Monday, October 1, 2012

Classic Beats Super Slow; Single 198 Second Sprint More Time Efficient Than Work-Matched HIIT; Exercise Better Than THC; Metformin + Cardio + Lifting = Anti-Obesity Triplet; Self-Efficiacy & Training Adherence - Plus: More!

This is just a random selection of the unlimited movement patterns your body has been designed to execute - don't make the mistake and rely on only one of them!
The amount of really interesting, let alone revolutionary new studies on the effects of different exercise modalities is not exactly high, to say the least. I am not quite sure, what the reasons are, but as I have stated before, part of it certainly is that you cannot monetize on the results by producing patentable drugs based on your findings and will thus have a hard time to find sponsors / get funding. It is therefore no wonder that many published papers are spin-offs of small scale trials that have been conducted as part of dissertations. Others simply use rodent models, which may provide relatively reliable data, when it comes to the effects of running on a treadmill, but are not exactly what I would want to see, when it comes to weight lifting or any other of the myriad complex movement patterns our bodies can, but these days way too often don't do.

I have nevertheless been able to compile another potpourri of studies of which I would hope that one or the other will enlighten or at least entertain you. That being said, let's get started with this weeks installment of the Exercise Science Special of "On Short Notice", here at the SuppVersity...

HIT it short, hit it hard, hit the glucose and be smart! Yo, this awesome rhyme would be my advice to the very busy chubby manager-types with compromised insulin sensitivity out there and it's based on the results of a very recent study by scientists from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences of the University of Glasgow in the UK (Whyte. 2012)

Figure 1: Power, workload (top) and metabolic effects of SIT and ES regimen (vs. control; bottom)
When Laura J. Whyte and her colleagues compared the effects of the single bout of very high-intensity exercise (SIT: 4x 30-s maximal sprints w/ 4.5min recovery between each) to a single maximal extended sprint (ES) matched with SIT for work done, they found that the immediate advantage of higher insulin sensitivity (measured via oral glucose tolerance test) in the work-matched continuous sprint the shorter duration 190s (TOTAL!) as well as almost identical...
  • decreases is RER and carbohydrate oxitation, and
  • increases in fatty acid oxidation
on the day after the exercise bout, in the presence of statistically significant reductions in insulin sensitivity only after the ES trial.

In other words: A single all out sprint on a braked cycle ergometer (as fast as you can; with obviously decreasing power in the course o the sprint) elicits greater metabolic effects within a 85% shorter timespan (198s vs. 1360s!), than work-matched classic HIIT training, with allegedly very long periods of active recovery.

That being said, I strongly caution against taking the results of this study as an incentive to perform the classic "go as fast as you can, for as long as you can" HIT sessions on exercise bikes, treadmills or ellipticals - those SUCK! *full stop* Be smart and either perform that one 3min sprint (if you really have no more time), or modify your HIIT training to incorporate longer high intensity phases (45-90s) at a work to active recovery ratio of 1:3 - 1:2, so that a resulting workout could look like that 4x 60s sprints, interspersed by 120s of active recovery. I would bet money that this protocol outperforms a work-matched continuous sprint in terms of its immediate and long-term metabolic effects.

Opioid-like effects of exercise depend on intensity I guess you will be familiar with the term "runner's high"? Now, while the latter is usually ascribed to the exercise induced release of serotonin, the improved affect, the sense of well-being, the anxiety lowering and calming effects of exercise are probably mediated by the release of endocannaboids, of which scientists from the University of Arizona, the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Eckert College in St. Petersburg, Florida, have recently shown that the levels of these endogenous THC-like compounds depends on the intensity of the workout (Raichlen. 2012).

Liar, liar, THC junkie on fire ;-) You don't need to smoke weed before a workout if you get the intensity right! But could exercise also help people who recover from major depression to battle their tendency to obsess with negative thoughts and feelings?
At least in the 10 healthy regular runners who participated in the study, the results of which have been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology the endocannaboid exercise induced increase in circulating anandamide was most pronounced (~2x), when the subjects exercised at ~72% of their maximal heart rate (the workout consisted of 30min of treadmill walking, jogging, running at 45, 72, 83, and 92% of their maximal heart rate). Moreover, the post hoc analysis of the blood samples that had been immediately before and after the workout revealed that exercising at both the lowest and highest intensities had the exact opposite effect, although the reductions in serum anandamide were - when considered in isolation - were not statistically significant.

In conjunction with the results of another recent study that has been conducted at the Stanford University, it becomes evident that these results could actually be more than just "scientific masturbation", so to say. The Stanford researchers compared the reactions of 41 female patients who had recovered from major depressive disorder (MDD) and those of 40 healthy control, both of whom had been randomly assigned to either exercise for 15 minutes or quiet rest, to two sad mood inductions (once before and once after exercise or rest) and found that
"[while r]ecovered depressed participants who had not exercised exhibited higher NA [neagtive affect] after the second sad mood induction [...], both recovered depressed participants who had engaged in acute exercise and healthy control participants showed no increase in NA in response to the repeated sad mood induction." (Hogan .2012)
A reaction that goes against the so-called sensitization effect, which describes the tendency of depressed people (or people with a propensity to develop depression) to react with an increased level of negative effect to a repeated negative stimulus (Eisenstein. 2001) and would thus predict an increase in negative affect in response to the second stimulus as it was observed in the non-exercise group (figure 2, red box).

Figure 2: Negative and positive affect after 1st and second sad mood induction (left) and before and after exercise (right), respectively, in 41 female patients who had recovered from major depressive disorder (data from Hogan. 2012)
Moreover, the 15 minutes of exercise at an intensity the participant felt comfortable with led to an increase in positive affect participants in the exercise groups after the exercise bout, but failed to produce the same beneficial effect on the positive affect in the subsequent double-exposure to the filmic sad mood stimuli:
"However, in contrast to our hypothesis, we did not find any interaction between exercise condition and diagnostic group in level of reported PA following the repeated sad mood inductions that would be consistent with the notion of sensitization or habituation." (Hogan. 2012)
And who knows, if the exercise intensity had been higher, so that there had been more anandamide and other endocannaboids floating around in the brains of the study participants, this could even have changed the positive affect trajectory from the first to the second filmic sad mood induction? "Yo, that's so sad... hahaha" ;-)

Image 1: Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima fatty rats (OLETF, right) have a  genetic disposition to develop type II diabetes.
When metformin is good for the obese (pre-)diabetic and exercise is good, as well, metformin + exercise cannot be bad, right? At least in OLETF rats, one of the common rodent models of the metabolic syndrome, this assumption appears to apply (Jenkins. 2012).

According to the recently published paper by Nathan T. Jenkins and his colleagues, metformin and exercise do in fact work synergistically - at least as far as the obesity induced inflammation is concerned. While metformin decreased the pro-inflammatory overexpression of leptin, the rodents that have been exposed to an endurance type exercise regimen exhibited higher levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10, which limit and ultimately terminate inflammatory responses (Moore. 2001).

Not just in view of the fact that IL-10 has also been implicated in the prevention and even treatment of auto-immune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis (Beebe. 2002), I would always choose exercise over metformin - this is all the more true, if you are not morbidly obese in the first place!

And if you want to go even one step further, you simply add couple of interval sprints to the equation as those have been shown - in the same rodent model, by the way - to elicit greater improvements in HbA1c, the long-term marker of glucose management that "classic" steady state endurance exercise (Martin. 2012). Since the latter were mediated via differential microvascular changes than those Martin et al. observed in endurance trained OLETF rats, it is furthermore almost certain that they will add up. Probably not 1+1, but 1.5 and even 1.1 would still be better than 1.0, wouldn't it?

The lack of the feeling of  self-efficacy is one of the best predictors of not sticking to a workout routine. And you know what? Oftentimes it's not your your, Joe or Jane who is to blame, but simply their cookie-cutter trainer or unqualified cousin who's dragging them to the gym. Now, think about that... could it be that you are a cousin / trainer like that!? No way, right?
A feeling of accomplishment is one of the main determinants of exercise compliance Have you ever wanted why you really enjoy going to the gym, while your obese cousin will only drag his ass over there if you kick him into the latter? Well, according to the latest study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Division of Cardiology at the The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, it may in fact be you and not Joe or whatever his name is, who is to blame. Probably you are just having him copy what you do, with either way too much weight, or so little weigh that he does not just feel bad about it, but cannot make real progress either (Nam. 2012).

The scientists call that which Joe is lacking a feeling of "self-effiacy", when he is going to the gym training next to his 75lbs lighter cousin, lifting sissy weights and looking like a fat balloon.

No wonder he is falling off the wagon! Specifically, if you also take into consideration that in addition to the missing feeling of accomplishment, which increases his chance of non-compliancy by 19%, Joe also exhibits most of the other features Nam et al. have found to increase the chance of dropping out, specifically,
  • low fitness - 26% increased chance of dropout and
  • higher insulin resistance - 17% increased chance of dropout,
in the course of their experiment with 140 overweight, sedentary individuals with type II diabetes, who were randomly allocated to a 6-month, 3 times per week exercise intervention or a non-exercise control. And while bodyfatness, i.e. a higher total and subcutaneous abdominal fat percentage appeared to be indicators of higher compliance, when the scientists just looked at the raw data, these positive effects vanished, when they plied a multiple logical regression analysis.

So what's the take home message, here? Cousin or not, people won't do well on cookie cutter plans that won't allow them to make, see and feel progress.

Isn't it astonishing how versatile and important these stem cells from the bone marrow are (image NIH. 2001)
1h of exercise thrice a week increases hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) count in the bone marrow With the almost magic effects of stem cell therapy being on everybody's lips, these days. You will probably be intrigued to hear that researcher from the McMaster University have recently established that a very reasonable amount of 3x 1h of exercise per week increased the quantity of hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow of exercised mice by +20% compared to their sedentary peers (de Lisio).

With it's likewise statistically significant effect on the proportion of whole BM cells in G(2)/M phase of cell cycle (p<0.05 and an increase in the number of spleen colonies (+48%, p<0.05) in those "model patients" who received transplants from the exercised compared to transplants from sedentary mice, it is thus likely that people who exercise regularly will benefit from both the quantitative increase, as as well as the qualitative improvements these multipotent stem cells, which  give rise to all the blood cell types from the myeloid (monocytes and macrophages, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, erythrocytes, megakaryocytes/platelets, dendritic cells), and lymphoid lineages (T-cells, B-cells, NK-cells), undergo in response to a moderate amount of exercise.

Finally acknowledged: "[C]ombination exercise g[ives] greater benefits for weight loss, fat loss and cardio-respiratory fitness than aerobic and resistance training modalities", alone! And this is only the first part of the conclusion of a recently published paper by Suleen S Ho, Satvinder S Dhaliwal, Andrew P Hills and Sebely Pal, who explicitly suggest that
"Therefore, combination exercise training should be recommended for overweight and obese adults in National Physical Activity Guideline" (Ho. 2012)
How the scientists came to that conclusion? Well they could simply have read the SuppVersity news, but instead they conducted a 12-week trial, in the course of which 97 overweight or obese men (n = 16) and women (n = 81) (BMI >25 kg/m² or waist circumference >80 cm for women and 90 cm for men), aged 40 to 66 years, were randomly assigned to a either aerobic, resistance or combined training regimen (n=16 for each) or a sedentary control group (n=15). The results, spoke for themselves.

Figure 3: Changes in body fat (%; top) and VO2Max (bottom) in the course of the 12-week trial (based on Ho. 2012)
In the absence of statistically significant reduction in energy intake, or macronutient composition, the combination subjects in the combination group were the only ones to lose statistically significant amounts of
  • body weight (-1.6kg),
  • body fat (-1.9kg or 1% body fat), 
  • android (=visceral) fat (-1.3kg),
had the most pronounced reduction in waist circumference (-2.6% vs. -2.5% in RT and -2.0 in AT) and were the only ones with statistically significant improvements in VO2Max, a marker of general cardiovascular fitness.

Is there maybe more room in your training regimen for slow reps, than you may have thought? If you go by the statement "Slow speed-resistance training induced a greater adaptive response compared to training with a similar resistance at 'normal' speed" from a paper by Mark D. Schuenke and his colleagues from the University of New England, the Rocky Vista University, the College of Health Sciences and Profession and the Ohio-University that was published in the October Issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology (Schuenke. 2012), it would seem so.

If you do however take a closer look at the actual results you realize how important the adjoining qualificatory remark "However, training with a higher intensity at 'normal' speed resulted in the greatest overall muscle fiber response in each of the variables assessed" really is. After all, the "intensity" is per definitionem 20-45% higher in a classic strength training regimen compared to the often laughed at slow-speed resistance training (SS), which was - at least in the study at hand - defined as follows:
  • SS: 6-10 reps, super-slow (10s) concentric (no typo!) and slow (4s) eccentric TUT, 40-60% of the individual 1-RM
Both the traditional strength training (TS) as well as the strength endurance regimen (TE) to which this protocol was compared used a TUT of 1-2s on the concentric and eccentric phase, but differed in terms of the weight and rep-numbers, which were
  • TS: 6-10 reps at 80-85% 1-RM
  • TE: 20-30 reps at 40-60% 1-RM
So, based on the qualificatory remark and a short glimpse on figure 4 you already know that the TS regimen yielded the best results during this 6-week resistance-training program that targeted the quadriceps femoris muscle group, in a total of 17 training sessions (only 2 in the first week), which were supervised to ensure that the 34 young, untrained female participants went to positive failure within the targeted repetition range on all three sets of the three exercises (leg press, squats, and knee extension) they performed after brief warm-up with ~2 min rest between sets and exercises.
Figure 4: Changes in body composition (left) and changes in muscle fiber cross-sectional area (all expressed relative to group baseline; data calculated based on Schuenke. 2012)
What's still missing though is the effect on overall body composition, where the super slow regimen did in fact produce almost identical results, while the "pump" workout ... ah, I mean the "strength endurance workout" sucked here just as it did as far as its effect on the increase in growth the number of hypertrophy-prone type II fibers is concerned.

So what's the take home message here? If you want some diversity, you can incorporate super slow sets into your regimen... but do you have to? At least based on the results of the study at hand, which was unfortunately conducted with untrained young women (who by the way love this alternative training styles) and is therefore not exactly representative for the average advanced trainee, the answer is "rather not, no!"

What neither the advanced nor the rookie who is striving to improve his or her body composition should do, however, is to train in the hilarious strength endurance range of 20-30 reps per set. If you want to build muscular endurance you either go out sprinting, beat the punching bag or do plyometrics.

As I know you, you still want more, hah? Well, too much volume is not good for you and in case you cannot wait until next week, there will be some intriguing exercise news in the days to come, probably more on the SuppVersity Science Round-Up with Carl Lanore, on the Super Human Radio Network on Thursday, this week and obviously every day on the SuppVersity Facebook Wall @ - like it and always be the first to now!

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  • Eisenstein, E. M., Eisenstein, D., & Smith, J. C. The evolutionary significance of habituation and sensitization across phylogeny: A behavioral homeostasis model. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science. 2001; 36, 251–265.
  • Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health. 2012 Aug 28;12(1):704.
  • Jenkins NT, Padilla J, Arce-Esquivel AA, Bayless DS, Martin JS, Leidy HJ, Booth FW, Rector RS, Laughlin MH. Effects of Endurance Exercise Training, Metformin, and their Combination on Adipose Tissue Leptin and IL-10 Secretion in OLETF Rats. J Appl Physiol. 2012 Sep 27. 
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  • Nam S, Dobrosielski DA, Stewart KJ. Predictors of Exercise Intervention Dropout in Sedentary Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2012 Sep 24.
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  • Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Seillier A, Giuffrida A, Gerdeman GL. Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Sep 19.
  • Whyte LJ, Ferguson C, Wilson J, Scott RA, Gill JM. Effects of single bout of very high-intensity exercise on metabolic health biomarkers in overweight/obese sedentary men. Metabolism. 2012 Sep 19.