydrate supplement is yet questionable and that despite the fact that the dried grapes can easily compete with the far more expensive Cliff blocks carbohydrate chews. Aside from nonsignificantly faster time-trial performances, the fourteen healthy competitive runners from the University of California who consumed raisins instead of chews, also felt slightly less sore after and had lower insulin levels and greater fatty acid oxidation rates during the run.
    Reason enough for Brandon W Too and his colleagues to conclude "that consuming a natural CHO source (raisins) [..] is well tolerated and maintains blood glucose levels and running performance similar to a commercial CHO product (sport chews)" (Too. 2012). Did you hear that Michael Phelps?
  • Epi-sesamine from Lindera obtusiloba could be novel source for potent anti-obesity drug - This is at least what a recently published study that was conducted by scientists from the German Charité Universitätsklinikum in Berlin would suggest (Freise. 2012). In their in-vitro tests the active ingredient of the Japanese spice bush, which has traditionally been used for treatment of inflammation and the prevention of liver damage in Oriental Medicine, did not just prevent the accumulation of lipid droplets, it also activated the pro-apoptotic enzymes caspases-3/-7, which initiated programmed cell-death in the treated fat cells. In view of my recent blogpost on the nasty persistence of lower body fat, the latter could turn out to be of extreme importance - especially for those of you who have already lost a significant amount of body fat and are now suffering from "relative leptin deficiency" (see "Nasty Insights into the Yo-Yo-Effect" for more on how this relates to the YoYo-Effect and weight loss plateaus).
  • Figure 3: Mild exercise (5x 30 min / week, treadmill) boosts brain 5a- reductase and neurogenesis (Okamoto. 2012)
    Mild exercise and the brain: Is DHT what builds new neurons? If there was one hormone that really has gotten a bad rep over the past 50 years, it certainly is DHT: All of you who've read the respective installment of the Intermittent Thoughts (cf. "DHT - The All Things Male Hormone") or the latest news on the DHEA <> DHT muscle generation connection will be aware that the myth of the dangerous, carcinogenic bigger brother of testosterone is at least overtly simplistic if not totally devoid any scientific bases.
    Recently published data from the Laboratory of Exercise Biochemistry and Neuroendocrinology at the University of Tsukuba, in Japan does now add another piece to the "DHT is not bad" puzzle - one even women could come to appreciate (Okamoto. 2012): According to Masahiro Okamoto and colleagues, the exercise induced increase in 5-alpha reductase activity (5-ar converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone) and the subsequent rise in neuronal DHT appears to be the driving force of neurogenesis (the generation of new neuronal networks / brain tissue and wiring).
  • Image 4: Those of you who have made the transition to physical culture too late or have friends or relatives who missed the boat completely may be interested to hear that researchers from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology successfully used stem cells to replete Purkinje neurons two years ago, already (Maguruma. 2010)
    Chronic exercise renders Purkinje neurons bullet proof - In a way unquestionably related to the previous "On Very Short Notice" item are the findings from Huang et al. have just published in Journal of Applied Physiology. In their paper the researchers describe the 8-weeks of moderate treadmill running had on the toxin resistance of 6-week old rodents. Specifically, Huang et al. observed that the "exercised rats not only performed better in the rotarod task [skilled behavior test, see video] but also showed finer Purkinje cell structure (higher dendritic volume and spine density)" (Huang. 2012). And while this is unquestionably reminiscent of the aforementioned neuron-building effects of DHT (which is, as you should know increased with aerobic / volume training; cf. "Intermittent Thoughts on DHT"), the big news is that the neurons of the exercised rodents were also protected against the immunotoxin OX7-saporin.
    If these results translate (I personally believe that this is not a question of yes or no, but only one of the extend to which these results translate) to any of the bazillion other toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis, this would imply that regular exercise may not just protect us from the "classic" neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson, but also from autoimmune diseases which have a neuronal component and often involve damage to the very Purkinje neurons the researchers found to be "bullet proof" in the study at hand.
  • Children of diabetic parents benefit most from hitting the weights - "The offspring" of type II diabetics that's the somewhat surprising result of a 9-week training + 9-week detraining experiment Katherine Schofield and her colleagues from New Zealand and Denmark conducted respond particularly favorable to resistance training programs (Schofield. 2012). At the end of the initial 9 week training period, the insulin response of the children with diabetic parents was still worse than thatof their peers in the control group, but with improvements of roughly 30% they were already approaching what you may call the "normal zone", when the detraining phase begun. Contrary to the kids in the control group, whose insulin sensitivity did not change over the 9 weeks of laziness, the children of type II diabetics lost all their previously achieved improvements. Now, you could certainly argue how those poor kids are at such a disadvantage, but unless you want to feed them metformin for the rest of their lives, I suggest we should rather think of ways to teach them how to resist the bad eating habits of their parents and stick to a workout routine that will make the diabetes medication obsolete - don't you agree?
  • Suggested reads for everyone interested in some background info on nitrates: (1) Ask Dr. Andro: Is Creatine Nitrate Worth it? (2) Nitrates Work! First NO2 Victim in ER
    Nitrate supplements don't work for athletes and could mess with blood pressure regulation - At least if you are a trained athlete who wants to improve his/her performance, the use of sodium nitrate is a waste of time and money - this is at least what the soon to be published results of a randomized, double-blind cross-over study by Spanish scientists would suggest. For their experiment, Bescós et al. recruited 13 trained athletes and had them perform a 40-min ergometer distance-trial test after a 3-day supplementation regimen with either sodium nitrate (10mg/kg body weight) or placebo (Bescós. 2012).
    Contrary to earlier trials in non-trained subjects, the athletes' performance did not benefit from the supplemental nitrate - despite statistically significant increases in plasma nitrate (+17%) and nitrite (+56%), by the way. Moreover, the concommitant increase in endothelin-1, a protein that constricts blood vessels, raises blood pressure and thus counters the vasodilating effects of the nitrates raises concerns regarding potential side effects that could occur once you drop the supplement.
  • Image 5: Mineral supplements are usually not necessary, as long as you pick the right foods and drinks! What's much more likely in the Western hemisphere than deficiencies, though, are imbalances - and weekend warriors and gymbros are even more likely than your average obese pre-diabetic to run into oftentimes self-inflicted problems... there is going to be a Super Human University seminar Carl Lanore and I are currently working on - and let me tell you this, this is a topic that is literally very dear to Carl's heart.
    Decrease your risk of heart disease by 5% with each mg/L of Magnesium in your drinking water! - I am certainly not among the magnesium enthusiast who propose supplementation with whichever form of oral mg supplement (let alone the scientifically hitherto not verified use of oils) as the latest panacea, but as you may have heard on Super Human Radio on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 (click here for the podcast), I do believe in the overlooked importance of getting your ratios straight; and that, i.e. having the right ratio of Ca:Mg begins at the most fundamental level - with the mineral ratios in your drinking water! Finish scientists who recorded the mineral intake of 14,495 male subjects (aged 35-74), for example, found that with a constant and roughly two times too high mean Ca / Mg ratio of 5.39 / 1 in the drinking water of the area, every additional milligram of magnesium per liter drinking water (e.g. from 2.61mg/L to 3.61mg/L), would help to reduce the risk of acute myocardial infarction by 4.9% (Kousa. 2006)!
    This is an impressive figure and yet, the real beauty of this study is that it emphasizes the need to re-evaluate your nutritional mineral intake, instead / before considering using dietary (let alone oily ;-) supplements!

  • Bescós R, Ferrer-Roca V, Galilea PA, Roig A, Drobnic F, Sureda A, Martorell M, Cordova A, Tur JA, Pons A. Sodium Nitrate Supplementation Does Not Enhance Performance of Endurance Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul 17.
  • Freise C, Trowitzsch-Kienast W, Erben U, Seehofer D, Kim KY, Zeitz M, Ruehl M, Somasundaram R. (+)-Episesamin inhibits adipogenesis and exerts anti-inflammatory effects in 3T3-L1 (pre)adipocytes by sustained Wnt signaling, down-regulation of PPARγ and induction of iNOS. J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Jul 18.
  • Huang TY, Lin LS, Cho KC, Chen SJ, Kuo YM, Yu L, Wu FS, Chuang JI, Chen HI, Jen CJ. Chronic treadmill exercise in rats delicately alters the Purkinje cell structure to improve motor performance and toxin-resistance in the cerebellum. J Appl Physiol. 2012 Jul 26.
  • Kousa A, Havulinna AS, Moltchanova E, Taskinen O, Nikkarinen M, Eriksson J, Karvonen M. Calcium:magnesium ratio in local groundwater and incidence of acute myocardial infarction among males in rural Finland. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):730-4.
  • LaForgia J, Withers RT, Gore CJ. Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci. 2006 Dec;24(12):1247-64.
  • Muguruma K, Nishiyama A, Ono Y, Miyawaki H, Mizuhara E, Hori S, Kakizuka A, Obata K, Yanagawa Y, Hirano T, Sasai Y. Ontogeny-recapitulating generation and tissue integration of ES cell-derived Purkinje cells. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Oct;13(10):1171-80.
  • McGlinchy SA. The Effect of Two High Intensity Interval Training Protocols on Heart Rate, Caloric Expenditure, and Substrate Utilization During Exercise and Recovery. University of Toledo - Submitted to the Graduate Faculty as partial fulfillment of the requirements for The Master of Science Degree in Exercise Science. 2012.
  • Okamoto M, Hojo Y, Inoue K, Matsui T, Kawato S, McEwen BS, Soya H. Mild exercise increases dihydrotestosterone in hippocampus providing evidence for androgenic mediation of neurogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 17.
  • Schofield KL, Rehrer NJ, Perry TL, Ross A, Andersen JL, Osborne H. Insulin and Fiber Type in Offspring of T2DM with Resistance Training and Detraining. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul 17.
  • Rangan C, Barceloux DG. Food additives and sensitivities. Dis Mon. 2009 May;55(5):292-311.
  • Too BW, Cicai S, Hockett KR, Applegate E, Davis BA, Casazza GA. Natural versus Commercial Carbohydrate Supplementation and Endurance Running Performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jun 15;9(1):27.