Category Archives: muscle

More on physical performance and ketoadaptation

The various studies on how low carbohydrate diets impact physical performance are very nuanced.  Here’s what I mean by that.

Exhibit A. Phinney 1980

Phinney 1980

In this [pioneering] study, obese patients were subjected to a variety of performance assessments in a baseline period, then after 1 and 6 weeks of weight loss via protein-sparing modified fast (1.2 g/kg ideal body weight from lean meat, fish, or fowl; probably around 80 grams of protein/d, 500-750 kcal/d). They lost a lot of weight, 23 pounds on average, two-thirds of which was body fat. There was no exercise intervention, just the performance assessments.

During the ‘exercise to exhaustion’ treadmill exercise, RQ steadily declined from baseline to week 1 to week 6, indicating progressively more reliance on fat oxidation.  This was confirmed via muscle glycogen levels pre- and post-exercise: during the baseline testing, they declined by 15%; after 6 weeks of ketoadaptation, however, they only declined by 2%, while ‘time to exhaustion’ increased by 55%.  After only 1 week of the diet, time to exhaustion plummeted, as expected, by 20%.

This was, as mentioned above, a pioneering study in the field of ketoadaptation. It also challenges one of the prevailing theories of ‘fatigue’ …while carb-adapted, the subjects fatigued after 168 minutes, with muscle glycogen levels of 1.29 (reduced by 15%); while ketoadapted, they fatigued after 249 minutes with muscle glycogen levels of 1.02 (reduced by 2%).  In other words, they had less glycogen to begin with, used less glycogen during exercise, and performed significantly better (running on fat & ketones).

Exhibit B. Vogt 2003

Highly trained endurance athletes followed a high fat (53% fat, 32% carbs) or high carb (17% fat, 68% carbs) diet for 5 weeks in a randomized crossover study. In contrast to Phinney’s study, these participants were: 1) highly trained; and 2) exercised throughout the study.

Maximal power output and VO2max during a similar ‘time to exhaustion’ test was similar after both diet periods.  Same for total work output during a 20 minute ‘all-out’ cycling time trial and half-marathon running time.  Muscle glycogen was modestly, albeit statistically non-significantly lower after ketoadaption; however, ketoadapted athletes relied on a higher proportion of fat oxidation to fuel performance as indicated by lower RQ at every level of exercise intensity:

Vogt RQ

Again, this is the essence of ketoadaptation. Physical performance as good as or better using fat and fat-derived fuels.

One reason Phinney’s glycogen-depeleted ketoadapted subjects may have done so well is their reliance on ketones (probable) and intramyocellular lipids (IMCL) (possible).  In Vogt’s study, IMCL increased from 0.69 to 1.54% after ketoadaptation…

Also, food intake and body fat declined, and training volume increased in the low fat group; whereas food intake increased, and body fat and training volume declined in the high fat group.  Reminiscent of anything?

High fat, low carb -> eat more, exercise less, STILL LOSE BODY FAT.

Vogt data

Sorcery?  No.  Diet impacts more than just mood and body composition – resting energy expenditure increased in the ketogenic dieters.  This isn’t an isolated finding.

Exhibit C. Fleming 2003 

This was another study in non-trained athletes, consuming high fat (61% fat) or control (25% fat) diets for 6 weeks.  The tests were the 30-second Wingate, to examine supramaximal performance, and a 45-minute timed ride, to examine submaximal performance.

This study differed from the previous two in several significant ways.  For starters, peak power output declined in both groups, slightly more so in the high fat group (-10% vs. -8%).  Furthermore, RQ didn’t wasn’t significantly lower during this test in the high fat group, which possibly suggests they weren’t properly ketoadapted.  In Phinney’s study, the large energy deficit ensured ketoadaptation; this study lacked that aspect, somewhat more similar to Vogt’s, although unlike Vogt’s, these participants weren’t athletes which presumably makes ketoadaptation more difficult.

There are many factors at play… I wasn’t kidding when I said these studies are very nuanced!

Exhibit D. the infamous, Paoli 2012 

These were ‘elite artistic gymnasts,’ who could likely beat you in a race running backwards.  The ketogenic phase consisted of 55% fat and much more protein than the control phase (39% fat; protein: 41% vs. 15%). The significantly higher protein content was modestly offset by slightly more calories in the control phase, which reduces the amount of protein required to maintain nitrogen balance.

In this study, performance was, for the most part, ‘maintained,’ with relative increases in a few of the tests; eg, the “legs closed barrier.”  Changes in body composition were more robust: significantly reduced body fat and increased lean body mass after 30 days of ketogenic dieting (with their normal exercise routine).

Paoli data

The major confounder in this study was the use of an herbal cocktail only in the ketogenic diet group; despite this, the results are largely in line with the other studies.  For more on this study, see here.

Exhibit E. the most dramatic one to date: Sawyer 2013 

Please see here for the details, but in brief, strength-trained athletes showed improvements in high intensity exercise performance after only 7 days of carbohydrate restriction.  The nuances of this particular study are discussed more here.

barbell

Collectively, these studies show that physical performance in both endurance and high intensity realms does not always suffer, can be maintained, and in some cases is improved by ketogenic dieting.  Important factors are duration (to ensure adequate ketoadaptation), energy balance, and regular physical activity (athletes and regular exercisers can adapt to burning fat much quicker than sedentary folks).

 

calories proper

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New study: high intensity exercise on a low carb diet.

Switch an athlete from their standard carbohydrate-rich diet to a low carb ketogenic one and suddenly performance tanks.  It is known.  Give them a few weeks to adapt, however, and it recovers.  This much was established for mainly endurance-related performance parameters by Steve Phinney and colleagues in the 1980’s (eg, Phinney et al., 1983).  Then, along came Antonio Paoli, Dominic D’Agostino, and others who showed a similar phenomenon in gymnasts, a population that routinely exercises at higher levels of intensity (Paoli et al., 2012).  Notably, in these studies the athletes were allowed adequate time to adapt to the new metabolic milieu – sometimes referred to as ketoadaptation.  Three weeks appears to be the minimum amount of time required for ketoadaptation; ie, studies of shorter duration generally show: low carb = poor physical performance.

…which is why I was surprised to see this one:

Effects of a short-term carbohydrate-restricted diet on strength and power performance (Sawyer et al., 2014)

These researchers subjected ~30 strength-trained individuals to a battery of performance assessments before and after 7 days of a low carb [ketogenic] diet.  Usually I would’ve stopped reading at this point because 7 days is too short.  But there were some nuances in the way this particular study was designed which piqued my interest.

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Nutrient Partitioning: …a *very* high protein diet.

Or: what happens when you eat a ton of protein?

RDA: 0.8 g/kg

Active individuals: 1.2-2.0 g/kg (via ISSN)
Comment (1): I think sedentary, physically inactive, and non-exercisers should be in this range to offset disuse atrophy.  And they should exercise.
Comment (2): Do athletes really need more protein than non-athletes?  They have exercise, a powerful anabolic stimulus.  More protein may improve performance or body composition, but they might not *need* it, in terms of nitrogen retention… there’s probably a study on this.

NEED =/= OPTIMIZATION

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Pharmaceutical-grade circadian manipulation.

BMAL1 and CLOCK, ‘positive’ regulators of circadian gene expression, activate transcription of the negative regulators Per, Cry, and Rev-erb.  PER and CRY inhibit BMAL1 and CLOCK, whereas Rev-erb inhibits Bmal1.  It is said that Rev-erb is “an important link between the positive and negative loops of the circadian clock.”  You don’t really need to know any of that to follow this blog post.

circadian genes

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Diet study: American Diabetes Association vs. Low Carb Ketogenic

A randomized pilot trial of a moderate carbohydrate diet compared to a very low carbohydrate diet in overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes (Saslow et al., 2014)

Disclaimer: this study was not ground-breaking; it was confirmation of a phenomenon that is starting to become well-known, and soon to be the status quo. That is, advising an obese diabetic patient to reduce their carb intake consistently produces better results than advising them to follow a low fat, calorie restricted diet.

The two diets:

Moderate carbohydrate diet: 45-50% carbs; 45 grams per meal + three 15 gram snacks = 165 grams per day; low fat, calorie restricted (500 Calorie deficit).  Otherwise known as a “low fat diet (LFD).”

In their words: “Active Comparator: American Diabetes Association Diet.  Participants in the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet group will receive standard ADA advice. The diet includes high-fiber foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes), low-fat dairy products, fresh fish, and foods low in saturated fat.

Very low carbohydrate diet: Ketogenic; <50 grams of carb per day, no calorie restriction, just a goal of blood ketones 0.5 – 3 mM.

In their words: “Experimental: Low Carbohydrate Diet.  Participants will be instructed to follow a low carbohydrate diet: carbohydrate intake 10-50 grams a day not including fiber. Foods permitted include: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, cream, some nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and most other non-starchy vegetables. Because most individuals self-limit caloric intake, no calorie restriction will be recommended.

Both groups were advised to maintain their usual protein intake.

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Sarcopenia has little to do with aging

It has to do with the duration of time spent being sedentary.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but luckily enough today you get both.

Sarcopenia: “poverty of flesh,” or the age-induced loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function = reduced quality of life.  Sorry old-timers, but I hereby officially revise the definition from “aging-induced” to “sedentary-induced.”  Herein, I present evidence that sarcopenia is not a phenomenon of aging per se, but rather of disuse atrophy.  Dear Webster’s & Britannica, please revise accordingly.

Skeletal muscles: use ‘em or lose ‘em #TPMC

Thanks to Julianne Taylor & Skyler Tanner for directing me to these images.

divide and conquer

Exhibit A. Chronic exercise preserves lean muscle mass in masters athletes (Wroblewski et al., 2011)

This study evaluated “high-level recreational athletes.”  “Masters” just means they were over 40.  And “high-level” doesn’t mean “elite,” it just means they exercised 4-5 times per week.  These weren’t super-obsessed gym rats… it’s probably who I’ll be in 7 years [sigh].

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Energy Balance > CICO

The regulation of energy balance is a long-term process, and it can’t be maintained by counting calories on a day-to-day basis.  Taubes once wrote that exercise doesn’t cause weight loss because it builds up an appetite, so you end up sucking down a Starbuck’s Jumbo Calorie Bomb on the way home from doing Yoga at the gym.  This is probably somewhat true, but this little gem from 1955 exposes some very interesting nuances.

Edholm(Edholm et al., 1955)

These researchers rigorously measured food intake and did a comprehensive assessment of energy expenditure during a wide variety of activities – lying down, standing, walking, gun cleaning, stair climbing, dressing, etc., etc.

Divide and conquer

The individual differences: big people expend more energy on life.  most of the time.

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Westside Barbell, Hormesis, and Antifragility

Some people think Westside makes some of the strongest athletes in the world because unlike most other training regimes, they are constantly lifting very heavy weight.  Other protocols restrict heavy lifting to certain times of the year, in-season / off-season, etc.  At Westside, you’re going heavy on an exercise that changes very frequently (every 1 – 3 weeks).  And it’s this latter point that provides the basis for why other people think Westside works.  By constantly changing which exercise is lifted at maximal intensity, the body never fully adapts, or gets into a rut – this is part of Westside’s ‘Conjugate Method.’

The principle is embraced by Crossfit, as per their random workouts-of-the-day, and also follows a tangent of the Hormesis theory: small doses of individual exercises, eg, conventional deadlifts one week, good mornings the next, sumo deads the next week, and so on and so forth – will improve your squats; the body never knows what’s coming (even though you might have planned it weeks in advance, or at least planned to check The WOD Shop).  Also discussed albeit briefly, in Taleb’s Antifragile, wherein being prepared for “random” shocks seem to benefit the system as a whole, or make it stronger.  Sedentary makes you fragile, weak, and soft; exercise makes you robust; Westside is Antifragile.

Antifragile

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Pocket Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is all the rage these days, and there are a variety of different protocols out there, pioneered by people ranging from Ori Hofmekler (The Warrior Diet), Kate Harrison (The 5:2 Diet), Michael Mosley (The Fast Diet), Bert Herring (Fast-5), John Daugirdas (The QOD Diet), and Martin Berkhan (LeanGains), all the way to Jack Kruse (Epi-paleo Rx).  Chances are you’re probably unwittingly already doing one of them, at least intermittently.  The theoretical benefits are seemingly endless (albeit via few human trials), beyond the scope of my brain.

Tl;dr:

Non-IF: grazing; 6-8 meals per day.  Only significantly fasting duration occurs while asleep.
Normal-ish?: 3 squares.  Two 5-hour fasts, then fasting while asleep.
Eat Stop Eat or The 5/2 Bikini Diet: Eat only a small dinner 2 days/wk (600 kcal), eat normally other 5 days.
ADF: Alternate Day Fasting – 75% restriction on day 1; 25% surplus on day 2.
Leangains: Skip breakfast.
The Warrior Diet: Skip breakfast & lunch. (+1)
EOD: eat only Every Other Day.  36 hour fasts – from dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 3.

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Fat mitochondria

No, not heavyweight powerhouses.  Mitochondria IN fat cells.
electricity is required for your space heater, not your long johns.

mito

At first glance, the mere presence of mitochondria in adipocytes seems perplexing.  On one hand, there’s tons of fat to burn, so why not have the capacity to do it?  Well yeah, but on the other hand, adipose doesn’t do very much.  It doesn’t contract like skeletal muscle or crank out glucose like liver.  Mitochondria in BAT is understandable, to generate heat and what not.  electricity is required for your space heater, not your long johns.

My best guess is that adipose tissue mitochondria are there to do something else – make shorter acyl chained FA’s, or free radicals, etc., to signal something.  Just not primarily to generate energy.

But drop an anvil on adipose tissue mitochondria and you get some interesting mice indeed.  Impossible mice.

TFAM – in brief, the enzyme that goes by the acronym TFAM makes mitochondria work.  Global TFAM KO is lethal.  But adipose tissue (AT)-specific KO is interesting.  Uncoupling goes through the roof and fat literally burns away.  kind of***.

Adipose-specific deletion of TFAM increases mitochondrial oxidation and protects mice against obesity and insulin resistance (Vernochet et al., 2012)

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