For my liking yesterday's show was a bit "healthitarian", meaning the topics centered mostly around health issues. Now, don't get me wrong. The show was outstanding and topics such as the "egg / chicken prostate cancer connection" or the "omega-6 for heart health study", of which you would actually have to say in retrospect that it bordered murder by negligence are obviously highly relevant, but I am a fan of diversity and well aware that there may be some topics many of you may not be that interested in. So what would be more obvious than switching things up completely and preparing an "erogogenitarian" menu today?
Now, tell me: What are everyone's favorite ergogenic? Right! Those are protein powders and amino acids ranging from BCAAs and EAAs, to creatine, glutamine and more exotic but still interesting stuff like HMB. Luckily, two groups of researchers from Iran, and the UK, Australia and Spain who have submitted their papers to the Journal of Exercise Physiology and the European Journal of Experimental Biology a couple of weeks ago must obviously feel the same. And since both articles made it into the February issues of the respective journals, they are still fresh and thus qualify as ingredients for today's installment of the SuppVersity Science Round Up. So, bon appetit, then ;-)
Are carbohydrates, not protein the most important part of "anabolic" peri-workout nutrtion(Kazemzadeh. 2013) -- I guess this will be a shocker for some of you, but the headline is not entirely provocative only. In their most recent paper, Yazer Kazemzadeh and his colleagues from the Islamic Azad University and the Hamedan University of Medical Sciences in Teheran, Iran, are actually suggesting that the
"[...] ingestion of carbohydrate during resistance exercise may be [more potent in] inhibiting the catabolic hormone (cortisol), increasing the anabolic hormone (insulin) and creating a hormonal milieu for anabolism [than] whey protein." (Kazemzadeh. 2013)They do yet also point out that "other anabolic markers need greater investigation" (Kazemzadeh. 2013) and we all know that these "other anabolic markers" that are related to the protein-exclusive increase in protein synthesis are what makes the largest contribution to your muscle gains in the long term... at least as you provide yourself with the fuel you need to train and this is where the hormonal effects of the ~750 ml 6% CHO beverage ten out of the 20 untrained young men (age:22.3±3 y, bodymass: 74±5 kg) in the study consumed during the sets of a 75%RM strength training regimen that consisted of
- 4 exercises for lower body, which were leg presses, leg curls, leg extensions and calf raises, and
- 4 exercises for upper body, namely lat pull downs, bench presses, barbell biceps curls and supine triceps extensions
|Figure 1: Cortisol, insulin, growth hormone and total testosterone levels before and after the workout with carbohydrate (CARB) or protein (PRO) drinks being ingested between the sets (Kazemzadeh. 2013)|
Insulin up, cortisol down - how important is that?
|The total amount of carbohydrates the CARB group in the study at hand consumed during their workouts does actually come pretty close to the 130-150g of carbs even the most sedentary slob can easily stash away in the glycogen stores of muscle and liver on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about the reaoning behind these figures, I suggest you go back to my previous post on "Carbohydrate Shortage in Paleo Land" (read the whole article).|
That being said, the addition of carbs could still have had a beneficial effect on exercise recovery and ultimately - probably only after weeks of training and in an otherwise low carb scenario - yield significantly greater increases in strength and lean muscle tissue. With the total amount of carbs well within in the <150g range and the maintenance of the GH response, of which many people claim it would be blunted by the ingestion of nutrients, in particular carbs, during or after a workout probably even without compromising your body composition (assuming that you compensate for the additional kcal in the subsequent meals).
The latter hypothesis of mine does actually make an excellent segue into the next study, so just keep on reading, if you want more ;-)
Performance enhancing supplement Cyclone first and foremost "fat enhancing"(Cooper. 2013) -- I promised you that in the last sentence of the previous "course" of this installment of the SuppVersity Science Round-Up Seconds and here it is: Certainly somewhat surprising scientific evidence that 56g of carbs alone won't, but an isocaloric serving of the commercially available carbs + protein + creatine Cyclone will make you you fat.
|Figure 2: Nutrient content of supplement and placebo (Cooper. 2013)|
If you follow your gut feeling, I guess you'd say that using a supplement full of more or less proven ergogenics while you train four times a week, following an
- upper body = bench press; bent over row; shoulder press, bicep curls, and triceps extension,
- lower body = squat, stiff leg deadlift, lunges, and dynamic upright row
|Figure 3: Changes in strength and body composition after 12 weeks on a upper-body, lower body split trained 2x per week on Mo & Tue, as well as Thurs & Friday (Cooper. 2013)|
As far as the strength gains go, things actually don't look much different. Due to the small sample size, none of the he intergroup differences reached statistical significance and the scientists way of resorting to effect sizes instead of group averages, based on which they argue that "the lack of significance due to CYC supplementation does not mean the supplement was ineffective" (Cooper. 2013) Tells me that they were similarly surprised as I am about the outcome of this 12-week trial.
"That's impossible, so where is the design flaw, here?"
I know the above is what you are thinking now, so let's check the usual and not so usual suspects.
There are three things you need to succeed in your efforts to achieve optimal health, a decent physique and a long and active live: A plan, the guts to stick to it and change / tweak it, whenever that's necessary and - often overlooked - the right tools to measure your progress. And I can tell you a scale "body fat or not" is not among those tools (read more about goal setting, planning and stock taking).
- Body fat scales? Not a problem, because the body composition was assessed by whole body densitometry using air displacement in a Bod Pod® - whether that may have skewed the results due creatine induced water retention is yet not 100% certain. On the other hand, lower fat gains would imply even greater lean mass gains and that's not realistic given the fact that the subject's strength levels did hardly improve.
- Missing training sessions or not training with adequate intensity? Since the scientists don't mention that the training sessions were supervised, this could have been an issue. On the other hand, why would that happen only in the CARB, but not in the Cyclone group?
- Misreporting by the scientists: Actually I have now checked three times, whether it may be possible that the researchers simply messed up with the data in the tables and put the results for the CARB group in the Cyclone row and vice versa. Based on the discussion at the end of the paper this does yet not appear to be the case.
The "anabolic window" turns out to be more of a barn door, which is unlocked by the key of exercise and nutrition science (learn more)
- Having way too small group sizes: This is certainly an important fact to consider. If you don't test training vs. not training having 7 subjects in the active and 6 in the placebo arm is not very likely to produce significant differences. On the other hand, this does not explain that the non-significant differences are more or less opposed to what you may have expected.
Don't worry, the 10g+ of EAA with every meal (20-30g+ of quality protein) rule of thumb to get lean and stay lean does still apply (read more). A single study won't change that overnight. And while the current carb-scare is hilarious and misplaced, carbs alone, just like protein only, don't build magnificent, athletic and healthy physiques.
- Cooper R, Naclerio F, Larumbe-Zabala E, Chassin L, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Effects of a Carbohydrate-Protein-Creatine Supplement on Strength Performance and Body Composition in Recreationally Trained Young Men. JEPonline 2013;16(1):72-85.
- Kazemzadeh Y, Zafari A, Bananaeifar A, Moghadam RH, Abasrashid N, Shafabakhsh F. Comparison of whey protein and carbohydrate consumption on hormonal response after resistance exercise. European Journal of Experimental Biology. 2013; 3(1):10-15 .