June 26, 2013
Dietary Supplements for Strength & Power Athletes

The following was presented by Eric Rawson at the 2013 ACSM Conference.  It is my pleasure to share it with you.

1.) Creatine monohydrate 

Doses: 0.3 g/kg/day for 5 days or 0.03 g/kg/day for 30 days is sufficient to increase the concentration of creatine by 20-25%.  

Washout period: 6 weeks is usually recommended

Performance factor: Increase performance of high intensity exercise of durations less than 30 seconds

Safety profile: Excellent

2.) Beta-alanine

Doses: 3-6g for 4-8 weeks can elicit 40-50% increases.  Acts as a buffer

Washout period: 10-15 weeks

Performance factor: Good for H.I.I.T. or sprinting. High intensity exercise (1-6min duration).  Overall 2.58% increase in performance

Safety profile: Safe but may cause a niacin flush (paresthesia)

3.) Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3)

Doses: 300mg/kg taken 1-3 hours pre-exercise can act as an extracellular buffer

 Washout period: None.  Some suggest as a chronic dietary supplement.

Performance factor: 1-2% increase in body mass.  Increase in high intensity exercise (1-5min). Shown previously to take 0.8s off of a 1 min race.  

4.) Protein

Dose: 0.4 g/kg/hour of exercise (Milk is the best bang for your buck)  1.6-1.7 g/kg/day. 

5.) Water

I think it also important to not neglect your carbohydrates.  In exercises lasting 30 seconds to 1 minute, a lot of people think that most of the energy is coming from creatine.  In actuality, 10% is coming from creatine whereas 47-60% is coming from carbohydrate stores.  1.2 g/kg/hour of carbohydrates post-exercise is sufficient for muscle glycogen resynthesis. 

September 17, 2012
Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: strategies to enhance anabolism.

Maximize your muscle protein synthesis after weight training, bros.  I’ll highlight for you a recent review, which the scientist nerds can read entirely for free here, from Dr. Stuart M. Phillips.  I encourage you to take the time to read this one.

Introuction:  When scientists talk about muscle protein synthesis they are referring to accruing muscle proteins in an overall net positive balance.  That is to say, taking the most basic form of proteins, amino acids, and eventually creating structural muscle (aka hypertrophy).  Normally, this is done by adding to already existing contractile machinery of the muscle cells.  Researchers suggest that muscle protein synthesis (MPS for now on) is controlled by certain factors including dose, food source, and timing.  Let’s see what Dr. Phillips has to say about each of these areas.

"The anabolic window" -Timing

It’s like the holy grail of muscle growth for bros.  ”You can’t miss the window or you ruined the entire workout.”  Well, that’s a bit exaggerated.  Phillips states that, "It is now unequivocal that immediate post-exercise amino acid provision is an effective nutrition based strategy to enhance MPS above rates observed with exercise alone.”  Early post-exercise ingestion of amino acids or protein comes from studies that showed that exercise induced increases in rates of MPS are greatest right after exercise; approximately 100-150% above basal rates.  However, it may not be that big of a deal if you miss this window.  If you look at the figure below, the increase in MPS is in fact greater after exercise but can remain elevated for up to 48 hours.  Phillips suggests that consuming protein during these later times as well can be just as beneficial as ingesting protein directly after exercise.


MPS after resistance exercise

More importantly, Philips discusses the importance of actual exercise intensity and how it relates to muscle failure.  This is in lines with a study I touched upon in the past.  Looking at yet again another figure below, you can see that groups that take resistance exercise to failure, regardless if they’re using heavy load and low volume, or a light load and high volume had an enhanced amino acid sensitivity to muscle protein synthesis.  Let me say that again, IRREGARDLESS OF HOW MUCH WEIGHT YOU USE, as long as you are taking the muscle to failure, you will increase your rates of muscle protein synthesis more than loads not till failure. 

High vs low load

Protein source


Let it be noted that whey, egg albumin, soy, casein, and beef have all been shown scientifically to be able to stimulate MPS.  However, the Philips group has shown in the past that whey and milk can increase MPS greater than soy products following resistance exercise (this could be due to differences in amino acid profiles and/or digestion kinetics).  Why is whey fast-digesting and casein slow-digesting?  Every one knows that or will tell you that but do they even have an explanation why?  Phillips drops a knowledge bomb with one sentence, Whey protein is acid soluble and is associated with a very rapid, large, but transient increase in postprandial amino acid availability,  while casein coagulates and precipitates when exposed to stomach acid and the resultant dairy curd is slowly released from the stomach resulting in a much more moderate but sustained rise in plasma amino acids.”  I love knowledge bombs.

Dose

It is still accepted that in young healthy individuals, approximately 20-25g (which corresponds to approximately 8-10g of essential amino acids) of a rapid digesting protein source (whey or milk) can help maximize stimulation of MPS after resistance exercise. 


There you have it.  Now, I’m off to eat some beef.

August 10, 2012
Protein Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery

"Yo, you gotta take your casein before bed so you stay anabolic.  Steady flow of amino acids while I sleep." How many times have you heard that?  How many people have showed you a study validating it?  Finally, one exists.

Introduction:  It is hypothesized that ingesting protein before sleep could be beneficial to increase plasma amino acid availability, stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis and increase whole-body protein balance during sleep.  Thus, this group took 16 recreationally active young men and after a single bout of resistance training gave them either casein protein or a placebo before bed.  This is the first study to look at the effect of ingesting casein protein immediately before sleep and subsequently seeing how it effects protein synthesis and protein balance overnight.

Methods:  All subjects received a standard meal the evening before the test and a standardized diet throughout the experimental day.  Tracers were implemented in this study which allows for measurements of certain molecule in the blood.  A tracer is a molecular that contains radioactive isotopes that can be measured by machines to see the overall flux of the molecule throughout the body.  In this study, the researchers traced radioactive amino acids (it’s safe because they are stable isotopes, trust me)throughout the night following the exercise protocol.  The protocol consisted of leg extensions and leg press and was performed three hours before bed.

Results:  After ingestion of protein before sleep, the total essential amino acid concentrations in the plasma increased rapidly and stayed higher throughout the night as compared to the placebo group.  For the tracer, the amount of protein available from the plasma-derived amino acids was 50% higher in the protein ingestion group at time 7.5hrs after sleep compared to the placebo.  Finally, whole-body protein synthesis rates were higher in the protein group versus the placebo group.

Discussion:  It is evident that the casein protein was in fact digested and absorbed normally throughout the night because the tracer used in this case came directly from the casein protein shake.   Not only did they observe and increase in whole-body protein synthesis with the blood plasma samples, but the group also showed an increase in synthetic rate by taking muscle biopsies as well.  Of course this could not be confirmed throughout the night but only before bed otherwise the person would not be able to sleep when the biopsy was being performed.  Also, it is important to keep in mind that this is an acute (one-time) bout of resistance training and not chronic (long-term).

Conclusion:

  1. Casein protein at bedtime is effectively digested and absorbed which would lead to an increase in available amino acids from blood plasma overnight
  2. Casein protein at bedtime stimulates muscle protein synthesis rates which would increase overnight protein balance.
My input: This study highlights the practicality and necessity of using tracers.  Without labeling the amino acid in the casein drink, it would be difficult to tell whether or not the amino acids in the plasma are coming from inside the body (endogenous) or what was ingested (exogenous).  The authors clearly show in the figures that the rise in the amino acids come from the isotope labelled casein source that they provided.  Now for the first time, you can all finally tell your friends it is a good idea to supplement with casein before bed because science suggested it.


Res et al Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1560-9.

April 12, 2012
That would be whey better than leucine. Supplement companies aren’t going to like me.

Whey protein or leucine post-workout to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)?  The Phillips group just published an article trying to answer this question. 

Introduction:  You all are probably aware that ingesting amino acids stimulates an increase in muscle protein synthesis even without resistance training.  Leucine has been toted to best stimulate MPS by activating components of a signalling cascade known as mTOR.  There is still controversy though as to whether or not leucine can enhance MPS following leucine infusion or by simply adding more of it to a post-workout protein drink.  This group previously reported the the optimal dose of protein post-workout to stimulate MPS was 20g and that anything below this is not sufficient and anything above this number (40g) does not increase MPS further.  Therefore, the aim of this study was to see if taking a “sub-optimal” dose of whey (6.25g with approximately 0.75g of leucine) protein and supplementing it with leucine or a mixture of essential amino acids without leucine would have an effect on MPS at rest and after acute resistance training.  This will be compared to a dose of whey (25g with approximately 3.0g of leucine) which is sufficient to induce maximal stimulation of MPS after resistance exercise.

Methods:  Twenty-four adult males were randomized to one of three groups that either ingested a whey protein drink, a leucine drink, or an essential amino acid drink.  Prior to ingestion, the volunteers completed an acute bout of unilateral resistance exercise (knee extensions).  Muscle biopsies were taken at the time of ingestion and at time points 1 hour, 3 hours, and 5 hours post-exercise.

Results:  After whey protein ingestion, blood leucine, branch-chain amino acids, essential amino acids, and total amino acids were all highest as compared to the groups that ingested leucine or EAA (without leucine).  Blood leucine was only higher initially after ingesting the leucine drink but stayed elevated longer by ingesting whey.  Rates of MPS remained increased for 3-5 hours at exercise recovery above those volunteers who did not ingest anything, versus the groups who ingested leucine or the EAA drink.

Discussion:  A dose of whey protein that has been previously shown to be less than maximally effective to stimulate MPS after resistance exercise, when supplemented with leucine, resulted in an early (1-3 hour post-exercise recovery) increase in rates of MPS equal to that of ingesting 25g of whey.  Also, the same was found by supplementing a low dose of whey with essential amino acids void of leucine.  However, MPS was sustained longer (3-5 hours post-exercise) only with the group that ingested whey protein.  These differences occurred despite the fact that blood amino acid levels returned to baseline after 3-5 hours but MPS still continued.  Therefore, the authors state that peak activation of MPS does not appear to be driven by increasing leucine in the blood and that amino acid transport across the sarcolemma (plasma membrance of the muscle cell) and intracellular amino acid availability may be important in the regulation of MPS.

Conclusion:  Leucine stimulates MPS post-exercise equal to that of whey protein, despite only containing 45% of the total EAA content of the whey.  However, similar increases in MPS were observed in the EAA ingestion group that did not contain leucine.  Thus, the authors speculate that in young healthy individuals, the leucine content provided by approximately 6.25g (approximately 0.75g of leucine) of whey protein seems adequate to maximally stimulate MPS if sufficient amounts if the other EAA are provided (approximately 8.5g EAA).  Also, the whey protein ingestion group was the only group that sustained MPS 3-5 hours post-exercise.

My input/practicality:  What if I were to tell you I can make a 1lb bag of whey protein last me 3 months?   Well I can, and I do, and I’ve been doing it for years.  I only use a half scoop of whey protein post-exercise.  Never a full scoop.  Never a “heaping” scoop.  Why do you even think they use the word heaping? It’s all about the dolla dolla bill y’all.  This study shows that only 6.25g of whey is necessary to maximally stimulate protein synthesis as long as it contains approximately 750mg of leucine and 8.5g of the other 8 essential amino acids (which are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).  Make sure you check on the labels of your favorite whey protein because it usually lists the amount of leucine and the other essential amino acids on it.  One scoop of whey is usually on average around 20g of protein so if you use a half scoop like me it is around 10g (still a little over from what this study suggests).  Supplement companies are going to hate this study (like they read them anyways) as well as me for posting this but you’ll love it/me for saving you money.

Churchward-Venne et al J Physiol. 2012 Mar 25.

June 17, 2011
Phosphorus-31 spectra acquired  from an MRI before the start of exercise (a), at the cessation of exercise (b) and at the end of the measured recovery period (c). All postexercise spectral amplitudes are shown normalized to the pre-exercise phosphocreatine peak amplitude.

This is an example of one of the tests we perform on our subjects in the lab.  Creatine, as you may know, is the first energy source used by the muscle to drive contraction.  This is why it is such a popular supplement for strength athletes.   However, this energy source does not last that long and even reps as high as 12 you may be relying on other metabolic pathways in the muscle.  Although it is ephemeral in nature, note in this picture how fast it recovers back to normal after exercising (240 seconds or 4 minutes).  This is part of the reason why resting a long time in between sets, which is mainly what powerlifters and strength athletes do, is beneficial to those wishing to increase their strength on exercises.  That way, you can ensure your maximal effort on each lift.

Greenman & Smithline Acad Radiol. 2011 Jul;18(7):917-23. Epub 2011 May 4.

Phosphorus-31 spectra acquired  from an MRI before the start of exercise (a), at the cessation of exercise (b) and at the end of the measured recovery period (c). All postexercise spectral amplitudes are shown normalized to the pre-exercise phosphocreatine peak amplitude.

This is an example of one of the tests we perform on our subjects in the lab.  Creatine, as you may know, is the first energy source used by the muscle to drive contraction.  This is why it is such a popular supplement for strength athletes.   However, this energy source does not last that long and even reps as high as 12 you may be relying on other metabolic pathways in the muscle.  Although it is ephemeral in nature, note in this picture how fast it recovers back to normal after exercising (240 seconds or 4 minutes).  This is part of the reason why resting a long time in between sets, which is mainly what powerlifters and strength athletes do, is beneficial to those wishing to increase their strength on exercises.  That way, you can ensure your maximal effort on each lift.

Greenman & Smithline Acad Radiol. 2011 Jul;18(7):917-23. Epub 2011 May 4.


June 10, 2011
The Whey to Go

 At the end of the study, subjects who consumed as little as 15 grams of whey protein before and after exercise, twice weekly, had greater increases in muscle hypertrophy than the placebo and control group

Hulmi JJ, Kovanen V, Selänne H, Kraemer WJ, Häkkinen K, Mero AA. Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Amino Acids, 2008 Jul 27.

May 3, 2011
Question on the different forms of creatine.

So I got this question today from my best friend about the differences between the various forms of creatine:

"hey man. what are the differences b/t Monohydrate, liquid, creatine ethyl-ester, dicreatine malate, micronized, kre-alkalyn, and effervescent ? "

I decided to respond to this on here because this is a common question I receive and some of my followers may even be wondering themselves.  Also, just because none of my followers seem to ask me any questions (shy, much?)

Pretty much with all those different forms of creatines, companies just try to find a way for the body to absorb it better. Also, all of them you do not have to have a loading phase for except monohydrate. Pure monohydrate always requires a loading phase and simple carbs (like sugar) to get into the muscles. They also try to minimize water bloating with using different forms. It is taught in organic chemistry when synthesizing a molecule that anything with an ethyl-ester group is the best leaving group you can use. So, ethyl-ester products are highly toted as one of the best, but that is even mixed as to whether they are or not. Dicreatine malate is analogous to shooting fish in a barrel. The more creatine you attach, the better you have of one going to the muscle; thus, tricreatine malate will absorb even faster. Micronized means it is cut up, which is purer than monohydrate but still requires a loading phase. Liquid, don’t’ bother wasting your money on it because it is highly arguable that creatine in liquid is unstable. Effervescent is when they combine creatine with sugar to save you the step of having to do it yourself. Finally, kre-alkalyn is simple a creatine molecule bound to an alkyl group for protection which is suppose to yield better absorption and less bloating. 

Essentially, some people just don’t respond to monohydrate so they have other forms. In my opinion, the best is Ethyl-ester, Kre-Alkalyn, Dicreatine malate, Effervescent, micronized, monohydrate, and liquid (in that order).  The future of creatine products will be attaching these molecules to amino acid groups since amino acids are naturally taken up by the muscle (duh).

-Nick


April 14, 2011
M&F Raw! Nutrition #9 - Creatine 101 - Muscle and Fitness

Dr. Jim Stoppani, the senior science editor for FLEX and Muscle & Fitness magazines, provides a short video on the benefits of supplementing with creatine.

Note:  Dr. Stoppani is not sponsored by any supplement company.  Here is a link to the supplements he recommends from different manufacturers for different goals.

Jim Stoppani holds a doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut. Soon after graduation, he served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the prestigious John B. Pierce Laboratory and Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale University School of Medicine. This is the time when Jim started to investigate the effects of diet and exercise on gene regulation in muscle tissue. Following his research, he was given the “Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science” Award in 2002 by the American Physiological Society.

March 23, 2011
Ever consider supplementing with BCAAs?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine, and valine are a popular supplement among endurance and strength athletes but do they live up to those wanting to lose weight?  New research from the Journal of Nutrition suggests, yes.  The study consisted of a large sample size of 4,429 men and women and found that BCAA intake and obesity were inversely related, meaning that when BCAAs increase, a persons BMI decreases.

 In conclusion, higher dietary BCAA intake is associated with lower prevalence of overweight status/obesity among apparently healthy middle-aged adults from East Asian and Western countries.

Qin et al J Nutr. 2011 Feb;141(2):249-54. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

February 3, 2011
Vitamin D year round.

This current study demonstrates that healthy athletes can achieve adequate to optimal 25(OH)D concentrations in the nonwinter months through routine sun exposure, dietary sources, and supplements (which surpass the newly revised RDA of 600 IU) (27). Athletes living at distances away from the equator, however, need supplemental vitamin D during the winter to prevent the seasonal reduction in serum 25(OH)D concentrations. Maintaining sufficient vitamin D status may reduce the risk of common infectious illness, which can negatively impact athletic training and performance. Further research is needed to determine whether vitamin D status influences risk for overtraining and inflammatory injury.

Halliday et al MSSE 2011 Feb;43(2):335-43.