Vitargo™, Red Bull™ + Co. Research - Are They Worth It? Beef Can Keep Up W/ Whey For Gains! "Creatine Loading" = Too Much of a Good Thing - ISSN Research Review '15 #1

When you're running on a treadmill it obviously takes more than one serving of Red Bull or other commercial energy drinks to kickstart your workout performance | learn more below.
Initially, I wanted to cherry pick only the most interesting study results that were presented in form of poster presentations at the Twelfth International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Conference and Expo in 2015. After looking at the research that is - as of now - only available in form of (albeit often detailed) abstracts, I decided that there are way too many interesting studies to cover only three of them in depth or all of them only cursory. Accordingly, I decided to start a SuppVersity Mini Special with this being the first out of 3-4 issues in which I will briefly discuss the most significant results of those of the roughly two dozen studies, I (a) believe are of greatest interest to you and (b) feel comfortable talking about without having all the details in form of the still to be published full texts.
Read more about ISSN and other studies at the SuppVersity

Vitargo, Red Bull, Creatine & More | ISSN'15 #1

Pump Supps & Synephrine & X | ISSN'15 #2

High Protein, Body Comp & X | ISSN'15 #3

Keto Diet Re- search Update | ISSN'15 #4

The Misquantified Self & More | ISSN'15 #5

BCAA, Cholos-trum, Probiotics & Co | ISSN'15 #6
  • The latest research on Vitargo(TM) -- The mere fact that the latest study on Vitargo(TM) was presented in "three servings", on the latest ISSN meeting, i.e. (1) on the glucose and insulin response (Almada. 2015), (2) on the incretin response (Anzalone. 2015) and (3) on the power output during a subsequent bout of resistance exercise (Van Eck. 2015), could raise some concerns about the objectivity of the results, but is as Patrick Jacobs kindly reminded me common scientific practice.. So, let's put the skepticism aside and take a look at the study design and results.

    Post-Workout Glycogen Repletion | Read my overview article.
    Sixteen resistance trained men participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover study, which consisted of three testing sessions, each separated by one week. In sessions 1-3, subjects completed a glycogen depleting cycling bout of 60 minutes at 70% VO2 max, followed by six, one-minute sprints at 120% VO2 max.

    Immediately post-exercise subjects ingested a placebo (PLA), or a low molecular (LMW) or high molecular weight (HMW) CHO (=Vitargo(TM)) solution (10%) providing 1.2g/kg body weight CHO; assigned randomly. Blood samples were taken prior to ingestion and every ten minutes for 2h.

    For the "first" and "second" serving of the study this was enough. These mini-presentations dealt with the insulin, glucose and incretin response to the two supplements, only. For the "third serving", however, the scientists included performance data from a subsequent bout of exercise, during which the participants did 5 sets of 10 repetitions of back squats (75% 1RM) "as explosively as possible" (if subjects paused for more than 2 seconds or were unable to complete a rep, resistance was lowered by 13.6 kg | Van Eck. 2015).
    Figure 1: Overview of the most relevant results (LMW = low molecular weight CHO vs. HMW = Vitargo (TM) high molecular weight CHO) from Almada (2015), Anzalone (2015) and Van Eck (2015).
    As you can see in my overview of the most relevant results, the scientists did not find practically meaningful differences in study I-II. In study III, which compared the effects of low to high molecular weight carbohydrates (LMW vs. HMW) on squat performance 2h after the glycogen-depleting workout, this was slightly different:
    "HMW conferred a likely beneficial effect in Sets 4 and 5 (92.5% and 88.7% likelihood, respectively), compared to PLA; while ingestion of LMW conferred only a possibly beneficial effect (68.7%) and likely beneficial effect (83.9%) in Sets 4 and 5, respectively" (Van Eck. 2015).
    And still, if you read the conclusion, "the ingestion of a HMW CHO solution providing 1.2 g/kg CHO may allow athletes to sustain power output in a subsequent resistance training session when time between training sessions is limited" (Van Eck. 2015), carefully, you will notice the words "likely" and "possibly" which signify the putative nature of the effect. What may be even more relevant than that, is yet that few of you will do glycogen-depleting exercises at 4:00 pm and hit the gym again for an intense leg workout at 6:00 pm. Accordingly, the practical relevance of the "sustained power output" Van Eck et al. observed is probably restricted to a small group of professional athletes. For people who fall into this category or strength athletes training twice a day, though, using Vitargo (TM) may in fact offer significant benefits.
  • Beef and whey support lean mass gains similarly effectively -- If you are asking yourself if beef isolate protein is a good or at least decent replacement for whey, the post-workout protein supplementation "gold standard" some people can't use due to its (albeit low) lactose content, a recent study from the University of Tampa (Sharp. 2015) has the answer you are looking for.
    Figure 2: Relative improvements in muscle size (hypertrophy) and body fat (fat loss) in response to beef isolate or whey protein supplementation; expressed relative to maltodextrin placebo (Sharp. 2015).
    As the data in Figure 2 tells you, it will make a good replacement! If we go by the average increase in lean mass and loss of fat mass, the beef isolate that was consumed in amounts of 2x20g per day either immediately after each of the 5 weekly workouts (3 resistance training, 2 cardio; 8 weeks total, daily undulating periodization) or at a similar time in the day, you may even argue that the beef protein had the overhand over its "milky" competitor. If we take the individual variations into account, though, the 1% lean mass and almost 3% fat loss advantage (DXA values) of the beef protein turns out to be statistically non-singifican.

    The same goes for differences in strength gains, of which the researchers found that they were identical not just in the two supplement, but also in the supplement and control groups. The lack of additional power during the bench press test may, as the researchers point out, be ascribed to both increases in neural and morphological adaptations" (Sharp. 2015) which would "negate" (ibid.), or as I would phrase it, 'override' potential additive effects of any of the protein supplements (whey and beef, alike).
  • Energy drinks a waste of money on the treadmill? At first sight, the results of the latest study by Sanders et al. (2015) do in fact suggest that energy drinks were a total waste of money for those of you who are consuming them before a regular cardio workout on the treadmill. After all, none of the tested drinks lead to statistically significant improvements in either perceived treadmill exercise performance or running economy assessed via oxygen consumption at 70% treadmill exercise.
In contrast to treadmill running, the performance during a cycling time-trial can be improved by the consumption of an energy drink - a potential explanation for the difference may be that the subjects in the Ivy study consumed 2x  more Red Bull than the subjects in Sanders' study.
Energy drinks don't work? Well, the overall research shows a more diverse picture. While a previous study by Astorino et al. (2012) and a similar study by Candow et al. (2009) that tested the effects of Red Bull on repeated sprint performance and its effects on time to exhaustion, respectively, yielded similarly disappointing results, Ivy et al. (2009) and Forbes et al. (2007) found benefits. More specifically, the researchers observed significant increases in upper body muscle endurance (yet no effect on anaerobic peak or average power during repeated Wingate cycling tests in young healthy adults | Forbes. 2007) and improved cycling time-trial performance (without concomitant increase in perceived exertion | Ivy. 2009) - albeit with 2x more Red Bull than in the study at hand (500ml vs. 250ml).
  • Now, some of you may argue that all you care about when you buy an energy drink is that it makes it easier for you to hit your target time on the treadmill. Well, I can understand that, but in view of the fact that neither of the caffeine laden 8.4 oz. Red Bull®, 16 oz. Monster Energy ®, 2 oz. 5-hour ENERGY® drinks affected the subjects subjective rates of perceived exertion, it does appear questionable that these drinks can actually help you.

    It does thus stand to reason that Sanders et al. conclude that the "results [of their latest study] do not support manufacturers' claims regarding their product's ability to boost performance" (Sanders. 2015). The scientists are yet also right that it would be necessary to find out whether time trial or time to exhaustion sprint and endurance performance benefit, as respective studies may be better suited to reliably "assess if these energy drinks can, in fact, improve exercise performance" (ibid.) - and in view of the fact that previous studies with corresponding outcomes yielded conflicting results (see blue box above), I can fully subscribe to that: We need more (non-sponsored) quality studies ;-)
  • More evidence that creatine loading is not the way to go -- In Gann et al.'s latest study, fourteen (Cr = 7, Pl = 7) non-resistance-trained (i.e. < thrice weekly, 1 year prior) men between the ages of 18-30 were randomly assigned by age and body weight to orally ingest a powdered dextrose placebo or creatine monohydrate (Gann. 2015).

    After baseline strength and body composition testing procedures, participants ingested creatine or placebo at a dose of 0.3g/kg lean body mass/day (≈ 20-25g/day) for a 5 day loading phase immediately followed by a 42-day maintenance phase at a dose of 0.075g/kg lean body mass/day (≈ 5-7g/day). The participants followed a periodized 4 day per week resistance-training program split into two upper body and two lower body workouts per week, for a total of 7 weeks. Blood and muscle samples were obtained at Day 0, 6, 27, and 48. Statistical analyses were performed utilizing separate two-way ANOVA for each criterion variable employing a probability level of ≤ 0.05.
    Figure 3: Don't be fooled by shiny ads! While there is evidence that some forms of creatine will be faster absorbed than creatine monohydrate, only the addition of dextrose (and ALA or baking soda) have actually been shown to increase the muscular retention of creatine in experiments (Jäger. 2011) 
    As you'd expect, the addition of creatine lead to significant increments in total body mass (p = 0.03) and lean body mass (p = 0.01). What creatine did not do, though, was to affect the amount of body fat the subjects were carrying around. The latter decreased to a similar extent in both groups in response to resistance training, alone (p = 0.001) - without any effect of creatine supplementation. Much to my personal surprise, the same was the case for the subjects' muscle strength, which was - likewise - increased to the same extent in both groups.

    So what? Well, in contrast to the uncommon lack of effect on muscle strength, the lack of effect on body fat is sad, but had to be expected. Both findings are yet not why this study made the SuppVersity Cut. That is or rather was Gann's observation that the loading phase lead to significant increases in of urinary creatine (p = 0.036), and urinary creatinine (p = 0.01) in the creatine group compared to placebo. This "excess amounts of serum and urinary creatine and urinary creatinine content" (Gann. 2015) provides further evidence that the (still common) practice of creatine loading is useless and 100% safe certainly only in the short term. In the long term, however, I'd highly suggest that you avoid super-dosing on creatine - I mean, why would you want to use 20g per day, when 3-5 g per day is enough (Wilder. 2001) and more than will "lose" once the creatine levels of your muscles are saturated (the exact washout time is unknown, but studies indicate it may be >40 days of consuming no creatine at all | Deldicque. 2008)?
Intra-workout BCAA supplements are marketed specifically to resistance trainees. If they do have anti-catabolic effects, though, those are - just like potential fatigue reducing effects - significantly more likely to occur in endurance trainees | learn more
What else? In the bottom line of this mini-series I will briefly reference those studies that did not make the SuppVersity Cut for various reasons. Studies like those on the benefits of BCAAs, for example (Kephart. 2015 or Mumford. 2015). For this kind of study I would need the full-text, not just the abstract to tell you how relevant conclusions like the "BCAA supplement did not appear to enhance recovery benefits compared to a CHO control", "a few areas of performance were bolstered to a point of practical importance"(Kephart. 2015) or "BCAA supplementation [...] may benefit immune function during a prolonged cycling season" (Mumford. 2015), actually are. As soon as the corresponding full papers you have published I will obviously make good for any performance-relevant information I may be missing by ignoring the abstracts, today | Comment on Facebook!
  • Almada, Anthony L., et al. "Effect of post-exercise ingestion of different molecular weight carbohydrate solutions. Part 1: The glucose and insulin response." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P30.
  • Astorino, Todd A., et al. "Effects of red bull energy drink on repeated sprint performance in women athletes." Amino acids 42.5 (2012): 1803-1808.
  • Anzalone, Anthony J., et al. "Effect of post-exercise ingestion of different molecular weight carbohydrate solutions. Part II: The incretin response." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P31.
  • Candow, Darren G., et al. "Effect of sugar-free Red Bull energy drink on high-intensity run time-to-exhaustion in young adults." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.4 (2009): 1271-1275.
  • Deldicque, Louise, et al. "Kinetics of creatine ingested as a food ingredient." European journal of applied physiology 102.2 (2008): 133-143.
  • Forbes, Scott C., et al. "Effect of Red Bull energy drink on repeated Wingate cycle performance and bench-press muscle endurance." International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 17.5 (2007): 433.
  • Gann, Joshua J., et al. "Effects of a traditionally-dosed creatine supplementation protocol and resistance training on the skeletal muscle uptake and whole-body metabolism and retention of creatine in males." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P2.
  • Ivy, John L., et al. "Improved cycling time-trial performance after ingestion of a caffeine energy drink." International journal of sport nutrition 19.1 (2009): 61.
  • Jäger, Ralf, et al. "Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine." Amino Acids 40.5 (2011): 1369-1383.
  • Kephart, Wesley C., et al. "Ten weeks of branched chain amino acid supplementation improves select performance and immunological variables in trained cyclists." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P20.
  • Mumford, Petey, et al. "Effects of sub-chronic branched chain amino acid supplementation on markers of muscle damage and performance variables following 1 week of rigorous weight training." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P29.
  • Sanders, Gabriel J., et al. "The effect of three different energy drinks on oxygen consumption and perceived exertion during treadmill exercise." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P1.
  • Sharp, Matthew, et al. "The effects of beef protein isolate and whey protein isolate supplementation on lean mass and strength in resistance trained individuals-a double blind, placebo controlled study." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P11.
  • Van Eck, Leighsa E., et al. "Effect of post-exercise ingestion of different molecular weight carbohydrate solutions. Part III: Power output during a subsequent resistance training bout." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.Suppl 1 (2015): P32.
  • Wilder, Nathan, et al. "The effects of low-dose creatine supplementation versus creatine loading in collegiate football players." Journal of athletic training 36.2 (2001): 124.
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