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Applied Bodybuilding Research: The Latest News - 3-22-04!

Learn all about weight loss, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), stretching and much more!

Note: Do YOU know of new studies that have come out recently & we don't have them? Send me an E-mail!

Weight loss: It's what you eat that counts!

The ab-buster. The gazelle. The three-minute-a-day abs. The two-minute-a-day abs. Ahhh…..the false pipe dreams of late night television spam. Wouldn't it be nice if the perfect body could be had for only five easy payments of $39.99?

If you have been trying to lose weight for any length of time, you know how difficult it can be. Chances are you have tried, or at least considered trying, all kinds of machines and fads; only to still not get the results you want, and to be left with the weight and added desperation and frustration.

For some time, bodybuilders have been claiming that body composition modification is 90% nutrition and 10% training. When it comes to fat loss, a recent study confirms just how important nutrition is to achieving ones weight-loss goals.

Researchers examined the fatty acid profiles of rats (n=36) prior to testing and then measured the profiles again in the three groups (control, low-intensity exercise, or high intensity-exercise).

The animals were put into two nutritional categories: High-carbohydrate or high fat.

The results of the study showed that more than any other factor, macronutrient content of the diet was the chief factor responsible for the body composition changes noticed in the experimental animals.

SOURCE: : Torner, N., Lee, J., Bruce C., Mitchell, T., Else, P., Hulbert, A., Hawley, J. Greater Effect of diet than exercise training on the fatty acid profile of rat skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology 96:974-980, 2004.

Bodybuilders and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)...

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that is robbing millions of their quality of life. Often, thirty minutes after arising in the morning, those suffering from this condition are ready to go back to sleep. Not only that, extreme muscle fatigue results.

While the above is the worst case scenario, a range of severity exists amongst those who have the disease.

For those fortunate to have only mild symptoms, exercise is possible to a degree. But, a question for physically active persons with this condition has always been: Does CFS have an effect on the ability to build or maintain muscle tissue?

A complete answer to this question is not yet available but science has discovered part of the answer.

A study by American researchers examined 40 patients with CFS, and the data has shown that although blood flow to muscular tissue in CFS patients was altered, it was not likely that this influenced muscle metabolism to a significant degree.

In other words, although a disturbance in blood flow was observed (and therefore a disturbance in nutritive capacity), the observed result was not thought large enough to inhibit the ability to maintain or build lean muscle tissue.

As more studies are done, the effects of this condition for athletes with it will become more clear.

SOURCE: McCully, et all. Muscle Metabolism with blood flow restriction in chronic fatique syndrome. Journal of Applied Physiology, 96:871-878, 2004.

Stretching: The debate solved!

For years experts in the fitness industry and academia have been debating whether stretching prior to exercise is helpful at preventing injuries. While the question may appear ridiculous and the answer self-evident to bodybuilders, to the uninitiated this question has been an area of serious concern.

Some experts have claimed that while anecdotal would suggest that stretching offers benefit, science has produced little, if any, clear evidence that these reports generalize across the population.

A study appearing in the Journal of Applied Physiology examined volunteer subjects (n=10) performing a dropping load task.

The researchers had the participants jump from varying heights, and measures muscle elasticity in the group that stretched prior to the task, compared to those that did not stretch prior to the task.

Using ultrasonography, the researchers found that stretching has a considerable impact on the ability of a muscle to recoil from stress.

The science is clear: Stretching is a must for hard training athletes, and those athletes that do not stretch are being irresponsible at their own peril.

SOURCE: Ishikawa, M., Komi, P. Effects of different dropping intensities on fascicle and tendinosi tissue behaviour during stretch-shortening cycle exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 96:848-852, 2004.

Ice massage: Effective?

Many athletes ice sore muscles, claiming that the practice reduces swelling and inflammation. Admittedly, we would be in agreement with them.

The use of ice in sports medicine is a tried-and-true method of therapy. Confusingly, then, a recent study has examined ice-massage as a therapeutic treatment, and has called into question its effectiveness.

The study had 9 (n=9) male volunteers with a mean age of 23.3 undergo a strenuous exercise regimen, after which time tests were conducted to measure Creatine kinase, muscle soreness, and range of motion in worked muscles.

The participants were assigned to conditions and repeated the exercise regimen 14 days later.

At this time, the placebo group was "treated" with an ultrasound machine set to zero, and the ice massage group was treated with a 250ml thermal polystyrene formed ice ball, applied by a qualified masseur.

Range of motion, Creatine Kinase and muscle soreness measurements were taken 24, 48 and 72 hours post-exercise and treatment.

From the statistical data present in the study, it is GLARINGLY obvious that ice massage had NO impact over the placebo groups "treatment." In fact, it is so clear from the data that any differences in the groups are due to nothing more than sampling error (random differences due to chance) that one must now call into question the whole practice of so-called "ice massage."

This does not mean that the application of ice packs is useless. Just that ice-massage is placebo effect with a high price tag. The only conclusion of the study is that ice-massage reduced CK only SLIGHTLY.

SOURCE: Howatson, G., Van Smeren, K.A. Ice massage: effects on exercise-induced muscle damage. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2003;43:500-505.

Competition in the gym: It can cost you muscle!

Bodybuilders thrive on it; sports leagues are built on it; nations go to war because of it. Competition is the name of the game in our modern world.

While this kind of money-making competition may be good for fat guys in suits with a lot of money and acute cases of gynecomastia, competition and the stresses that come with it may be costing you muscle.

A study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness examined optimal performance levels in elite athletes.

4 male and 3 female (n=7), 3 of whom qualified for Olympic competition, were examined at three different times and tested for saliva cortisol levels.

On a regular training day tests from morning and evening salivary cortisol levels were normal with little difference observed.

Four weeks later during competition, cortisol levels were again tested, and were found to have been markedly increased.

While perception and circadian rhythms come into play here, it is clear that competition generated stress sufficient to send cortisol levels skyrocketing.

This brings us to an important point: trying to lift more than the next guy in the gym can not only get you hurt, but can kill your gains. If you are going to body build, be the best that you can be, instead of trying to be better than the next guys best.

SOURCE: Iellamo, F., Pigozzi, F., Paris, A., DiSalvo, V., Vago, T., Norbiato, G., Lucini, D., Pagani, M. The Stress of Competition dissociated neural and cortisol homeostasis in elite athletes. The Journal of Sports Medicine 2003;43:539-45.

Sea level and its effects on training...

Virtually everyone knows what it is like to fly in an airplane, or to rapidly ascent above sea level. The ears pop. It becomes harder to breath. It takes some getting used to.

A recent study has examined the effects of exposure to moderately-high altitudes on growth hormone responses to physical exercise in untrained subjects.

The study found that in the untrained subjects, 3exposure to high altitudes had a negative effect on GH levels. It also found that trained subjects had negative effects, though to a lesser degree due to their ability to utilize oxygen more efficiently.

This suggests that bodybuilders should try to avoid extreme modifications to their daily routines if possible, and especially modifications that include rapid changes in altitude.

SOURCE: Gutierrez, A., Gonzalez-Gross, M., Ruiz, J.R., Mesa, J.C.M., Castillo, M.J. Acute exposure to moderate high altitude decreases growth hormone response to physical exercise in untrained subjects. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2003;43:554-8.

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