Tag Archives: exercise

Junk Miles and Calories


Junk Miles and Calories – Sports vs Physique Nutrition by Jose Antonio PhD.

An Ephemeral Summary

  • Physique nutrition peeps focus on burning calories.
  • Performance nutrition peeps focus on getting better at a sport or activity.
  • Performance athletes should NOT burn extra calories.
  • There’s a term in distance running called “junk miles.”
  • We should add the term “junk calories” or “junk training” to the performance sports world (i.e. burning calories that serves no useful purpose).

The genesis of this article stems from my third cup of coffee (my fingers won’t keep still) and a talk given by Shawn Arent PhD at the ISSN-London conference titled “Physique vs Sports Nutrition – Are They Contradictory?” What’s interesting is how sports (i.e. performance) and physique nutrition have clearly diverged, particularly on one issue.pole vaulter

What’s the issue? Calories. How many times have you heard or read variations of the following: “RMR is higher when you blah blah.” “HIIT is better than SSC because your RMR is higher longer.” “You got to do this strategy and that strategy because you burn more frickin’ calories.”

The physique world’s obsession with calories is kinda funny actually. I mean it must really suck to have to ‘count’ your calories. I’d need an abacus to figure out how many calories I get from white rice alone. But I guess it goes hand in hand with the myriad of diet programs that basically focus on creating a caloric deficit. Folks who train for looks focus on burning calories the way a runway model focuses on her next meal of bread sticks and cheese. Feel the burn! Yowsah!

Yet in the performance world, you actually do not want to burn extra calories. Nobody in their right mind would tell an athlete, “okay, after you’re done bustin’ your ass on the field, in the gym, or wherever, I want to you to burn even more calories by walking around, doing non-exercise activities (i.e. NEAT), blah blah. In fact, you want to burn as few calories as possible once you’re done training. Why? Because you need to recover. The best thing for performance athletes to do after training is what? If you answered “nothing” go to the head of the class. I’d suggest the best thing to do is sit on your ass and watch Game of Thrones. Or even better, take a nap.Physique

There’s a term used in distance running called “junk miles” (i.e., run training that serves no specific purpose other than to up your mileage). Every workout (and this applies to ALL performance athletes) should have a specific goal in mind. To exercise (for the sake of exercise) is NOT how performance athletes should train. Distance runners, for instance, should not waste time and energy doing “junk miles” (i.e., running that has no specific goal). Each run should have a goal. Is it steady-state or LSD (long slow distance)? Is it SIT (sprint interval training)? Is it fartlek, a tempo run etc.? Training should be specific and goal-oriented. Baseball players train for hitting, fielding, base running etc. Going to the beach and playing ‘catch’ is junk training. No competitive baseball player in their right mind would do that. Other speed-power athletes (e.g., high jump, long jump, pole vault, sprints etc) should also avoid doing junk training just to burn calories.London_Olympics_Beach_Volleyball_Women_t1930

In Conclusion

  • In the physique world, it must really suck to count calories in/calories out.
  • In the performance world, if you train your ass off and eat well most of the time, believe it or not, body composition (i.e. physique) takes care of itself most of the time.
  • I’ve had athletes come to my lab who are weight stable with body fat percentages in the mid- to low-teens (some in the single digits).
  • None of them count calories.
  • In fact, they don’t really count anything.
  • They just train like maniacs and eat food.


The Case for Carbs – Part 1


by Kedric Kwan CISSN. The world of carbohydrates can be one plague with controversy. It seems like people tend to polarize the intake of carbohydrates from either completely low to no carbohydrate or having a high carb diet all day, every day. It’s either cotton candy or some gross sugar-free substitute. And somewhere in that morass of social media confusion, lies the truth.sport_drinks

When the role of carbohydrate is concerned, it is mainly involved in keeping muscle glycogen and blood glucose elevated to facilitate exercise performance.

Classic studies have shown the role skeletal muscle glycogen content plays in sustaining exercise or sporting performance. My favourite one in particular is this study done in soccer players. The finding of the summary is in the table below:

High Glycogen Low Glycogen
Muscle glycogen at start of game: 100% 50%


Muscle glycogen at half time: 40% 7%
Muscle glycogen at full time: 10% 0%
Distance covered first half 6,100m 5,600m
Distance covered second half 5,9000m 4,1000m
Total distance covered 12,000m 9,7000m
Percentage walking 27% 50%
Percentage sprinting 24% 15%

This study basically showed that the football players with higher glycogen covered a staggering 1,300m more and sprinted more and walked less compared to the ones who had low muscle glycogen (Saltin 1973).

I don't like white rice said no Asian ever.

I don’t like white rice said no Asian ever.

You should be convinced now that carbohydrates do play a huge role in both exercise and sporting performance. However, just because something is good doesn’t mean that constantly consuming a ton if it will bring additional benefits.

In the endurance world, performance is definitely affected by carbohydrates and recent studies have indeed demonstrated that (Leckey et al., 2015, Torrens et al., 2016). However, in 8 longitudinal studies evaluating the relationship between a high carbohydrate diet (HCHO) and moderate carbohydrate diet (MCHO), 5 studies showed no difference in performance improvement of HCHO compared to MCHO when it came to the actual performance test (Burke et al., 2004).

This leaves us with the question, is constantly having high carbohydrate availability the best way to maximize endurance performance? Or could strategically periodizing phases of training with low carbohydrate availability enhance performance to a greater extent?

Mitochondrial physiology

In order to fully understand the content of this article we need to understand a little physiology of endurance performance. Besides the role the heart plays, the two ways someone can increase their endurance performance is by increasing the number of mitochondria also known as mitochondria volume density or by improving mitochondrial function. This article will focus mainly on the increasing of mitochondrial volume density also known as mitochondrial biogenesis, instead of its function.

Mitochondria is the site where energy in the form of ATP is produced so the more mitochondria we have, the more ATP we can produce which theoretically leads to an improvement of performance. Since the improvement of performance could be thought of the accumulated response from an acute exercise bout, constant training would result in an improvement of endurance performance through increased mitochondrial volume.outrigger-canoe

Something that governs the increase of mitochondria is the transcription factor called Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α). This has been labelled as the “master regulator” of mitochondrial biogenesis and training in a state of reduced carbohydrate availability seems to augment this by upregulation upstream regulators and protein kinases that are involved in the signalling pathway for mitochondrial biogenesis.

One of the major protein kinases that up regulates PGC-1α is the protein kinase called AMP- activated protein kinase (AMPK). This protein responses mainly to energy availability and the ratio of AMP to ATP, a higher level of AMP concentration simply signals that energy availability is low and AMPK will be upregulated (Alexander and Walker, 2011). Another protein kinases is the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) which is a protein that is sensitive to stress that takes place during exercise mainly in the form of cellular perturbation and oxidative stress. This two proteins act downstream on PGC-1α, increasing it’s activity hence up regulating mitochondrial biogenesis.

Besides PGC-1α, another protein called p53 has also been implicated in the role of mitochondrial biogenesis. Similar to how PGC-1α is upregulated by AMPK and p38 MAPK, p53 is also one of the downstream targets of those proteins.

Training with low carbohydrate availability – the evidence.

One of the most common ways to reduce carbohydrate availability is to train twice a day without ingesting any form of carbohydrate after the first exercise bout. What happens when exercise is commenced with low carbohydrate availability is that the cellular perturbation is increased and energy availability would be greatly reduced hence AMPK and p38 MAPK activity would increase and act on it’s downstream targets. This was first seen in a study done by Hansen and workers (2005) in which they recruited a group of seven untrained males and have them perform single leg knee extensions at 75% maximal power out (Pmax). One leg trained twice a day, every other day (LOW) while the other once a day, every day (HIGH). This training runningprotocol lasted 10 weeks. Only water was ingested while training the LOW leg to ensure that the second bout of training was commenced with lower glycogen stores while the HIGH leg that was trained once every other day trained with regular glycogen levels. After 10 weeks the LOW leg showed higher a increase of Citrate Synthase (CS) which is a marker of increased mitochondrial volume and HAD which shows greater oxidative capacity, compared to the HIGH. The LOW leg also performed better in a time to exhaustion test (TTE) compared to the HIGH.

This study was definitely a huge pain to go through and in most countries, it wouldn’t even get approved by ethics. Hence ecological validity isn’t particularly high but this was simply a “proof of principle” study that eventual lead to more studies being done. Another thing to take note of is that this study was done with untrained population and the effects on trained population might be different

To create a study that had greater real world application, a similarly study was done using a cycling model on 12 endurance trained cyclist or triathletes. Using a similar design in a cycling model, one group trained twice a day with both steady state (SS) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) done on the same day (LOW) every other day while the other group once a day, every day (HIGH) alternating between SS and HIIT for 3 weeks. Participants cycled for an initial 100 minute of SS cycling followed by 8 x 5 minutes of HIIT at 75-80% Pmax (Yeo et al., 2008).

The LOW group was given only water while the high group had no nutritional restriction. In the first two weeks, the LOW group had reduced power output compared to the HIGH but that stabilized in the third week. After 3 weeks, biopsies showed a higher increase in CS and β-HAD in the LOW in agreement to the results reported by Hansen et al. The LOW group also had 12473749_10156454930670440_2801202052687652102_ohigher lipid oxidation compared to the HIGH. A 60 minute time trial was also performed to measure performance improvement but there was no difference between groups. Unlike the study done by Hansen et al which showed an improvement in both mitochondrial adaptation and performance (TTE) Yeo et al couldn’t display an additional performance benefit despite enhance mitochondrial adaptation in the LOW group.

Hulston and colleagues (2010) performed what was almost a replication of the study conducted by Yeo et al with small changes in different training parameters and what they showed was consistent with the previous findings, as markers of mitochondrial adaptation (CS and β-HAD) and lipid oxidation increased while a drop in power output was seen in the low group and both groups showed similar improvement in a time trial test.

Despite the lack of performance improvement, most acute studies done would be in agreement with the chronic studies showing additional improvement in markers of mitochondrial adaptation (some acute studies did not show improvements but will be touched on below). Using a cycling model, Psilander and colleagues (2013) recruited 10 subjects to investigate the acute response to training with reduced glycogen availability on highly trained athletes. They performed exercise either in a high glycogen session or low glycogen session with at least a week in between sessions. On the first day, a protocol to deplete glycogen was done for both high and low sessions. The high session then consumed two high carbohydrates meal and returned for the exercise test 14 hours later, whereas the low session was commenced 14 hours later after consuming two low carbohydrate meal. The exercise test consist of 6 intervals of 10 minutes with 4 minutes of active rest in between intervals. The first interval started at 72.5% Vo2 max and subsequent intervals were reduced by 2.5% making the last interval 60% of Vo2 max. A muscle biopsy obtained 3 hours post test showed a greater increase in PGC-1α expression with also an increase of the mitochondrial enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase lipoamine kinase isoenzyme 4 (PDK-4).keto-diets-suck

In a different study, increases of PDK- 4 and Carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT-1), another mitochondrial enzyme was higher in the group that performed exercise in a lower glycogen state (Bartlett et al., 2013). 8 participants performed a glycogen depletion protocol in the evening lasting 68 minutes. Participants returned the next morning to perform High Intensity Training (HIT) running for 6 x 3 minutes at 90% Vo2 max. Participants exercised either in a high (HIGH) carbohydrate state or low (LOW) carbohydrate state. In the HIGH state, participants were fed carbohydrate before, during and after HIT while in the LOW state, no carbohydrate was fed before, during and after HIT. Participants switched groups (HIGH to LOW or LOW to HIGH) and repeated the protocol with a minimum of 7 days rest between protocols. Phosphorylation of p53 was also higher in LOW compared to HIGH but the increase of PGC-1α was similar between both groups.

So far every exercise protocol here has been done using an endurance exercise model, for all the meat heads out there, don’t lose hope as there is one study that used resistance training to investigate similar hypothesis.

Low carbohydrate availability and resistance exercise.

In this study, Camera and workers (2015) recruited participants to perform resistance exercise to investigate the acute response on mitochondrial adaptation. A group of 8 healthy fit males were recruited and they performed a glycogen depletion protocol on one leg. Participants then consumed a low carbohydrate dinner and returned the next morning to perform resistance exercise after an overnight fast to ensure one leg would perform the exercise in a low glycogen state. Participants then performed 8x 5 minutes at 80% of their 1RM with 3 minutes rest in

Check out Pauline's glycogen filled skeletal muscles.

Check out Pauline’s glycogen filled skeletal muscles.

between legs. The leg that performed resistance exercise in a low glycogen state had greater phosphorylation of p53 compared to the normal leg and PGC-1α also had a higher increase in the low glycogen leg.

As far as the acute and chronic changes in mitochondrial adaptation is concerned, it’s safe to say that training in a low glycogen/carbohydrate state definitely enhances this response. When it comes to performance, it’s not so clear cut.

Two other studies showed increases in both mitochondrial adaptations but when it came to the actual performance test, improvements were similar across both groups with no additional performance outcome (Morton et al., 2009, Van Proeyen et al., 2011).

Low carbohydrate availability and greater performance improvement.

However there are two studies that have been published recently that shows an improvement in performance. The first was done by Cochran and workers (2015) which showed that high intensity interval training (HIIT) performed twice a day with the second bout in a glycogen reduced state showed an improvement in a 250kj time trial compared the control group. This training protocol lasted 2 weeks. Another study was published early this year that showed that by simply altering the timing of intake of carbohydrate resulted in both a reduction in body fat and improved performance in a stimulated triathlon test (Marquetz et al., 2016).

In brief, both groups performed two bouts of exercise. The first bout of exercise took place in the evening and consisted of 8 x 5 minutes of maximum aerobic power followed by 60 minutes of cycling at 65% maximum aerobic power. The sleep low group restricted carbohydrate from their meals after the first bout of exercise up till the second bout of exercise whereas the Science rocks piccontrol group maintained carbohydrate availability with throughout the recovery period up till the second exercise bout and a carbohydrate drink was consumed during the second bout of exercise. After the second bout of exercise, the sleep low group then consumed large amount of carbohydrates to match the amount consumed by the control group. Both groups were given a protein drink before bed and total energy intake was matched between groups.

Improvements in triathlon simulated trial, decreased in heart rate and rate of perceived exertion took place only in the sleep low group whereas the control group showed no noticeable difference. This study is significant because it’s the first and only study that showed an improvement in performance in a group of highly trained athletes whereas the previous studies (Hansen et al and Cochran et al) was done in untrained individuals.

This is almost all the evidence there is on training with low carbohydrate availability and I hope that it has given some insight on the mechanism on how it works.

I’ve purposefully left out some evidence from the literature because I plan to include that in the next part where we will touch on the implementation of low carbohydrate availability training and how to optimise it to get a performance outcome.  Part 2 coming soon!


Alexander, A. and Walker, C. (2011). The role of LKB1 and AMPK in cellular responses to stress and damage. FEBS Letters, 585(7), pp.952-957.

Bartlett, J., Louhelainen, J., Iqbal, Z., Cochran, A., Gibala, M., Gregson, W., Close, G., Drust, B. and Morton, J. (2013). Reduced carbohydrate availability enhances exercise-induced p53 signaling in human skeletal muscle: implications for mitochondrial biogenesis. AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 304(6), pp.R450-R458.

Burke, L., Kiens, B. and Ivy, J. (2004). Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), pp.15-30.

Camera, D., Hawley, J. and Coffey, V. (2015). Resistance exercise with low glycogen increases p53 phosphorylation and PGC-1α mRNA in skeletal muscle. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(6), pp.1185-1194.

Cochran, A., Myslik, F., MacInnis, M., Percival, M., Bishop, D., Tarnopolsky, M. and Gibala, M. (2015). Manipulating Carbohydrate Availability Between Twice-Daily Sessions of High-Intensity Interval Training Over 2 Weeks Improves Time-Trial Performance. IJSNEM, 25(5), pp.463-470.

Hansen, A., Fischer, C., Plomgaard, P., Andersen, J., Saltin, B. and Pedersen, B. (2005). Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day versus training once daily. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 15(1), pp.65-66.

Hulston, C., Venables, M., Mann, C., Martin, C., Philip, A., Baar, K. and Jeukendrup, A. (2010). Training with Low Muscle Glycogen Enhances Fat Metabolism in Well-Trained Cyclists. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(11), pp.2046-2055.

Leckey, J., Burke, L., Morton, J. and Hawley, J. (2015). Altering fatty acid availability does not impair prolonged, continuous running to fatigue: evidence for carbohydrate dependence. Journal of Applied Physiology, 120(2), pp.107-113.

Marquet, L., Brisswalter, J., Louis, J., Tiollier, E., Burke, L., Hawley, J. and Hausswirth, C. (2016). Enhanced Endurance Performance by Periodization of CHO Intake. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, p.1.

Morton, J., Croft, L., Bartlett, J., MacLaren, D., Reilly, T., Evans, L., McArdle, A. and Drust, B. (2009). Reduced carbohydrate availability does not modulate training-induced heat shock protein adaptations but does upregulate oxidative enzyme activity in human skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology, 106(5), pp.1513-1521

Psilander, N., Frank, P., Flockhart, M. and Sahlin, K. (2012). Exercise with low glycogen increases PGC-1α gene expression in human skeletal muscle. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 113(4), pp.951-963.

Saltin, B. (1973). Metabolic fundamentals in exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 5(3), pp.137-146.

Torrens, S., Areta, J., Parr, E. and Hawley, J. (2016). Carbohydrate dependence during prolonged simulated cycling time trials. European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Van Proeyen, K., Szlufcik, K., Nielens, H., Ramaekers, M. and Hespel, P. (2010). Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(1), pp.236-245.

Yeo, W., Paton, C., Garnham, A., Burke, L., Carey, A. and Hawley, J. (2008). Skeletal muscle adaptation and performance responses to once a day versus twice every second day endurance training regimens. Journal of Applied Physiology, 105(5), pp.1462-1470.

About the Author: Kedric Kwan CISSN

Kedric is a performance nutritionist (CISNN) certified through the International society of sports nutriKedric Kwantion (ISSN) and is currently pursuing his MSc. His researc
h is currently focusing on
carbohydrate and it’s effect on sports performance with a particular interest in the molecular signalling pathways. He has worked with professional football players, powerlifters and endurance athletes but his current clientele consist of strength/power athletes and the general weekend warrior. His aim is to able to translate the ABC soup of complex science into something palatable for the general population. He is also a competitive powerlifter and when he is not spending time nerding over science or lifting heavy weights, he enjoys indulging in ice cream and reading about superheroes. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned things, feel free to drop him a holla!

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.


HIIT vs LISS – A Better Way to Lose Fat?

by Jose Antonio PhD FISSN – First let’s get the acronyms out of the way.  HIIT stands for Helga paddling SUPhigh-intensity interval training; LISS stands for low intensity steady state cardio.  HIIT is sometimes abbreviated HIT.  One form of training is hard and painful (HIIT) but doesn’t last as long whereas the other is not quite so painful (depending on how long you do it) but takes a longer amount of time.  Is one better than the other for losing fat?

I’ve always found this question a bit odd.  It’s like asking which wheel of the bicycle is more important. The front or the back one?  Uhhhh…they’re both important.

Now before I give you the punch line, what’s the data say?  With so many HIIT fanatics out there, one would think that doing LISS is a total waste of time.  First of all, let’s change the definition for a second.  I instead would call it SSC (stands for steady-state cardio).  Why?  Because there is this misguided impression that SSC has to be low intensity.  Try training with a collegiate distance runner on their ‘easy’ days.  SSC in that case could be a sub-6 min per mile pace for several miles.  You think that’s easy?  Low intensity?  Bwwaaaaah….You’re a fool if you think that’s easy.

So part of the answering the debate of SSC (LISS) vs HIIT is one of redefining SSC.  SSC can be quite difficult and painful.  If it is not, then you’re a jolly jogger and not a runner.  Or a jolly biker, paddler, swimmer, etc. You get the picture. :-)

What’s the data say on SSC?

Let’s check out a few studies.   A long-term supervised aerobic exercise training program was administered to 41 obese children (21 boys, 20 girls; 11 years old). The 2-year training program was performed during the daily school life. Lean body mass increased throughout the 2 year study while the total body weight decreased; the weight loss is attributed to a ultraendurancedecrease in fat.(1)  What?  You can lose fat doing SSC? :-)

What if we directly compared high intensity interval training (HIIT) versus continuous aerobic exercise training (CONT)?  In 38 previously inactive overweight adults there was a significant reduction in android fat percentage in CONT but not HIIT. Wait.  I thought HIIT was soooo much better?  The authors stated that “HIIT may be advocated as a time-efficient strategy for eliciting comparable fitness benefits to traditional continuous exercise in inactive, overweight adults. However, in this population HIIT does not confer the same benefit to body fat levels as continuous exercise training.(2)”  Furthermore, aerobic exercise is an effective approach to reduce visceral fat besides in overweight male CKD patients.(3)

Certainly other studies confirm the benefits of traditional aerobic (i.e. SSC) training.  Two months of aerobic cycling training improves body composition in young women.(4)  Also, daily moderate intensity aerobic exercise is effective at reducing abdominal fat mass, while high intensity exercise improves cardiopulmonary function.(5)

HIIT better?HIIT1

First of all, let’s get one thing clear.  HIIT is not a new way of training.  You can go back 70 years ago and find that famed distance runner, Emil Zatopek, was one of the first to utilize the interval training method.  HIIT has been used by endurance athletes for decades.  I find it somewhat amusing that folks in the ‘fitness industry’ feel like they’ve discovered some novel form of training.  It’s the greatest thing ever some exclaim.  Better than sliced bread, the zipper, and penicillin combined!  So what’s the deal with HIIT?  Does it burn fat fast?

Uh yeah.

You can do both, darling.In a recent study, HIIT was found to be more effective than SSC.  The HIIT folks are saying “See, I told you so!”   In this study, 54 people with intellectual disabilities (not your typical sample) were trained via: sprint interval training (n = 17), continuous aerobic training (n = 15) or control (n = 14). “Compared with continuous aerobic training, sprint interval training seems to result in better outcome.(6)”  Also, short-term low-volume HIT is a time-efficient strategy to improve body composition and muscle oxidative capacity in overweight/obese women.(7)  In a fairly large study, 60 female university students were randomly assigned to either a HIIT group, the moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) group or a non-training control group.  After 12 weeks of training, both type of training produced significant improvements in the subjects’ body composition, left ventricular ejection fraction, heart rate at rest, maximal oxygen uptake and ventilatory threshold. However, the HIIT group achieved better results than those in the MICT group, as it was evaluated by the amount of the effect size.(8)

I think the HIIT vs SSC (or LISS) debate is somewhat misguided.  If your goal is losing body fat and you don’t really give a shit about anything else, then by all means, you should do both.  They BOTH work.  Very few if any studies are performed on highly trained individuals.  So what we are left with is a smattering of studies on fat and/or out-of-shape people.  Heck, in that population, pretty much anything will work.  But if you’re a fitness maniac, then it’s a bit more difficult to lose fat to begin with.

But honestly, changing your diet is probably as important (if not more important) then either.  Doing HIIT is a great time-efficient way to train.  Doing HIIT too often will likely result in some degree of overtraining.  Let’s face it; to do HIIT correctly requires a high pain threshold.  It should hurt.  It should hurt a lot in fact!  SSC is good in that you can do it quite frequently without too great a risk of injury and/or overtraining.

So how much of each can or should you do?

Dr. Stephen Seiler wrote a great article on interval training and long slow distance (SSC). http://www.sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm

Think of the 80:20 rule.  Elite endurance athletes perform 80% or more of their training as SSC (i.e. intensities below the lactate threshold) with the remaining 20% being interval training (i.e. HIIT).  It is intriguing in that when you look across a wide variety of endurance sports (i.e. cycling, running, rowing, cross-country skiing, etc), they all follow this distribution of training.  Coaches (and athletes) have somehow figured out that if HIIT exceeds more than 20% of your training volume, it would likely have a diminishing or detrimental effect.  Thus, if we were to borrow from the lessons of elite endurance athletes, I’d suggest that you limit your HIIT to no more than twice per week.  Any other cardio you do beyond that should be SSC.


Also, keep in mind that ‘cardio’ (i.e. SSC) doesn’t have to be that boring shit you see at the gym.  Does anyone actually like riding a stationary bike for an hour?  Doing the stairstepper?  Get your butt outside and try some non-traditional ‘cardio’ work.  You’ll be having so much fun that you won’t think twice about the HIIT vs SSC (or LISS) debate.


1.            Sasaki J, Shindo M, Tanaka H, Ando M, Arakawa K. A long-term aerobic exercise program decreases the obesity index and increases the high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration in obese children. Int J Obes 1987;11(4):339-45.

2.            Keating SE, Machan EA, O’Connor HT, Gerofi JA, Sainsbury A, Caterson ID, et al. Continuous exercise but not high intensity interval training improves fat distribution in overweight adults. J Obes 2014;2014:834865.

3.            Baria F, Kamimura MA, Aoike DT, Ammirati A, Leister Rocha M, de Mello MT, et al. Randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of aerobic exercise on visceral fat in overweight chronic kidney disease patients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2014;29(4):857-64.

4.            Stasiulis A, Mockiene A, Vizbaraite D, Mockus P. Aerobic exercise-induced changes in body composition and blood lipids in young women. Medicina (Kaunas) 2010;46(2):129-34.

5.            Kwon HR, Min KW, Ahn HJ, Seok HG, Koo BK, Kim HC, et al. Effects of aerobic exercise on abdominal fat, thigh muscle mass and muscle strength in type 2 diabetic subject. Korean Diabetes J 2010;34(1):23-31.

6.            Boer PH, Meeus M, Terblanche E, Rombaut L, Wandele ID, Hermans L, et al. The influence of sprint interval training on body composition, physical and metabolic fitness in adolescents and young adults with intellectual disability: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil 2014;28(3):221-31.

7.            Gillen JB, Percival ME, Ludzki A, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Interval training in the fed or fasted state improves body composition and muscle oxidative capacity in overweight women. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013;21(11):2249-55.

8.            Sijie T, Hainai Y, Fengying Y, Jianxiong W. High intensity interval exercise training in overweight young women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2012;52(3):255-62.


Is Dieting and Being Bikini Ready Year Around Safe?

By Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN.  We’ve always thought it was funny when women would tell us that they can stay in bikini shape year-around and still make gains in their physiques. We would sit there and ask them, “So how exactly do you plan on doing this?” They would always how-to-get-a-better-and-perfect-beach-body-188reply with, “Oh just be strict on my diet and ‘eat clean,’ low calories, low carb it, lots of cardio, and stick to my high rep training to stay toned.”

We kid you not, every answer was something along those lines and we wouldn’t critique their responses because we knew that these were A) The type that got their info from Gwyneth Paltrow out of a magazine and B) The type of women that would not listen to a word that came out of our mouths and would just nod their pretty little faces and go on about their business in their Lululemon yoga pants.

We decided to do some research on this, ask some fellow experts in the field, use our real world practice, experience, and results from our female clients, and write this article. We want to inform you if being in bikini shape year-round is safe, smart, realistic, healthy, and then some. You ready to find out if you can stay in bikini shape year-around and still make progress in your body?

Crashing Your Metabolism

Let’s start this off with crashing your metabolism or a more appropriate word would be ‘Metabolic Adaptation’ through excessive calorie restriction and excessive aerobic training volumes. What’s metabolic adaptation you ask? The way we define this is your metabolism is permitted from losing body fat unless you starve yourself. It’s a lack of weight loss disproportionate to your calorie intake.

A common example of this would be a bikini or figure competitor. They would be on an 15370_83_1extremely low calorie diet, anywhere form 600-1,000 calories and doing a high volume of low intensity aerobic exercise, anywhere from 2-3 hours a day and up to 5-6 times a week, and eventually they would end up not being able to drop body fat.

“The reason they can’t drop body fat is because their body adapts to the low calorie intake and the high calorie output so much to where they don’t get any caloric burn from exercise. They also have very little thermogenic effect from foods and low basal metabolic rates. Their metabolism is blunted, so they don’t have any type of metabolic cushion to work with and thus they can’t lose adipose tissue.” says Layne Norton.

(Note: For more info on Metabolic Adaptation click here)

When you’re in a severe caloric restriction and doing high volumes of aerobic training, which 99% of the time means trying to attain low body fat levels so you can fit in that poke a dot bikini, you have to understand that maintaining this shape is very difficult, unhealthy, and most of the times unrealistic.

Is it Possible to be in Bikini Shape Year-Round?

In our opinions, there are four ways that you can realistically stay in bikini shape and still improve your physique, more on that in a moment. We went ahead and asked expert Alan Aragon what ways he thought someone could stay bikini ready year-around:

Whether or not it’s realistic to stay in bikini shape all year-round depends on just how ‘in-shape’ we’re talking about. beach-body1_45While hard work and dedication is obviously involved, the look of women on fitness magazine covers is largely based on genetics. In many cases, it’s a matter of having won the genetic lottery, plus getting some extra help from drugs.”

We agree with some of Alan’s points; however we feel there are some other ways that you can realistically stay in bikini shape and still improve your physique:

  1. You are genetically gifted and have all the right things going for you
  2. Having an ectomorphic body type with a greyhound type (very fast) metabolism
  3. Extra help from drugs
  4. Implement Reverse dieting

Since we all aren’t genetic freaks, don’t have sky rocketing metabolisms, and last time we checked drugs were illegal, let’s focus on the last one, implementing reverse dieting.

Enter Reverse Dieting

When you implement reverse dieting you want to focus on improving your metabolic capacity so that you can handle a higher level of calories for gaining muscle mass, without putting on excessive body fat. When you can fully maximize your metabolic capacity, this will play a key role in dropping body fat when you’re in a caloric restriction aka dieting for that bikini.

For example, who’s going to have an easier time losing fat?

Subject A) Person who maintains their body weight on 3000 calories or

Subject B) Person who maintains their body weight on 1500 calories

It’s subject ‘A’ because they have a higher metabolic capacity. Subject ‘A’ has more caloric cushion to work with when it comes to dropping calories over the course of time.

Reverse dieting will also help with re-storing your metabolism to a more suitable rate to your body. In order to do this you must slowly, deliberately, and in a controlled fashion add in calories to your diet.

Reverse dieting could also possibly help lose body fat because your metabolism becomes stimulated. If you want to drop fat, you have to have the metabolic capacity to do so and if you’re constantly maintaining your weight in bikini shape around 1,000 calories then you aren’t going to have the metabolic cushion to lose fat nor will you have the caloric intake to gain muscle mass and make improvements in your physique.

Is It Safe To Be In Bikini Shape Year-Round?

Prolonged dieting and severe calorie restriction isn’t a very smart thing to do and if you want us to be frank, it’s pretty damn stupid just to sit there and attempt this just to say you can fit into a sexy leopard bikini all year around or hop on a red eye to Vegas any time of the year.

We know this is a big deal for some of you ladies, some others it’s not, but there are serious psychological and physiological health implications from doing this. Allow us:

  • The high volume of training, low energy intake (calories), and stress hormones produced by psychological stress, may lead to a physiological alteration in the endocrinological control of the menstrual cycle (loss of periods).
  • Low energy levels over a period of time can cause higher concentrations of growth hormone, cortisol, and lower concentrations of leptin, insulin, and triiodothyronine. These are all hormones related to metabolism, and thus to nutritional and metabolic status.
  • Some female athletes have a classic eating disorder, potentially driven by a need to maintain a low body mass for performance (i.e., bikini body).
  • You could potentially develop osteoporosis (thin and weak bones) from malnutrition and low energy intake.
  • Your mental health state can become a real issue when it comes to relationships, social events, work, etc.

That sexy leopard bikini and Vegas trip with the girls can wait until summer.

Plumping Up That Booty

Now, we know you don’t want to have a flat booty in your sexy bikini year after year right? So how do you expect to get your booty to improve if you’re constantly low calorie dieting with tons of cardio? The answer is you can’t. You will have a flat behind in your sexy bikini year-around, year after year, unless you do some of the things we discussed in the earlier part of this article. You also have to target your glutes directly when you train and use movements such as: Barbell hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, single leg hip thrusts, etc.

(For more info on direct glute training click here). 

You just can’t make improvements to your physique if you’re low calorie dieting all year around. You simply won’t have the calories or energy to build muscle or even train hard. On the contrary, if you have more calories in your diet, then you’ll have more energy, more strength, increased glycogen in the muscle, you’ll train harder, you’ll recover better, and thus you’ll make more gains in your physique, especially the booty.

Wrap Up

As you can see, it was very hard to sit there and critique these pretty ladies responses to staying bikini ready all year-around in a quick conversation. Hopefully we’ve informed you on why it’s just not safe and smart to try and stay bikini ready all-year around. Some take home points are:

  • Don’t eat extreme low calorie diets and do excessive amounts of low intensity aerobic exercise, this is a recipe for Metabolic Adaptation.
  • Metabolic Adaptation does occur, although there’s not much data on this yet, the anecdotal evidence is very clear and should not be taken lightly.
  • Implement reverse dieting to build your caloric and metabolic capacity.
  • Understand that maintaining this type of shape is very difficult, unhealthy, and most of the times unrealistic.
  • If you want to improve your physique, you should reverse diet and slowly add in calories over time along with a proper training protocol.

It may look cute and feel good to stay bikini ready year-around, but the cons out weigh the pros and we personally would never want to be complacent and look the same year after year. So, unless you’re one of the rare and gifted ones out there, don’t think you can just stay in bikini shape year-around and still make improvements in your physique. Put in the work senoritas.  :-)

Special Thanks To:

Layne Norton and Alan Aragon for their thoughts and comments on this subject.


  1. Johannsen et al. Metabolic Slowing with Massive Weight Loss Despite Preservation of Fat-Free Mass. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012
  2. Wong et al. Caloric Restriction Induces Changes in Insulin and Body Weight Measurements That Are Inversely Associated with Subsequent Weight regain. PLoS one. 2012
  3. Sports and Women Athletes: The Female Triad Athlete. Am Fam Physician. 2004. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0401/p1734.html
  4. Karen Birch. Female Triad Athlete. BMJ. 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC546077/
  5. Layne Norton. Metabolic Damage. 2012 Dec. http://youtu.be/QHHzie6XRGk

About The Authors:

Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class personal training and online training business “Dynamic Duo Training,” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, fitness models, and coaches that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”

Visit them at:

Dynamic Duo Training


FaceBook Page


YouTube Channel


Exercise in a Pill: Not so Fast

exercise-pill-for-insomnia1By Brad Dieter, MS, CSCS, CISSN.  I just returned from the American College of Sports Medicine conference in which the theme was “Exercise is Medicine”.  I would argue that exercise is indeed medicine and that diet and exercise are the most powerful “medicines” to combat the current epidemic of modern chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, Robert H. Butler stated, “If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation”. The advances of modern science have reached a point where they can mimic the effects of exercise through pharmacological agents at a cellular level. The purpose of this article is to review some of these pharmacological agents and provide a comparison of them to actual real exercise in regards to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.  Unfortunately, in order to fully grasp the concept of “exercise in a pill” I have to explain some rather technical concepts.

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and Heart Disease

It is quite clear that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are the biggest health issues in America. While this is an oversimplification, I believe these three diseases are connected and are related to metabolic dysfunction. Additionally, I argue that this metabolic dysfunction can be attributed to lipid accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction for when we examine the data regarding of these three diseases, we observe both lipid accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Exercise and Muscle Adaptation

Exercise induces physiological changes in every system of our body with our muscle tissue undergoing the most dramatic and metabolically significant changes.  The adaptations in muscle that arise from exercise are both acute and chronic, with each type impacting metabolic processes and function. The most salient adaptations to this discussion include non-insulin dependent glucose transport, increased intramuscular fatty-acid oxidation, increased insulin sensitivity, and enhanced mitochondrial function. Furthermore, each of these adaptations aid in attenuating and reversing lipid accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction. There are currently several hypotheses on the pathogenesis of these diseased states with lipid accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction serving as a uniting factor in each of them. Taken together, this suggests the cellular adaptations to muscle tissue that arise from exercise are beneficial to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.  Therefore, inducing these adaptations or activating the same signaling pathways through pharmacological interventions may produce benefits similar to exercise. Two main signaling processes involved in exercise that are currently being targeted with pharmacological agents are AMPK and the PGC1/PPAR co-activator/transcription factor.


One of the best understood metabolic enzymes is AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a master regulator of cellular and organism metabolism whose function is conserved in all eukaryotes (1).  AMPK is involved in glucose homeostasis and is direct impacted through exercise. Briefly, AMPK is activated in response to an increase in the AMP/ATP ratio which increases during exercise with ATP is utilized for fuel (See Figure 1). This indicates that during exercise, AMPK signals GLUT4 translocation and non-insulin dependent glucose disposal.F3.large

A brilliant paper by Fryer et al. (2002) demonstrated all of the necessary components to indicate the critical role AMPK plays in the beneficial adaptations of exercise in glucose homeostasis and how pharmacological therapy can mimic cellular conditions present during exercise (2).  In the paper, the authors successfully demonstrated that AMPK does indeed stimulate glucose uptake into cells. More importantly, they demonstrated that pharmacological agents can mimic the effect of exercise by “activating” AMPK.  In their study they demonstrated that AICAR, a synthetic analogue of AMP, effectively increased AMPK signaling and glucose transport in skeletal muscle tissue.  These results are not unique, another study in 2002 demonstrated that AICAR increased glucose transport (3).  Put simply, AICAR mimics muscle contraction and AMPK activation by increasing the AMP/ATP ratio (Figure 2).  Furthermore, it has been shown that the anti-diabetic drugs Rosiglitazone and Metformin improve glucose control through the AMPK pathway (4). Taken together, this indicates that AICAR, and other pharmacological agents, can mimic the acute effects exercise has on glucose disposal through activating AMPK and GLUT4 translocation.

PPAR- γ and PGC-1 Agonists

Exercise can induce adaptations in genetic expression in muscle tissue which result in the manufacturing of certain proteins that alter muscle cell function. Many of these adaptations occur via Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR) and its co-activator PGC-1. Briefly, PPAR is a  nuclear receptor that regulates glucose and fatty acid metabolism and PGC-1 effects biologic responses that equip the cell to meet the energy demands of a changing environment, including augmentation of mitochondrial biogenesis, cellular respiration rates, and energy substrate uptake and utilization (5). While we can discuss PGC-1 and PPAR-γ separate from AMPK, they can also be discussed together as AMPK influences PGC-1 and PPAR (6, 7). This discussion is interesting but is outside the scope of this article. A brief explanation is depicted in figure 3, and while there are additional AMPK independent pathways (i.e. p38 MAPK) I feel this figure shows the concept easily enough.

Put simply, type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease in which we observe dysfunction in the metabolism of both carbohydrate and fat.  As metabolism is initially controlled at a cellular level we observed differences in gene expression and nuclear receptor activation between type 2 diabetics and normal, healthy individuals. One key difference is a lower expression of PGC1-α in type 2 diabetics (8).  This down of PGC1-α is concurrent with decreased oxidative phosphorylation, indicating mitochondrial dysfunction (9).  Exercise has been shown to upregulate transcription of PGC-1.  This upregulation leads to enhanced lipid metabolism, improved mitochondrial function, and mitochondrial biogenesis (10, 11).  Taken together, this indicates that exercise improves lipid accumulation and mitochondrial function through PGC-1α

PGC-1 agonist drugs have been shown to mimic the cellular adaptations of exercise through PGC-1 and that the adaptations are functional as enhance exercise endurance in rats (12)

While it is clear that PGC-1 is a key player in exercise-induced skeletal muscle adaptations, specifically mitochondrial biogenesis, it is not the only player.  Researchers have demonstrated that there are other mechanisms that contribute to this exercise induced adaptations with PGC-1α knockout mice (13).  This appears to indicate that while PGC-1 agonists can have a beneficial effect on skeletal muscle, there are other mechanisms through which exercise induces beneficial adaptions. Taken together, I would conclude that while these drug therapies may be beneficial, the specific targets of these drugs (PGC-1 agonists) do not mimic the full extent of exercise as I will touch on next.

Both PPAR-γ and its co-activator, PGC-1, have been targets for pharmacological therapy to treat type 2 diabetes, specifically thiazolidinediones (TZD’s) (14).  These agents have shown to be efficacious for glucose control in diabetes even though the mechanisms were not fully explained at the time.  Additionally, PPAR-γ agonists do not specifically target the muscle cells, they also interact with adipocytes and promote lipid storage (Figure 4). Taken together, it appears these pharmacological agents may mimic exercise and are effective in improving lipid metabolism (PPAR-γ) and improving mitochondrial function and biogenesis (PGC-1) in muscle cells; however, they are not muscle cell specific, indicating they may also increase body fat which has negative consequences on inflammation and metabolism.

In Summary

As evidenced in this article, pharmacological therapy can mimic many of the effects of exercise at a cellular level and may indeed have a place in treating obesity. These therapies may be powerful tools in the initial treatment to help “kick start” an eexercise-pillxercise regimen and begin to shift our metabolic engine in a better direction. That being said, I do not believe we have truly replaced exercise. As witnessed with these drugs, many of their positive effects at the muscle tissue may be counteracted in the adipose tissue (i.e. TZDs). Furthermore, they do not confer the same benefits in regards to psychological health or skeletal health. As with all drugs they ought to be a tool to augment the role of a healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet and exercise.

BIO – Brad is a Ph.D. student at the University of Idaho. He is in a joint program studying exercise physiology and ethics. He received his M.S. degree in biomechanics and has a passion for evolutionary nutrition and the potential it has to combat the current declining state of health. Brad has a background as an athlete, basketball coach, and strength and conditioning coach. He loves learning about the human body, how it functions, and how we can optimally nourish it. He is focusing his doctoral work on how diet and exercise influence metabolism and health in relation to chronic, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.



Keeping Track of Rest Period – Is It Worth It?

“Time is the most precious commodity out there. It’s the one thing you can’t buy or ever buy back. Give it your absolute all to whatever task it is your doing, no matter how big or small it is.” – Muscle Prodigy

This is a deep quote that hits home every time we read it. Ultimately, this has brought us to writing this article on rest periods. Why is it that we are constantly feeling pressed for time? Why do we always keep track of time whether it’s with our cell phones, watches, or clocks? Why do we always look at the time to see if it’s 5 pm yet at work? We are always keeping track of time, but why is it that we don’t keep track of time when we are training, as in our rest periods? We’ve found that a lot of people don’t do it simply because they are always in a rush, too lazy to keep track of it, or they don’t understand the benefits of it. So, before we get down-right nasty with this article, just remember that this might not be your cup of tea, but trust us, we will make you think twice about going to buy a stop watch or busting out your I Pod’s stop watch during training.

How Much Time Should You Rest?

(1) The position statement of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that rest periods should be 2-3 minutes for multi-joint exercises (i.e., squats, deadlifts, bench press) and 1-2 minutes for single-joint exercises (i.e., leg extensions, bicep curls).slow-gains-267x300

(2) The National Academy of Strength and Conditioning (NSCA) recommends 2-5 minutes for strength, 2-5 minutes for power, 30 seconds-1.5 minutes for hypertrophy (muscle growth), and less than 30 seconds for muscular endurance.

(3,4) A 2007 study, showed the influence of different rest interval lengths in multi-joint and single-joint exercises. This was reviewed in the November Strength and Conditioning Research Review  by Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley.  They came away with the following key points:

  • When subjects performed both the multi-joint bench press and the single-joint machine chest fly, they performed a reduced number of repetitions when short rest periods (1-3 minute) were used than when longer rest periods (3 minutes) were used.
  • There was a progressive reduction in the number of repetitions performed for both the bench press and the machine chest fly across all sets.
  • The reduction in the number of repetitions was less when longer rest periods were used, irrespective of whether the exercise was a single-joint or a multi-joint exercise.

Be Specific With Your Rest Periods

After looking at these 2 highly accredited organizations recommendations and this interesting study, it comes down to the principle of specificity and let us explain that a little more. For example, let’s say you have 2 subjects: Subject A) is training for a powerlifting meet and subject B) is training for a marathon.

These 2 subjects training loads are going to be very different. As the powerlifter will be training in the 1-5 rep max range and will need at least 5 minutes of rest if not more between sets and the marathon runner will be training in the 20-30 rep range trying to build muscular endurance and will need approximately 30 seconds of rest between sets.

So as you can see the length of the rest period between sets and exercises is highly dependent on the goal of training, the amount of weight being lifted, and the athlete or person’s training status. You have to know what you’re training for and use specificity. Are you training to be a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, an endurance athlete, a sport, or are you simply just trying to look good naked? You have to ask yourself all of these questions and be specific as to what your goals are.

So Exactly How Long Should You Rest Now?

We know a lot of you are looking for a black and white answer as to what’s the optimal rest period to get the best results. But to be honest there is no one exact rest period for optimal results. You have to see how your body adapts to different rest periods. You have to experiment with all of the energy systems your body uses during training. You have to test how long it will take to be mentally and physically prepared for the next set. You have to be specific about your goals like we discussed earlier and then you have to use trial and error and see what works for your body. Try using some of the rest period lengths from the above recommendations as a starting point and track it.

The Benefits of Tracking Rest Periods

Okay so if you are still not convinced on the importance of tracking your rest periods, let us get out our sexy list of benefits for you:

  • Keeping track of rest periods is another measurement for progress
  • It’s another data point on the stat sheet to have
  • It helps keep you more focused during your workouts
  • It gives you a chance to experiment with all three of the energy systems (phosphogen system, glycolitic and the oxidative system) fast, medium, and slow.
  • It gives you a good indication of how fast or slow your body recovers with different rep schemes and loads (weight)

If you still aren’t buying this, then just help us twins out and give it a try.

Wrapping It Up

We always want to keep track of the weight, reps, and sets, so why neglect rest period lengths? We aren’t going to go as far as saying that this will make a 50% difference in your training and overall progress but over time it will make at least a 5-10% difference. Funny thing is people will sit there and say “well 5-10% just isn’t worth keeping track and recording my rest periods.” Truth is if you keep finding tricks that will make a 5-10% difference and go that extra mile to do it, over time you’re going to eventually make more progress than that other person. So, remember to know your goals first, use the principle of specificity, use some of the rest period lengths from the above recommendations as a starting point, use trial and error, and record the damn rest periods in your training logs. So is recording your rest periods worth it? Hmmm… We’d say just give it a go. What do you have to lose by trying it?


  1. The position statement of the American College of Sports Medicine
  2. Baechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning/ National Strength and Conditioning Association. USA: 2008 by the National Strength and Conditioning Association
  3. Simao et al. Influence of exercise order on the number of repetitions performed and perceived exertion during resistance exercise in women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 2007
  4. Contreras, Bret. Beardsley, Chris. Strength and Conditioning Research Review. November 2012. Pg 16


About The Authors:

Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class personal training and online training business “Dynamic Duo Training,” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, fitness models, and coaches that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”


Visit them at:

Dynamic Duo Training


FaceBook Page


YouTube Channel





Timely Advice from Smarty-Pants of All Kinds

Question:  What simple piece of nutrition/supplement/exercise advice would you give to a fitness enthusiast who wants to lose fat/gain muscle?

My advice is this:  – DO consume 5 g of creatine daily; DO consume a high-quality protein immediately post-exercise.  DO consume fish or fish oil regularly.  DON’T consume (or limit severely) processed carbs.  DON’T make sad sorry excuses.  And quit stuffin’ your face for Pete’s sake. – Jose Antonio PhD FACSM FNSCA FISSN –  Sports Nutrition Insider Editor in Chief

Words of Wisdom From The Expertseinstein1_7

Focus on protein at every meal (poultry, lean beef, fish, eggs, dairy or even a protein shake). – Jim Stoppani PhD – Muscle & Fitness

Eat foods that don’t have a label (fresh meats, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits) every 3 hours! – Juan Carlos Santana MEd FNSCA CSCS*D – Institute of Human Performance

5 fish meals/week!!  Remember all fish count; both fish protein and marine fats are uniquely able to enhance body composition. – Susan M. Kleiner PhD RD FACN CNS FISSN – author of Power Eating

Eat breakfast. It tells your body that you will not starve it and in turn your body will jumpstart your previously sleeping metabolism. If your body doesn’t trust that you will feed it-especially after hours of no food like when you were sleeping- it will hold on to any extra fuel (body fat!) like an old lady clutches her purse when she rides the subway! – Gunnar Peterson CSCS CPT – Beverly Hills-based Personal Trainer

Take caffeine pre-workout.  Supplement with creatine.  Stop eating so much sugar.  Cut back on all processed carbs.  And eat more protein!  – Jeff Stout PhD FACSM FNSCA FISSN – University of Central Florida

Macronutrient manipulation is the best way to improve body comp.  You don’t have to eliminate carbs or fat, just think about adding high quality protein to every meal/snack.  Shoot for a 2:1 or 1:1 (for rapid changes) CHO:PRO ratio. – Abbie Smith PhD CSCS*D CISSN – University of North Carolina

Pay close attention to your hunger and satiety cues. When you reach for food, ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are eating for other reasons like boredom, stress or anger. – Marie Spano MS RD CSCS FISSN

Don’t be enchanted by the evangelistic tales of things falling or rising in the blood (testosterone), muscle (protein synthesis or breakdown), or metabolism (e.g. ‘fat burning’), which often are disconnected from what you are seeking. Ask for evidence on the ACTUAL PRODUCT, for what REALLY counts: increased muscle mass and/or decreased body fat. – Anthony L. Almada MSc FISSN 

Use common sense and stop the silly fad diets.  It’s not about low calorie, low sugar, fat free, gluten free or any other ‘label.’ It is as simple as eating a variety of natural foods in there natural form at the right times of the day and be mindful of proper portion sizes. You have choices: an apple or a candy bar, a had full of M&M’s or almonds, fast food or home cooked, water or soda, etc. You know the answers, apply them and you will look and feel amazing. It is that simple! – Kim Lyons NASM CPT – former trainer on The Biggest Loser

Consume whey protein. Numerous studies have shown how whey protein may prevent hunger, decrease inflammation and manage insulin better. If you can’t have the supplement, increase dairy food sources in your diet. – Marta Montenegro MF MS CSCS NSCA-CPT

For nutritional supplements, before spending a lot of money avoid all the marketing hype and try to focus on the actual ingredients and the science behind them. Seek out help if you need, it. Contact the ISSN. For your diet, try to eat as “clean” as possible by decreasing your carbohydrate and saturated fat intake and by trying to “chew” most of your daily calories as opposed to “drinking” them. – Darryn Willoughby PhD FACSM FISSN CSCS CISSN – Baylor University

A new year’s tip for a leaner 2012: Reduce (or eliminate) added sugar intake, increase lean protein intake, and take advantage of the power of caffeine! – Colin Wilborn PhD FISSN CSCS ATC – University of Mary Hardin Baylor

When all else fails, reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates, and replace with fibrous carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables with high fiber and low energy density. – Tim N. Ziegenfuss PhD FISSN CSCS

You can use the best equipment and technology to fine-tune a high-end sports car, but without fuel it simple won’t perform.  To get the most out of your training, you need to consider your body a high-end sports car.  I mean you wouldn’t put water into the gas tank of a race car would you?  Then why put junk into your body?  – David Sandler MS CSCS*D FNSCA FISSN – National Strength and Conditioning Association

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Preparing healthy meals in advance and keeping supplements organized is essential to staying on track and achieving your fitness goals. – Rehan Jalali Celebrity Nutritionist

Make sure each of your meals contains a wholesome, fiber-rich carbohydrate like fruit or a small portion of whole grains for energy and a lean protein to keep you feeling satisfied and to keep your muscles strong. Round out your meals with vegetables for fiber, nutrients and healing antioxidants for your exercised muscles. – The Nutrition Twins: Lyssie Lakatos RD LD CDN CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames RD LD CDN CFT

I would recommend a high protein diet.  I took breads out of my diet in the last three weeks and lost five pounds.  I even eat chicken for breakfast with tea.  Have protein bars for snacks too.  My mind also just feels better and more energetic for working out.  – Suzy Favor Hamilton 3-time Olympian

Avoid processed, refined white flour, white sugar carbs. And don’t be afraid to eat fat! – Mona Rosene MS RDbruce-lee

There is no way to out-supplement a poor diet, nail your nutrition first. Dump the processed ‘foods’ and stick with lean proteins and veggies. – Michelle Adams MPH CISSN CSCS IFBB Pro

Measure your current body composition, set a specific goal composition, calculate the difference (in lean mass and body weight), then plan your training and diet accordingly. Focus on nourishment to build the body you want, instead of malnourishment to destroy the body you don’t – Damon Hayhow CISSN

Don’t be afraid to eat less than what you think that you need! – Douglas Kalman PhD RD FISSN FACN – Miami Research Associates

Protein throughout the day with the most important times being breakfast and post exercise (at least 20 grams). If you include at least one significant protein source with all meals and snacks you are on the right track as protein needs are increased relative to exercise effort – Rob Wildman PhD RD LD FISSN

Try to eat every 3-4hrs. In each meal try to include each of these three things: a lean protein (like chicken or fish, etc.), a fibrous carb (fruits and/or veggies), and a healthy fat (like avocado, nuts, etc.) – Nick Tumminello CPT CSCC

Success is never about the food. It’s all about having the skills, tools and the environment that ensures better choices are made consistently, but also the right choices are consistently available every time. Food proximity rules; if it’s easy to get to, eventually you’ll eat it! – Paul Cribb PhD – Metabolic Precision

Most importantly, have positive mindset about working out and eating clean. Get rid of all the junk food in your house, and be consistent with weight lifting and cardio. Especially women- do not be afraid to lift a little heavier than usual! – Liza Muravyeva MS RD

Start simple. Cut foods that are highly processed, high in sugar, high in saturated fat and low in nutrients. Drink 2 liters of water before noon. If you must have a late night snack, reach for a lean protein and step away from the bowl of ice cream. STOP blaming your parents for “making you fat”. Create a DO-ABLE nutritional plan and stick to it! – Jay Dawes, PhD CSCS Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Eat more protein working up to a minimum of 0.75 grams per pound of body weight .  This works to support muscle growth and keep you full longer so you shove less food into that hole below your nose. – Mike T Nelson PhD(c) CSCS MSME

Don’t just “wing it” when it comes to nutrition. Know your protein, carb and fat grams and limit your fat loss to no more than 1.5 pounds per week. – Raphael Calzadilla BA CPT ACE

There really is no substitute for a great training program and good clean, well-balanced diet. For the recreational fitness enthusiast interested in losing fat and gaining muscle, rather than looking for the ultimate quick fix that simply does not exist, focus your efforts on a strenuous training program and well-rounded diet. – Kristy Lee Wilson BS NSCA-CPT NASM-CPT PES CES

Even caloric distribution throughout the day, along with quality and balance, will positively impact body composition, glycogen storage, protein synthesis and immune system health. – Heidi Skolnik MS CDN FACSM 

To enhance body composition will require time; make sure you schedule time to shop and cook.  I train my client’s brain and brawn.  You must have a strong positive mindset; you cannot let other people drag you down or sabotage your own fitness and health goals.  In the end you control your health and well-being. – Nicole Moneer Guerrero NASM-CPT CISSN IFBB Pro

Regardless of what type of training you are doing, always eat something within 15 minutes following every training bout.  Ideally, this should include carbohydrates and a high quality protein source without excess dietary fat. – Lem Taylor PhD FISSN CISSN – The University of Mary Hardin Baylor

Of all of the 20 amino acids leucine is mainly responsible for driving skeletal muscle growth (or at least turning on protein synthesis).  To optimize this process consume 2-3 grams of leucine whether in supplement form (with 1.5 grams isoleucine and valine) or from high quality proteins each meal.  Milk based proteins are 10 % leucine, egg is about 9 %, and meats are about 8 % leucine.  This would amount to about 30 grams of high quality protein per meal for example from a milk based protein (3 grams of leucine). – Jacob M. Wilson PhD CSCS*D – University of Tampa

Eat like a caveman. Or to be PC, A cave-person. We’ve come full circle on this one. Eating wild game, fish and a variety of in-season vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds proves to be our best bet for a lean, well-functioning body. And one more thing…SLEEP! Chronic sleep deprivation can cause weight gain by affecting hormones that control appetite as well as the way we store carbohydrates. – Gina Lombardi RDH NSCA-CPT *D – Host of Fit Nation

To transform your body, you must drink enough clean water, eat high quality REAL food 4-6 times daily and challenge your body with resistance.  And then plan the next day.  Consistency and planning lead to physical success.  The little things done daily make ALL the difference.  – Billy Beck CSCS CISSN

Don’t overcomplicate things…simply make only one small positive nutritional change at a time until that small change becomes a good habit, and then add the next small change. Over time this will work out much better than changing many things at once– (and the results will last longer too). Also, be sure to add protein to every meal that you eat! Our research has documented that this helps to promote fat loss and muscle mass gains. – Michael J. Ormsbee PhD CSCS CISSN – Florida State University

One “cheat meal” is ok, if your diet is typically on point. Don’t beat yourself up or stay too rigid. One salad doesn’t make an overweight person thin either. It’s about the long haul.  – Shawn Wells MPH RD CISSN

Enhancing body composition implies maximizing lean muscle mass and reducing stored body fat. In terms of maximizing lean muscle mass, supplement with creatine monohydrate. Not only is this supplement safe and inexpensive – it WORKS. – Bill Campbell PhD CSCS FISSN

The simplest beginning is to start cutting back carbs (e.g wheat, grains, potatoes, anything ‘white’; but not so much fruits and veggies).  Increase protein intake esp lean meats and egg whites.  Also, whey protein creatine and caffeine (pre workout) are proven supplements to help you achieve your goals.  – Ty Nordic CSCS

Pay attention to what you eat before, during and after your workouts and be sure that regardless of the goal a good bit of general advice is to eat at least 1-2g/kg of protein per day (especially when trying to lose to maintain the muscle you do have), healthy fats are wicked good for you and should be at least 30% of your macro breakdown for fat loss OR muscle gain and don’t be afraid of carbs!!! – Melissa Traynor CISSN ACSM CPT-HFS

Spend a small percentage (10%) of what you would on your fitness equipment, clothing etc and another 10% of the time you spend on your fitness endeavours on your food and food preparation. It will pay dividends over 10:1 in terms of performance and recovery in most cases. – David Driscoll MSc CSCS

If you want to lose fat and gain muscle, you need to eliminate the single nutrient that will stimulate fat storage: sugar. In a study conducted by researchers at UCONN, men who ate a high-protein, moderate-fat, zero carb diet lost significantly more fat and gained almost double muscle than men who ate more sugar and less protein. Rule of thumb: if it tastes sweet, only eat it after your workout, if at all. – Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic PhD RD

Bump up your protein and reduce simple and extra complex carbs as much as possible- and make sure to consume some carb protein combination immediately post exercise!!  – Kelly Kennedy PhD CISSN ACSM-HFI

Cook and pack your own protein-rich meals and keep “emergency snacks” such as nuts of all kinds (e.g. walnuts, almonds, etc) in your car so you never skip a meal or are tempted to hit the McD’s drive-thru!  And wash every meal down with pure simple water! – Carla Sanchez NSCA-CPT IFBB Pro – Performance Ready Team

You have to just do it (i.e. nutrition and training) consistently.  You need proper nutrition (including appropriate, credible supplements) and a training plan tailore to suit your goals.  It must be a lifestyle not a quick fix. Quick fixes don’t work; because they are quick to come and quick to go. – Jenna Becker MS RD CISSN

Challenge your large muscle groups a couple of times a week by doing squats, throwing hay bales, or hoisting cinder blocks so that you are huffing and puffing and burning. Stay consistent, maintain good form and increase the resistance as you get fitter and stronger. – Tom Seabourne PhD CSCS

Shoot for 10 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, with most of the portions coming vegetables as sugars from fruit not helpful when aiming for weight loss. Vegetables are best juiced, steamed, lightly cooked and blended into soups, or raw; with stir-fries, roasted and casseroles thrown in for variety. Power this up with plenty of fresh or dried herbs. And how to achieve this? Add several colourful servings to EVERY meal and snack starting with breakfast. – Andrea Cullen

Adding lean protein is hands down the best way to promote muscle growth – it is the building block.   Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is a tall order, so also adding Branched chain aminos pre workout for preserving muscle is a good plan as well.  – And stay out of the Drive throughs…..;-) – Shannon Leroux Pro Figure Athlete

Track your food intake.  Often after a few days of tracking the realization usually is:  underestimation of overeating or overestimation of undereating. – Allison Ethier NSCA-CPT CanFitPro-PTS CISSN

My single piece of advice would be to get back to the basics. I think to often we are all trying to find the latest and greatest new things and forget about the tried and true. These include a clean, natural food diet with basic supplementation of protein, creatine monohydrate and EAAs. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!Lacy M. Puttuck RD CISSN CSCS

Increase your protein and vegetable intake, increase meal frequency, and decrease sugar, processed foods, and portion sizes. Three important supplements to begin taking are: a multivitamin, vitamin D, and fish oil. – Stephanie Svoboda CSCS CISSN

Change your mindset in how you view food. Every time you eat you have a choice to choose foods that provide the body with stable energy, enzymes, and nutrients to improve the efficiency of the body and decrease inflammation.  Get out of a diet mindset and make your food choices with those positive principles in mind. – Amanda Carlson-Phillips MS RD CSSD – Athletes’ Performance

Make sure your resistance training program is practical (nobody gets an ideal physique by doing bicep curls while balancing on an inflatable disk) and that the weight/load and/or volume are substantial, throughout any variations, to satisfy muscle building. Supplements (i.e. whey protein, caffeine, creatine and beta-alanine) and diet are complementary to body composition enhancement as well as exercise regimen progressions.  But don’t think for a minute that there is a magic pill, powder or potion that makes you exempt from eating cleaner and working harder!  – Anna Lepeley MS PhD(C) CSCS CISSN

Muscles lack the necessary enzymes to use alcohol as fuel.  It negatively affects reaction time, hand-eye coordination, balance, thermoregulation, fluid balance, glycogen conversion and muscle growth.  Alcohol decreases strength, power, speed, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness. For these reasons, the healthiest alternative is abstinence. – Robert Taylor Jr SCCC CSCS*D CES NSCA-CPT*D CSES

Everyone wants a simple explanation as to how they can gain muscle and lose fat.  The reality is that it’s a difficult process with no easy way from point A to point B. The best advice I can give you is that patience, dedication, and hard work are by far the key ingredients for changing body composition. The worst plan executed with the best work ethic is way better than the best plan executed with poor work ethic. – Layne Norton PhD IFPA and NGA Natural Pro Bodybuilder

Pick a goal, devise a system to reach that goal, and work toward it with both determination and patience. The opposite of training is beating the crap out of yourself every workout, with no goal beyond pain tolerance and bragging rights. It makes no more sense than the old advice to eat a low-fat diet and walk around the block a few times. Training is in the middle of those extremes: hard work, but with a plan and a purpose. – Lou Schuler

Success is a result of consistently doing the right thing. The client or athlete that fails to be successful is the one that simply will not adhere to what we know works. Their world is filled with excuses, whining about their lack of progress, yet they never realize that the blame for their failure rests solely on their shoulders. – Mark Myhal PhD

Have a whey protein shake preferrably an organic kind  like warrior whey to ensure highest quality nutrients, about 30 min pre-workout with about 20-30 grams with water or almond milk and ice and post-workout when hunger strikes within 30 min to an hour about 30 grams with a little fruit like berries, a little fat like almond butter, and organic greens like greens plus for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. – Yarixa Ferrao

Take advantage of your post-exercise nutritional window–consume 1/4 gram/lb of whey protein as soon as possible following your workout.  It’s perhaps the easiest thing you can do to maximize muscle protein synthesis. – Brad Schoenfeld MSc CSCS – author of Look Great Naked

Set performance-related exercise (or sports) goals.  What you get out of workouts is proportional to what you put into them. Human beings are naturally performance oriented, and setting performance goals provides the motivation to put a lot into one’s training. –  Matt Fitzgerald, CISSN, author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance

A ship that’s overloaded and brought about far too sharply will likely capsize; so, too, will a person fail at achieving their goal if they attempt to make too many changes at once. Thus, be in it for the long-haul. Make one change, let your body respond and then begin to plateau before adding a second change. In this regard, the best and most simple way I’ve found to effectively change a person’s body and energy levels is to first have them change their breakfast. If you can control blood glucose from the moment you wake up, a large part of the battle has already been won. – Chris Lockwood, PhD, CSCS

Eat leafy greens at every meal, they contain omega-3 fats too! Think spinach & eggs with salsa for breakfast, a handful of mesclun greens tossed into a smoothie mid morning, a big composed salad of tuna & beans on a bed of arugula for lunch, romaine lettuce wraps filled with Greek yogurt, shredded carrots & olives midday, and steamed kale alongside a baked sweet potato & lean grass-fed beef or steamed fish for dinner. Power meals don’t come in containers. – Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD, CPT, CDE Certified Holistic Chef

Go for the “White-Out” approach to diet by eliminating the white’s: sugar, bread, rice, and pasta. Skip sugary soft drinks and fruit juices. Instead, get your carbs from fibrous veggies and some fruit. And by all means eat more protein with your meals! Mixing protein with carbs means less of an insulin spike and less fat storage — good news for your abs! – Rick Collins Esq FISSN

Exercise regularly; eat diet high in protein from lean meats and fish and supplement with fish oil. Supplement your diet with inexpensive whey protein (20 to 30 grams minimum) and simple creatine ( 3 to 5 grams a day). Cut back on carbs and use only complex carbs in diet. – Marv Heuer MD

Being able to gain fat is NOT a disease or a problem. It is actually evolution at its finest. Fat is the body’s way of ensuring its chances of survival during times of food scarcity. Once you accept that fact and learn to work with it, you… will find that losing excess fat and gaining muscle is not impossible. Remember that breakfast sets the “tone” for your metabolism for the rest of the day. So don’t skip it. Remember that your body does the majority of its muscle repair during rest, so stock up on some good protein before bedtime. And listen listen listen to your body as the day goes by. And don’t force yourself to shed off an enormous amount of body fat in a short amount of time. Not only will the results be short lived, you will lose muscle meanwhile. And my biggest advice to prevent fat loss problems in the future; don’t get fat in the first place ! – Josephine Dalton, aka ‘Trainer Jo.’  ACSM-NASM-APEX certified.

Make protein your number one nutrient source. Cut back or eliminate carbohydrates and focus on solid protein sources such as meat, fish and whole eggs and good fats such as avocados, and fish, olive and macadamia but oils.  Don’t skip meals and make sure the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning is consume at least 50 grams of protein. – John Romano – VPX Sports



SAD – The Standard American Diet

By Inna Dumova, CISSNYes, it makes you sad right?  The SAD or Standard American Diet is enough to depress anyone. But let’s face it; this applies to our friends north of the border, eh.  We all eat enough junk to feed a third-world country.  The advice we’ve been spoon fed by various experts has led to a fattening of our waistlines as well as promoting the notion that some drug from “big pharma” is all we need to cure our fatness.  junk-food-to-avoid
Here are some sad statistics.  According to CDC, obesity in America has increased from 13.4% in 1960 to 35.1% in 2006.   That’s a lot of donut eating my friend. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the consumption of refined carbohydrates has increased from 374 g/day in 1963 to 500 g/day in 1997 and continues to rise. From 1980 to 1997 the total energy intake increased by more than 500 kcal/day, of which 428 kcal (nearly 80% of the increase in total energy) came from carbohydrates. From 1909 to 1997 the total per capita use of caloric sweeteners increased by 86%, of which the corn syrup was the most prevalent. Sweeteners, which were almost nonexistent at the beginning of the century, now comprise more than 20% of the total daily carbohydrate intake.  Yes, holy sweetness indeed!
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition data remained consistent in that obesity and the prevalence of diabetes increased proportionately to the increase in consumption of refined carbohydrates in the United States. (Gross, Li, Ford, & Liu, 2004) Yet with such staggering statistics the government food guide pyramid still recommends nearly 43% of the daily diet to consist of carbohydrates. I don’t believe we need Sherlock Holmes to figure out that such “Standard American Diet” is leading us to nothing but towards SAD existence.  And that it is foolhardy at best an idiotic at worst to follow government guidelines for eating.  PULLEEAAASE. That’s like taking weight loss advice from a fat guy at the Texas State Fair.


Diets consisting mainly of refined sugars and starches contain virtually no vitamins, antioxidants or essential fatty acids; such processed and refined foods cause an excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the immune system causing an inflammatory response. Inflammation is the biggest cause for chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, asthma and many others. The inflammation actually happens to be the symptom of the immune system responding to the presence of unwanted particles in the body. A constant activation of the immune system triggers other chronic conditions in the body, which over time lower the overall immune ability creating a greater susceptibility to other diseases as well as viruses and flu.  Other problems that arise from consumption of refined foods are due to the removal of the essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber which belong in the food and act as a slowing down mechanism during the break down. An absence of such mechanism results in rapid elevations in blood glucose and therefore, rapid rises in insulin. The insulin spikes due to the increased consumption of refined carbohydrates become the primary factor for obesity as well as the precursor for an insulin resistance syndrome, known as the metabolic syndrome, which then easily leads to diabetes.  Physically inactive lifestyle, consumption of refined and processed foods, minimal consumption of whole fruits and vegetables all contribute to the top ten causes of death. Diabetes, various types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases alone contribute to nearly 70% of deaths in the United States. The sky-rocketing cases of obesity and the metabolic syndrome are predicted to increase even more if no turnaround is made. (Giugliano, Ceriello, & Esposito, 2006)
Making individual choices that promote healthy living and encourage those around us to make good choices as well is the only thing that will turn such terrible predictions around. Choice of food that is closer to its natural state will provide the most nutritional benefit while imposing the least amount of irritation, and therefore least inflammation in the body. Choosing a raw or brown sugar or agave nectar with a lower glycemic index over a highly processed sweetener, choosing a fruit which contains fiber and a slow-digesting sugar over a cookie which only causes an inflammatory response, choosing to walk outside over being planted on the couch in front of the television, all these are choices that present themselves daily before every individual. Let’s take it one choice at a time!

h“The Perfect Day of Eating Both Inside and Out.”

No more cereal please! No matter how many times you see the “Special K” commercial, it doesn’t become anymore special than a refined carbohydrate!  Breakfast should include a good source of protein, such as an egg omelet or bacon with eggs, along with a good source of carbohydrate and fiber, such as spinach, tomatoes, steamed asparagus or other vegetable. You can also have a juicy grapefruit or an orange, or a glass of grapefruit, orange or carrot juice, but make sure that the juice is not colored sugar water! Always read the labels and make sure it contains nothing but squeezed oranges, grapefruits or carrots. Notice I have not said anything about a toast! With all of the delicious components of the breakfast there is no more room for a toast on a breakfast menu.  Coffee should be best consumed black, however if you must sweeten it, then use real brown sugar and not Sweet-n-Low, and organic milk or half-n-half is preferred over a synthetic CafeMate.

Sautee some shrimp, chicken or steak with some fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, bok-choy, snap peas and edamame in either olive oil and salt or a sweet and spicy pepper sauce. When buying any sauces or dressings always read the label and make sure it does not contain high fructose syrup or aspartame. Chile or poblano peppers maybe added to the sauté, as they are beneficial by increasing the metabolism. Brown rice or a sweet potato may be added to he lunch menu, but not every day.  If carbohydrates are going to be consumed, best time to enjoy them is after a work out, as your body is more likely to burn them up during that time.

A tasty fresh spinach salad with skirt steak, grilled shrimp, grilled chicken or other great source of protein mixed with slices of green apple, grapes or mandarins, walnuts, goat cheese and finished off with a homemade dressing of extra virgin olive oil, honey and squeezed lime. Such delicious dinner will replenish your body with essential fats, vitamins, phytonutrients and protein after a long day while leaving your body light and your taste buds satisfied!

Between-Meal Snacks
Any nuts (walnuts, peanuts, almonds etc), lean protein sources, as well as colorful fruits or veggies.

Gross, Lee, Li, Li, Ford, Earl, & Liu, Simin. (2004). Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the united states: an ecologic assessment. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 9(5),
Giugliano, D, Ceriello, A, & Esposito, K. (2006). The Effects of diet on inflammation:emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 48(4).


BIO: Inna Dumova is a student at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale FL. She will be pursuing a PhD in Exercise and Nutrition Science at Baylor University.