Sunday, August 10, 2014

Post-Workout Steak "Supplementation" (135g of Lean Beef) Augments Improvements in Body Composition In Response to 8 Weeks of Circuit Resistance Training

Looking for muscle building protein fuel? No need for supplements, when a delicious steak is all it takes to propel the beneficial effects of resistance training on your body comp.
Yes, today's SuppVersity article is about beef protein, but it's not about one chocolate flavored overpriced powdered slaugherhouse waste for carnivores, but rather about real beef: muscle meats from cattle, as the ones you put into a pan or onto the barbecue. A group of scientists from the University of Pavia in Italy wanted to know if a simple steak would affect the strength and body composition of young adults involved in a full-vody resistance-training program of eight weeks.

Based on previous studies Negro et al. knew that beef protein (90g from a 340g steak) can help trainees increase their muscle gains, when it is consumed 60 minutes before the exercise (Symsoni. 2011).
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Similar, albeit dose-dependent increases in protein synthesis have also been observed by Robinson et al. (2013) who demonstrate that a 170 g serving of lean beef, which was consumed after the workout and provided 36 g of protein, resulted in greater rates of muscle protein synthesis in middle-aged persons than smaller servings of 113 g and 57 g of beef (24 g and 12 g of protein, respectively) when administrated after 3 sets of knee extensions exercise (using a predetermined load toelicit failure within 8–10 repetitions).
Figure 1: Mean myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis (MPS) in response to graded doses of dietary protein at rest and after resistance exercise (left); whole-body leucine oxidation with ingestion of various doses of beef (right; Robinson. 2013).
What neither of the two studies had to offer, though, is a longitudinal analysis of the hypertrophy response to a realistic strength training regimen.
You want to make your steak even more anabolic? Mince it and the increased absorption speed, as well as the resulting increase in hyperaminoacidemia will maximize its anabolic effects. You don't believe that? Well, Pennings et al. have already demonstrated an increase in net protein retention with minced over whole meat in a 2013 study in older men (Pennings. 2013)... ah, and before I forget that, chewing effectively will make it even more anabolic (Rémond. 2007).
In the study at hand, the forty healthy normal-weight volunteers without significant training experience who were recruited at the University of Pavia through advertisements posted on the main campus, were supplemented "soon after every exercise session" with a 135 g serving of lean beef (tinned meat), providing 20 g of protein and 1.7 g of  fat (water was available to favor the swallowing). With the exception of the tinned meat, the subjects who had an average baseline protein intake of 1.0g/day weren't allowed to consume any supplements or ergogenic substances.

1.0g/kg protein +/- 20g of protein from canned beef after workouts = ???

Both, the supplement and the control group participated in the same standardized whole body resistance training program which had been  designed by a certified strength and conditioning specialist.
"All subjects trained three times per week(Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), for a total of nine weeks (one week of pre-conditioning (week 0) and eight weeks of training (week 1 to week 8)). The pre-conditioning week was designed to allow volunteers to become familiar with all the exercises included in the training protocol. During the eight weeks of training, FG [treatment group] and CG [control group] carried out their workout session late in the afternoon or early evening. After a warm-up all subjects performed, in a randomized order, three circuits (Legs Circuit: leg extension, leg press, leg curl; Chest Circuit: pectoral machine, bench press, triceps machine; Back Circuit: vertical row, lat machine, biceps curl)." (Negro. 2014)
Every exercise was performed for 8 repetitions at 75% of 1RM each. With each of the exercises in the circuits being performed four times and four minutes of rest between circuits, the subjects spent about 1.5 h in the gym. All training sessions were closely monitored to ensure effort, repetitions and intensity established.
Remember yesterday's study about the differential importance of immediate PWO protein supplementation for rookies and pros? I guess, this would be another study that would have to repeated with experienced resistance training, because for them a faster protein like whey may be way more important than for the 20 rookies in the study at hand.
The body composition of the subjects was measured by BIA (Model BIA 101, AKERN-RJL, Florence, Italy) of which the scientists who obviously expected my criticism of their cheapness write that BIA shows "statistically significant linear relationships between LM and FM assessed by BIA and more robust techniques (such as DEXA) in both sexes" (Negro. 2014); yet while this is correct for the relative values the absolute values are often bogus.
Figure 2: Relative changes in body composition (left) and 1-RM strength (right) in response to training +/- beef supplement over the course of 8 weeks (Negro. 2014)
Still, in spite of the fact that the strength gains didn't differ significantly, the changes in body composition (Figure 2, left) speak in favor of the beef supplement.
FM declined from week 0 to week 8 both in FG [beef] and in CG [control], but only in FG this decline was significant (week 0: 15.0 ± 6.7 kg; week 8: 13.1 ± 7.6 kg; Δ: −1.9 ± 2.9 kg; p < 0.05); FFM increased in all subjects, but only FG showed a significant increase (week 0: 52.8 kg ± 9.4; week 8: 55.1 kg ± 10.9; Δ: 2.3 ± 2.5 kg; p < 0.01). No significant differences in LM were found from week 0 to week 8 in either FG or CG, however there was an increase trend in FG and a decrease trend in CG (Table 2).

[...] Muscular strength, as assessed by the 1RM bench press, lat machine and leg press, respectively, increased significantly in both groups (Figure 1); this effect was independent of LM values and nutritional stimulus, but only related to the resistance-training program. " (Negro. 2014).
Needless to say that it would be interesting to have a whey control group, or a comparison between different forms of meat (grilled steak vs. minced tartar, for example). For the time being we do thus have to content ourselves with the (unsurprising) insight that it does not necessarily have to be whey if your goal is to augment the post-workout increase in protein synthesis.
Figure 3: Leucine content (g/100g) in fresh and aged rib steaks before and after cooking (Ginger. 1954) - clearly minced fresh beef should be most anabolic; and don't forget to chew it (see red box)
Bottom line: I am not sure if it's actually necessary to provide additional advice on the interpretation of the study results: Yes, beef protein is anabolic - of course it is. In view of the relative slow digestion speed an the previously established dependence of the protein synthetic response to food on the rate at which the amino acid levels in the blood rise in response to the ingestion of a given protein source it is highly unlikely that a steak, tinned beef and even minced beef can compete with whey protein which also happens to have a more favorable (=higher leucine + BCAA) amino acid profile.

Still, if you don't have a shake on tap, a burger or barbecue would be a good alternative to satisfy your trained muscles craving for protein ;-)
  • Ginger, Irene D., Et Al. "Effect Of Aging And Cooking On The Distribution Of Certain Amino Acids And Nitrogen In Beef Musclea." Journal Of Food Science 19.1‐6 (1954): 410-416. 
  • Negro, Massimo, et al. "Protein Supplementation with Low Fat Meat after Resistance Training: Effects on Body Composition and Strength." Nutrients 6.8 (2014): 3040-3049.
  • Pennings, Bart, et al. "Minced beef is more rapidly digested and absorbed than beef steak, resulting in greater postprandial protein retention in older men." The American journal of clinical nutrition 98.1 (2013): 121-128. 
  • Rémond, Didier, et al. "Postprandial whole-body protein metabolism after a meat meal is influenced by chewing efficiency in elderly subjects." The American journal of clinical nutrition 85.5 (2007): 1286-1292.
  • Robinson, Meghann J., et al. "Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men." Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 38.2 (2012): 120-125.
  • Symonsi, T. B., et al. "The anabolic response to resistance exercise and a protein-rich meal is not diminished by age." The journal of nutrition, health & aging 15.5 (2011): 376-381.