6 03 2013
Blog : More on nutrient timing and meal spread, benefits of detraining, and sugar as the next ergogenic ?
Procrastination, fatigue and just a general sense of malaise. They all hit us once in a while, but never more so than after a period of illness and inactivity. I was felled by a serious cold, immediately followed by a flu, that totally threw my training, writing, researching, and well, pretty much everything out of whack. My bodyweight dropped nearly 3 kg, which isn’t drastic, as over such a short period it was mostly fat probably, but I was in the middle of an overtraining period, so I effectively lost almost two weeks of training, with October getting closer and closer. But I’ve been training again for the last 10 days, and still I failed to get much on paper before last weekend. It’s hard wrapping your head around stuff again when you’ve been out of it a bit. But hopefully this blog starts us back on the right foot.
Some interesting topics this week, including a short discussion of an article that GetXXL sent me, that segues nicely back into our last topic we were talking about, meal spread and timing, and the role of late night feeding has in that, followed by two discussions based on recent papers concerning the benefit of detraining and the ergogenic effect of … sugars. I’m starting a new article today, most likely a defense of the anabolic window, since that seems to be a hotly contested topic of late. I won’t waste too much of your time with my endless meandering this time, my recent absence most likely has you hungry for some actual facts, so I tried to cram as much as I could into this blog Enjoy.
More on nutrient timing, late night feeding and meal spread
Well this promises to be a debate that’s not going away. Aside from the fodder for the last controversial bit on meal spread and timing, it seems there is a ton more to be discussed in this regard, with a wide variety of views and stances emerging on everything even remotely related to the topic. In that context, shortly after the last piece our beloved webmaster GetXXL sent me this article, and was kind enough to supply me with the full texts of the references pretty much in the same breath (seriously, how lucky am I to have a webmaster with mad research skills who knows what I like to read ? It won’t be too long before you are reading his stuff on here, I’m sure) . The title made it seem more interesting than it was, but at the very least it opened up a whole avenue of topics to discuss in the current debate we haven’t touched on yet. There is no author listed for the piece, so we’ll just call him “the author” for the duration of the discussion.
The title of the article is a bit misleading. It wishes to talk about circadian rhythm protein timing or CRPT as the author calls it, but right off the bat I should probably inform you that none of his references mention this concept, or even talk about circadian rhythm at all. When GetXXL googled the term, he also couldn’t find any reference to it, and I assume that’s one of the reasons he sent me the article, since CRPT makes a beautiful addition to the list of craptastic acronyms I mentioned in a previous blog, that some people in this industry like to make up to sell you your used stuff in a brand new wrapping. Indeed, all of the references he cited proved to be valuable reads, but all of them relate largely to concepts that we have already discussed previously, and all of them seem rather contradictory to some of the authors views he expresses without any form of proof in his text. Before I start my breakdown of the piece and the references, I should probably state he raises some good points about the extreme use of IIFYM (if it fits your macros) by some people out there, a very disturbing movement that seems to largely dismiss the fact that there is more to nutrition than the division between fats, carbs and protein (I’m all for simplification, but let’s not exaggerate), and certainly no one can find any fault with his final conclusion to consume a protein rich meal in the evening before going to bed. He pretty much nailed that, even if he made up most of the rest.
First up he mentions the Burk et al. study (1). I want to specify the actual design set-up, which the author either did not read, or did not understand, since he seems to be of the impression that the two groups simply received a protein supplement of 70g at different times once a day. That is not the case. The set-up is such that two groups of training individuals consuming similar meals three times a day (breakfast at 8AM, lunch at noon and Dinner at 8 PM) and working out 4PM were given 70g of supplemental protein, divided over TWO time points per day, with both groups receiving their first dose of 35g at 10 AM in the morning and their second dose of 35g either shortly before their 4PM training (TFR), or at 10.30 PM before bed (TDR). It’s also important to mention that the protein at hand was the slow-digesting casein, which is relevant to a large part of the discussion. The outcome of the study demonstrated that the group receiving the supplement before bed (TDR) showed a significant increase in fat-free mass in the latter group compared to the group receiving their protein right before their training (TFR). The authors concluded :
“However, in TDR, the whole daily protein intake was spread more evenly over time due to the ingestion of the second portion of the supplement late in the evening approximately 2.5 hours after dinner. This could prolong the duration of moderate amino acidemia each day and lead to an increase in protein deposition and fat-free mass over several weeks.”
Basically by consuming the protein at 10.30 PM they prolonged their level of amino acidemia well into the night, where the previous group would have probably had their levels taper off before midnight. So what the authors set out to prove, and actually did prove, is that a greater meal spread, to increase the time one spends every day in a state of amino acidemia is more important than absolute protein intake, and probably even more important than taking protein prior to the workout. I say probably, because findings in this regard are confounded by the protein source, since, and I quote the authors :
“when consuming a slowly digestible protein supplement instead of a supplement containing free amino acids immediately before a training session, the amino acids from the supplement reach circulation with a significant delay”
Meaning the fact that the 35g where spread thinly over the next hours instead of hitting the blood stream during or shortly after the workout as would have been the case with a whey protein or free amino acids, could potentially mask any benefits here. As it has in previous studies concerning that particular topic. The findings of this study differ from a previous one by Cribb and Hayes (2), which demonstrated that supplementation before and after a workout was more effective at increasing muscle mass than taking the same supplement in the morning and evening. However Cribb and Hayes employed a supplement containing 40g whey, 43g glucose and 7g of creatine, a supplement that would both increase the amino acidemia during the workout, and would fail to extend the whole day amino academia to the same extent as casein. The presence of carbohydrates may also have contributed, since the consumption of large doses of simple carbs prior to, or during, a workout, has a profound effect in strength and possibly gains (3), which could certainly tip the scales in favour of the workout timing. But long story short, what the Burk et al. study aimed to prove, and proved, above all was that extending the time spent in enhanced amino acidemia contributes greatly to increases in muscle mass. Or in plainer terms, a greater meal spread leads to more gains, making it a nice addition to the last article on meal timing and meal spread, proving that one cannot optimally gain muscle on an intermittent fasting style diet.
The second study the author references by Keim et al. (4) is probably not even relevant on the whole since it concerns two groups of fat women on caloric restriction either consuming 70% of their calories in the AM or the PM, where the AM is 8 and noon, and PM is 5 and 8 PM. No meals were eaten beyond that point, so to begin with the study has little relevance to night time and night time feeding. The study only documents greater weight loss in the AM group, but greater lean mass retention in the PM group. Despite the obvious shortcomings of the study (small uneven groups of 4 and 6 people, that first performed one leg of the trial, and then switched which strongly biases the results due to the fact that there are adaptations over the length of the whole diet and you are switching groups that differ 50% in size, as well as use of bio-impedance so that there is no disctinction in the type of lean mass lost – ie bone, water or muscle) I don’t find any fault with this basic conclusion, which boils down to the pretty well accepted theory of carb-backloading that also has us preferably eating in the evening when we use intermittent fasting for fat loss. I wouldn’t be too hasty to use this study as proof for anything, given the above, but in this case, all that really matters is that the topic is not even applicable to what the author is writing about.
The same goes for the third study by Jordan et al. (5) in elderly subjects, where no meals at all were consumed in the evening hours. Again. Aside from that, this is the most conflicting study of all, in reference to the author’s writings, since the researchers hypothesis was :
“We hypothesized that in older paricipants in energy balance, consumption of a protein-containing drink after exercise would increase 3-day NBAL (Nitrogen balance) compared with a condition in which exercise was also performed, but the protein drink was consumed at some other point of the day.”
And they concluded :
“Due to the potential for long-term positive protein balance and maintenance of muscle mass, the timing of a high-quality protein source following exercise should be included as part of current protein guidelines for the elderly”
Which, if you ask me, is a pretty major oversight for an author who claims several times throughout his article that there is no such thing as an anabolic window of opportunity. I have seen a lot of stupid stuff over the years, with people citing studies they have never read, talking about stuff that is in no way related to their references, but I have to say, by and large, that this one takes the crown when you A) have not read the actual studies at all, B) None of your references refers to what you are talking about and C) you make an unsubstantiated controversial claim throughout the article that is directly opposite to the conclusion of one of your references.
After this there is a small section concerning the circadian pattern of anabolic hormones, which is, I think common knowledge to most people nowadays, during which the author suggests that because growth hormone peaks during the night toward the morning, that despite denying the actual anabolic window, suggests that there is a DIFFERENT anabolic window. However as my colleague aptly pointed out, the genomic anabolic effects that may (most people are by now I believe aware that physiological increases in GH and testosterone do not necessarily correlate to increases in performance or muscle mass) result from these hormones, would not become relevant until some considerable time after their peak levels appear, and thus occur during the daytime. Coincidentally the time we all have been eating, and were evolutionarily meant to eat (considering its hard eating in the dark). Probably something you should consider before you end up setting your alarm clock to eat at 4AM. Well that, and the fact that circadian patterns tend to adapt to your sleep/wake cycle.
In the end, the only thing one can state based on the actual evidence presented is that eating before bed in order to extend your time spent in increased amino acidemia into the night, or in simpler terms, spread your protein out as much as you can throughout the day, is a valid strategy for increasing muscle mass.
Detraining for optimal gains
One of the more interesting studies that got picked up by nearly everyone recently, was the one by Ogasawara et al. (6), which examined attenuation of response of key signal molecules in the hypertrophic cascade (the so called repeated bout effect) and the effect of detraining on restoring their responsiveness. It clearly demonstrates that parts of the mTORC1 cascade become less responsive with chronic training and that detraining can restore the responsiveness. They used 4 groups of rat and subjected them to 1, 12 or 18 bouts of training every day and had a last group that was subjected to 12 bouts and then detrained for 12 days (half as long as they were trained). First off we should note that “training” in this context is relative, since the rats were knocked out and their gastrocnemius muscle was hooked up to an electrode, so there are some issues with regards to terming this “resistance training”, but we do know rats respond infinitely better to hypertrophic stimuli than humans do. The added benefit is that electrical stimulation isn’t skewed by neural or mental interference, it’s less biased in that way. The study unequivocally establishes that detraining can (partially) restore our responsiveness to training, but sadly gives us very little to conclude practically.
The main problem with the detraining period of 12 days is that we don’t know whether that period is absolute or relative to the amount of time trained. It would have been nice to see a group do 18 bouts and 12 days detraining to establish whether the same amount of time off, despite more training, would have yielded the same degree of restoration. After that it’s hard to establish any linearity in this. For instance, would 6 days of detraining have yielded approximately half the amount of recovery ? None at all ? Or could it be that 6 days would have already helped restore most of the responsiveness we see at the 12 day mark ? And lastly, without a group that starts a new bout of training sessions afterwards and one that continues unabated, there is little in the way of establishing whether the time off in between would lead to greater results in the end (as it stands now, obviously, the 18 bouts group still gained 15-20% more than the detraining group, which only trained for 12 bouts. Would subjecting both groups to 12 more bouts result in greater gains in the detraining group as the biochemical data may suggest ? Certainly since previous research by the same group (7) suggests that when groups train 6 weeks on and 3 weeks off, measures of hypertrophy are similar, not greater, to a group training continuously.
So what do we take away from this practically ? Not much really. If you are someone who only trains each muscle group once a week, then your muscles get a week’s worth of rest and should restore to a large degree anyway. If you train on a more frequent basis, then detraining once in a while may not be a bad idea, but at this time it’s impossible to say for what duration and after what length of training. One interesting tidbit however is that there was no loss of muscle in the detraining group at all, showing that under active rest (i.e. no resistance training for that muscle group, but free movement otherwise) two weeks off will not lead to muscle loss on a calorically sufficient diet. Detraining has been around for a while now. I think Bryan Haycock was the first to employ it frequently in his Hypertrophy Specific programs, although I believe two full weeks completely off from training may have been overkill. I personally end each 8 week cycle of training with 2 weeks of overreaching for one body-part, where those two weeks I’ll train that bodypart every other day, followed by giving that body-part 11-12 days off, and only training my other muscle groups spread over three days in that time period and find this system more than satisfactory. However more data and future research will be needed to make concrete recommendations. For now, suffice it to say if you’ve been training each muscle group two or three times a week for a few months now, maybe a week off might do you more good than you think.
Sugar is the next super-supplement ?
I guess we should all go out and get ourselves some Cell-Tech as a pre-workout, at least if you look over the data in a study by Wax et al. (3). Their hypothesis, based on previous research, was that the use of a large dose of sugars prior to and at steady intervals during a resistance exercise would increase force output. Unique about the study was that they superimposed the voluntary contractions with myo-electrical stimulation, which enabled them to eliminate neural and mental factors, demonstrating an unbiased physiological increase of force output of on average a whopping 52%. For those who are interested in trying it, they employed a dose of 1g/kg maltodextrin prior to the workout and 0.17g/kg at 6 minute intervals during the workout. For a 100 kg bodybuilder working out for 40 minutes that would equate to a monstrous 200g of maltodextrin total (800 kcal worth of sugar), which I imagine would scare a lot of people in this day and age of carb elimination.
The idea behind the theory is that a large influx of sugar prior to and during the workout would exert a glycogen sparing effect, supporting glycolysis for energy without ravaging muscle glycogen stores. Question obviously becomes whether a lower dose, or different dosing schedule might achieve the same, since I can’t imagine requiring 200g worth of glycolysis during my 40 minute workout. And more importantly, to what degree will the force output result in greater hypertrophy. But it certainly sheds some light on the fact that carbohydrates do have their place in the resistance training regimen, and while almost all of us (myself included) have abdicated the use of carbs in the post-exercise window, research like this does seem to show that there may be some use for additional carbohydrates PRIOR to the training.
It also got me thinking about the discrepancies in the findings between the two Tipton studies (8,9) showing a significantly improved effect when taking free amino’s + carbs prior to, rather than after the training, but the failure to replicate that finding with intact whey protein, with regards to not only the presence of the carbs, but also the source of the amino’s, suggesting once again that, much more than a post-workout meal (although there is really no reason not to have both), a pre-workout meal is an absolute must for maximal results, and that said meal should be rich in both carbohydrates and protein, in order to maximally inhibit protein AND glycogen breakdown, keep AMPK low to allow for maximal increases in mTORC1 activity and support protein synthesis during said critical time. It would once again implicate the presence of carbohydrates, despite the fact that they would not impact protein synthesis or breakdown directly, as a means of boosting results by sparing glycogen during the workout, reducing AMPK and increasing force output.
Well, hopefully this blog sparks the beginning of another fruitful period. I certainly have a lot of work left to do, since I haven’t even gotten around to some much needed updates yet. A lot of what I have read recently, including most of what I have talked about in this blog, suggest that two interesting topics for future articles would be a defense of the anabolic window and a discussion on night time protein feeding. Not sure the latter would offer enough material for an article of its own, and may be better suited as an addendum to another piece, but I think the former might make for some interesting reading. As always, I’m open to suggestions and questions as well, just hit me up in the comments, on the facebook group or via email.
With summer coming, competitions in October, and if I can find a ride, maybe FIBO in April I need to get some shirts made for the website. The back will just feature the MASS logo and the link, but for the front obviously I need some catchy phrases. So far I’m leaning towards stuff like “This body was built by science” and “Body of Proof/Evidence”, but if you guys have any suggestions, I’m all ears
Well today will mark day 10 of training again after a week and a half off with illness, and I’m slowly getting back to my level of strength. My weight is still down quite a bit from before, and I’ll have to move up the time-table now, to get adequate overreaching sessions in there before June, knowing I’ll probably have to start my diet in early June to stay on track for October. But I’m finding my motivation again, the DOMS from last week have subsided and I’m slowly getting back into a routine. I found it amusing that my training partner said he was lucky he had me to train him because I teach him discipline. I’m actually not disciplined at all myself, part of the reason I made excuses in the past to not live the lifestyle I should be leading. But I find that discipline is not a requirement if you stick to your routine. Having most things happen the same way at the same time, and preparing stuff ahead of time, makes it easy to stick to things for which most people think they have to be extremely disciplined. If that’s what discipline is, I think more people have more of it than they think, they should just be willing to adhere to their routine more, and let stuff take care of itself. I adhere to what I have to do very strictly now, but not out of some inhuman capacity to bear down, but simply because it seems easy and logical the way I have it set up now.
I’ve started a new supplement experiment eyeing a clean bulk. I’m going to effectively try to lower my PPARgamma activity (the receptor responsible for adipogenesis), and see if I can up the calories and keep the fat off. With the supplements and doses that requires, I’m going to be swallowing about 35 pills a day right now, and that takes some getting used to as well. I’m keeping detailed records, and hopefully, if it pans out, I’ll be able to share the results with you guys as well. Lord knows I would be immensely benefited from the extra calories without the extra fat weight at this point in time.
It’s getting warmer here as well, so won’t be too long before I can squeeze in some extra workouts before work in the morning as well.
Well that made for a pretty lengthy blog. Could have turned the first part into an article probably :p Speaking of which, I’m going to try not to keep you guys waiting too long, since the wait has been quite lengthy already, and try to get back to posting weekly blogs, time permitting, starting the weekend of the 16th at the latest. As always I appreciate all your comments and questions, so keep them coming
- Burk A, Timpmann S, Medijainen L, Vähi M, Oöpik V. Time-divided ingestion pattern of casein-based protein supplement stimulates an increase in fat-free body mass during resistance training in young untrained men. Nutr Res. 2009 Jun;29(6):405-13.
- Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25.
- Wax B, Kavazis AN, Brown SP, Webb HE. Effects of Supplemental Carbohydrate Ingestion During Superimposed Electromyostimulation Exercise in Elite Weight Lifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Feb 25.
- Keim NL, Van Loan MD, Horn WF, Barbieri TF, Mayclin PL. Weight loss is greater with consumption of large morning meals and fat-free mass is preserved with large evening meals in women on a controlled weight reduction regimen. J Nutr. 1997 Jan;127(1):75-82.
- Jordan LY, Melanson EL, Melby CL, Hickey MS, Miller BF. Nitrogen balance in older individuals in energy balance depends on timing of protein intake. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 Oct;65(10):1068-76.
- Ogasawara R, Kobayashi K, Tsutaki A, Lee K, Abe T, Fujita S, Nakazato K, Ishii N. mTOR signaling response to resistance exercise is altered by chronic resistance training and detraining in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jan 31.
- Ogasawara R, Yasuda T, Ishii N, Abe T. Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Oct 6.
- Tipton KD, Rasmussen BB, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Owens-Stovall SK, Petrini BE, Wolfe RR. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;281(2):E197-206.
- Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan;292(1):E71-6.