Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Triphasic Nutrient Supplement W/ Caffeine, Aminos, Carbs, Creatine & All the Usual Suspects Allows For Higher Training Volume, Lowers Cortisol & Dampens Muscle Damage

Do you really need the whole pre-, intra-, post workout supp-arsenal to benefit from your workouts?
Finally, another workout supplementation study! Yeah, I know you are already suffering the side-effects of withdrawl, but it's just a couple of lines and you will feel relieve - thanks to Stephen P. Bird and his colleagues from the Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Australia, whose latest paper is about to be published in one of the upcoming issues of Nutrition Research (Bird. 2013). And as if that was not already enough, the participants were strength trained athletes, the  physical activity and diet were standardized according to pre-recorded habits and the supplementation protocol was extensive! With pre-, intra- and post-workout supplements it was exactly what many people today seem to believe was necessary to see any gains

... but is that true? Do you really need all that stuff?

The Australian researchers probably had a similar question in their minds, when they recruited their 15 strength-trained male field and court sport athletes (mean age 21.7years; 1-RM squat 133.0kg, bench press, 94.7 and 3.1 ± 0.3 years of strength training experience) and randomized them to ingest either a placebo supplement or a supplement "stack" consisting of 15g of Musashi Reactivate Hardcore before, 30g of Musashi Elevator during and 50g of Musashi SPORTS after the workout.
Table 1: Ingredient profile of the "tri-phasic" peri-workout supplement;  the placebo contained an aspartame based flavor that matched the taste of the active supplement (based on data from Bird. 2013)
In view of the fact that this probably sounds similarly "Chinese" to you as to me, I've provided you with a tabular overview of the ingredient profile of what the scientists call a "triphasic multinutrient supplement". Basically nothing you would not find in the line-up of every major supplement company: Some carbs, EAAs, creatine, beta alanine and AAKG, caffeine and b-vitamins (not listed in table 1) before workout, carbs, EAAs and creatine intra-workout and the obligatory protein- (whey/casein mix), carb-combination garnished with some creatine and glutamine after the workout. Add in some salt, magnesium and potassium and you can even at the as of late obligatory "contains electrolytes" blend and you are good to go.

Acute effects = stat. significant, long-term physiological significance = ?

Caffeine (pre, only), creatine, EAAs, whey (post, only) and even beta alanine and AAKG, the additional carbhydrates, ... all that should do something right? Yep, you are of course right it should. After all people are paying with their hard-earned money for it!
Figure 1: Serum markers glucose, AST, CRP, CK, cortisol and testosterone before, during, right after, 30min after and 24h after the workouts with the active (SUPP) or placebo beverage (PLA); data expressed relative to group-specific pre-values (Bird. 2013)
That being said, the data in figure 1 provides at least initial relieve. There are statistically significant effects for almost all measured hormonal parameters,  if we compare the supplemented with the non-supplemented trials in this double-blind, placebo (PLA)-controlled, crossover study.

Figure 2: Supplement & blood draws (top); overview of the exercises, set x rep scheme and equipment used in the lower body workout (Bird. 2013)
The study design allowed for a 7-day washout before the "crossing" took place and those participants who had been randomized to the supplement group after an obligatory 28-day washout to clear all previously used supplements (and what not ;-) from the system had to perform the test workout (4 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions for 5 lower-body exercises; see figure 2) with/without the "triphasic nutrient supplement" on top of their 33.6 ± 1.8 kcal/kg body mass diet (macros: 3.8g/kg, 1.5g/kg carbs and protein, respectively.

The supplement, or rather the supplements, had to be ingested 15 minutes preexercise, in small, regular doses during the exercise, and the whole 300ml of their post-workout drink right after the workout. and thus according to the manufacturers suggestions.

Aside from the hormonal and inflammatory response (see figure 1) to the workout the scientists also measured the muscular performance and perceptual response during the workouts:
Figure 3: Perceptual measures of exertion & muscle soreness (Bird. 2013)
  • the total training volume was higher for SUPP (15 836 ± 518 kg⋅repetitions) compared with PLA (14 390 ± 491 kg⋅repetitions) (P <.05;d = 0.70); 
  • countermovement jump peak power (CMJ) did not differ between groups at any timepoint (P> .05;d= 0.05-0.18); in the SUPP group there was however a trend (P= .08;d= 0.32) for increased countermovement jump peak power was yet observed on the third of the four tests 30min after the workout (exact timing see figure 2, top)
  • the global rate of perceived exertion (RPE) did increase after the workout in both groups, and was higher 30min after the supplement trial (P < .01; d= 0.89)
  • the perceptual responses for muscle soreness was elevated and did not differ between treatments
    after the workouts
However, even for the statistical significant inter-group difference in msucle perceived exertion, the overall effect size is pretty small. It is therefore by no means "obvious", whether the 10% lower perceived exertion during the placebo trial which is probably a direct result of the +10% increase in total training volume, anyways, is of physiological relevance.

So what do we make of these results? On the one hand it is unquestionably true, that the peri-workout supplementation (I refuse to keep using the hilarious sciency expression "triphasic") did increase the total workout volume, It is also true that it did lower the cortisol increase and produced lower areas under the curve for creatine kinase, but it also lowered the testosterone response to the workout (that the post-workout increase in testosterone is not a legitimate predictor of muscle growth is something you should now, after countless articles on the matter, be aware of; read more about testosterone).

Whey is more insulinogenic than white bread and creatine could make you fatt True for the 1st, remotely possible for the 2nd! And still both simply work....
Much ado about nothing? No, not really. While the hormonal changes are more or less irrelevant an increase in total volue that does not entail greater muscle damage could in fact make a difference that's not just statistically, but also physiologically significant.

What I do yet doubt is that the same results could not have been achieved with a cup of oatmeal, water and protein powder 1h before the workout, a coffee right before the workout and 3-5g of creatine, two bananas and a regular whey protein afterward. All you would have to buy then is a pouch of whey and a 500g jar of creatine monohydrate, which will last you for months. Both SuppVersity supplement staples, as you know and actually among the few supps with physiologically significant effects almost every trainee can benefit from... and did I mention that they are dirt cheap and can be combined with real foods?

  • Bird SP, Mabon T, Pryde M, Feebrey S, Cannon J. Triphasic multinutrient supplementation during acute resistance exercise improves session volume load and reduces muscle damage in strength-trained athletes. Nutrition Research. April 2013 [EPub ahead of print].