Author Archives: Dr Jose Antonio

The Single “Training” Hypothesis


By Jose Antonio PhD FISSN – If you are/were a science major at a college or university, then you’ve been taught the ‘scientific method.’  Scientists are taught to parse things down to the smallest of details hoping to understand basic biological problems.  This might work for physicists, but it has severe limitations in the sports sciences.  Ultimately our field is one that needs to integrate everything from molecular biology to systems level physiology. In the study of Sports Sciences, folks get so bogged down in this reductionist approach that they often miss the forest for the trees.forest and trees

Anyhow, what am I getting at?  I’m getting at the fact that in order to conduct scientific studies on exercise training, you really do have to ‘miss the forest for the trees,’ figuratively speaking.  That’s the way science is set up.  However, after said studies are conducted, one should stand back and take a panoramic view, not a microscopic one.

What is the “Single Training Hypothesis?” – It’s the idea that in order to study or understand a particular training method, it is necessary to eliminate any or all other training methods.  For instance, the debate of whether weight training or aerobic exercise is ‘better’ for promoting weight loss (or whatever variable you wish to study) is achieved by having one group do one exercise at the exclusion of the other.  This makes sense if you want to study it scientifically.  But does it make sense in the world outside of the controlled settings of a scientific study? Read on my friends and you decide.

Which is the More Important Resistance-training Variable?  Volume or Intensity – Let’s look at load (i.e. weight) versus volume (i.e. total work done). That question was posed by Alegre et al. in a paper from Muscle and Nerve.[1]  “Load-controlled moderate and high-intensity resistance training programs provoke similar strength gains in young women” was the

I put this cartoon here because the Far Side is damn funny.

I put this cartoon here because the Far Side is damn funny.

title of the paper. The gist of the study was this.  Fifteen women underwent unilateral training (i.e. that means they trained one leg one way and the other leg a different way).  You might say that’s a fucked up way to train.  And guess what, you’re right.  Unless you’re a one-legged man. But on the flip side, because there is always a flip side, the unilateral training model is great because each subject serves as his/her own control. Science loves having things controlled. Kinda like that psycho girlfriend (or boyfriend) you had in college. Moving on. The paper stated the following: “One leg was trained at increasing intensity (intensity leg, 50–80% 1-repetition maximum [1-RM]), and training progression in the contralateral leg (volume leg, 50% 1-RM) was based on increasing training volumes.”  So there you have it.  Lifting heavier weights versus doing more volume.

So abracadabra, what happened? “Both training programs induced significant, yet comparable increases in muscle size (Intensity leg: +4.6–12%, volume leg: +3.1–11%) and strength (Intensity leg: +10–16%, volume leg: +10–14%). Conclusions: Training at lower than commonly suggested intensities may be an equally effective alternative form of RT (resistance training). Factors other than training intensity, such as the total mechanical work during training, may strongly affect the training response.”

Here’s my two cents. From a pragmatic standpoint, it doesn’t matter if volume is better, if intensity is better or if they’re the same. It doesn’t.  Here’s why.  But before I get to the ‘why,’ let me first convey to you that any training study performed on untrained subjects is about as useful as bringing a Samurai sword to a gun fight.  Untrained people will pretty much respond quite well to any form of training.

bored Mike Tyson

How can you not love Mike Tyson?!

Now getting back to my point.  Here’s why the debate of volume vs intensity is silly.  Nobody in their right mind is going to train just one way or the other. Nobody. Even the most pedestrian of strength coaches or personal trainers are going to provide a variety of training stimuli in order to help you achieve a particular goal.  He/she will make alterations in both training volume and intensity.  Besides, if you trained the same way for weeks, you’d be bored shitless. Ask Mike. A erudite strength coach will not only make alterations in volume and intensity but also exercise selection, exercise order, rest intervals, training frequency, exercise speed (which is related to load), blah blah blah.  The attempt to isolate one versus the others, with the goal of determining which is more important, is great for the lab but may not work in the field.

It makes absolutely no sense to prescribe an exercise program that completely eliminates a specific aspect of training. Imagine a study of NFL football players in which one group does weight training only whereas another group does SAQ (speed-agility-quickness) training only to see which type of training is ‘better’ or more important. It’s an absurd question.  Why?  Because you want football players to do both.  Even if you found that one was ‘better’ than the other, it doesn’t matter.  You do both.  Trying to create an artificial hierarchy of variables that are most effective to least effective is like building a house made of chopsticks.

This reminds me of a previous blog I had written ( ) that examined a study comparing the dose response of 1, 3, or 5 sets of weight training over a 6-month training cycle.  Who the heck would ever tell an athlete to train the same stinkin’ way for 6 months?  Six months! This also harkens back to the HIIT vs SSC

Pauline incorporates many different training methods. Can't ya see?!

Pauline incorporates many different training methods. Can’t ya see?!

(steady state cardio) debate.  That is, which is better if your primary goal is to lose body fat?  That’s not the right question. The better question is what combination of the two is best to achieve that goal (or any other goal). Here’s the kicker.  The published data does suggest that HIIT is better than SSC when it comes to promoting adaptations of the cardiorespiratory system.  Yes, it is better particularly when you compare it on a temporal basis (i.e. the minutes spent doing HIIT is less than SSC).  However, the flip side (because there is always a flip side) is that you can’t properly do HIIT training all the time.  You’d end up chronically tired, overtrained and feeling like you stepped in cow shit.  Come on. You know what that feels like. We’ve all been to a farm. Or if your childhood sucked, at least you went to a petting zoo.  And we’ve all experienced that sensation of “aww shit…I stepped in cow shit” feeling. step in cow shit

So what’s the solution?  You should do both HIIT and SSC.  In fact, elite endurance athletes of all types (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, rowing etc) typically perform low intensity to high intensity training at a ratio of 80:20 .  There are no elite athletes that do predominantly HIIT training.  How did coaches come up with an 80:20 ratio?  Trial and error.  And it works at the highest level of competition.

The Challenge of Interpreting Science – The challenge with science of integrative physiology is that once you exercise train a human (or heck, your dog, horse or cat for that matter), it changes the organism.  The exercise training program that you give to the 250 pound fat guy is much different than what you give to a world-class Olympic weight lifter or world-class 1500 meter runner.  For that matter, the exercise program you give the previously 250 pound fat guy is different after he’s trained for six months, a year, two years, etc.  Each time a person adapts to a particular training stimulus, you have to then adjust the stimulus.  Studies that isolate one variable with the hope of finding which variable(s) is most important is a Pyrrhic victory of sorts.  True, they’re scientific in the strictest sense.  But in the field of sports sciences, it’s virtually impossible to isolate a single training variable and say ‘Aha! That’s the secret.’  Or if you’re in China, you’d say “Ahhh…ancient Chinese secret!”

So should we ignore the published science of training?  Of course not.  You should take what you learn from science and marry it to what you learn by trial and error.  Let’s face it.  far_side_good_hands2Strength coaches who have been in the business for decades aren’t prescribing programs that don’t work.  Moreover, be cognizant of the limitations of training studies. These kinds of studies will at the very least provide insight as to the biological mechanisms governing the adaptive response to exercise.  And that’s important.  It’s the difference between a good personal trainer or strength coach and an awesome one.  Anyone can Google a training program on the net and ‘prescribe’ it your clients. In that case, you’re no better than a parrot that regurgitates what someone has told them time and time again.  However, if you want to be great, then make an effort to UNDERSTAND the underlying biological mechanisms.  Don’t be a parrot.  The great trainers and coaches learn both the HOW and the WHY of training.  Of course if you’re a dumbass then stick to the HOW.  But if you’ve got neurons that are firing on all cylinders, then read the science.  The purpose of learning these studies isn’t to make you a better scientist, it’s to make you a better trainer, coach or athlete.

Science is like putting together a puzzle that will always have missing pieces.  The challenge is that every time you add a piece to the puzzle, the puzzle itself changes a little bit.  Thus, the creative strength coach or personal trainer will make daily, weekly, and monthly adjustments to your training.  Why?  Because your body (or your client’s body) is changing with each training stress imposed.

So which is more important resistance-training variable?  Volume or intensity? If you answered both, go to the head of the class.brain_full

A Study That Is Pertinent to Couch Potatoes

1.            Alegre LM, Aguado X, Rojas-Martin D, Martin-Garcia M, Ara I, Csapo R: Load-controlled moderate and high-intensity resistance training programs provoke similar strength gains in young women. Muscle Nerve 2015, 51:92-101.

BIO – Jose Antonio PhD earned his PhD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. If you like his satirical view of exercise and nutrition science, follow him on Twitter @JoseAntonioPhD and Instagram @the_issn

Sharing a brew with Dr. Paul Cribb (founder of Metabolic Precision), his wife Shar, and Dr. Susan Kleiner.

Sharing a brew with Dr. Paul Cribb (founder of Metabolic Precision), his wife Shar, and Dr. Susan Kleiner.

Life Ultimately Judges You From The Neck Up


By Jose Antonio PhD FNSCA FISSN – The ISSN

You know what’s elementary?  The science behind creatine supplementation. I’ve always found it puzzling that folks who are otherwise educated have convinced themselves hanks and soccer ballcreatine supplementation is ineffectual and perhaps harmful or dangerous.  Creatine causes cramps, is bad for your kidneys, blah blah blah.  It reminds me of that inordinately vapid movie by Tom Hanks, “Cast Away.”  You know the one where he’s stuck on a deserted island after a crash landing.  He spends his time talking to himself and his soccer ball.  Now I can understand why he would be unaware of the benefits of creatine.  Have you been stuck on a deserted island?

Hence, if you have the attention span of a billy goat, at the very least read these 8 key points:billy goat

  1. Creatine is the single best dietary supplement in the history of mankind.
  2. There’s more supportive data on creatine than ‘whole grains.’
  3. Even if you don’t care about the effects on body composition, take creatine because it’ll help your brain.
  4. Creatine supplementation can alleviate traumatic brain injury.
  5. Creatine supplementation can help your memory.
  6. Kids as young as 1 years of age have been given creatine with no side effects.
  7. Pretty people rule the world from 18-30 years of age.  After 30 years, you’re better off focusing on your IQ than your abs.
  8. Exercise hard.  Exercise frequently.

Life ultimately judges you from the neck up. Except for the delightful Kate Upton.  As I always tell my kids:  “The worst thing you can be in life is a dumbass.”  I recently watched with Kate Uptonprofound amusement as my teenage daughter found a ‘wrinkle’ on her face.  Made me wonder if she needs glasses.  Wait 40 years.  She’ll find out what real wrinkles look like.  Anyhow, the shelf life of your brain will far exceed your body.  Sure the pretty people rule the world from 18-29 years of age.  But after that, it’s all about the abacus in your cranium.  There are supplements worth taking that’ll put the oomph back in your IQ.  Yep, that’s right.  Smart is the new sexy.  Try these to start.  Might help, might not.  But once you try these, there’s one supplement that Donald Trumps them all.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Indeed the omega 3 fats, especially EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) are an awesome brain food that can improve cognitive performance.[1]
  • Huperzine A – this herb has been shown to lessen the loss the memory with age.  I need that stuff![2]
  • Alpha-GPC –  L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC) can improve learning and memory capacity.[3]
  • Gingko – Of course this supplement always comes up.  Sure, there is some suggestive data showing it might help.[4]

Now those four supplements are nice and all.  But if you really want to be a mathlete and make mental mincemeat of your friends and foe alike, creatine may be what the doctor ordered.   You’ll find that magical supplement probably sitting next to your protein powder.  Oh shit, that sounds like something Dr. Oz would say.  Rewind.  The science on creatine is astounding.  Put it this way.  Compared to green coffee bean extract, creatine would be like driving a Ferrari.  Green coffee bean extract would be like riding a Big Wheel. mathlete

As a professor, I hear some of the silliest things regarding creatine.  Not to pick on the fairer sex, but come on, creatine supplementation won’t make you look like the bearded men of Duck Dynasty.  Heck, there are college guys who train harder than one-legged man in an ass-kickin’ contest, consume gobs and gobs of creatine, protein, beta-alanine, betaine, pizza, and beer.  And yet, they still look like the letter ‘i.’ There are plenty of college women who lament “I don’t want to get big and bulky; that’s why I don’t take creatine.”  And one of my favorites:  “Is creatine a steroid?”  Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot.  Did you fall asleep in chemistry class?  There’s about as much chance of creatine being a steroid as a donkey winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine.  Though chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize are 1:1. Either way, even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about gaining muscle mass, the BETTER reason to supplement with creatine is because of its profound effects on the brain.  Yeah.  That fat-filled organ sitting on top of your neck.

SIDE BAR – Creatine, Energy, and Neurological Diseases

“Creatine is a critical component in maintaining cellular energy homeostasis, and its administration has been reported to be neuroprotective in a wide number of both acute and chronic experimental models of neurological disease. In the context of this chapter, we will review the experimental evidence for creatine supplementation as a neurotherapeutic strategy in patients with neurological disorders, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in ischemic stroke, brain and spinal cord trauma, and epilepsy.”[5]

Listen Up Vegans

It makes sense that creatine is as important for your brain as it is for your muscles. 

Pauline is a big fan of creatine; therefore, you should be a big fan of Pauline.

Pauline is a big fan of creatine; therefore, you should be a big fan of Pauline.

Creatine, when combined with phosphate forms phosphocreatine (PCr).  Why is this important?  PCr acts as a reserve of high-energy phosphate (i.e. fuel). Creatine supplementation influences brain functioning as shown by various studies that have taken snapshots of brain function.  In a rarity, scientists examined young women (most studies are on men) who were vegetarians and meat-eaters.  These women consumed 20 grams of creatine (or a placebo) for 5 days.  In vegetarians but not in the meat-eaters, creatine supplementation resulted in better memory.[6]  More proof.  A study of 45 vegetarians found that creatine supplementation enhanced memory and intelligence, both tasks that require speed of processing.[7] Remember that creatine is naturally found in fish and meat.  So all you tree-huggin’, Birkenstock-wearin’, soy protein-lovin’ vegans should supplement with creatine.  Even if you take creatine ethyl ester, which BTW is an inferior form of creatine [i.e. creatine monohydrate is better], it can help cognitive performance too.[8]  Creatine supplementation helps old folks remember stuff.[9]  So next time you’re with grandpa, make sure you slip some creatine in his Metamucil.[9]

Good Night, Sleep Tight

I think one of the more fascinating roles of creatine is how it affects a sleep-deprived brain.  Sleep deprivation is something we all can relate to.  Whether it’s staying up late studying for exams (not me thank god), watching Monday Night Football milliondollarsaloonvig(on the East Coast), or hanging out at your favorite Gentlemen’s Club (or so I’ve heard from my fellow ISSN’ers), sleep often is in short supply.  So when you wake up the next day feeling like a Mack truck just played ping pong with your head, then you ought to reach for the creatine (after you reach for the java).  In fact, just taking 20 grams of creatine daily for 7 days is enough to lesson your sleep-deprived stupor.  Accordingly, scientists discovered that following 24 hours of sleep deprivation, creatine supplementation had a positive effect on mood state and tasks that place a heavy stress on the prefrontal cortex.[10]  The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain that is involved in abstract thinking and intricate analysis.  That’s a pretty important part of the brain.  Especially when deciding whether you should watch Game of Thrones or study for your Exercise Physiology midterm.  One reason why creatine may help your noggin is related to an increased oxygen utilization in the brain.[11]

Save the Brain

If you compete in a sport that may result in potential head trauma (i.e. football, boxing, MMA, soccer [yes even ‘futbol’]), then for Pete’s sake, open up the tub of white powder and take it.  Check this out.  In a study of 39 children and adolescents (ages 1 to 18 years) with TBI or Brain_4d5df2_1104245traumatic brain injury, scientists discovered that creatine supplementation protected the brain.  Yes sir indeed. If you’re incredulous, here’s a direct quote from the study. “The administration of Cr to children and adolescents with TBI improved results in several parameters, including duration of post traumatic amnesia (PTA), duration of intubation, intensive care unit stay. Significant improvement was recorded in the categories of headache (p<0.001), dizziness (p=0.005) and fatigue (p<0.001), aspects in all patients. No side effects were seen due to Cr administration.”[12]  Let’s hope you read the fine print.  They gave creatine to kids as young as 1 years of age with no side effects.  And yet soccer moms and dads around the world are afraid that if their teenage son takes it, it might cause harm.

After I told Mike that folks are scared of creatine, he busted out laughing say "that sssit ith funny.."

After I told Mike that folks are scared of creatine, he busted out laughing say “that sssit ith funny..”

Other intriguing studies have found that “creatine supplementation has the potential to improve neurofunction following neonatal brain damage” [13], can “rescue animals following brain damage,” [14] and may “reduce oxidative stress and afford neuroprotection” in an in vitro model.[15]

So there you have it.  Creatine does the brain good.  It’s really elementary.  

BIO – Jose Antonio PhD is the CEO of the ISSN,  He has been regularly supplementing with creatine for a score and 4 years.  If he didn’t take creatine, he’d have the memory of an aardvark.

Some Cool Creatine Studies

1.         Rachetti AL, Arida RM, Patti CL, Zanin KA, Fernades-Santos L, Frussa-Filho R, Gomes da Silva S, Scorza FA, Cysneiros RM: Fish oil supplementation and physical exercise program: distinct effects on different memory tasks. Behav Brain Res 2013, 237:283-289.

2.         Ye JW, Shang YZ, Wang ZM, Tang XC: Huperzine A ameliorates the impaired memory of aged rat in the Morris water maze performance. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2000, 21:65-69.

3.         Drago F, Mauceri F, Nardo L, Valerio C, Lauria N, Rampello L, Guidi G: Behavioral effects of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine: influence on cognitive mechanisms in the rat. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1992, 41:445-448.

4.         Walesiuk A, Trofimiuk E, Braszko JJ: Gingko biloba extract diminishes stress-induced memory deficits in rats. Pharmacol Rep 2005, 57:176-187.

5.         Klein AM, Ferrante RJ: The neuroprotective role of creatine. Subcell Biochem 2007, 46:205-243.

6.         Benton D, Donohoe R: The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. Br J Nutr 2011, 105:1100-1105.

7.         Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC: Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proc Biol Sci 2003, 270:2147-2150.

8.         Ling J, Kritikos M, Tiplady B: Cognitive effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation. Behav Pharmacol 2009, 20:673-679.

9.         McMorris T, Mielcarz G, Harris RC, Swain JP, Howard A: Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 2007, 14:517-528.

10.       McMorris T, Harris RC, Swain J, Corbett J, Collard K, Dyson RJ, Dye L, Hodgson C, Draper N: Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2006, 185:93-103.

11.       Watanabe A, Kato N, Kato T: Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neurosci Res 2002, 42:279-285.

12.       Sakellaris G, Nasis G, Kotsiou M, Tamiolaki M, Charissis G, Evangeliou A: Prevention of traumatic headache, dizziness and fatigue with creatine administration. A pilot study. Acta Paediatr 2008, 97:31-34.

13.       Allah Yar R, Akbar A, Iqbal F: Creatine monohydrate supplementation for 10 weeks mediates neuroprotection and improves learning/memory following neonatal hypoxia ischemia encephalopathy in female albino mice. Brain Res 2015, 1595:92-100.

14.       Iqbal S, Ali M, Iqbal F: Long term creatine monohydrate supplementation, following neonatal hypoxic ischemic insult, improves neuromuscular coordination and spatial learning in male albino mouse. Brain Res 2014.

15.       Cunha MP, Martin-de-Saavedra MD, Romero A, Egea J, Ludka FK, Tasca CI, Farina M, Rodrigues AL, Lopez MG: Both creatine and its product phosphocreatine reduce oxidative stress and afford neuroprotection in an in vitro Parkinson’s model. ASN Neuro 2014, 6.


Out-Supplement a Bad Diet


By Jose Antonio PhD FISSN FNSCA

Key points if you are too lazy to spend 7 minutes reading this:shutterstock-couch-potato

  1.  Virtually every study on effective ergogenic aids have not controlled for diet.
  2. You can improve exercise performance with no change in diet.
  3. Diet is however key to looking pretty.
  4. Goals determine strategies – endurance athletes can get away with eating the kitchen sink.
  5. It is always best to implement strategies of eating well, effective supplementation, and proper exercise to achieve your goal(s).
  6. I really don’t give a shit what you eat.
  7. Read the references at the end.

You’re familiar with the saying that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  Was it Joseph Goebbels who said that?  Nevertheless, how out train a bad dietmany times have you seen the internet meme, popularized by Facebook fitness aficionados, that states the following: “You Can’t Out Train a Bad Diet.”  Or it might go something like these:  “If you take supplements on a crappy diet, you still have a crappy diet.”  Or “you must clean up your diet first before you take supplement(s).”  Certainly, the fortune cookie sayings sound good.  But are they in fact true?

I remember when President Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”  Perhaps he even believed it.repeat3

Getting back to the bad diet and training stuff.  If your goal is to look purrrty, then your diet is probably the single most important factor.  So for all of you physique athletes who were ready to tar and feather me for this dietary blasphemy, rest assured you can get back on Instagram and post your 132nd selfie of the year.  On the other hand, if your goal is performance, particularly in the endurance realm, then it’s certainly possible to out train a ‘bad diet.’ Endurance athletes expend an ungodly amount of energy just with training alone.  For instance, the average energy intake of male cyclists riding 15-18 hours a day for 10 days was over 7,000 calories![1]  In fact, 44% of the carbohydrate calories came from simple sugars, cookies, sweetened drinks, and candy. Try getting those calories by eating broccoli and chicken.  The total energy expenditure of female swimmers during a eating hot dogparticular training period averaged ~5,600 calories.[2]   What’s the commonality with these athletes?  Their paramount dietary concern is getting enough calories.  That means eating anything and everything:  ice cream, peanut butter, steak, eggs, rice, apple pie, sushi, fish oil, Krispy Kreme donuts, bread with butter, hot dogs, blah blah blah.  Of course, if you have no plans to cycle all day, swim from Cuba to Florida, or train for the Ironman triathlon (i.e. swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run 26.2 miles) then perhaps you can’t out train a ‘bad’ diet.

Moreover, let’s look a corollary of this.  I do think that you can out-supplement a bad diet. Or put another way, do you have to clean up your diet before you take a supplement(s)?  That depends on whether you use science to answer your question or your grandma’s voodoo logic from the old country.  In fact, for all of you ‘do you even science’ enthusiasts, I’d suggest you check out the science. And oh by the way, science is a noun, not a verb.

trivia crackLet’s play a little bit of Trivia Crack.  So turn on that cortex and answer the following question:  Which of the following strategies can produce the quickest and measurable increases in exercise performance and/or body composition?  A) Changes in Training.  B) Changes in Diet.  C) Changes in Supplementation.  D) All of the above are equally effective.

If you answered A, B or D, you need to go back to school.  If you answered C, then you’re the teacher’s pet.  In general, changes in diet or training take roughly 4 weeks to produce measurable changes in performance or body composition.  Taking the right supplements can take minutes to a few days to produce a robust ergogenic effect.  In fact, let’s look at the current science and see what strategies (diet vs supplements) increase muscular power, strength and lean body mass better and quicker.

But before we do that, let me kill another stinkin’ cliché that I see more often than I hear that annoying “Shake it off” song by Taylor ‘twiggy’ Swift.  It goes like this: Foods are always better than supplements.  Clinical types just loooooove saying this.  Actually, pretty much everyone clings to this with the same enthusiasm that a fat boy in Texas clings to his cotton candy at the State Fair.

The “foods are always better than supplements” and the “you can’t out-supplement a bad diet” really go hand in hand.  To wit:

  • Branched-chain amino acids consumed immediately before a killer workout can reduce muscle damage and accelerate recovery [3].  Is there a food that can do that?  Heck, would you want to eat food prior to such a hard workout?
  • Creatine supplementation can increase muscle mass and sprint performance in as little as three days.[4]  Is there a food that can do that?  Don’t think so.
  • Betaine supplementation can increase power output in as little as seven days.[5]  Is there a food that can do that?  Yeah.  Can’t find one can you?
  • Beta-alanine supplementation for 1 month can increase training volume and lower the sensation of fatigue.[6]  Are there any scientific studies to show that a whole food can do that same?  Uh.  Guess not.
  • There is a dearth of foods that show promise as ergogenic aids.  One that is equal to a supplement in terms of a rapid ergogenic effect is coffee (vs caffeine).[7] Also, low fat chocolate milk is as good as your typical sports drink for promoting recovery.[8]  But other than that, there ain’t much science out there (in terms of foods and an ergogenic effect).

dont give a fuck“The beauty of science is that it doesn’t care what you believe.”

Indeed.  There are few foods that have the profound effect that certain dietary supplements have.  If you read the 1000 plus peer-reviewed studies on sports supplements (e.g. creatine, caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, protein, etc), virtually NONE of them have controlled for diet.

Meaning, it doesn’t matter if you eat as clean as a cloistered nun or as cruddy as a beer-drinkin’ New England Deflatetriots fan.  You don’t have to clean up your diet to take supplements.


This photo, courtesy of Pauline Nordin (Fighter Diet) has nothing to do with this article. I just like the pic. Booyah!

HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T clean up your diet.  Certainly it is best that you eat well, take supplements, and train harder than a hamster on a wheel.  But the notion that foods trump supplements all the time has no basis in fact.  In fact, the supportive data shows that certain supplements can indeed produce a robust ergogenic effect even with no change in diet.

So enough of the fortune cookie sayings.

Yes.  You do not have to clean up your diet before you take a supplement(s).  You can out-supplement a bad diet. 

And depending on your athletic endeavor, yes you can out-train a bad diet.

And yes.  It is better if you take supplements and are on a good diet.

I’d suggest you also work out hard.  And sweat a lot.

BIO – Dr. Jose Antonio earned his PhD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  If you want to buy him beer and sushi, please meet him at the ISSN Conference. Thank you.


1.            Gabel KA, Aldous A, Edgington C: Dietary intake of two elite male cyclists during 10-day, 2,050-mile ride. Int J Sport Nutr 1995, 5:56-61.

2.            Trappe TA, Gastaldelli A, Jozsi AC, Troup JP, Wolfe RR: Energy expenditure of swimmers during high volume training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997, 29:950-954.

3.            Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN: Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2012, 9:20.

4.            Ziegenfuss TN, Rogers M, Lowery L, Mullins N, Mendel R, Antonio J, Lemon P: Effect of creatine loading on anaerobic performance and skeletal muscle volume in NCAA Division I athletes. Nutrition 2002, 18:397-402.

5.            Pryor JL, Craig SA, Swensen T: Effect of betaine supplementation on cycling sprint performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2012, 9:12.

6.            Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JA: Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res 2008, 28:31-35.

7.            Wiles JD, Bird SR, Hopkins J, Riley M: Effect of caffeinated coffee on running speed, respiratory factors, blood lactate and perceived exertion during 1500-m treadmill running. Br J Sports Med 1992, 26:116-120.

8.            Spaccarotella KJ, Andzel WD: The effects of low fat chocolate milk on postexercise recovery in collegiate athletes. J Strength Cond Res 2011, 25:3456-3460.


1 vs 3 vs 5 vs 100 sets


By Jose Antonio PhD.  How many sets and reps are best for strength? Size? Exercise performance? I’ll get to that.  First a quick note.

The single best scientific journal in the field of strength and conditioning is the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research or JSCR.  It’s the official journal of the world’s largest academic organization dedicated to the science of strength and conditioning, the National Strength and Conditioning Association or NSCA.  Now if they had any brand/marketing know-how, they should have named the journal the JNSCA.  But that debate is for another time over a mug of beer and peanuts while watching a football game.JSCR

The latest issue had an intriguing article entitled the “Dose Response of 1, 3 and 5 Sets of Resistance Exercise on Strength, Local Muscular Endurance and Hypertrophy [1].”  The reason the investigators performed the study was because there was a lack of studies comparing the effects of multiple sets (greater than 3 sets) on strength and size.  And then the thought struck me as I was reading this paper.  Who trains like this?  And then I had neurons firing like crazy.  Does ANYONE remember the work done 50 years ago by Dr. Richard Berger?  Do we really need another study looking at the number of sets, number of reps, blah blah blah.  Anyhow, be like Dorothy and follow me down the yellow brick road.  To wit:

Some studies show that there’s no difference between 1 and 3 sets [2][3, 4].

Others show that 3 sets is better [5-7].

Are these really the pressing questions in the world of strength and condition science?  Ok. That sounds a bit flippant.  Let me rephrase.  The study that looked at 1, 3 and 5 sets [1] had some good things and some things that reminded me of why nickel and dime science is needed (i.e. grad students need a project to graduate).  The good part?  It was a six month treatment period.  Wow. Getting anyone to do anything for six months is tough.  You’d have a better chance of finding a Parisian runway model at Lane Bryant than getting folks to Christian+Dior+Runway+Paris+Fashion+Week+Womenswear+S7vT5zvt0Pxlvolunteer for a six month study.  However, the subjects in the study weren’t resistance-trained per se.  They did have prior workout experience with body weight exercises.  So they weren’t the ideal subject pool (i.e. have extensive experience with heavy resistance training), but then again, they weren’t lazy college students whose idea of exercise is flexion of the 1st digit while holding an iPhone.

The bad part?  Nobody trains like this. Oh. Except subjects in a study. richard_simmons-exercise-energy

The study volunteers did either 1, 3, or 5 sets (and there was a control that did traditional military calisthenic exercises) for 6 months (three times per week).  I’m telling you.  I’d be frickin’ bored after a couple weeks.  You’d be hard pressed to find any athlete who does the same training program (i.e. same intensity, volume, exercise selection, rest interval, yada yada) for two weeks.  Heck, following a basic periodization scheme you’d likely change it at LEAST every 3 weeks.  Heck, I’d suggest changing it workout to workout.

So who trains like this?  Nobody.  Oh. Except subjects in a study.

And the 1 set versus multiple set debate?  I’m baffled this is even a debate.  Doing just one set to failure (or no failure) super-slow or super-fast or super-duper in-between speed makes absolutely no f’in sense.  It would be like telling sprinters that all they’d need to do is one maximal sprint for their workout.  Or tell the world-class miler that every workout consists of doing a 1-mile run at race pace.  Have the 1-set proponents ever heard of training “volume?” Sprinter Schippers

Changes in training volume (as well as a myriad of other factors) are key to sustained improvements in exercise performance.  Heck, even skinny runners figured out nearly a century ago that you needed to change training distance (i.e. volume) and intensity (i.e. speed, hill work etc) in order to improve.  Only in the world of resistance training are there folks who actually think one set is all you need.  Oh.  Back up a sec.  If you’re untrained, one set will suffice.  And if you hate weight-training and have no concrete goals, then one set will suffice.  But then again, untrained people will pretty much get a training effect from chewing on ice and watching grass grow.

I constantly chastise my students that they need to learn the history of exercise science.  Otherwise, you’ll keep repeating the same shit over and over again.  If you like this 1 set vs 3 sets versus 100 sets, go back and read the landmark work of Richard Berger [8][9].  We’re talking the 1960s for chrissakes.  Flower power, free sex, doobies passed around like candy, and those oh-so-short mini-skirts.  What a decade.  Anyhow, Dr. Berger did a lot of initial mini skirtswork comparing the number of sets and reps.  Back then it was landmark.  Doing this type of research today is like landing your dinghy on Plymouth Rock and saying you’ve discovered America.

Now getting back to the recent JSCR study [1], in a nutshell here’s what they found.  Multiple sets was better than a single set (for strength, size and endurance).  Though did you notice that the control group gained fat-free mass (FFM)?  In fact, the FFM increased from pre to post for all groups with no difference between groups.  The control did traditional military calisthenics (i.e. body weight exercises).  So does that mean zero sets of traditional weight training works too?

Also, will the next study feature 6 sets?  10 sets?  Hey let’s go crazy and have a 20 set group.  Where does the nickel and dime science end?  Sorry.  Grad students need projects to graduate.

If you are a strength and conditioning professional, it should be as clear as the big blue ocean that there are many programs that elicit gains in strength, size, and athletic performance.  In a way, all programs work for a bit, but none work forever.  If you know the basic principles of exercise training (i.e. overload, progression, specificity, detraining, variation etc), then you’ll be able to provide a safe and effective training program without boring the heck out of your athletes or clients.  Let’s face it.  If you ‘lose’ your athletes’/clients’ attention, then it doesn’t matter if you’re the best strength coach in the world.  At that point, you’d have a better chance of getting them to memorize Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Thus, I’d highly recommend that you do not have them follow the same training program for six months (i.e. the current study at hand [1]).

mosquito-illustration_360x286Bottom line for those with the attention span of a mosquito:

  1.  Read the early studies of Dr. Richard Berger.  Yeah yeah. I know it’s old.  But just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it is no longer relevant.
  2. It would be wise to vary the # of sets (i.e. training volume), load (i.e. weight), exercise selection, exercise order, rest intervals, etc.  Of course make sure that you tailor the program to the needs of the athlete. Heavy resistance training for bodybuilding is entirely different than other sports:  MMA, sprinting, synchronized swimming, beach volleyball, etc.
  3. If you’re a grad student, I’ll forgive you for doing another sets/reps study.
  4. Given the choice between asking an experienced strength coach and a scientist for a JC Santanatraining program, choose the strength coach (sorry my science-nerd friends!).  They know the ins and outs and day to day trials and tribulations of what athletes go through.  The best strength coaches are the ones that take what is learned in the lab and marry it to what they learn in the trenches.
  5. Happy 2015.  Hope you have a kick ass year. 

Read these while sipping cocktails on the beach

1.            Radaelli R, Fleck SJ, Leite T, Leite RD, Pinto RS, Fernandes L, Simao R: Dose Response of 1, 3 and 5 Sets of Resistance Exercise on Strength, Local Muscular Endurance and Hypertrophy. J Strength Cond Res 2014.

2.            Bottaro, M et al. Resistance training for strength and muscle thickness:  effect of number of sets and muscle group trained. Science and Sports 26: 259-264, 2011.

3.            Hass CJ, Garzarella L, de Hoyos D, Pollock ML: Single versus multiple sets in long-term recreational weightlifters. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000, 32:235-242.

4.            Rhea MR: Determining the magnitude of treatment effects in strength training research through the use of the effect size. J Strength Cond Res 2004, 18:918-920.

5.            Kraemer WJ, Ratamess N, Fry AC, Triplett-McBride T, Koziris LP, Bauer JA, Lynch JM, Fleck SJ: Influence of resistance training volume and periodization on physiological and performance adaptations in collegiate women tennis players. Am J Sports Med 2000, 28:626-633.

6.            Paulsen G, Myklestad D, Raastad T: The influence of volume of exercise on early adaptations to strength training. J Strength Cond Res 2003, 17:115-120.

7.            Rhea MR, Alvar BA, Ball SD, Burkett LN: Three sets of weight training superior to 1 set with equal intensity for eliciting strength. J Strength Cond Res 2002, 16:525-529.

8.            Berger, R. Optimum repetitions for developing strength. Res. Q. 33:334-338. 1962.

9.            Berger, R. Effect of varied weight training programs on strength. Res. Q.  33:168-181. 1962.

BIO – Jose Antonio earned his PhD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas Texas.  HOW ‘BOUT DEM COWBOYS! 

Cowboys bout dem

Skeletal Muscle Fiber Hyperplasia


by Jose Antonio PhD.   PREFACE –  It has been about a score (that’s 20 years for those who slept through English 101) since I’ve plastered my myopic eyeballs on to a dissecting microscope and counted skeletal muscle fibers.  Counting muscle fibers is as painful as watching the afternoon gabfest known as The View (yeah, you understand). Actually scratch that.  The View is much more painful.  Either way, I wanted to shed light on a topic that is of interest to many; yet very few are aware of the research that has been published.  I’m one of a handful (perhaps a half-dozen or less) of science nerds that has actually done research on muscle fiber hyperplasia.  To do that, you got to count.  And believe me my friends, you are counting all day and frickin’ night.  It’s like watching ants march in a line.  If you stare at them long enough, you’ll go cross-eyed and eventually blind.  Okay, maybe not blind.  Seriously, why do we do this kind of research?  Ultimately, the question that is always asked is as follows:  Do human beings have the capacity to increase the number of skeletal muscle fibers?  And if so, what’s the mechanism?  For answers to that, read on my friend.

WHAT IS HYPERPLASIA?  Hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of the cell while hyperplasia refers to an increase in the number of cells or fibers. A single muscle cell is usually called a fiber, muscle fiber or myofiber.  Ok.  You passed Cell Biology 101.  Whew.hyperplasia pics 2_Page_4

HOW DO MUSCLE FIBERS ADAPT TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF EXERCISE?  If you look at a good marathon runner’s physique and compared him/her to a bodybuilder it becomes obvious that training specificity has a profound effect. We know that aerobic training results in an increase in mitochondrial volume/density, oxidative enzymes, and capillary density [1]. Also, in some elite endurance athletes the trained muscle fibers may actually be smaller than those of a completely untrained person. Bodybuilders and other strength-power athletes, on the other hand, have much larger muscles [2, 3]. That’s their primary adaptation; their muscles get bigger. All the cellular machinery related to aerobic metabolism (i.e., mitochondria, oxidative enzymes, etc.) isn’t necessary for maximal gains in skeletal muscle force output; in essence, you just need more contractile protein. We know that this muscle mass increase is due primarily to fiber hypertrophy; however, are there situations where muscles also respond by increasing fiber number?  Ok, you now know the basics of training specificity.  For now, go to the head of the class.  

EVIDENCE FOR SKELETAL MUSCLE FIBER HYPERPLASIA – Scientists have come up with all human-sacrifice-aztecssorts of methods to study muscle growth in laboratory animals. You might wonder what relevance this has to humans. Keep in mind that some of the procedures which scientists perform on animals simply can’t be done on humans due to ethical and logistical reasons. Unless of course you support human sacrifice like the ancient Aztecs.  Nonetheless,  the more convincing data supporting muscle fiber hyperplasia emerges from animal studies. Some human studies have also suggested the occurence of muscle fiber hyperplasia. I’ll address those studies later.  Unless you fall asleep first.

DOES “STRETCH” INDUCE FIBER HYPERPLASIA? Please don’t confuse ‘stretch’ with doing yoga in your Lululemon pants.  Not THAT kind of stretching.  Instead, it’s a more painful type we’re talking about here.  The avian stretch model was first used by Sola et al. in 1973 [4]. In essence, you put a weight on one wing of a bird (usually a chicken or quail) and leave the other wing alone. By putting a weight on one wing (usually equal to 10% of the bird’s weight), a weight-induced stretch is imposed on the back muscles. The muscle which is usually hyperplasia pics 2_Page_2examined is the anterior latissimus dorsi or ALD (unlike humans, birds have an anterior and posterior latissimus dorsi). Besides the expected observation that the individual fibers grew under this stress, Sola et al. found that this method of overload resulted in a 16% increase in ALD muscle fiber number. Since the work of Sola, numerous smarty-pants science types have used this model [5-20]. For example, Alway et al. [5] showed that 30 days of chronic stretch (i.e., 30 days with the weight on with NO REST) resulted in a 172% increase in ALD muscle mass and a 52-75% increase in muscle fiber number! Imagine if humans could grow that fast.  Yeah.  And imagine if Kate Upton shows up at your next birthday party.

I also performed a study using the avian stretch model. However, I put a significant twist on this model [10].  I used a progressive overload scheme whereby the ALD was initially loaded with a weight equal to 10% of the bird’s body weight followed by increments of 15%, 20%, 25%, and 35% (of the bird’s body weight) (5). Each weight increment was interspersed with a 2-day rest. The total number of stretch days was 28.  Using this approach produced the greatest gains in muscle mass EVER recorded in an animal or human model of tension-induced overload, up to a 334% increase in muscle mass with up to a 90% increase in fiber number.  I was also able to uncouple the hypertrophic and hyperplastic responses.  Meaning that the muscle fibers undergoing progressive stretch overload actually increased muscle fiber size at first, and then underwent hyperplasia secondarily.  Perhaps the muscle fibers reached a critical cell size (upon which further increases in muscle fiber cross-sectional areas would have compromised the ability of the cell to obtain nutrients).  If you look at the light micrograph below, you will see that ginormous fiber in panel “B” labeled with an asterisk.  Just think.  Back then, the word ginormous didn’t exist.  Now I actually have an excuse to use the word.  Anyhow, that muscle fiber is the largest EVER in the published literature.  But you’ll notice the fissures in it (see the arrow pointing at the fissure).  Perhaps it’s splitting into smaller parts. That’s evidence of muscle fiber splitting.   I mean come on.  You can only get SO BIG.Muscle fiber hyperplasia pic

But you might ask yourself, what does hanging a weight on a bird have to do with humans who lift weights? So who cares if birds can increase muscle mass by over 300% and fiber number by 90%.  To the naked eye, you seem to have a good point.  But if you care about the mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle size, than I would highly recommend you drink a bit more coffee and pay attention.   Certainly, nobody out there hangs weights on their arms for 30 days straight or even 30 minutes for that matter. Maybe you should try it and see what happens. This could be a different albeit painful way to “train.” But actually the physiologically interesting point is that if presented with an appropriate stimulus, a muscle can produce more fibers. What is an appropriate stimulus? I think it is one that involves subjecting muscle fibers to high tension overload (enough to induce injury) followed by a regenerative period.  Can you get hypertrophy without injury or damage?  Yes.  I’d surmise that inducing actual damage to the sarcolemma, Z-lines, etc is the ‘best’ way to ultimately promote growth.

SIDE BAR – Intraset Stretching by Jacob Wilson PhD – Dr Wilson (at the University of Tampa) has taken the basic science work that I’ve done and applied it to the human condition. Check this out!

WHAT ABOUT EXERCISE? The stretch induced method is a rather unusual stimulus compared to normal muscle activity. What about “normal” muscular exercise? Several scientists have used various models of  ‘tension overload’ to study the role of muscle fiber hyperplasia in muscular growth [5-11, 18-39]. Dr. William Gonyea was the first to demonstrate exercised-induced muscle fiber hyperplasia using weight-lifting cats as the model [25, 28, 29, 40]. Cats were trained to perform a wrist flexion exercise with one forelimb against resistance in order to receive a food reward. The non-trained forelimb thus served as a control for comparison. Resistance was increased as the training period progressed. He found that in addition to hypertrophy, the forearm muscle (flexor carpi radialis) of these cats increased fiber number from 9-20%. After examining the training variables that predicted muscle hypertrophy the best, scientists from Dr. Gonyea’s laboratory found that lifting speed had the highest correlation to changes in muscle mass (i.e., cats which lifted the weight in a slow and deliberate manner made greater muscle mass gains than cats that lifted ballistically) [41].

Keep in mind that these cats trained in a normal manner.  It wasn’t like they were doing crazy high volume or weight.  Thus, it would seem reasonable that heavy resistance training (when done reasonably hard) in humans could also result in gains in muscle fiber number.  To suggest that you need to kill yourself by training like a maniac just isn’t supported by the cat weight-lifting data.hyperplasia pics 2_Page_1

Rats have also been used to study muscle growth [32, 34, 42]. In a model developed by Japanese researchers [34], rats performed a squat exercise in response to an electrical stimulation. They found that fiber number in the plantaris muscle (a plantar flexor muscle on the posterior side of the leg) increased by 14%. Moreover, an interesting observation has been made in hypertrophied muscle which suggests the occurrence of muscle fiber rat lifting weightshyperplasia [16, 22, 23, 42, 43]. Individual small fibers have been seen frequently in enlarged muscle. Initially, some researchers believed this to be a sign of muscle fiber atrophy. However, it doesn’t make any sense for muscle fibers to atrophy while the muscle as a whole hypertrophies. Instead, it seems more sensible to attribute this phenomenon to de novo formation of muscle fibers (i.e., these are newly made fibers). I believe this is another piece of evidence, albeit indirect, which supports the occurrence of muscle fiber hyperplasia.

EXERCISE-INDUCED GROWTH IN HUMANS – The main problem with human studies to determine if muscle fiber hyperplasia contributes to muscle hypertrophy is the inability to make direct counts of human muscle fibers. Some would rather stick a fork in their eye than count muscle fibers.  And a mere perusal through the published literature shows indeed how rare studies are that do direct muscle fiber counts or count the fibers in an entire histological cross-section(s).  Heck, you’d have a better chance of finding a McDonalds in North Korea than finding a graduate student or PhD willing to do muscle fiber counts.   For instance, one study how-to-build-arm-muscles1determined that the tibialis anterior muscle contains approximately 160,000 fibers. Imagine counting 160,000 fibers [44] for just one muscle! The biceps brachii muscle contains roughly a quarter of a million muscle fibers [45].  One study found it to be as high as 418,884 [46].

SIDE BAR – Do we lose muscle fibers with age? Apparently we don’t.  Amen to that!  According to a study by Klein et al:  “We have compared the number of muscle fibers in the biceps brachii muscle (BB) of six old men (82.3 +/- 4.3 years) and six young men (21.2 +/- 1.9 years). Muscle fiber number was estimated by dividing the maximal area of the BB, determined with magnetic resonance imaging, by the mean fiber area of the BB determined in a muscle biopsy. The percentage of type II fibers in the BB (approximately 60%) and the type I fiber area were not different between the groups. The BB area (-26%), type II fiber area (-24%), mean fiber area (-20%), and maximal voluntary contraction strength (MVC) of the elbow flexor muscles (-27%) were lower in the old than young group. However, the estimated number of muscle fibers was not significantly different between the young (253000) and old (234000) men. Consequently, the smaller BB area of the old men could be explained primarily by a smaller type II fiber size. These findings suggest that old age is not associated with a reduced number of muscle fibers in the BB. The relative contribution of a reduction in fiber number to age-related muscle atrophy may be muscle-dependent[45].”

So how do human studies come up with evidence for hyperplasia? It’s arrived at in an indirect fashion. For instance, one study showed that elite bodybuilders and powerlifters had arm circumferences 27% greater than normal sedentary controls yet the size (i.e., cross-sectional area) of athlete’s muscle fibers (in the triceps brachii m.) were not different than the control group. The investigators stated that “Despite large differences in elbow extension strength and arm girth there was no significant difference in fibre areas or percentages of fibre types between the elite group and the trained controls[47].”  This of course suggests that the elite group had a greater number of skeletal muscle fibers.Mike_Ashley_fullbody  Nygaard and Neilsen [48] did a cross-sectional study in which they found that swimmers had smaller Type I and IIa fibers in the deltoid muscle when compared to controls despite the fact that the overall size of the deltoid muscle was greater. Larsson and Tesch [49] found that bodybuilders possessed thigh circumference measurements 19% greater than controls yet the average size of their muscle fibers were not different from the controls. Furthermore, Alway et al. [26] compared the biceps brachii muscle in elite male and female bodybuilders. They showed that the cross-sectional area of the biceps muscle was correlated to both fiber area and number. Other studies, on the other hand, have demonstrated that bodybuilders have larger fibers instead of a greater number of fibers when compared to a control population [46, 50, 51]. Some scientists have suggested that the reason many bodybuilders or other athletes have muscle fibers which are the same size (or smaller) versus untrained controls is due to a greater genetic endowment of muscle fibers. That is, they were born with more fibers. If that was true, then the intense training over years and decades performed by elite bodybuilders has produced at best average size fibers. That means, some bodybuilders were born with a bunch of below average size fibers and training enlarged them to average size. I don’t know about you, but I’d find that explanation rather tenuous. Actually, that explanation is just plain dopey.  It would seem more plausible (and scientifically defensible) that the larger muscle mass seen in bodybuilders is due primarily to muscle fiber hypertrophy but also to fiber hyperplasia. So the question that needs to be asked is not whether muscle fiber hyperplasia occurs, but rather under what conditions does it occur. I believe the the scientific evidence shows clearly in animals, and indirectly in humans, that fiber number can increase. Does it occur in every situation where a muscle is enlarging? No. But can it contribute to muscle mass increases? Yes.

HOW DOES MUCLE FIBER HYPERPLASIA OCCUR? There are two primary mechanisms in

Check out these 'split' or branching fibers.

Check out these ‘split’ or branching fibers.

which new fibers can be formed. First, large fibers can split into two or more smaller fibers (i.e., fiber splitting) [8, 10, 32, 34].  And perhaps the primary mechanism is via the activation and proliferation of satellite cells [18-20, 23, 52, 53].  Satellite cells are myogenic stem cells which are involved in skeletal muscle regeneration. When you injure, stretch, or severely exercise a muscle fiber, satellite cells are activated [18-20, 53]. Satellite cells proliferate (i.e., undergo mitosis or cell division) and give rise to new myoblastic cells (i.e., immature muscle cells). These new myoblastic cells can either fuse with an existing muscle fiber causing that fiber to get bigger (i.e., hypertrophy) or these myoblastic cells can fuse with each other to form a new fiber (i.e., hyperplasia).

ROLE OF MUSCLE FIBER DAMAGE – There is robust evidence which has shown the importance of eccentric contractions in producing muscle hypertrophy [54-57]. It is known that eccentric contractions produces greater injury than concentric or isometric contractions. We also know that if you can induce muscle fiber injury, satellite cells are activated. Both animal and human studies point to the superiority of eccentric contractions in increasing muscle mass [55-57]. However, in the real world, we don’t do pure eccentric, concentric, or isometric contractions. We do a combination of all three. So the main thing to keep in mind when performing an exercise is to allow a controlled descent of the weight hyperplasia pics 2_Page_3being lifted. And on occasion, one could have his/her training partner load more weight than can be lifted concentrically and spot him/her while he/she performs a pure eccentric contraction. This will really put your muscle fibers under a great deal of tension causing microtears and severe delayed-onset muscle soreness. Thus, the repeated process of injuring your fibers (via weight training) followed by a recuperation or regeneration may result in an overcompensation of protein synthesis resulting in a net anabolic effect [58][59].

SIDE BAR:  THE MYTH OF SARCOPLASMIC VS MYOFIBRILLAR HYPERTROPHY – This is perhaps one of the more annoying and contrived controversies in the field of skeletal muscle plasticity.  Was it Joseph Goebbels who said that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth”? This is a perfect example of this maxim.   Frankly, I don’t give a shit who started this mythical beast known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.  The fact of the matter is there has never been evidence to suggest that increases in skeletal muscle size can be the result of selective hypertrophy of the sarcoplasm.  It’s not like you can train to increase the sarcoplasm one day; and then the next day, train for myofibrillar growth.  Roughly 70-80% of the volume of a muscle fiber is the myofibrillar component.  It should be as clear as the Montana sky that gains in muscle size are largely due to increases in contractile protein.  In fact there is a classic paper by Claassen et al. (Journal of Physiology, 1989, 409: 491-495) entitled “Muscle Filament Spacing and Short-term Heavy-Resistance Exercise in Humans.”  They found that the “linear distance between myofilaments as well as the ratio of actin to myosin filament did not change with training.”  Mythbusters (1)So the next time you hear a bodybuilder or training guru talk about achieving greater ‘muscle density,’ they’re just making shit up.  And while you’re at it, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.  And if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. Moreover, don’t confuse gains in strength without gains in skeletal muscle size as evidence for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.  As my teenage daughter would say, ‘isn’t it obvy?’  Yes, it is obvy (obvious) that improvements in rate coding, muscle activation patterns and motor unit recruitment do indeed account for changes in strength without a concomitant increase in skeletal muscle size.  However, if someone shows me evidence that an enlarged muscle or muscle fiber has an increase in cytoplasm with no change in the volume of actin and myosin, then I’ll alter my conclusions.  Until then, show me the evidence.  And if it doesn’t exist, then quit bs’ing everyone about ‘sarcoplasmic’ hypertrophy.  What’s next?  Pigs flying, unicorns trotting, the Jets winning?  For another opinion, check out Stu Phillips PhD little ditty:

HAS THE HYPERPLASIA DEBATE BEEN SETTLED?  To quote the genius of Yogi Berra, “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”  In my scientific opinion, this issue has already been settled. Muscle fiber hyperplasia can contribute to whole muscle hypertrophy. There is human as well as rat, cat, and bird data which support this proposition [6-10, 20, 23, 25, 28, 32-34, 47, 60-66], a veritable wild kingdom of evidence. Does muscle fiber hyperplasia occur under all circumstances? No. There are several studies which show no change in fiber number despite significant increases in muscle mass [11, 13, 37, 67]. Is it possible that certain muscles can increase fiber number more so than others? Maybe. Can any Joe Schmoe off the street who lifts weights to get in better shape increase the number of fibers for instance in their biceps? Maybe, maybe not. What about the elite bodybuilder who at 5’8″ tall is ripped at a body weight of 250 lbs.? Are his large muscles purely the result of muscle fiber hypertrophy? I think it would be extremely naive to think that the massive size attained by elite bodybuilders is due solely to fiber hypertrophy.  Despite the contention that fiber number is constant once you’re born, there is an abundance of evidence which shows that muscle fiber number can increase post-natally.

Always wondered how much hyperplasia could occur in the gluteus maximus.  Hmmm...

Always wondered how much hyperplasia could occur in the gluteus maximus. One, two, 5999, 190000, 699699, oh my…keep counting.

Besides, there is nothing magical at birth which says that now that you’re out of the womb, you can no longer make more muscle fibers. A mechanism exists for muscle fiber hyperplasia and there is plenty of reason to believe that it occurs. Of course, the issue is not whether fiber number increases after every training program, stress, or perturbation is imposed upon an animal (or human). The issue is again, under which circumstances is it most likely to occur. For humans, I’d surmise that the average person who lifts weights and increases their muscle mass moderately probably won’t induce fiber hyperplasia in their exercised muscle(s).  Yet I imagine there are exceptions.  However, the elite bodybuilder who attains the massive muscular development now seen may be the more likely candidate for exercise-induced muscle fiber hyperplasia. If you are interested in a comprehensive scientific treatise on this subject, read a scientific review article that I wrote way back when Bill Clinton was President of the USA [9].  It still holds true today.


1.       Holloszy JO, Booth FW: Biochemical adaptations to endurance exercise in muscle. Annu Rev Physiol 1976, 38:273-291.

2.       Costill DL, Coyle EF, Fink WF, Lesmes GR, Witzmann FA: Adaptations in skeletal muscle following strength training. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1979, 46:96-99.

3.       Tesch PA, Larsson L: Muscle hypertrophy in bodybuilders. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1982, 49:301-306.

4.       Sola OM, Christensen DL, Martin AW: Hypertrophy and hyperplasia of adult chicken anterior latissimus dorsi muscles following stretch with and without denervation. Exp Neurol 1973, 41:76-100.

5.       Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME, Gonyea WJ: Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch-induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1989, 66:771-781.

6.       Alway SE, Gonyea WJ, Davis ME: Muscle fiber formation and fiber hypertrophy during the onset of stretch-overload. Am J Physiol 1990, 259:C92-102.

7.       Antonio J, Gonyea WJ: Ring fibres express ventricular myosin in stretch overloaded quail muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 1994, 152:429-430.

8.       Antonio J, Gonyea WJ: Muscle fiber splitting in stretch-enlarged avian muscle. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994, 26:973-977.

9.       Antonio J, Gonyea WJ: Skeletal muscle fiber hyperplasia. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993, 25:1333-1345.

10.     Antonio J, Gonyea WJ: Progressive stretch overload of skeletal muscle results in hypertrophy before hyperplasia. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1993, 75:1263-1271.

11.     Antonio J, Gonyea WJ: Role of muscle fiber hypertrophy and hyperplasia in intermittently stretched avian muscle. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1993, 74:1893-1898.

12.     Ashmore CR, Summers PJ: Stretch-induced growth in chicken wing muscles: myofibrillar proliferation. Am J Physiol 1981, 241:C93-97.

13.     Gollnick PD, Parsons D, Riedy M, Moore RL: Fiber number and size in overloaded chicken anterior latissimus dorsi muscle. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1983, 54:1292-1297.

14.     Barnett JG, Holly RG, Ashmore CR: Stretch-induced growth in chicken wing muscles: biochemical and morphological characterization. Am J Physiol 1980, 239:C39-46.

15.     Holly RG, Barnett JG, Ashmore CR, Taylor RG, Mole PA: Stretch-induced growth in chicken wing muscles: a new model of stretch hypertrophy. Am J Physiol 1980, 238:C62-71.

16.     Kennedy JM, Eisenberg BR, Reid SK, Sweeney LJ, Zak R: Nascent muscle fiber appearance in overloaded chicken slow-tonic muscle. Am J Anat 1988, 181:203-215.

17.     McCormick KM, Schultz E: Mechanisms of nascent fiber formation during avian skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Dev Biol 1992, 150:319-334.

18.     Winchester PK, Gonyea WJ: Regional injury and the terminal differentiation of satellite cells in stretched avian slow tonic muscle. Dev Biol 1992, 151:459-472.

19.     Winchester PK, Gonyea WJ: A quantitative study of satellite cells and myonuclei in stretched avian slow tonic muscle. Anat Rec 1992, 232:369-377.

20.     Winchester PK, Davis ME, Alway SE, Gonyea WJ: Satellite cell activation in the stretch-enlarged anterior latissimus dorsi muscle of the adult quail. Am J Physiol 1991, 260:C206-212.

21.     Armstrong RB, Marum P, Tullson P, Saubert CWt: Acute hypertrophic response of skeletal muscle to removal of synergists. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1979, 46:835-842.

22.     Chalmers GR, Roy RR, Edgerton VR: Variation and limitations in fiber enzymatic and size responses in hypertrophied muscle. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1992, 73:631-641.

23.     Giddings CJ, Gonyea WJ: Morphological observations supporting muscle fiber hyperplasia following weight-lifting exercise in cats. Anat Rec 1992, 233:178-195.

24.     Gollnick PD, Timson BF, Moore RL, Riedy M: Muscular enlargement and number of fibers in skeletal muscles of rats. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1981, 50:936-943.

25.     Mikesky AE, Giddings CJ, Matthews W, Gonyea WJ: Changes in muscle fiber size and composition in response to heavy-resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1991, 23:1042-1049.

26.     Alway SE, Grumbt WH, Gonyea WJ, Stray-Gundersen J: Contrasts in muscle and myofibers of elite male and female bodybuilders. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1989, 67:24-31.

27.     Giddings CJ, Neaves WB, Gonyea WJ: Muscle fiber necrosis and regeneration induced by prolonged weight-lifting exercise in the cat. Anat Rec 1985, 211:133-141.

28.     Gonyea WJ: Role of exercise in inducing increases in skeletal muscle fiber number. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1980, 48:421-426.

29.     Gonyea WJ: Muscle fiber splitting in trained and untrained animals. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 1980, 8:19-39.

30.     Gonyea WJ, Ericson GC: Morphological and histochemical organization of the flexor carpi radialis muscle in the cat. Am J Anat 1977, 148:329-344.

31.     Gonyea WJ, Ericson GC: An experimental model for the study of exercise-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. J Appl Physiol 1976, 40:630-633.

32.     Ho KW, Roy RR, Tweedle CD, Heusner WW, Van Huss WD, Carrow RE: Skeletal muscle fiber splitting with weight-lifting exercise in rats. Am J Anat 1980, 157:433-440.

33.     Gonyea WJ, Sale DG, Gonyea FB, Mikesky A: Exercise induced increases in muscle fiber number. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1986, 55:137-141.

34.     Tamaki T, Uchiyama S, Nakano S: A weight-lifting exercise model for inducing hypertrophy in the hindlimb muscles of rats. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992, 24:881-886.

35.     Eddinger TJ, Moss RL, Cassens RG: Fiber number and type composition in extensor digitorum longus, soleus, and diaphragm muscles with aging in Fisher 344 rats. J Histochem Cytochem 1985, 33:1033-1041.

36.     Timson BF, Dudenhoeffer GA: The effect of severe dietary protein restriction on skeletal muscle fiber number, area and composition in weanling rats. J Anim Sci 1985, 61:416-422.

37.     Timson BF, Bowlin BK, Dudenhoeffer GA, George JB: Fiber number, area, and composition of mouse soleus muscle following enlargement. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1985, 58:619-624.

38.     Dudenhoeffer GA, Bowlin BK, Timson BF: A brief study of within litter and within strain variation in skeletal muscle fiber number in three lines of laboratory rodents. Growth 1985, 49:450-454.

39.     Vaughan HS, Goldspink G: Fibre number and fibre size in a surgically overloaded muscle. J Anat 1979, 129:293-303.

40.     Gonyea WJ: Fiber size distribution in the flexor carpi radialis muscle of the cat. Anat Rec 1979, 195:447-454.

41.     Mikesky, A. E., W. Matthews, C. J. Giddings, and W. J. Gonyea. Muscle enlargement and exercise performance in the cat. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 3: 85-92, 1989.

42.     Yamada S, Buffinger N, DiMario J, Strohman RC: Fibroblast growth factor is stored in fiber extracellular matrix and plays a role in regulating muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1989, 21:S173-180.

43.     Kennedy JM, Sweeney LJ, Gao LZ: Ventricular myosin expression in developing and regenerating muscle, cultured myotubes, and nascent myofibers of overloaded muscle in the chicken. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1989, 21:S187-197.

44.     Frenzel H, Schwartzkopff B, Reinecke P, Kamino K, Losse B: Evidence for muscle fiber hyperplasia in the septum of patients with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM). Quantitative examination of endomyocardial biopsies (EMCB) and myectomy specimens. Z Kardiol 1987, 76 Suppl 3:14-19.

45.     Klein CS, Marsh GD, Petrella RJ, Rice CL: Muscle fiber number in the biceps brachii muscle of young and old men. Muscle Nerve 2003, 28:62-68.

46.     MacDougall JD, Sale DG, Alway SE, Sutton JR: Muscle fiber number in biceps brachii in bodybuilders and control subjects. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 1984, 57:1399-1403.

47.     MacDougall JD, Sale DG, Elder GC, Sutton JR: Muscle ultrastructural characteristics of elite powerlifters and bodybuilders. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1982, 48:117-126.

48.     Nygaard, E. and E. Nielsen. Skeletal muscle fiber capillarisation with extreme endurance training in man. In Eriksson B, Furberg B (Eds). Swimming Medicine IV(vol. 6, pp. 282-293). University Park Press, Baltimore, 1978.

49.     Larsson L, Tesch PA: Motor unit fibre density in extremely hypertrophied skeletal muscles in man. Electrophysiological signs of muscle fibre hyperplasia. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1986, 55:130-136.

50.     Haggmark T, Jansson E, Svane B: Cross-sectional area of the thigh muscle in man measured by computed tomography. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 1978, 38:355-360.

51.     Schantz P, Fox ER, Norgren P, Tyden A: The relationship between the mean muscle fibre area and the muscle cross-sectional area of the thigh in subjects with large differences in thigh girth. Acta Physiol Scand 1981, 113:537-539.

52.     Bischoff R: Interaction between satellite cells and skeletal muscle fibers. Development 1990, 109:943-952.

53.     Darr KC, Schultz E: Exercise-induced satellite cell activation in growing and mature skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1987, 63:1816-1821.

54.     Cote C, Simoneau JA, Lagasse P, Boulay M, Thibault MC, Marcotte M, Bouchard C: Isokinetic strength training protocols: do they induce skeletal muscle fiber hypertrophy? Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1988, 69:281-285.

55.     Hather BM, Tesch PA, Buchanan P, Dudley GA: Influence of eccentric actions on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance training. Acta Physiol Scand 1991, 143:177-185.

56.     Wong TS, Booth FW: Protein metabolism in rat tibialis anterior muscle after stimulated chronic eccentric exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1990, 69:1718-1724.

57.     Wong TS, Booth FW: Protein metabolism in rat gastrocnemius muscle after stimulated chronic concentric exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1990, 69:1709-1717.

58.     Carlson BM: The regeneration of skeletal muscle. A review. Am J Anat 1973, 137:119-149.

59.     MacDougall, J.D. Morphological changes in human skeletal muscle following strength training and immobilization. In: Human Muscle Power (pp. 269-288). N.L. Jones, N. McCartney, A. J. McComas (Eds.). Human Kinetics Publisher, Inc. Champaign, Illinois, 1986.

60.     Roman WJ, Alway SE: Stretch-induced transformations in myosin expression of quail anterior latissimus dorsi muscle. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1995, 27:1494-1499.

61.     Carson JA, Alway SE, Yamaguchi M: Time course of hypertrophic adaptations of the anterior latissimus dorsi muscle to stretch overload in aged Japanese quail. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 1995, 50:B391-398.

62.     Carson JA, Yamaguchi M, Alway SE: Hypertrophy and proliferation of skeletal muscle fibers from aged quail. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1995, 78:293-299.

63.     Alway SE: Stretch induces non-uniform isomyosin expression in the quail anterior latissimus dorsi muscle. Anat Rec 1993, 237:1-7.

64.     Alway SE: Perpetuation of muscle fibers after removal of stretch in the Japanese quail. Am J Physiol 1991, 260:C400-408.

65.     Sjostrom M, Lexell J, Eriksson A, Taylor CC: Evidence of fibre hyperplasia in human skeletal muscles from healthy young men? A left-right comparison of the fibre number in whole anterior tibialis muscles. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1991, 62:301-304.

66.     Tamaki T, Akatsuka A, Tokunaga M, Ishige K, Uchiyama S, Shiraishi T: Morphological and biochemical evidence of muscle hyperplasia following weight-lifting exercise in rats. Am J Physiol 1997, 273:C246-256.

67.     McCall GE, Byrnes WC, Dickinson A, Pattany PM, Fleck SJ: Muscle fiber hypertrophy, hyperplasia, and capillary density in college men after resistance training. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1996, 81:2004-2012.

About the Author – Jose Antonio PhD is the CEO of the ISSN,  His published work is in the area of sports nutrition and skeletal muscle plasticity.  When he’s not writing, he’s probably watching football or MMA. Or better yet, he’s probably on the ocean paddling like a ninja master.  Doug me and Staci Aug 2009 paddling

Six HIIT Cardio Workouts


By Chris and Eric Martinez CISSN.  These days cardio machines are everyone’s choice of conditioning. Why? Probably because you hardly break a sweat, feel no pain, and you’re able to read the latest Gossip Magazine or text message while you’re at it. Yet as much as we do advocate using cardio machines, the correct way that is, there are other effective conditioning workouts out there. We wanted to present to you 5 HIIT cardio workouts that will be fun, exhausting, true test of mental toughness, get you off the cardio machines, and most importantly beneficial to your health and body compositional changes.  Before we pop the bottles of champagne, we want to educate you on some of the energy systems that are going to be used during these workouts. There are three energy systems that you will use.

The first being the high energy phosphate system (aka the Phosphagen or ATP-PCr energy system) which provides energy for muscles in the initial 1 to 15 seconds of high intensity activity (1). ATP (quick burst of energy) will be activated during this system, which is great because that’s what causes the body to make metabolic changes.

The second being the Anaerobic Glycolytic System (aka Lactic Acid system) which the body relies primarily on anaerobic metabolism for the energy required to perform intensive exercise of greater than 12-15 seconds and less than 3 minutes duration (2). This system will be another way to overload your muscles, as you will be firing those muscle fibers so fast, you are going to recruit the fast twitch fibers and evidently you’re going to cause muscle damage (a good thing).

The third system being the Aerobic Oxidative System which consists primarily of exercises that are performed at an intensity lower than that of the anaerobic threshold (3). Meaning that you will not get any lactic acid (burning sensation) production when you’re in this system and it will be mainly a brisk to fast pace walk or light jogs to keep your heart rate elevated.  So as you can see with all three of the energy systems above, they will all be used in these 5 workouts. Alright, enough with all this science mumbo jumbo, let’s HIIT it!

car pushCar pushes – Yes! You heard us…Car pushes! If you have never tried car pushes then you are missing out on one of the best HIIT cardio workouts around. This is one of the best ways to improve cardio conditioning, leg drive and power, some upper body pressing power and build a great physique. We’ve found that our squats and leg pressing power have improved since doing these because of the overload the car puts on your legs and you have to use a tremendous amount of lower body strength, as well as upper body strength to move the car. Car pushing is very underrated for strength training and power in our opinion. The cool thing about car pushing is that there are literally hundreds of yards of empty space around somewhere near you, so all you have to do is put it in neutral, drop your head down, arms straight, get low and push with all you’ve got for 10-30 seconds. Now depending on if you’re a newbie or advanced trainee, choose the car you push wisely. If you weigh 100 pounds you probably don’t want to push a Hummer. If you’re 200 plus, you probably don’t want to push a slug bug. You get the point!

The protocol- 10 minute brisk walk or slow paced jog for warm up, 4 intervals of 10-30 second all out pushes and 3-4 minute brisk walk in between intervals, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

sled dragSled Drags – We’re sure some of you are saying what the hell are sled drags? Sled drags are very effective for the athlete, power lifter, or down-right bad ass that wants to get in tip top shape. Dragging a weighted sled by using a harness tied to your waist allows you to activate the core to work harder as well as your glutes and hams. The harness also forces you to keep a straight, stiff spine throughout the exercise, regardless of how tired you get. Rounding the back at anytime will immediately look and feel very awkward, giving instant feedback to straighten out or stop and rest. The great thing about sled dragging is it can have a carryover effect to many things, such as: Football, athletes learning how to explode when moving. Powerlifting, sled dragging strengthens your posterior chain and that can help with deadlifting. Track and field, overloading your waist and sprinting with weights can lead to more explosive movements when you train without them.  If you aren’t sled dragging, then you are missing out on superior strength gains and conditioning. If you decide to sled drag, a good rule of thumb is “you’ve got too much weight when you’re walking like you’re drunk.”-Louie Simmons

The Protocol- 10 minute brisk walk or slow paced jog for warm up, 5 intervals of 10-30 seconds all out sled dragging and 2-3 minute brisk walk in between intervals, then 10 minutes brisk walk to cool down.

Rope-Training (1)Heavy Rope Training – Heavy rope training was originally developed for specific combat sports such as football and Mixed Martial Arts; it is now becoming very popular for conditioning work and HIIT cardio. If you’re looking for a new twist to your fitness routine or if you’re one of those that complain about other HIIT cardio workouts being too demanding on your legs the day after a leg session, then this is what you’re looking for. Along with increasing your strength, power, and endurance, the constant motion of rope battling will give you a hell of a workout. Some common movements include waves, slams, throws, spirals, and whips.  All involve swinging your arms up and down (or side to side) for timed intervals. With each of these exercises, you want to create a solid base by planting your feet in a shoulder width stance and stabilizing your core, think of an athletic stance. You’ll quickly discover that these exercises engage not just your arms and shoulders, but your whole body.

The Protocol- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up, 3-5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (waves, slams, throws, spirals, whips) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals, then 5 minutes of moderate jump rope to cool down.

*Dec 03 - 00:05*Desk emailKettlebell Swings – Believe it or not but kettlebells are starting to be increasingly popular. Specifically kettlebell swings have become a great HIIT cardio workout to activate your glutes and hamstrings. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found as the movement progressed from the bottom of the swing to the top of the swing, back muscle activation peaked first at around 50% of MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), followed by abdominal/oblique activation at around 20-30% of MVC, followed by gluteal muscle activation at around 75% of MVC (4). As you can see kettlebell swings stimulate your glutes, strengthen your back muscles, engage your core muscles and help strengthen the hip and knees. Muscle activation ramps up during a half-second interval in the concentric phase (top of the swing) and then transitions to almost complete relaxation during much of the eccentric phase (coming down with the swing) (5).  So every time you are swinging that kettlebell you are firing muscle fibers and this could lead to overall muscle growth. If you’ve never tried kettlebells for HIIT then your booty and hamies are in for a long day! Make sure to be wise when you choose the weight, you aren’t going for a 1 rep max, pick a comfortable weight that you can swing and use good form to really activate all the muscles.

The Protocol- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up or 10 minute brisk walk/jog, 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out swings) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals, then 5 minutes of moderate jump rope or 10 minute brisk walk/jog to cool down.

Sprints – Last but not least how can we leave out good old sprints that have been tried and true for the longest time.  Just look at sprinters legs compared to a long distance runners legs. Obviously the sprinter has more muscle mass on their legs because they’re activating fast twitch muscle fibers and creating muscle damage which leads to muscle growth. If you don’t believe us, go do sprints and you’ll see how sore you are the next day, it’ll feel almost the same as if you did an intense leg workout and that’s because you activated and broke down those muscle fibers. A recent study by Metcalfe et al. shows if you perform what Metcalfe and colleagues call the “minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health” a 3x per week 10min exercise regimen with no more than two (yes, I said it only 2 times!) all-out sprints, everything you’ve got, you will make changes to your metabolic rate (6). This 6 week exercise program was compared to the results of a 10 month intervention program in subjects who exercised 3x a week for 40min (steady state). Metcalfe’s study goes to show that it’s a more efficient way to burn fat by doing 3x per week for 10 min with only 2 all out sprint intervals because the steady state endurance study was not only four times more time-consuming, but it also failed to improve the glucose tolerance test and produced no improvements in insulin sensitivity.

The Protocol- 10 minute brisk walk, 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out, everything you’ve got) and 1-4 minutes of rest in between intervals, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

boxing lessonsBonus Workout – Here’s a HIIT workout you can do after your boss was on your ass all day or if you have one of those days when you feel a big weight on your shoulders…Hit the heavy bag! Hitting a punching bag is a great upper body workout and tailors well for those that have lower body injuries or limitations. One recommendation we will make is to not do a heavy upper body workout following this workout or the day after. Make sure to have an off day or lower body day. Your shoulders and arms will feel like you got in a bar fight with Mike Tyson after this workout.

The Protocol- 10 jump rope for warm up, 5 rounds of 10-30 second all out, everything you’ve got, beating the crap out of that bag and 2-4 minutes of jump roping in between rounds, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

Wrapping it up

Now don’t get all bent out of shape after this, but you must understand the pros and cons of doing HIIT cardio workouts. They should be used as a tool and not be overused. We wouldn’t recommend more than 3-4 HIIT cardio workouts a week and we would definitely not do them after a high intensity leg workout day. Also, you’re probably wondering why we keep saying 10-30 seconds of intervals and that’s because everyone’s AT (anaerobic threshold) is different. You have to build your tolerance and get conditioned for these types of workouts and the more you do it and push yourselves, the more your AT will improve. With that in mind, we are all different and respond differently to certain things. So experiment yourself and see what you like best and what works best for you. If you want to go by time or yards do whatever feels best for you. Start with 10 second intervals and see if you can eventually get to 30 seconds. Just don’t overdo it or take that risk of injuring yourself. Now that you have these 5 workouts in your gym bag of tricks… go HIIT it!


  1. Hultman E, Bergstrom J, Anderson NM. Breakdown and resynthesis of phosphorylcreatine and adenosine triphosphate in connection with muscular work in man. Scand J Clin lab Invest. 1967.
  2. Wilmore JH, Costill DL (eds). Physiology of sport and exercise  3rd edition. : Human Kinetics
  3. Wells GD, Selvadurai H, Tein I. Bioenergetic provision of energy for muscular activity. Paediatric Respitory reviews. 2009.
  4. McGill, SM. Marshall, LW. Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up carry: back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads. J strength Cond Res. 2012. Jan 26
  5. Contreras, Brett
  6. Metcalfe et al. Towards the minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health: beneficial effects of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training. European J applied Physio. 2011.

About The Authors:  Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CSCS, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class online training and nutrition consulting business “Dynamic Duo Training.” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, Diet Doc permanent weight loss coaches, and exclusive Team K Peaking Directors that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”

Visit them at:

Dynamic Duo Training

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Some Underutilized Supplements That Rock!


Part One – “For the great majority of us are satisfied with appearance as though it serves as reality and  more than often, these seemingly things influence more so than those that are.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, 1527

When you review the quote above by one of histories most influential management and political theorist they imply that in many cases individuals of a specific society or company become comfortable with the ways things are versus making changes that represent what they need to be. When you put these comments in the context of moving the body from its present state to that of an elite body builder, the message resonates loudly in reference to the unintended state of complacency some individual resistance training enthusiasts fall into.  For example, while whey protein, creatine,  and arginine may serve as solid foundations to any sound body building supplemental program,  what other products are needed to support recovery, growth hormone production, insulin modulation, reduction of pain and inflammation, generation of energy, reduction of body fat, protein synthesis, nitric oxide production, detoxification to the reduction of exercise induced cortisol levels?

Solving This Anabolic Puzzle Diversely  

When you review this short list of anabolic parameters and add in the complexity of managing and sustaining the physical and emotional stamina necessary to reach your goals, general appearances can begin to influence versus individual needs.  However, the reality versus the appearance of the best approach to take here is to take advantage of a complement of past, present and emerging products across various supplemental categories versus limiting your choices to products that appear to only fit the general body building mold. Forward thinking sports medicine researchers today have adopted this attitude as more products once considered to be strictly medicinal in nature have been found to offer an array of benefits to resistance training individuals. The goal of this report is to outline a few of these globally researched and unfortunately underutilized supplements that definitively do the job as advertised, despite appearing to be second best and or a non-categorized resistance training supplement. Incidentally, this list is extensive and can’t be covered in one article two or three for that matter. Correspondingly, this report is divided into two parts.  However, the goal here is to reinforce and establish the need to search and find the right combination of products that meet your individual needs.

Some Atypical and Typical Ergogenic Products 

Section I: Endurance and Recovery

Co-Enzyme Q10

CoQ10 is an energy molecule found in all cells, however more abundantly in heart and muscle cells. Incidentally, to generate energy the body uses four different fuels, ATP (adenosine-tri- phosphate), glucose, glucose stored as glycogen and fat. These sources differ in the amount of energy they contain and how fast they’re released.  Biologically, ATP stores, supports and recycles cellular energy with 95% of the body’s physiological energy needs being dependent on the presence of CoQ10. For these reasons researchers speculated that CoQ10 could benefit individuals engaged in strenuous workout routines. This was recently validated by researchers at the Doctoral Program of Sports Medicine at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. These researchers divided participants into 4 groups:  rest group [control], exercise group, rest group with CoQ10 supplement, and exercise group with CoQ10 supplement. The exercise groups were run on a treadmill until exhaustion. The CoQ10 supplemented groups received an oral administration 300 mg of CoQ10 for 4 weeks.

Inhibiting Muscle Damage Definitively

The results of this study indicated that the CoQ10 exercise group increased total CoQ10 concentration in the slow-twitch muscles, improving workload capacity, muscle recovery and reduced exercise-induced muscular injury. These researchers attributed these benefits   to CoQ10’s ability to stabilize muscle cell membranes and accelerated regeneration of ATP.

Suggested Dose: 300-600 mg/d.


Glycerol, also known as glycerin, glycerine and 1,2,3-propanetriol is an metabolite of alcohol known to enhance thermoregulation and improve performance. During all types of exercise the body’s ability to thermo-regulate is challenged, meaning excess heat produced from muscle contractions and all of the internal reactions occurring simultaneously. The problem here, core internal temperature can dangerously rise above 40 °C (104 °F).  This is why proper hydration before workouts is so important. However, researchers of the School of Human Movement Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia discovered that by combining glycerol to water extends and super hydrates the body up to four hours. This lowers the heart rate and accelerates the rate of blood flow to the skin to help with cooling things down. This is the essence of glycerol’s thermo-regulating abilities, improving body hydration by creating a greater capacity to tolerate fluid loss, while maintaining a constant and safe internal body temperature.

Suggested Dose: 1.2 g/kg BW in 26 mL/kg BW of fluid over a period of 60 minutes, 30 minutes prior to exercise and 1.0 g/kg BW to each 1.5 L of fluid consumed following exercise to accelerate the restoration of plasma volume.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS reduces exercise induced elevation of the hormone cortisol, known to accelerate muscle wasting. Equally, researchers at the University of Mississippi state that when PS is taken prior to workouts it speeds up recovery and prevents muscle soreness. This was validated by Italian scientists at the University of Naples who reported that 400 mg and 800 mg of phosphatidylserine lowered plasma cortisol by 16% and 25% respectively. In a similar trial, researchers at the University of California put participants through vigorous whole-body workouts four times a week. These subjects were given 800mg of PS daily prior to exercising. These scientist reported that phosphatidylserine reduced cortisol levels after workouts by 20%. More compelling here, testosterone levels which generally decline after workouts remained elevated, which was attributed to the presence of PS.

Stress Testosterone and PS

Ironically, because it comes from the same steroid hormone pool, physical and mental stress induced elevation of cortisol would equate with testosterone levels dropping in the process. However, due to PS’s ability to modulate the stress response researchers contend that it increases the testosterone to cortisol ratio. As you know testosterone is an important hormone to muscle growth as it binds to receptors on the surface of muscle cells and accelerates protein synthesis or the creation of new muscle.

Suggested Dose:  400mg-800mg 30 minutes before working out and at post workout.


Resveratrol, the active compound found in grapes and red wine has shown the ability to extend life, reduce inflammation and has anti-cancer properties. Resveratrol appears to activate some of the same metabolic pathways that are stimulated by exercise without actually working out. This was corroborated in a study published in The Journal of Physiology showing that resveratrol up-regulated physiological changes comparable to that of endurance training, in fact at a 25% higher rate. These researchers from the University  of Alberta in Canada, found that subjects exhibited not only improvements in aerobic capacity, but greater strength in their leg muscles. They attributed this to resveratrol’s ability to improve the function of mitochondria in muscle cells, the energy powerhouses that supply ATP to hard-working muscles.

Section 2: Fat Burners


Melatonin is best known as a natural sleep aid. Recently, researchers at Baylor University reported that 5 mgs of melatonin one hour before and after workouts stimulates growth hormone (GH) releases at a greater rate than at sleep while simultaneously lowering SST (somatostatin), the hormone that inhibits the release of growth hormone. Correspondingly, scientist at the Medical College of Wisconsin found that males who supplemented melatonin had fat reduction levels of 14% with a corresponding 9% increase in lean muscle development.

Suggested Dose: 5mg one hour before workout or at bedtime.

Section III: Growth Agents


GABA is short for gamma amino butyric acid. While Gaba a amino acid isn’t involved with building proteins, its impact on growth hormone (GH) production is unparallel. This is accomplished physiologically via its regulatory impact on the pituitary gland, the organ that actually governs the synthesis of growth hormone and its secretion. In fact, researchers at the First Medical Clinic at the University of Milan in Italy concluded that gaba’s impact on plasma growth hormone levels was significant when they administered 5grams of it,  which in 90 minutes produced a five and one half (5-1/2)% increase in the production of GH.

Suggested dose: 1g to 3g after exercising or 3g to5 g on empty stomach 30 minutes before bedtime. GABA can cause a tingling, itchy feeling of the skin and usually dissipates in about 15 minutes. To minimize this researchers suggest working up to the 5g intake with lower dosages over a 2 to 3 week period.

Glycine Propionyl-L-carnitine (GPLC)

GPLC is a molecular-bonded form of L- carnitine, the fat-burning amino acid and the amino acid glycine. Glycine is used to help create muscle tissue, convert glucose into energy and construct normal DNA and RNA strands of genetic material. While not highly publicized glycine helps prevent muscle catabolism by boosting the body’s levels of creatine. Conversely, researchers at the Department of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Memphis discovered that 4.5 grams of GPLC increased blood levels of NO (nitric oxide) in resistance-trained men, having a direct impact on muscle growth and repair.

Suggested Dose:1.5g to 4.5 g/d.

Last Words Here

As stated above the goal here is to move you toward becoming your own individual supplement guru. You and what you do are the key to you reaching your individual goals. Please review part two of this report, as your possible supplemental combinations are endless.

Bio – Dr. Redmon has been associated with the vitamin and health industry for over 25years, having served as The National Product and Education Director for one of the countries largest retailers of nutritional supplements. He has been widely published in many major bodybuilding, fitness and alternative medicine publications. He is the author of

Natural Born Fat Burners, Energy for Life and is a member of The National Academy of Sports Medicine and The International Society of Sports Nutrition.


Cool Tools For Your Weightlifting Workout – This is for you girls!


by Livia Ly.    There are many interesting products out there marketed for fitness and weightlifting.  Here I created a list of products that I enjoy using myself, and that you may benefit from them as well.  If you are a modern women who believes that strong is the new skinny, trains hard, or is starting to do strength training and understand the wonderful benefits of weightlifting for your health and wellness, this article is for you.  The ideas below can increase your comfort and enjoyment while training, and promote a bit of extra fashion and feminism for you.  Take a look at them:

Phone Apps

  • If you are an organization freak like I am, you will like these apps that help track your health information.
  • DailyBurn Tracker (iTunes/Android): it tracks food, exercises, and body progress. FREE
  • Nutrition Menu (iTunes): it tracks calories, exercise, weight, and water.
  • FitBit (iTunes/Android): it works with Fitbit activity trackers and smart scales. It tracks fitness, weight, food, and sleep. FREE
  • P90X (iTunes): it tracks your sets, reps, and weights, as well as your progress and nutrition.
  • FitJourney – Weight & Shape Tracker (iTunes): it tracks your weight and shape by photos. FREE
  • Calorie Counter & Weight Loss, by SparkPeople (iTunes/Android): it counts calories, tracks food, exercise, and weight. FREE
  • Cronometer (iTunes/Android): it tracks your diet, exercise, and biometrics. FREE
  • Sports Supplements By Human Kinetics (iTunes): it has current information about supplements.

For Music

  • I love Rdio I can find all the artists, music, and albums that I enjoy and it’s free.  You may already know about Pandora, but have you heard of SoundCloud?

Workout Accessories

  • These accessories will help keep you comfortable and safe during your workouts.
  • Squat Belt: good for supporting your back while helping to prevent injury.  Here is the one I use
  • Squat Cushion:  Manta Ray is the best option, in my opinion.  It reduces neck pain and discomfort during your squat exercise.  Another option is a squat sponge for barbells such as
  • Fitness Gloves: they protect your soft hands and prevent calluses, important right?
  • Water Bottles: the best one I’ve had so far is the one from Under Armour It’s ideal to have an insulated bottle to keep your water cool and that doesn’t spill.  You should also avoid drinking through a straw, because it may increase bloating, belching and intestinal gas.  You don’t want these symptoms, do you?
  • Arm Band: I like to keep my phone on a water-resistant pocket (yes, I sweat a lot!).  This Nike one has a clear window for easy touch-screen access

Fitness Equipment to Have at Home

I recommend a body composition scale.  This is the one I use You can track your body fat comp more accurately when using sensors for both your feet and hands.  If you want something more high-tech, the Smart Body Analyzer is great! You can upload your weight, body fat and heart rate data with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology

Bringing Your Food

There are great plastic-free food containers including Kinetic Go Green Glasslock and Anchor Hocking TrueSeal Glass that you can pack on an insulated bag, such as Built Lunch Tote and put a couple of ice packs in it to keep your food fresh and cool.

There you have it!  Now you have some options for products that will help you workout with more comfort, safety, confidence, and convenience!

Livia Ly head shotLivia Ly – I’m a health enthusiast. I’m a dietitian trained in Brazil and also a nutrition grad student in Chicago. Ѽ

Fish Oil and Athletic Performance


Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge to improve athletic performance. Whether the end result is a 5- to 10-lb. increase in muscle mass, less muscle soreness, or a reduction in body fat, athletes will go the extra mile to find that edge. Gaining an paddling picadvantage over the opponent could mean winning a gold medal, making the final shot, or having the energy to outlast a competitor on the mat or in the ring. In addition to a balanced diet, athletes are turning to dietary supplements to gain that advantage. Popular supplements such as creatine, branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), HMB, beta-alanine, and caffeine have been widely used throughout the athletic community.  One supplement that has gained the attention of athletes is fish oil.

The growth of fish oil use among consumers has been quite impressive, as sales have risen from $425 million in 2007 to $1 billion dollars in 2012. Widely touted for its beneficial effects for cardiovascular health, fish oil has not been considered an essential piece in an athlete’s supplement regimen. In this article, I will discuss why fish oil is a critical piece to help athletes gain that competitive edge and stay in the game.

Healthy Joints, Range of Motion – Whether you’re participating in a year-round strength and conditioning program, playing multiple sports, or training at a high intensity, your muscles, joints, and tissues will experience inflammation (i.e. swelling, soreness, and redness). Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing as this is a critical component of the recovery process. At the same time, acute and chronic inflammation may augment muscle soreness which can limit range of motion and potentially impair athletic performance. In addition, the American diet is saturated with omega-6 rich foods (fried foods, vegetable and soybean oils, salad dressings, potato chips, etc.) that promote inflammation. A diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, anchovies) and/or from fish oil supplementation, can balance the effects of a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids. A study by Bloomer et al. demonstrated 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (2224 mg EPA + 2208 mg DHA) reduces markers of inflammation (i.e. CRP and TNF-alpha) after an intense exercise session (i.e. 60 min treadmill climb with weighted backpack). (1)girlsprint

Improve Body Composition – Most people don’t expect to read about consuming fat and losing body fat in the same sentence. The essential fatty acids in fish oil (EPA and DHA) were studied in numerous animal models throughout the 80s and 90s and demonstrated a reduction in body fat (2,3) and a prevention of adipose tissue growth (4-6). Does fish oil have the same effect in humans? A study was conducted in which young, non-obese males were given 6 grams of fish oil (1100 mg EPA and 700 mg DHA) in place of 6 grams of butter, olive oil, peanut oil, or sunflower oil. After three weeks, subjects experienced a significant increase in fat oxidation and a 1.94 lb decrease in body fat (7).  In a more recent study, young men and women were give 4 grams of fish oil per day (1600 mg EPA and 800 mg DHA) for six weeks vs. 4 grams of safflower oil in the placebo group. The fish oil group lost 0.5 kg of fat mass and gained 0.5 g of lean mass whereas the safflower oil group showed a tendency to gain fat mass. (8).  The mechanism of action between fish oil and fat loss seems to be related to its ability to improve insulin sensitivity which improves fat burning and inhibits fat storage (9,10). Furthermore, studies have also shown fish oil supplementation can reduce the stress hormone cortisol (11), which when elevated, can result in a significant increase in fat mass (12).

Muscle Growth – Creatine, beta-alanine, HMB, and the amino acid leucine have held the title as the most popular supplements used by athletes to improve muscle strength, size, and endurance.  It’s time to include omega-3 fish oil supplementation in that discussion as new science has emerged examining its anabolic potential. A recent study demonstrated 4 grams of fish oil supplementation (1.86 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA) increased protein synthesis, mTOR signaling pathway (key for muscle growth), and the muscle/protein DNA ratio (i.e. muscle cell size) (13). A similar protocol was used by the same research team to see if these effects were the same in adults over 65. Remarkably, 4 grams of fish oil supplementation increased the muscle protein synthesis response in elderly adults. (14).arnold-big-arms

How Much to Take? – The levels of omega-3 fats in your body will vary depending on the amount of omega-3 rich fish you eat or the amount of fish oil you take as a supplement. Based on the scientific evidence reported in this article, it seems 3-4 grams per day (1.5 to 2 grams of EPA and 1.5 to 2 grams of DHA) is the ideal dosage to improve joint mobility, improve body composition, and augment muscle growth.

To optimize your omega-3 levels in your blood, while also focusing on improving markers of athletic performance, take 2 grams of fish oil before and after an intense training session. For athletes participating at the collegiate, professional, or Olympic level, to reduce your risk of testing positive for a banned substance, you want a fish oil that has been tested for Sport by NSF (, such as Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3 Sport®.

BIO: One of the leading sports nutritionist in the industry, Tavis Piattoly is the Sports Tavis photoDietitian for Tulane Athletics and the NFLPA Brain and Body Trust Program. He served as the Nutritionist for the New Orleans Saints from 2006 to 2013. He works with athletes at all levels, designing nutrition programs for peak performance. An expert on sports supplements, Tavis speaks on supplement safety for young athletes.


  1. Bloomer RJ, Larson DE, Fisher-Wellmann KH, Galpin AJ, Schilling BK, Effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid on resting and exercise-induced inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers: a randomized, placebo controlled, cross-over study. Lipids Health Disease 2009; 19:8:36.
  2. Hill JO, Peters JC, Lin D, Yakubu F, Greene H, Swift L, Lipid accumulation and body fat distribution is influenced by type to dietary fat fed to rats. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 1993; 17:223-236.
  3. Ikemoto S, Takahashi M, Tsunoda N, Maruyama K, Itakura H, Ezaki O, High Fat Diet induced hyperglycemia and obesity in mice: differential effects of dietary oils. Metabolism 1996; 45: 1539-1546.
  4. Belzung F, Raclot T, Groscolas R, Fish Oil n-3 fatty acids selectively limit the hypertrophy of abdominal fat depots in growing rats fed high-fat diets. The American Journal of Physiology 1993; 264: R1111-1118.
  5. Parish CC, Pathy DA, Angel A, Dietary Fish Oils limit adipose tissue hypertrophy in rats. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 1990; 39: 217-219.
  6. Ruzickova J, Rossmeisl M, Prazak T, Flachs P, Sponarova J, Veck M, Tvrzicka E, Bryhn M, Kopecky J, Omega-3 PUFA of marine origin limit diet induced obesity in mice by reducing cellularity of adipose tissue. Lipids 2004; 39:1177-1185.
  7. Couet C, Delarue J, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Lamisse F, Effect of dietary fish oil on body mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 1997; 21:637-643.
  8. Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK, Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010; 7:31.
  9. Kim HJ, Takahashi M, Ezaki O, Fish Oil feeding decreases mature sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP-1) by down regulation of SREBP-1c mRNA in mouse liver. A possible mechanism for down-regulation of lipogenic enzyme mRNAs. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 1999; 274: 25892-25898.
  10. Natatani T, Kim HJ, Kaburagi Y, Yasuda K, Ezaki O, A low fish oil inhibits SREBP-1 proteolytic cascade, while a high-fish oil feeding decreases SREBP-1 mRNA in mice liver: relationship to anti-obesity. Journal of Lipid Research 2003; 44: 369-379.
  11. Delarue J, Matzinger O, Binnert C, Schneiter P, Chiolero R, Tappy L, Fish Oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes and Metabolism 2003; 29:289-295.
  12. Bjorntorp P, Rosmond R, Obesity and Cortisol 2000; 16: 924-936.
  13. Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperoinsulinemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clinical Science (London) 2011; 121 (6): 267-78.
  14. Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011; 93 (2): 402-12.


HMB Free Acid and The Misunderstood Relationship Between Training and Supplements


By Jacob M. Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS*D and Ryan Lowery, B.S., CSCS.   Ryan Lowery and I are speaking at this years ISSN, and we have to admit that the lineup is stellar.  Our discussion will focus on novel methods to enhance fat metabolism on Saturday morning at 11:00 AM.  Prior to our discussion at 9:00 AM on Saturday, Dr. Gabe Wilson and Shawn Wells  will be talking about one of the most heated, and highly debated subjects in sports nutrition for the last decade.  The title of their talk is “Leucine, HMB, and Amino Acid Metabolites Support Muscle Growth and Athletic Performance.”  One of the key controversial components is in bold letters – that’s right, HMB.MT-HMB3

Part of the controversy stems from how the companies marketed the product years ago and mis-portrayed the practicality of the supplement at hand.  For instance, advertisers claiming that HMB “feels like DECA” or works like testosterone. Additional issues lie in contradictory results between studies, with some showing improvements in performance markers, and others showing no benefit from HMB. This subject is of great interest to us, which is why we have spent literally the last decade studying this topic.  In fact, we have studied HMB in trained (6, 13, 14) and untrained humans (12); the elderly (8); rats and mice (3, 11), and yes, even hamsters! There is certainly a complicated history to this supplement…so sit back and get ready to hear the full story.

HMB was first introduced to the market in the early 90s by EAS.  Fast forward a few decades later, and the supplement has been studied in virtually every condition possible.  What has been demonstrated from our research and others is that HMB works by improving protein synthesis and reducing protein breakdown that occurs within the muscle following intense exercise; thereby, accelerating the recovery process.  Adel from Suppversity suggests that often times the anabolic effects of HMB are mistaken for its anti-catabolic properties, which are fully realized under novel conditions.  The major problem, from people who misinterpret the HMB literature, is that they view supplements as independent from the training stimulus itself.  HOWEVER, this is a major flaw and misconception.  In reality, the field of sports nutrition is all about how the supplement interacts with the training stimulus.  Take HMB for example, it has anti-catabolic and recovery properties.  We can virtually guarantee that if you are taking HMB as a sedentary young, healthy individual, or as someone who does not train hard that you will see virtually no benefits (10).  In fact, it is these people who are most likely to state that “they didn’t feel anything” while taking HMB. Considering that HMB is not a stimulant and they had no muscle damage to recover from, we are not surprised at this comment.

Before we can delve deeper into HMB supplementation, we need to discuss the training stimulus itself. As eluded too, HMB works ideally under novel training conditions.  Most people view gains in muscle and strength as a linear process over time.  However when examining long-term training studies, it is clear that people do not make linear gains –  rather, they make large gains in short bursts of time with the remainder of time spent in maintenance(2).  What triggers these growth spurts is the introduction of novel training variables.  Periodization is defined as programed variation and rest to reach a physiological peak.  Research indicates that periodized training, regardless of the form results in greater neuromuscular gains than non periodized protocols.

Intriguingly enough HMB has been studied in both untrained and trained individuals using periodized as well non periodized training programs.  In the 90s, it was demonstrated that untrained individuals attained greater muscle and strength gains while taking HMB (7), but this should be expected because even looking at a squat rack in an untrained population provides a novel stimulus for growth! However, early studies on HMB in trained individuals failed to find a beneficial result (5).  If you carefully examine the landmark papers on this topic, the reason for a lack of benefit from HMB, may be that the novelty of the training stimulus was inadequate.  In fact, in these studies, investigators told subjects to not alter their training programs (5).  This is great research because it led us to the understanding that HMB likely interacts with the training stimulus itself (10).  Our hypothesis was supported by William Kraemer’s lab, which demonstrated that HMB given during a 12-week periodized training program resulted in ~ 9 kg gains in lean body mass compared to only ~ 2 kg in the placebo group (4). In this scenario where the training stimulus is altered continually, HMB’s regenerative and anti-catabolic properties are able to improve neuromuscular adaptations.  It is important to emphasize here that it is the interaction between optimal training variables and HMB supplementation that triggers the growth and strength adaptations (4).  In so much as, HMB will support recovery so that the athlete is better prepared to workout during each successive bout compared to their non-supplemented counterparts.

HMB-Free-AcidModern research has sought to improve the delivery of HMB supplementation (1).  Specifically, HMB has historically been administered as calcium bound to HMB, which results in peak plasma concentrations in 90 to 120 minutes (9).  However, recent research has used an HMB free acid (HMB separated from calcium) which peaks in as little as 30 minutes and results in a 100% greater total increases in plasma HMB than the HMB-calcium bound supplement (1).  Theoretically, HMB free acid (trademarked BetaTOR) may result in improved anabolic effects relative to the calcium salt. Therefore, our lab recently published a paper in the British Journal of Nutrition, which investigated HMB free acid’s impact on skeletal muscle recovery following a strenuous training session, in advanced resistance trained individuals (14). Results showed that BetaTOR was able to cut muscle damage and soreness in half relative to placebo as well as lower protein breakdown. To follow up on these findings, our lab published work in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, using a long-term periodization program (13). In this experiment, we sought to use advanced athletes, as this is one of the most controversial populations in terms of HMB’s effectiveness.  Indeed, our criteria were quite stringent, and in fact took a full school semester to recruit the desired population. In the end, elite athletes – many of which were able to squat over 500 lbs, and deadlift over 600 lbs – were identified, and put through a rigorous 12-week training program, while taking BetaTOR or a placebo.

To elaborate, we used a 3-phase training protocol.  Phase one (weeks 1-8) consisted of periodization in which subjects trained each body part 3 times weekly, while varying the repetitions, intensity, and rest period lengths daily. We also provided slight variations in the way in which the exercise was executed every 4 weeks (e.g. overhand vs. underhand bent over rows).  Results demonstrated that this training stimulus was enough to maintain muscle damage for a period of 8 weeks, suggesting that the training load was novel to these athletes.  However, at week 8, the athletes began to adapt to the training stimulus.  At this point, we had them train every body part 5 days a week for 2 weeks straight (phase 2).  In fact, some subjects lifted over 200, 000 lbs of total volume in a given week! Lastly, we decreased volume by 60% (tapered – phase 3), while maintaining training intensity and frequency, in order to allow them to recover before final testing.  We found that during weeks 1-8, both groups made improvements; however, the BetaTOR group made greater gains (5 vs. 3 kg of lean mass). However, phase two is where separation really occurred between groups.  In fact, the placebo group regressed in performance and lean mass from weeks 8-12, while the BetaTOR group continued to increase!  Thus, a training load, which was catabolic in nature, became stimulatory when consuming BetaTOR.  For this reason, we would argue that HMB is not necessarily making individuals huge by itself.  Rather, HMB is allowing an individual to train at higher intensities more frequently.  Thus, allowing for a greater training stimulus and improved recovery! It is the ability to train more, and recover faster that allows individuals to make greater gains with HMB. Clearly, if you are not pushing yourself to this limit, HMB will not be an effective supplement.

In conclusion, we hope to educate the consumer of what it truly takes in order to optimize HMB’s and BetaTOR’s effects.  Research indicates that HMB has little benefit for the everyday individual just looking to go in the gym and train their arms and calves every other workout. Rather, HMB is most effective for athletes undergoing difficult and novel training demands.  For more information on this exciting and controversial topic, as well as leucine and other metabolites of the amino acid leucine, we suggest that you attend Dr. Gabe Wilson and Shawn Wells lecture at the annual ISSN conference on Saturday morning at 9:00 AM.


1.           Fuller JC, Jr., Sharp RL, Angus HF, Baier SM, and Rathmacher JA. Free acid gel form of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) improves HMB clearance from plasma in human subjects compared with the calcium HMB salt. The British journal of nutrition 105: 367-372, 2011.

2.           Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, Alen M, Kauhanen H, and Komi PV. Neuromuscular and hormonal adaptations in athletes to strength training in two years. J Appl Physiol 65: 2406-2412, 1988.

3.           Henning PC, Park B-S, Lee S-R, Wilson JM, Park Y-M, Arjmandi BH, Grant SC, and Kim J-S. β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) Improves Muscle Mass And Protein Turnover In Male Mice During A 6-week Catabolic Condition.  , in: American College of Sports Medicine. Washington D.C.: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2011, p 137.

4.           Kraemer WJ, Hatfield DL, Volek JS, Fragala MS, Vingren JL, Anderson JM, Spiering BA, Thomas GA, Ho JY, Quann EE, Izquierdo M, Hakkinen K, and Maresh CM. Effects of amino acids supplement on physiological adaptations to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41: 1111-1121, 2009.

5.           Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, and Almada AL. Effects of calcium beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation during resistance-training on markers of catabolism, body composition and strength. Int J Sports Med 20: 503-509, 1999.

6.           Lowery RP, Joy JM, Rathmacher JA, Baier SM, Fuller J, Jr., Shelley MC, 2nd, Jaeger R, Purpura M, Wilson SM, and Wilson JM. Interaction of Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methylbutyrate Free Acid (HMB-FA) and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Power in Resistance Trained Individuals. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2014.

7.           Nissen S, Sharp R, Ray M, Rathmacher JA, Rice D, Fuller JC, Jr., Connelly AS, and Abumrad N. Effect of leucine metabolite beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance-exercise training. Journal of applied physiology 81: 2095-2104, 1996.

8.           Stout JR, Smith-Ryan AE, Fukuda DH, Kendall KL, Moon JR, Hoffman JR, Wilson JM, Oliver JS, and Mustad VA. Effect of calcium beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (CaHMB) with and without resistance training in men and women 65+yrs: a randomized, double-blind pilot trial. Experimental gerontology 48: 1303-1310, 2013.

9.           Vukovich MD, Slater G, Macchi MB, Turner MJ, Fallon K, Boston T, and Rathmacher J. beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) kinetics and the influence of glucose ingestion in humans. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 12: 631-639, 2001.

10.         Wilson JM, Fitschen PJ, Campbell B, Wilson GJ, Zanchi N, Taylor L, Wilborn C, Kalman DS, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Ziegenfuss TN, Lopez HL, Kreider RB, Smith-Ryan AE, and Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10: 6, 2013.

11.         Wilson JM, Grant SC, Lee SR, Masad IS, Park YM, Henning PC, Stout JR, Loenneke JP, Arjmandi BH, Panton LB, and Kim JS. Beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl-butyrate blunts negative age-related changes in body composition, functionality and myofiber dimensions in rats. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9: 18, 2012.

12.         Wilson JM, Kim JS, Lee SR, Rathmacher JA, Dalmau B, Kingsley JD, Koch H, Manninen AH, Saadat R, and Panton LB. Acute and timing effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) on indirect markers of skeletal muscle damage. Nutrition & metabolism 6: 6, 2009.

13.         Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Joy JM, Andersen JC, Wilson SM, Stout JR, Duncan N, Fuller JC, Baier SM, Naimo MA, and Rathmacher J. The effects of 12 weeks of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate free acid supplementation on muscle mass, strength, and power in resistance-trained individuals: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Appl Physiol 114: 1217-1227, 2014.

14.         Wilson JM, Lowery RP, Joy JM, Walters JA, Baier SM, Fuller JC, Jr., Stout JR, Norton LE, Sikorski EM, Wilson SM, Duncan NM, Zanchi NE, and Rathmacher J. beta-Hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate free acid reduces markers of exercise-induced muscle damage and improves recovery in resistance-trained men. The British journal of nutrition 110: 538-544, 2013.

About the authors:

Jacob WJacob Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS*D is an assistant professor and runs the strength & sports nutrition laboratory at the University of Tampa.  Dr. Wilson’s research has covered the cellular, molecular, and whole body changes in muscle size, strength, and power in response to resistance training and nutritional supplementation interventions.  On these topics he has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and abstracts.  He has recently established a new graduate program at University of Tampa dedicated to Sports Nutrition and has previously been awarded the NSCA’s Terry J. Housh young investigator of the year award.

Ryan LRyan P. Lowery, B.S., CSCS is completing his masters degree in sports nutrition at the University of Tampa.  In 2013, Ryan won the National Championship in baseball with the University of Tampa Spartans. Ryan lowery has served as the senior researcher in Dr. Jacob Wilson’s lab the past four years.  Ryan currently has 22 published manuscripts, 3 book chapters, and over 60 published abstracts, and serves as a reviewer for JISSN.  He has received the Exercise Science Student of the Year Award, NSCA Award for Outstanding Presentation, and most recently the National AAHPERD Exercise Science Major of the Year Award.  Ryan’s main areas of focus are sports nutrition and supplementation.




Vynna: Performance Nutrition by Women for Women! A Manifesto

VynnaVynna is a brand – and a movement: It’s time for a performance nutrition movement by women, for women, with active women owners, decision-makers, scientists, leaders, and support for a vision that lifts women up. It is time that active women have research and evidence-based products that support our strength, power and performance. Let’s build our bodies up rather than tear our bodies down. Let us dominate the world of nutrition for active women.  It’s time for us to feel free to feed and nourish our bodies and our brains for excellence, to be the most that we can be, not the least.  It’s time that the negative messages of restriction take a back seat to the science-based messages of fueling our training, so that beauty and aesthetics become the sustainable outcomes of beating the challenge and achieving peak performance at all levels, for all of us.

We have made incredible achievements in women’s athletics since the passage and institution of Title IX, and research has found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. According to data collected on the impact of Title IX legislation, “there is a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult”. Even so, girls are still six-times as likely as boys to drop out of sports during adolescence.We_Can_Do_It-540x700

We fill the void of research on the performance nutrition needs of women. Until now, diet world advice has masqueraded as sports nutrition for women, with dire consequences. The failed and harmful diet strategies promoted to girls and women to become leaner and sexually desirable lead to a loss of mental and physical energy and metabolic stability, lowering performance in the classroom and on the field. In time girls lose confidence, self-esteem and ambition.

Vynna is an homage to the Swedish heritage of our first product, born out of research from the esteemed Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Vynna (adapted from vinna) means “winning”, and we are a movement about winning women. Our mission is to support the health, well-being and performance of active women and girls.

We are proud to introduce a pioneering, bona-fide, and evidence-based female-centric performance nutrition brand. It’s time for active women scientists to do the research, active women executives to own and run the company, and active women visionaries to drive their own brand. It’s time for Vynna!

Dr. Sue Kleiner and Ms. Bernie Wooster-Wong

  • Co-founders & Co-CEOs
  • Vynna, LLC

A Terrific Trio – The BCAAs

by Livia Ly.  For those who don’t know exactly what Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are, here you Pills eating pillsgo: they include the amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine.  They are part of the family of essential amino acids in which leucine plays the key role in promoting muscle protein anabolism, or synthesis.  For those who are active and looking to increase performance and perhaps muscle mass, BCAAs may be worth taking.  Here’s the short story of how the BCAAs might act as an ergogenic aid.  During prolonged exercise, plasma tryptophan (another amino acid) rises resulting in feelings of fatigue.  Research, however, shows that if you consume BCAAs, it may compete with free tryptophan; thus reducing your perception of fatigue.  The result is that less tryptophan goes to your brain, you get less fatigued, and experience higher performance!    Interesting…The effective dose is ~5 to 20 g.  This can still be easily reached with protein-rich foods; however, the data on BCAAs regarding its ergogenic properties are on the three amino acids as a stand-alone supplement (not as part of a food).

So are there benefits for weight trainers? 

Yep.  BCAA supplementation before/after exercise may help with the muscle pain and damage that you get from lifting all that weight.  Plus, it may promote muscle building, especially if you are brand new to the weight lifting world.  Besides, BCAA supplementation before exercise may also help slow down the breakdown of muscle during exercise; also, there is some good data showing that BCAAs can reduce DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. However, of the three BCAAs, leucine may be the most important.bcaa-blends-main

Why leucine?

Significant decreases in blood leucine occur after aerobic (11 to 33%), anaerobic lactic (5 to 8%) and strength (30%) exercises.  New research from Brazil done by Humberto Nicastro and colleagues, published in March 2014, showed that BCAA/leucine and HMβ are effective supplements in the lessening of muscle damage that is caused by exercise.  By the way – hydroxy-methyl butyrate, or HMβ, is formed via leucine.

I interviewed Dr Nicastro, who is a dietitian in Brazil and coordinator of the VP Research Institute, and asked what he recommends for pre/post exercise in terms of BCAA and leucine. “An adequate amount of protein guarantees the maximum threshold of leucine in the blood.  So if you opt for proteins, there is no need to combine with leucine.  Although there may be a small advantage over the low protein content of leucine (casein, soy, rice).  But even so, if the total dose is corrected for the content of leucine, the effect is comparable,” he said. Dr Nicastro finalized his recommendations by saying “I recommend BCAA/leucine or protein for pre-workout to ease muscle damage during training and for after training to increase muscle synthesis.”

Alright, let’s summarize.  Here are my four must-dos:

1-     Before exercise.  Eating 3 to 6 g of essential amino acids before exercise may help you minimize muscle damage and breakdown.

–        Whey: just so you know, about 25% of all whey protein is made up of BCAAs, which is a substantial amount.

2-     Don’t forget your post-workout snacks!  BCAAs work best building up your muscles when you include them with foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates after your exercise.

3-     Leucine at each meal.  It’s recommended to eat at least 2 g of leucine with each meal, or a minimum of 8 g per day.

–        Whey contains 10% of leucine.  If you drink a shake with 25 g of protein, you will be getting 2.5 g of leucine.

4-     BCAAs for your endurance exercises.  For those of you who love to exercise for long periods of time – you need to eat 6 to 10 g per hour of BCAAs with sports drinks, so you can delay that fatigue that keeps bothering you.


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I’m a health enthusiast.

I’m a dietitian trained in Brazil.

I’m a nutrition grad student in Chicago.