Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shed 11% of Your Total Fat Mass in 3 Weeks: Altitude Training Melts Fat & Builds Muscle in Elite Swimmers

Don't tell me you don't have one of these masks at home - I mean how can you expect to have 6pack abs, then  ;-)
Isn't it remarkable? It's Thursday again! Unfortunately for you (and in a way for me, because this means I got more to do) Adelfo is still for cramming for his exams so no update from "Your's Truly" this week, but a regular SuppVersity from my side. Before I get to the topic at hand and tell you what the training mask on the right is all about, let me briefly give you the usual sneak peak on today's Science Round-Up on the Super Human Radio Network. The show airs as usual at 1PM EST (click here to listen to the live stream) and will (probably) cover the following topics:
  • Resistance training, weight loss and PPAR
  • Concomitant training for endurance athletes
  • Tomato juice the ideal peri-workout drink
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency and vegetarianism / veganism
  • Protect your testes against lead & aluminum
If we got enough time, I will also talk about another thing, namely about this article, here. An article, by the way, which is about training for fat loss, and still not another post about HIIT. It doesn't include an overcomplicated workout plan with a fancy name, or an offer to buy a shiny workout DVD, it's just the summary of a paper that's about to be published in the Chinese Journal of Physiology (Chia. 2013). A study, to be precise, in the course of which the scientists from universities, colleges and research institutes in Singapore, Taipei, Taichung and *surprise* Williamsburg observed not just a statistically significant loss of body fat (-11.4% of total fat), but also a small but non-negligible increase in lean mass (+1.5%) in already highly trained young athletes within no more than three weeks (the data was measured by DXA, so you can be pretty sure that this was accurate).

Now I got your attention, right?

The subjects were a group of 18 male highly trained young swimmers (age: 14.9 ± 0.4 years, BMI: 20.8 ± 0.4 kg/m²) who regularly accomplished a total training distance of 12.3 km/day (think of the Chinese girl at the Olympics  in London, last year ;-). While 8 of them remained within their regular training environment in Singapore, the 10 subjects who had been randomized to the active group were transfered to Kunming. Contrary to Singapore, of which all of you probably know that it's a metropolis at sea level, Kunming is located at an altitude of 2,300m and thus an ideal and in fact highly frequented high altitude training camp.

Figure 1: Changes in BMI, lean and fat mass in the two study groups (Chia. 2013)
You will probably all have heard about the benefits of "living low, training high", which are supported by countless of  scientific studies and the practical experience of thousands of athletes. The lower oxygen content of the air you breath at high altitudes induces a state of intermediate hypoxia, which will enforce a whole host of metabolic adaptations that are necessary to accommodate for the lower oxygen availability and will eventually make the training more productive. The real pay-day, on the other hand, approaches, when you go back to the "low level", where you usually train (and mostly compete) and have "more than enough air" to outperform your competition on the track, in the pool or wherever else you may be running, swimming, cycling etc.

Now, all that is actually not new and wouldn't be SuppVersity news-worthy, if the Chinese and US researchers had not observed a profound and rapid (3 weeks) reduction in body fat levels in the subjects who trained in the high altitude training camp in Kunming (it should be mentioned that in animal studies similar effects have already been observed; Chen. 2010). As the data in figure 1 goes to show you, these changes were not just statistically significant (even the increase in lean mass was), but also much more pronounced than the fat loss effects of the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), capsaicins, piperine & carnitine stack that was in the news yesterday (cf. "EGCG, Capsaicin, Pipreine & Carnitine: Rather a Health Than a Fat Loss Stack?") -- and that despite the fact that the subjects already had a comparably low body fat level to begin with and did not restrict their total energy intake or make any other changes to their dietary or traning regimen.

"So what's that? Dark magic?"

To further elucidate the underlying mechanisms, by which the altitude training induced hypoxia  (shortage of oxygen supply) triggered this body recomposition effect (in fact, all ten swimmers demonstrated reciprocal decreases in fat mass and increases in lean mass after the 3-week altitude exposure), Chia et al. conducted a second experiment in the course of which the
"effects of hypoxia (at 16% oxygen) on blood distribution to the skeletal muscle were assessed under glucose-ingested condition (i.e. insulin-stimulated condition) after training at sea level. Skeletal muscle blood distributions were measured using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to detect changes in hemoglobin concentrations under hypoxic (16% oxygen) and normoxic conditions for 90 min after oral glucose ingestion." (Chia. 2013)
Aside from the expected change in oxygen saturation and more constant hemoglobin levels during the hypoxia condition, the scientists also observed an increase in lactate production and a decreased glucose clearance from the blood, which was compensated by an increased insulin response.
Figure 2: Low frequency to high frequency ratio as a measure of sympathetic activity (left) and glucose and insulin response (right) in the follow up experiment at sea level during normal (normoxia) and low oxygen (hypoxia) conditions (Chia. 2013)
As far as the fatloss effects are concerned, the changes in autonomic nervous activity during hypoxia recovery (figure 2 right) are yet probably of greater significance. With a steady increase in the low frequency to high frequency ratio.

On the other hand, you could probably also make a point that the decreased glucose uptake in the follow-up study must have caused a shift towards fatty acid oxidation during the workout. Aside from the PGC1a and AMPK activity  Chen et al. obversed in the aforementioned rodent study (Chen. 2010), another, or rather an additional mechanism, which may explain the profound body recompositioning effects, could be mediated by a hypoxia induced increase in PDK-4 and a subsequent decrease in PDC mediated feeding of the TCA cycle with pyruvate (cf. Kelly. 2008). In order to get enough energy, the mitochondria would consequently have to ramp up their fatty acid uptake and beta-oxidation, which would require a greater release of fatty acids from the storage tissue. The latter shouldn't be a problem with the increase in autonomic nervous system activity (by the way something classic stimulant based fat burners do as well). In this context, it would have been interesting to see whether there was a major difference in the respiratory exchange ratio (RER). With the latter being an indicator of the ratio of carbs vs. fats being used as fuel, this could help clarify, whether my hypothesis is correct or not.

Looking for a less martial way to support your dietary efforts by a certain exercise regimen? Check out the HRC protocol for a "Fast Paced High-Resistant Explosive Circuit Training Burns More Fat and Builds More Muscle Than Classical Weight Training" (read more)
Bottom line: It's really intriguing to see new how an old dog, such as training at higher altitudes / in hypoxia does not even need to learn new tricks - often, all we have to do is look closely, to realize that there are beneficial "side effects" we have previously neglected.

That said, I know that your next question is, whether this does have any implications for your training? Well, as of now, probably not. It would however be interesting to see if non-altitude induced hypoxia could have similar beneficial effects. I know that the second experiment in the study at hand would suggest it does, but Ii probably don't have to tell you that it is one thing to have a reduced oxygen supply for a couple of minutes vs. 24/7, as it is the case in a high altitude training camp.


References:
  • Chen CY, Tsai YL, Kao CL, Lee SD, Wu MC, Mallikarjuna K, Liao YH, Ivy JL, Kuo
    CH. Effect of mild intermittent hypoxia on glucose tolerance, muscle morphology
    and AMPK-PGC-1alpha signaling. Chin J Physiol. 2010 Feb 28;53(1):62-71. 
  • Chia M, Liao CA, Huang CY, Lee WC, Hou CW, Yu SH, Harris MB, Hsu TS, Lee SD, Kuo CH. Reducing Body Fat with Altitude Hypoxia Training in Swimmers: Role of Blood Perfusion to Skeletal Muscles. Chinese Journal of Physiology. 2013 [Epub ahead of print]
  • Kelly DP. Hypoxic reprogramming. Nat Genet. 2008 Feb;40(2):132-4.

31 comments:

  1. Based on this and perhaps on any other articles you might have read, what is your take on training masks (that restrict air) while exercising?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. well, in essence they will do the trick, but without someone who knows how to configure them properly I can only caution against the use of these "devices" (unless you have a fetish, of course ;-)

      Delete
    2. The device I was thinking of was basically a common gas mask that instead of a filter on the end has three small holes on it.

      Delete
    3. I would be very surprised if that worked. The key is not getting breathing 90% less air or whatever, but breathing the exact same amount of air, yet with less oxygen.

      Delete
    4. Thanks for the distinction. These training masks have definitely piqued my curiosity before, and I wonder if we're just not considering another one of this dog's tricks. Adding resistance to breathing would strengthen the requisite muscles, so it's logical to think that would result in gains. I think it'd be interesting to see if people can sustain their normal training, or if they reach the same perceived intensity too soon. There do appear to be clinical studies, but I can't tell how shifty they're being (deferring basically all claims to "breathing devices" that may or may not include their own).
      http://www.trainingmask.com/

      Delete
  2. About body fat. How low is unhealthy? I play tennis, which is a long 2hr+ sport. I want to be low body fat, but am concerned about fatigue half way through matches.

    What is a good body fat percentage to go for? I play tennis twice a week, go to the gym 4x per week and play soccer on mondays

    ReplyDelete
  3. All you technically need is essential body-fat, which for males is 3-4% and I think 10-12% for females. That said, being sub-10% if anything will improve your athletic ability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the thing about sub-10%ish is right, but when 100 people tell me they have a body fat % of 10% maybe one actually has - 10% is REALLY RIPPED not like "oh I can see the first set of abs slowly appear"

      Delete
  4. Occlusion training came to mind. It is a different matter, of course, but still.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mentioned that on air during the Science Round-Up. It's likely to induce (locally) similar effects, BUT that is almost certain not enough to induce such profound systemic body fat changes

      Delete
  5. I have seen elsewhere in few studies that lactic acid is part of the mechanism for stimulating the Leydig cells to produce more testosterone. If memory serves in one study gave lactic acid to rats and after a period of time they observed an increase in testosterone. So I think that is a factor (albeit not the main one) that also must be counted towards the body recomposition we see in studies like this. Also an interesting note is that lactic acid is a food additive that is pretty cheap so I'm surprised someone hasn't tried to sell it as a "testbooster" yet haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's unfortunately not correct. You need LACTATE not lactic acid to elicit that effect. Using an H-buffer like bicarbonate would therefore come handy. On the other hand, one must say that scientists are still debating whether or not and to which degree lactic acid formation and acidoses are corollary or causally related.

      Delete
    2. It still amazes me that bicarbonate impacts performance given that roughly 99% of lactic acid is buffered into lactate, which is not fatigue producing, naturally.

      Gladden, L B. "Lactate metabolism: a new paradigm for the third millennium." The Journal of Physiology 558 (2004): 5-30.

      Delete
  6. Primalkid, what about fatigue in long 2hr + tennis matches, or 90 min soccer games,. I will be burning fat as I play. How low can I go so I don't fatigue?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've always been confused about ideal body weight and calorie intake. Do I eat enough calories to reach a certain weight, or do I eat enough to reach a certain body fat %?

    Also, I'm aware that metabolic rate lowers after exercising so the body can mantain homeostasis. So it is hard to know how much calories an exercise burns. Is this correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Learning_to_lift_weightsJanuary 11, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      As Adelfo's principle, being modest is the best way. (And also being )
      So, take your weight in Kilograms and multiply with 30, is your maintenance calorie intake. Say, you are 70 kg, then it will be 70 x 30 = 2100 Calories. You may change the factor, 28 to 32 based on your own experience.

      Now, if you want to lose fat (with exercise), you make reduce 10% - 20% daily intake. And if your aim is to build muscle (again with exercise), add 10% - 20% calories every day. Cheating sometimes is not at all bad, rather helpful. So, be flexible.

      Delete
    2. Learning_to_lift_weightsJanuary 11, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      (And also being consistent)

      Ideal body weight is difficult matter. In my opinion, it is related to your own body image & your goal. But you may get rough idea from here:

      http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/becker3.htm
      http://www.csgnetwork.com/weightmalebodycalc.html

      Please think of your body type, activities too, before you set an Ideal body weight for yourself.

      Delete
    3. I mentioned my activities in my question to primalkid at 11:44am. To add to that I spend 3hrs a week in the gym. As I mentioned, I don't know if I need an ideal weight or an ideal body fat%.

      Thanks Learning_to_lift_weights

      Delete
    4. I would love to meet someone who didn't fatigue from 2 hours of tennis or 90 min of soccer. But the fatigue WILL NOT be the result of insufficient body-fat, even if you were at 5%. Think about it.

      5% of 150lbs is 7.5lbs of fat. 3% is essential, so you have 3lbs of fat to burn. At 3500 Calories/lb. that is 10,500 Calories. That is the amount of Calories Micheal Phelps burns per day doing 8 hours of intense swimming. I think your tennis matches will be fine. Any fatigue will simply be muscular.

      As for calories, take your current body weight multiplied by 14-16 Calories/lb. That will be about maintenance, but you will need to adjust based on real world feedback. If you are gaining weight then decrease, if you loose weight then increase. Once your weight stabilizes you have found your maintenance. From there you can increase/decrease by 10-20% depending on goals.

      And exercise doesn't effect metabolic rate. You BMR will always be the same. Exercise simply expends calories as you do it. However, it does influence metabolism in that it messes with nutrient partitioning. For instance, weight lifting will require muscles to be repaired and glycogen to be refilled, so although your Calorie needs may not change, the way your body handles those Calories will differ.

      Delete
    5. Do I want to be monitoring my weight, or just body fat? Isn't body fat the best indicator of overall health?

      http://www.answerfitness.com/208/weight-loss-plateau-tactics-overcoming-weight-loss-plateau/

      The above link mentions weight loss plataeu. The body adjusts the metabolic rate to maintain homeostasis in response to increased activity and so exercise burns less calories. So it is hard to know how much calories an exercise burns. Is this correct?

      Delete
    6. Monitoring weight is more convenient, but you are correct in that body-fat is a better indicator because things such as water retention can mask actual weight-loss.

      As for the above link, they are partially correct in that during prolonged dieting your body will start to slow your metabolism so that fat-loss becomes increasingly difficult. However, this is mainly problematic of already very lean individuals. If you have fat to loose then I wouldn't worry about it. Also, weekly carbohydrate re-feeds can undo most, if not all, of the metabolic slow-down.

      With regard to exercise, estimating caloric burn is difficult for numerous reasons, not the least of which is simply that everyone is different. Furthermore, the more often you perform a given exercise, your body becomes more efficient at it. This is why you need progressive overload in weightlifting, and also explains why a marathoner is great at running but can't cycle for 10 minutes before being tired.

      Delete
    7. an unrelated question: Kiefer, how old are you? In your early 20s or younger? The reason I ask, is because I was an overthinker like you, as an early twen... until I realized that life is about making decisions YOURSELF, taking responsibility and not question everything you do 1000x

      And I can tell you: It didn't do me any good, because over all this brainy thinking I lost the "grounding" the connection to my body and on a whole other level my emotions.

      Delete
    8. I used to be the same way with my diet and exercise routine. I ended up developing eating disorders that still impact me today. The key is to find balance. I don't mind answering your questions, just know (and I have told you this at least three other times) that over-thinking things is causing more harm then good if you stress about it.

      Delete
  8. Yes I'm in my early twenties. I actually recognise I overthink things and am trying to put that right. For instance, I now don't jump to conclusions from a study unless it has been replicated at least once.

    My issue is that when I start ramping up exercise, which I will do when it get's a bit warmer in the UK, I can get a bit underweight. So I've been trying to reach a calorie target that incorporates the weight loss from exercise.

    Does anyone on here know how much calorie I should add to replace those lost from the activities I've listed?

    Primalkid, some of my questions have caused me too much stress. The issue of calorie intake doesn't stress me. It does confuse me though :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I mentioned earlier. Start with 15 Calories per pound of body-weight (this is total body-weight, NOT lean body mass). If you begin to loose weight, then just increase the Calories until your weight becomes stable. Once that happens you have found your maintenance Calories.

      If you then divide that number by your current weight, then you will have your multiplier for your current level of activity. That way you know what to use as maintenance in the future if your weight changes.

      Only weigh yourself every week though, since countless factors can influence day-to-day weight.

      Delete
  9. Prof Dr Andro, could you look at my question in the following link. It's at the bottom of the page. I recognise it fits the category of "overthinking". But GERD is something I have had for 6 years, so I'm keen to not aggravate it.

    http://suppversity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/science-round-up-seconds-looking-at.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the advice Dr Andro and Primalkid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. look, just to make sure you don't misunderstand me: I am not saying "don't ask for advice and do your own research", but keep an eye on whether you are doing it because you are doubting something specific or because you are doubting yourself and everything you do, every decision you make and your overall ability to know / judge what's right for you.

      Delete
  11. Yes I understand and relate to these points. I will continue to read this great blog and ask questions.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Now that I've exhausted all questions/obstacles, I look forward to resuming a healthy, active lifestyle :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's Brilliant Online Shop For Boxing Equipments.Fight Shorts so good.

    ReplyDelete