Applied Bodybuilding Research - 3-13-08!

Learn more from these studies about subcutaneous fat, exercise and cancer, your brain and exercise, and the importance of breakfast. Check them out.

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1. Subcutaneous Fat...
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Bodybuilders work hard and long, putting in countless cardio hours in the gym to burn fat. While building muscle comes relatively easily for some bodybuilders, most bodybuilders find that burning away ugly fat is, by far, the most difficult task.

It's well known that losing body fat isn't as easy as "losing fat." The fact is, different kinds of fat exist - visceral and subcutaneous - and while visceral fat is highly concentrated around organs and is relatively easy to lose, subcutaneous fat sits underneath the skin layer and is far more difficult to eliminate by conventional means.

While water retention also comes into play, it's usually subcutaneous fat that's responsible for robbing bodybuilders of the ripped, dry, vascular look that takes months of hard dieting-down and fat loss to achieve.

A recent study has opened up an age-old debate that many thought was over: whether it's possible to "spot reduce" subcutaneous fat through resistance training. While past research on "spot reduction" has shown that spot reduction is a myth, a small amount of research has also suggested that it may be possible under strict circumstances. This present study aimed to examine the issue and to arrive at some consensus.

To assess the effects of resistance training on subcutaneous fat, researchers had 104 participant (45 men, 59 women) complete a 12 week program of resistance training on their non-dominant arm.

The subjects had their arm fat measurements taken by skinfold measurements and MRI before, during and immediately after the 12 week program and their results were matched with their age group and their gender to also assess the differences in program results by sex and age.

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At the conclusion of the study researchers found that skinfold measurement indicated that subcutaneous fat decreased in men but not women as a response to the training program. Simply: skinfold measurement seemed to show that spot reduction occurred in men but not women.

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Researchers then measured the results by MRI and found that subcutaneous fat loss occurred generally in both men and women, leading them to conclude that while resistance training leads to a general reduction in fat, it does not induce spot reduction.

This study is important for bodybuilders because not only is it yet more evidence that spot reduction is a myth, but it highlights the differences between body fat measurement techniques and speaks to the potential for these techniques to alter training protocols.

In this study, the first measurements were done using the common skinfold technique - a technique that seemed to indicate that, in fact, spot reduction was occurring.

Given that bodybuilders extensively utilize this low-tech means of measuring body fat, it's possible that this technique may mislead bodybuilders into believing that spot reduction does occur, and may cause them to engage in training techniques that appear to have benefit in this regard, but actually don't. By contrast, MRI measurements indicated that spot reduction did not occur and that fat loss was, as expected, generalized.

Bodybuilders must be aware not only of the limits of the various techniques used to indicate body composition, but also of their own perceptions about how their bodies are responding to various training protocols.

Source:

  1. Kostek, Matthew A., et al. Subcutaneous Fat Alterations Resulting from an Upper-Body Resistance Training Program. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 39, No. 7, pp. 1177-1185, 2007.


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2. Exercise And Cancer...
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It's pretty clear that exercise in general is highly beneficial and that bodybuilding specifically is the most efficient means by which to achieve a state of super-health. It's a fact that bodybuilders have lower disease and sickness rates than the general population. For example, the WHO reports that physically active people are less likely to be obese, have lower rates of type II diabetes, have stronger bones and less bone fracture risk, and also report higher quality of mood and increased feelings of wellness.

It's been hypothesized in the past that physically active people may have an increased cancer risk because exercise is known to increase harmful and potentially cancer causing oxidant production. How well does this hypotheses stand up to scientific rigor? Not very well.

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Researchers have been actively investigating the effects of exercise on cancer risk and cancer development and have discovered that while physical activity in general does reduce the total occurrence of cancers, exercise affects cancer risk differently according to the type of cancer and the sex of the person.

For example, the research shows that exercise has a stronger prevention effect on colon cancer in men than in women, and that the effects of exercise on breast cancer risk in women was more pronounced in post-menopausal women than pre-menopausal women. It was also found that exercise reduces the risk for breast and colon cancers, and can reduce the risk for endometrial and prostate cancer.

This study is important and the statistics of the paper show the overwhelming relationship between physical activity and lower cancer risk and cancer onset.

So while exercise does increase oxidant production, consistent exercise and proper recovery ensures a lower cancer risk - and this is good news for bodybuilders.

Source:

  1. Miles, L. Physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a review of recent findings. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin, 32, 250-282.2007.

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3. Your Brain And Exercise...
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Everyone knows that your brain is important for your exercise performance. We've all heard of "getting your brain in the game" and we know that the "mind-muscle connection" is critically important and is a limiting factor for muscle growth. But what's less known is the role that your brain plays in regulating your exercise performance itself.

A new paper appearing in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise has challenged the prevailing view that reduced exercise performance is due to dehydration itself and has instead aimed to examine the effects of your brain on your exercise performance as a function of "thirst."

Simply: the paper aimed to examine how your brain influences your exercise performance in response to your total hydration level in your body and your thirst level. What role, if any, does your brain play in this regard?

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The conventional hypothesis on exercise and hydration is this: if you're dehydrated, your exercise performance suffers. In other words: dehydration is the cause of your reduced exercise performance.

The alternative hypothesis proposes a radical idea: it proposes that:

    "The symptom of thirst acts 'in anticipation' to regulate the exercise performance in those who drink less than is necessary to maintain an acceptable level of homeostasis."

Continuing, the study states:

    "... it is not the level of 'dehydration' that impairs exercise performance; rather, the exercise performance is altered to limit the extent to which the osmolality of the brain increases. As a result, damaging levels of "dehydration" are not reached by those who drink according to the dictates of their thirst during exercise."

In other words, your brain acts out of survival to down-regulate the quality of your exercise performance BEFORE it reaches a state of unacceptable hydration.

This study is interesting as it not only sheds new light on the mountain of existing research, but also corresponds with the real-World experience of bodybuilders. It's well established that the body acts in anticipation of future events - the storing of calories as fat during times of caloric restriction is the clearest example that bodybuilders know.

It is logical, therefore, that the brain would act in anticipation of lower hydration and produce a thirst response while simultaneously down-regulating the quality of exercise performance in order to maintain acceptable hydration levels.

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It Is Logical That The Brain
Would Act In Anticipation Of Lower Hydration.

While many bodybuilders suffer poor performance from not drinking enough water, drinking excessive amounts of water has not been shown to dramatically increase exercise performance either. With this in mind, the paper concludes that drinking water during exercise as you need is better than drinking a pre-determined prescribed amount of fluid.

Source:

  1. Noakes, T. Does Dehydration Impair Exercise Performance? Contrasting Perspectives in Exercise Science & Sports Medicine. 0195-9131/07/3908-1209/0.

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4. Can Eating Breakfast Make You Slim?
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We've heard for years that eating breakfast is important. We've been told that eating breakfast is beneficial for "getting us started," for giving us energy, maintaining energy levels in the morning and that eating breakfast may even keep us slim. While almost everyone can verify that eating breakfast helps with energy, it's less clear that eating breakfast has an impact on BMI values.

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What's the science say?

A study by researchers aimed to examine the relationship between eating breakfast and BMI values. Researchers conducted a review of 9 controlled studies involving both children and adults and found a consistently positive correlation between eating breakfast and lower BMI values.

bodybuilding.com
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Can Eating Breakfast Make You Slim?

This study is yet more evidence that eating breakfast consistently is beneficial. For bodybuilders, breakfast eliminates catabolism, kick-starts the metabolism and now may even help keep them lean.

Source:

  1. Ashwell, M. et al. Are people who regularly eat breakfast cereals slimmer than those who don't? A systematic review of the evidence. 2007 British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin,32, 118-128.

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