Deel III http://web.archive.org/web/20030812...ghtmare_III.htm Part III: Lessons From a Year of Research
by Drs. Lonnie Lowery, Ron Mendel and Tim Ziegenfuss
This article is an update in a series. It's meant for those of you who have been following the whole research process at the Human Nutrition Lab since last Fall. After collecting and analyzing data on a total of 12 subjects, we have new findings to share. If you lift to the point of muscle soreness you should review this series of studies. Knowledge is power, baby. Show me the data!
Also see Carb Nightmare Part I and Carb Nightmare Part II.
How is a dietary supplement evaluated? How do we assess if it "works"? If you've ever thought about such things, good for you. Knowing how and why dietary substances work help keep you from getting conned. There is a fairly consistent research process and it starts with asking the right questions. In the case of the new generation of herbs that aid humans' ability to handle dietary carbohydrate, called "insulin potentiators", a specific question came to mind: Can we overcome power athlete's difficulties in using dietary carbs? It's become rather well established that sore muscles don't take up carbs well (See Parts I and II). We've only recently shown this for the first time specifically in resistance-trained athletes.1 Well, guess what ? We at the Human Nutrition Lab (HNL) are resistance trained athletes... and we seem to always be sore. Are you? If so, your ability to recover and grow is probably compromised. And training like a wimp, avoiding soreness is not the answer. Soreness is a sign of progress.
Dr. Lowery (Lonnie) has been examining post-exercise muscle soreness in the lab for about three years. But he knows soreness is just the tip of the iceberg. It's a symptom of something much deeper. A whole series of biological events take place over about four days after an intense workout. Lengthening contractions, called "eccentric" contractions or, in the weight room, "negatives", induce muscle damage, immune reactions and metabolic disturbances collectively referred to as the acute phase response.3 Believe it or not, it's the same response your body has to infection and trauma! Nutrition support is called for.
One disturbance is glucose intolerance. Dietary carbohydrates don't enter muscle tissue well in this state. It could be due to hormonal alterations or perhaps damaged muscle tissue itself. It's particularly problematic for us athletes because we need carbs from our diets to form glycogen in our liver and muscles to optimally recover. Without replenished glycogen storage, athletes get fatigued, break down bodily protein and can't perform as well.1,2
Over countless discussions in the lab we've wrestled with ways to handle this dilemma. Before conclusions could be made, however, we needed to observe and record various phenomena. That's part of what science is. Our first observation was that the current high-carb recommendations (up to 70 percent of kcal intake!) for all athletes stem from data on endurance athletes who aren't chronically sore. Perhaps this was why bodybuilders insist that "carbs make them fat". Our second observation came early this year with the confirmation that bodybuilders do, in fact, need help recovering...from a carb usage perspective. We confirmed this by looking carefully at insulin and blood glucose levels 24 hours after an intense whole-body workout using negatives. Here it is:
Smith machine bench press:
6 sets of six negative reps at 80% of 1 RM*
Smith machine squat:
6 sets of six negative reps at 80% of 1 RM*
If this looks tough to you, you're pretty astute. It was. In fact, we used the Smith machine not only to remove skill differences in the exercises, but for safety reasons. Think how you'd feel after 36 slow, lowering reps (four-count) in the bench AND squat! Research can be rough on subjects as well as researchers! Check out the video.
This type of data collection is a long, sometimes difficult, expensive, and somewhat invasive process. If you've been contaminated with the wild claims like "2000% better than D-bol !" that pervade our industry, it's time to smell the coffee. Let's get real. Dietary supplements are typically more mild than drugs (this can be good and bad, we suppose). Being as honest and straight forward as possible helps athletes. It is ultimately even the best long-term approach for supplement marketers. Supplement sales don't last if marketing claims don't live up to their hype. Our funding sources at the HNL know this and thus have few concerns with us sharing the presently mild effects (compared to insulin, for example) of a herbal blend called Insulene.
Since our last update, we've discovered that "group D" in our protocol was, in fact, the blend of "glucose control agents" and "group C" was, in fact, a placebo. Unfortunately, the effects regarding creatine kinase and glucose reduction were lost after adding a few additional subjects. What does this mean? Well, when analyzing four out of seven subjects, improved recovery was probable but as things now stand, the effect is not significant. Power analyses (see Carb Nightmare Part I) have their limitations when performing expensive, relatively invasive research on just a few subjects.
To be more certain that any recovery effects are real, we've decided to look deeper. The nutrients within the Insulene supplement are too promising to ignore. Glucosol, Inzitol, lipoic acid and "insulin-potentiating" minerals are all backed by evidence that they could help athletes. Several companies now sell some or all of these substances in various products and athletes are raving. But please recognize that these nutrients must be documented by science. Next month we hope to perform what's called a "crossover" design, bringing placebo subjects back into the lab to try Insulene for one month. Of course, they won't know what they're taking. Likewise, we'll be asking Insulene subjects to come back for a month on the placebo. This way we can avoid genetic differences that we believe are confounding (messing up) our data. It's a longer process, to be sure, but it will allow for very tightly controlled research.
We're here for you, the consumer, and, thus, need your support. Email your thoughts to Virtual Muscle! It's either that or you can continue to spend your hard-earned cash based on bullsh*t claims and marketing hype! The companies working with us at the Human Nutrition Lab agree that there's a better way. If you insist on hard data, stay tuned!
New Bodybuilder-Specific Data!
Our research is not only about dietary supplements. We've learned a ton about how bodybuilders recover and metabolize carbohydrates. Want to learn and grow as a result? Read on.
After bringing in additional subjects (since our last update), we still found relationships between muscle damage and poor glucose use. We also looked carefully to see if our research protocols were producing results that one would expect. They did. For example, we found direct relationships between blood glucose and insulin levels after administering sugar beverages (for you research enthusiasts: r=0.63, p=0.028 to r=0.73, p=0.007). One would expect this: higher blood sugar brings about higher blood insulin levels. We also found correlations between our various markers of muscle damage, including soreness and serum enzymes coming from damaged tissues (p<0.05). Okay, so the expected relationships were there, but anything else interesting?
Well, we learned that fat-free mass (largely muscle tissue) tended to correlate negatively with fasting blood glucose (r=-0.59, p=0.055) as well as "gummed-up red blood cells", known as "glycosylated hemoglobin" (r=-0.52, p=0.10). In this case, the negative correlation shows that subjects with higher fat free (muscle) mass had lower blood glucose levels over time. This suggests that adding muscle mass gives athletes more tissue to store glucose as glycogen (when they're not sore) and thus reduces potential "diabetes-like" problems (e.g. bodyfat). Cool. In other words, get big and recover properly to help stay lean.
Additionally, we learned - as one might expect - that the heaviest squatters did more damage to themselves than weaker ones. This was observed despite setting everyone at 80 percent of their maximum squat for the workout (above). It makes sense that our strongest squatter (max = 525 pounds, workout at 420 lb.) self-inflicted more damage than the weaker ones who only worked out with about 135 pounds (even though they, too, were at 80 percent of their max).
Alrighty then, to summarize what we know from this past year, specific to bodybuilders:
Adding muscle appears to be a good thing regarding glucose usage and body fat reduction - if adequate recovery is present.
Damaged sore muscles, however, are related to poor dietary carb use; one MUST recover to make progress.
It makes sense to eat plenty of carbs on days when soreness is low / gone, especially in the morning.
Strong guys can self inflict more damage in the weight room and may actually need nutrition support even more than beginning lifters.
The time frame for unaided recovery from eccentric training can be approximately five days.
Difficulties with dietary carb use occur in as little as 24 hours after lifting.
We're already using this data to make ourselves better. Will you? Until next update from the lab, keep sending your feedback. It helps us form hypotheses towards better research!
Editor's Note: Remember, data on graphs above are still preliminary, using available data (currently up to twelve subjects per analysis) as it comes in. It's important to wait for the completion of these studies for more comprehensive conclusions. Virtual Muscle shares this information in an effort to get it to those who matter, the ATHLETES, as soon as possible!
Hargreaves, M. (1991). J Sports Sci. 9 Spec No:17-28.
Lemon, P. and Mullin, J. (1980). J Appl Physiol. 48(4): 624-9.
Lowery, L., et al. (2001). Doctoral dissertation. Kent State University.
Sexton, T. and Lowery, L. (2001). Oh J Sci (Medicine and Biology), 101 (1): 13.