Supplement Savvy: More Questions, MOHR Answers - 12-08-04!

I attended a recent conference that offered presentations on everything from training methodology, macronutrient intake, and dietary supplements. Let's take a look at some of the presentations that may be useful to readers...

Conference Overview

I attended a recent conference that offered presentations on everything from training methodology, macronutrient intake, and dietary supplements. Let's take a look at some of the presentations that may be useful to readers.

Training Variety

Training variety in a program is crucial for continual improvement, safety, increased performance and enhancing strength gains. Several studies have demonstrated that 3 sets of exercise training are more beneficial than just one. Studies have shown improvements in growth hormone levels, recruitment of more muscle fibers, force and strength (i.e., you'll get BIGGER and STRONGER)!

A recent presentation by a leader in this area, Dr. Fleck, got specific with programs and types of periodization. He discussed the issue of different rep ranges in the classic periodization approach for various goals. For example, if one's goal is hypertrophy, strength, or power, they should concentrate on performing approximately 3-5 sets/exercise; however, the rep range would differ.

During a hypertrophy cycle, one should concentrate on a slightly higher amount of reps, in the range of 8-20. On the contrary, if you are trying to build strength, 2-6 reps/exercise should be the goal and 2-3 reps if the primary goal is power.

While periodized training is nothing new for most well-informed resistance training enthusiasts, most trainees don't include enough variety (single vs. multi-joint exercises, machine vs. free-weights, order of exercises, rest periods, different rep-ranges, etc. in their program). All of these factors will help enhance your program, elevating you to new levels of growth and musculature! The moral of the story is that periodized programs are the way to go if you want to get huge and be more powerful.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, presented some of his current research on low-carbohydrate diets, otherwise known as ketogenic diets. Low-carb diets are all the rage right now as their popularity has recently surged.

While the mainstream medical professionals often balk at this practice, there may be some research to support it. Dr. Volek discussed some research from his lab demonstrating low-carb diets may result in improved weight loss, decreases in triglycerides, and increases in HDL (the "good" cholesterol) versus the typical, high carbohydrate programs which are often promoted for optimal health.

Looks like bodybuilders are ahead of their time again; many competitive bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have been eating low-carb diets for years, now there may be some research to support this practice. More research definitely needs to be done in this area.

Build Muscle, Gain Energy, Lose Fat...

Drs. Kleiner and Kreider, presented "Build Muscle, Gain Energy, Lose Fat: The Science and Practice of Nutrition for Strength Training and Body Building." Dr. Kleiner was up first and discussed the food aspect of strength training and body building.

She first mentioned the importance of fluid intake; not exciting, but extremely crucial if one wants to train hard. She then discussed the issue of carbohydrate intake. She recommended minimizing carb intake pre-training and during training to optimize fat loss.

Similarly, the only time high glycemic index carbs should be consumed is immediately post-workout; all other meals should rely on low-moderate glycemic index carbohydrates (oatmeal, yams, whole grains, etc).

In terms of specific calorie needs, she recommends males on a maintenance diet (not trying to gain or lose weight), to consume approximately 20 calories/pound of bodyweight and for females, 17-20 calories/pound. If trying to build muscle mass (and what bodybuilder isn't), she recommends 24 or more calories/pound for males and 20-24 calories/pound for females.

This means about 4000 calories for the 200 pound male so start eating! Finally, if males are trying to lose weight, they should consume around 17 calories/pound and females around 16 calories/pound.

Weight Gain Supplements

Dr. Kreider was up next and concentrated his portion of the talk on dietary supplements. He discussed those supplements intended for weight gain. He divided the talk into supplements which were "apparently effective," "possibly effective," and "too early to tell."

Here's a brief synopsis:

"Apparently Effective" Weight Gain Supplements

  • Weight Gain Powders: not surprisingly, taking any of these may cause weight gain because it's one way of increasing calories. The problem is, these products are typically very high in sugar resulting in a lot of the weight gain from fat and not just muscle.
  • Creatine: we know it works, no need to beat a dead horse.
  • HM: Effective in untrained individuals. I wouldn't recommend it if your already trained.

"Possibly Effective" Weight Gain Supplements

  • Essential Amino Acids and branched chain amino acids: Some research has shown that EAA post-workout may enhance protein synthesis (i.e., lean body mass increases).
  • Glutamine: There is a potential for this product to aid in recovery from resistance training; could be worth a shot.
  • Protein: If it's a surprise that body builders need more protein in their diets, you might want to check out the newest issue of Glamour Magazine and learn what shade of eye shadow looks best with your 20" biceps. Dr. Kreider recommends 1.5-2.0g/kg of bodyweight (just under 1g/pound of bodyweight at the upper end).

"Too Early to Tell" Weight Gain Supplements

A Calorie Is A Calorie...

Finally, John Berardi was up to discuss "From Peer Review to Your Plate: Using Scientific Evidence to Determine Optimal Food Selection." Here he discussed the popular notion that a calorie is a calorie. Many of you may have heard individuals say that by solely decreasing or increasing calories, regardless of what food they come from, you can lose or gain weight.

Basically that means that whether you drink 1,000 calories of oil or eat 1,000 calories worth of bagels, the effects on body composition will be the same. Mr. Berardi disputed that as he discussed various issues with dietary intake.

For example, there is something call the thermic effect of food (TEF), which represents the amount of energy it takes to digest, absorb, and metabolize, the foods we eat. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats all differ in their effects on the body; for example, protein has the highest TEF compared to carbohydrate, which has a higher TEF compared to fat.

That means that it takes more energy to digest, absorb, and metabolize protein than it does carbs or fats (i.e., eating more protein can result in a greater weight loss than a diet based primarily on carbs or fats).

Similarly, he discussed why a "protein is not a protein." For example, research has clearly demonstrated the difference between whey protein and casein protein and how rapidly they are absorbed.

Whey protein is absorbed much more rapidly than casein protein and may make for a better post-workout choice. In addition, animal proteins (e.g., poultry, red meat, etc.) have been shown to enhance fat loss and increase lean body mass gains over vegetable proteins (e.g., beans, grains, etc).

Finally, he discussed how all carbs are not created equal and neither are fats. The diet should emphasize carbohydrates which are low the on the glycemic and insulin indexes (beans, oat bran, oatmeal, vegetables, etc.) and choose fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flax, etc) as well as those high in monounsaturated fats (olive oil, mixed nuts, etc).

Well that's it from this recent conference. Stat tuned for more research roundups and conference reviews as I travel the country and bring the information to you so you don't have to!