Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Evil Vegetarian and Her Eggs - The Almost Untold Story

Many of us leaning to plant-eating types often allow ourselves dairy products. Eggs in particular are a staple allowed protein. As we pay our premium for eggs from free range roving happy hen clucking chickens we think, well, that's pretty good right? Happy beasties laying those eggies. Where's the harm?

Let us set aside for a moment the scenes from Chicken Run and the fate of hens who do not produce their quota. Indeed, let us not think of the happy hen yard at all. Instead, let us ask the question, whither all these chickies brudders? I mean, when we think about it, while all chickens that lay eggs are of the same sex, not all chickens are of that sex. Where are the males of the species that pop forth all hopeful from such eggs from time to time?

Pet food. Among other places.

Yup, about two years ago now, Jamie Oliver did an intriguing series called "Jamie's Fowl Dinners" to show what happened to chickens in different contexts from factory to free range to simply free (yes chickens do exist in the wild).

He modelled each stage of the process. Including what happens to all the male chicks. And how.

For some reason i woke up remembering this scene, thinking right, we think we're doing such good stuff not eating meat, but these psuedo chicken by-product choices indirectly do exactly that: cause a whole lot of creature culling. There's no market for so many live male chicks. I wonder, i thought, how many people know this?

And so, dear b2d reader, now we both do. Will that shift our eggy behaviour? I think that as i'm at meetings this week at a hotel where the buffet veggies are dripping in something like butter and the only veggie protein is "vegetarian lasagne" which means lots of carbohydrates in a white sauce it seems, and that salmon beside it is looking a heck of a lot saner, despite the environmental damage from evil farmed salmon fisheries.

At least i remembered to bring some protein powder. From non-organic/free range cows
great great great. i am a total ethical food failure. i abdure myself. dang.

Sort of related posts

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hand care for Kettlebell work: what's with the Cornhuskers anyway?

Dear B2D readers. I'm afraid i have another question for you. Today it's about hand calluses and hand lotion. In particular, what's the point of the latter?

As with i think anyone whose hands have objects that rotate in them (either the object is rotated in their hands, or their bodies rotate via the hands around the object) i have calluses on my hands. Mine are pretty much from kettlebell work these days. i think i've read all the hand care solutions, and tend to use the usual variety of scraping, emorying, abraiding, pumicing and shaving (personal fave, curtousy of a tip from dr. squat) that anyone does.

I'm simply thankful that since actually getting better on technique, with tips from Coach Hauer, they've been less likely to rip.

That said, one of the constant suggestions in ANY of these (by guys, let's face it) lists, is "use hand lotion" with the usual one recommended being Corn Huskers.

So i gotta ask, what's this stuff supposed to do? I have some. I've tried it after swinging, after showering post swinging, after swinging, showering, sanding, filing and sometimes, just on a whim.

As far as i can tell, it does nothing - for me. Well there's a certain folksie charm i suppose to sporting the bottle in the bathroom, but beyond this?

SO once again, let me ask b2d readers - if you flail a kettlebell - or get calluses on your hands from any other activity -
  • do you use hand lotion? does it do something for your hands that if otherwise left alone, you'd be in sorry shape?
  • is this a consequence specifically of having calluses, or would you need hand lotion whether you did callusable activity or not?
  • Or is this just the big boy excuse to go kinda metro?

Thank you for your kind assistance and attention.


[update. later that day]

Surprisingly spirited discussion on the DD forum about corn huskers, and the following points have emerged.

  1. it's a non-greasy moisturiser -
  2. different climates and hands combined with chalk in some people causes dry cracking ickyness and this kind of moisturiser seems to address that
  3. likewise, some folks experience the stuff as a way to soften and even gap fill calluses such that they are less likely to tear.
Good to know. I mean now i know. And that's kinda interesting. If you use Similar Stuff, please feel free to let me know how of your experiences.

related posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook Friend Requests - What to do when you don't know the Who, and get no Info to Say Nuffin to You

Hello B2D readers. To those of you kind folk who subscribe to b2d, please forgive this wee intrusion on your reader/rss collector/browsing for a slight off topic. IT's about facebook. And if you don't use facebook, please by all means, skip this post. For those who do, i have a question for which i seek your help to unravel: what do you do with friend requests that come without messages to introduce the person? I'm at a loss.

Personally, i'm still trying to figure out the role of facebook in my life - and what the quality "friend" means. It seems more to be acquaintances than friends, per se. But that aside, i find myself surprised to get a number of these "friend" requests from people i've never met, don't know, and who provide no context - no little message to say "Hi, you don't know me, but the reason i'd like to be friends with you is BLAH" We may have some other "friends" in common, but forgive me, so what?

And so this is my conundrum. Perhaps i'm misunderstanding facebook entirely, and one shouldn't care who asks to be one's friends; just hit accept. After all, these connections aren't really about friends; they're just something - oh, i don't know what.

It seems i'm not entirely alone. In a post called Both Sides of the Table by Mark Suster (whom it seems gets a ton of facebook requests. He writes:
Facebook. I know some people link to anybody and everybody on Facebook – I do not. Facebook is a reciprocal (or symmetrical) network and therefore if you want to follow me by default I follow you back. The problem I have with this is two-fold. First, I send lots of private stuff on Facebook because that’s where I connect to my parents, my siblings, my classmates and my wife. Second, I don’t want to clutter up the stream of information that I have in my Facebook newsfeed with information on people with whom I don’t have a relationship.
At least Mark has figured out a particular use for Facebook, and so has clear guidance on how he accepts friends. This groundwork is by way of background to the cool basics of exchange Suster suggests:

If you’re asking to “connect” with people you don’t know (or don’t know well), how should you go about it? Send people a personalized comment on the intro saying who you are and why you’d like to connect. I do this even for people who I know very well. Put in any info about people we know in common, places we may have met or some other relevant fact. Even if we don’t know each other – finding a common bridge increases your probability of getting accepted.

If you connect to me on Facebook and simply have an invite with no explanation and if I can’t figure out how I know you I’ll just hit ignore. On Facebook there isn’t even a standard “join my network” introduction. Sending a blank invite is the equivalent of sending your resume to a company with no cover letter. People do it, but it’s not professional.

The more Personal. I like this; it's simple. Send a note with your request. I think beyond being informative it's just nice, isn't it? Polite? I like the comparison to sending a CV to a company without a cover letter. But even more casually, how often to complete strangers just step up to you in the middle of a conversation and start talking - with no introduction?

I'd add to the above that some folks may seem to think that if i see whom we may have as friends in common, then no further data is required - or maybe they don't - i'm guessing, cuz i don't know. They don't say. But for me, that friends in common thing offers nothing useful. Many people ride motorcycles, for instance, is that single data point sufficient to want to expose one's communication to others, or invite others to comment on any topic you initiate?

Again, perhaps i'm just missing something obvious about Facebook.

S.O.S. SO i reach out to b2d readers. What do you do when you get a request from someone whom you do not know, and have no note about the request?

With many thanks,


IPoding Athlete Audio Earphone - Update: more custom earphone options at the Apple Store

Last week i did a post about the importance of good hearing protection while listening to one's tunes at the gym. I noted that there's a cool deal in the UK for custom sleeves to be fitted to the very cool etymotic research made-for-ipod ER 6i. While these are way cool for folks who don't need a mic with their earphones, some folks do, as their ipod may be an iPhone.

So i had a wee chat with ACS head honcho Andy Shiach late last week, and he informed me i'm a wee bit out of date. Etymotic has a headphone called the hf2 which is like the 6i except with the necessary inline mic AND they have a custom in-ear phone program AND ACS is doing the custom ear sleeves for them AND you can go into any apple store (in the UK right now), and buy the custom pack: you get the headphones and a vouchure for the custom sleeves. And this program is about to be rolled out world-wide "very soon" The vid below shows how it works.

Folks in the US right now can head to Ety's site to take a peek.

I'll update the site as soon as i learn of the Apple Store US release.

Technical Note: real protection
I also asked Andy about the differences in db ratings on the ety site, claiming 35-40 decibles and the custom sleeves rating 26db on the site, especially since i find the sleeves much better. He explained that the 35-40 db may be the attenuation at some frequencies, but not at all. Indeed it may be quite a bit less as some hotter frequencies. On the other hand, the custom sleeves provide 26db at least at all frequencies. Cool.

So now, even less excuse not to protect one's hearing AND get improved audio experience at the same time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

HIIT (on bikes) - why it results in both more fat reduction, and Spot Fat Reduction at That, too than Hearty Steady State

ResearchBlogging.orgThere are lots of folks espousing the value of HIIT as an effective calorie burner when trying to burn fat. But is there really a special role for HIIT in the fat burning lexicon, or should we just strive to work harder - like 50-75% VO2max - throughout a cardio session? Some more recent work suggests there may be in terms of metabolic activity and even spot fat reduction. But before we go there, let's refresh a bit about HIIT.

The old argument that HIIT burns more calories than Steady State and so is beter has been given a good walloping by Lyle McDonald. Especially in his head to head of steady state with HIIT he pretty persuasively shows that "The intervals only come out a TINY bit ahead if you compare workouts of identical length and even there the difference is absolutely insignificant."

Review: What's HIIT supposed to Do?
Indeed, work from 2008 lead by Shannan E. Gormley comparing intervals to a decent level of steady state effort did show a benefit for intervals of a sort, but the question for the researchers is what's the optimal time to spend at that peak intensity in an interval to elicit this effect? As cited previously here, the authors state:

It should be noted that although interval training groups spend some of their training time at a very high intensity, a similar amount of time is spent at a lower intensity, and therefore the mean intensity of training may not be any higher than that of a continuous training program. In the current study, the interval training group used 5 min each for the work and the recovery phases of the intervals and had an average intensity of 72% HRR, which is slightly less than the 75% HRR of the vigorous [the steady state -mc] group. The work-recovery periods of Helgerud et al.[16] were 4 min at ∼93% HRmax and 3 min at 70% HRmax, for a mean intensity of 83% HRmax in the interval group, whereas one of the continuous groups used 85% HRmax. Warburton et al.[37] used 2 min at 90% HRR and 2 min at 40% HRR for the work and the recovery phases, yielding a mean intensity of 65% HRR in the interval group, and had the continuous training group use 65% HRR. Wisloff et al.[38] used 4-min work phases at ∼93% HRmax and 3-min recovery phases at 60% HRmax, for a mean intensity of 79% HRmax in the interval group, and used ∼73% HRmax in the continuous training group. Despite the similarity of mean intensity between the interval and the continuous training groups, the interval groups in all of these studies experienced greater improvements in aerobic fitness after training. Therefore, although intensity is a key variable in cardiorespiratory training (as shown by comparing the two continuous training groups in this study), the mean intensity may not be as important as the highest intensity that is used for a significant portion of the training. A topic for future research is to determine what portion of training should be done at high intensities and using what work-recovery periods to obtain the greatest results
The above is looking not at fat loss effects of intervals, but training to enhance oxidative capacity for performance. More recently even really brief intense bouts of exercise (like 6 mins a week of effort compared with hours of steady state for the same physiological effect as hours of 60% MaxHR), there are similar kinds of performance benefits. So, there seem to be some performance optimization benefits from (a) looking at finding the right balance of peak intensity to recovery for work sessions and (b) looking at supramaximal efforts that may have similar effects in less time. Again, that's performance, not fat loss, and in the former case, we are talking really small degrees of difference.

So what about fat loss & HIIT, then?
HIIT means high intensity interval protocol. But what is the best HIIT to do if you're tuning it for fat lost first, and anything else second? And does it make a difference if you're dealing with elite athletes or people who are just well enough conditioned so their hearts won't explode if you ask them to go "really hard" for a bit? Is it 60 secs on? 30 off? 60:60? The infamous tabatta on for 20 off for 10 - and remember that was not primarily a fat burning study but an anaerobic/aerobic capacity study.

In 2007 & 2008 a couple studies came out on HIIT from New South Wales as part of some cool PhD work lead by Gail Trapp that i have come to cite frequently about a great HIIT protocol for fat loss and other cool, related benefits that looked explicitly at intervals for fat burning and effects between conditioned and less conditioned participants. Here's the first one, looking at what different HIIT intervals stir up metabolically.
Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Dec;293(6):R2370-5. Epub 2007 Sep 26.
Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise.

Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Boutcher SH.

School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Univ. of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia.

The metabolic response to two different forms of high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise was investigated in young women. Subjects (8 trained and 8 untrained) performed two bouts of high-intensity intermittent exercise: short sprint (SS) (8-s sprint, 12-s recovery) and long sprint (LS) (24-s sprint, 36-s recovery) for 20 min on two separate occasions. Both workload and oxygen uptake were greater in the trained subjects but were not significantly different for SS and LS. Plasma glycerol concentrations significantly increased during exercise. Lactate concentrations rose over the 20 min and were higher for the trained women. Catecholamine concentration was also higher postexercise compared with preexercise for both groups. Both SS and LS produced similar metabolic response although both lactate and catecholamines were higher after the 24-s sprint. In conclusion, these results show that high-intensity intermittent exercise resulted in significant elevations in catecholamines that appear to be related to increased venous glycerol concentrations. The trained compared with the untrained women tended to show an earlier increase in plasma glycerol concentrations during high-intensity exercise.
Fat Mobilization: Freed for the Burning. Ah ha you say, there's no fat loss measured here. Right. But what IS measured here is catecholamine activation. Those threat response fight or flight hormones are what mobilize fat to get burned, baby burned. And from these the authors suggest a correlation to the level of catecholamine released and the level of glycerol to be found in the blood stream. In other words, higher degree of intensity, greater catecholamine release, more fat mobilised to be used for fuel.

Any type of heart rate elevation triggers some catecholamine response - so does drinking green tea. But what the authors show here is that both long and short high intensity efforts - sprints in this case - can be effective to trigger greater catecholomine release, but the longer 24 sec sprint with its equivalent longer recovery seems to be better overall for fat mobilization. That's cool. That's actually less work/minute at 24 secs on 36 off than the shorter burst of 8on/12off (24sec vs 40secs of work). Wow. So longer more intense intervals - not necessarily more work - yields higher levels of fat release for fuel - but both the shorties and the longies are good.

Applying these Inervals to Fat Loss. Trapp and Co. then took this finding to a larger cohort of 45 participants (up from 8 and 8), and went longitudinal running a 15 week study. 15 weeks is *good* for 45 people to hang in there.
Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Apr;32(4):684-91. Epub 2008 Jan 15.
The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women.

Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J, Boutcher SH.

Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the effects of a 15-week high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) program on subcutaneous and trunk fat and insulin resistance of young women. DESIGN AND PROCEDURES: Subjects were randomly assigned to one of the three groups: HIIE (n=15), steady-state exercise (SSE; n=15) or control (CONT; n=15). HIIE and SSE groups underwent a 15-week exercise intervention. SUBJECTS: Forty-five women with a mean BMI of 23.2+/-2.0 kg m(-2) and age of 20.2+/-2.0 years. RESULTS: Both exercise groups demonstrated a significant improvement (P<0.05) in cardiovascular fitness. However, only the HIIE group had a significant reduction in total body mass (TBM), fat mass (FM), trunk fat and fasting plasma insulin levels. There was significant fat loss (P<0.05) in legs compared to arms in the HIIE group only. Lean compared to overweight women lost less fat after HIIE. Decreases in leptin concentrations were negatively correlated with increases in VO(2peak) (r=-0.57, P<0.05) and positively correlated with decreases in TBM (r=0.47; P<0.0001). There was no significant change in adiponectin levels after training. CONCLUSIONS: HIIE three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of SSE exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance in young women.

To be clear, in the second study, gals in the HIIT group did a five minute warm up, followed by 20mins of 8sec sprint followed by 12s of 20-30rpm recovery. The load was continually adjusted over the course of 15 weeks, starting at everyone getting to 20mins at .5kg of resistance. Based on heart rate, the load was upped by .5kg so that the heart effect was consistent as folks got stronger.

The steady state group worked at 60%V02peak - that's a good clip - about 75% maxHR so no slouching there. They worked up from 10mins to 40mins. The mean heart rate of the groups was 168.6 for the HIIT group; 155.7 for the steady state group (participants were 18-30 years old).

As to the fat loss: There was significant FM loss (P less than 0.05) r="−0.58,">This last point is not surprising, based on energy available for fuel from fat relative to bodyfat % (discussed here). The authors come back to this point stating:
High-intensity intermittent exercise training had a marked effect on fat levels for some individuals and a moderate effect for others. The correlation (r=0.58, P less than 0.01)43, 44 The four moderate fat loss responders in the HIIE group (women who had a 3% or less decrease in total fat) possessed significantly lower initial FM than the other women. With the four lean women removed, the mean fat loss in the HIIE group was 3.94±0.91kg resulting in a 4.3% decrease in body mass and a 14.7% decrease in total FM. This 3.94-kg fat loss compares favorably to the 1.15-kg weight loss reported in a recent meta-analysis of the effects of SEE on weight loss.
That all sounds good and reasonable and wonderful, but then comes the particularly interesting bits - gosh what would almost seem like spot fat reductions:
High-intensity intermittent exercise led to a significant decrease (P less than 0.05) in central abdominal fat (−0.15plus or minus 0.07 kg), whereas the SSE and CONT groups had nonsignificant increases in central abdominal fat (SSE group, +0.1 plus or minus 0.08 kg; CONT group, +0.03 plus or minus 0.04 kg).
So more weight off the gut area in HIIT, legs and trunk (other newer work (like this one Nov 08 lead by Irving, and this one Aug 09 lead by Coker ) has seen similar results with gut fat). Intriguingly all groups put on fat in the arms (but not a lot). Indeed, the gut fat loss the authors cite as THE finding of the study. Even more, they state
Despite exercising half the time, HIIE subjects in the present study lost 11.2% of total FM with SSE subjects experiencing no fat loss.
That's a pretty big difference between the two groups

Discussion of Findings - Cautious optimism for Intense Intervals

The authors in true geek science-ness don't overegg the results:
Collectively, these results demonstrate that intermittent sprinting compared to SEE is a more effective and efficient way of controlling body composition. However, our estimates of energy expenditure and intake lack sufficient precision to comfortably conclude that energy balance was unaffected in the HIIE condition. Thus, it is feasible that the change in FM that occurred in HIIE may have been influenced by unreported changes in diet. Indeed, HIIE-induced suppressed diet intake may be one of a number of possible factors underlying the fat loss effect of HIIE.11 For example, HIIE may have suppressed appetite or decreased attraction for energy-dense foods.24, 25 Another explanation for the HIIE fat loss effects is that this type of exercise may result in enhanced lipid utilization. Prior research in our laboratory has shown that lipid release, as indicated by blood glycerol levels, gradually increased over 20min of HIIE.20 Catecholamine levels in this study were also found to be significantly elevated after HIIE.20
Free Fat. I love this! Because of that catecholomine hit we saw earlier, and because there's more fat available as fuel in the blood ready to be used, Trapp's crew hypothesizes, maybe people doing HIIT just aren't homeostatically tweaked to reach for calorically dense foods - their bodies know they have that covered. That's a really intersting idea. I wonder if doing HIIT closer to meal times enhances this effect, if that's what's going on.

What about this seeming spot reduction? But even if you want to say there are interesting side effects going on with HIIT that are causing these fat loss responses, the authors' key result is this abdominal fat difference. HIIT took OFF some ab fat; Steady state, i'm sorry to say, put some on. Dang.

Here's where exercise type may play an important role in whether or not this spot effect is achieved. The authors postulate the following:
It is considered that spot reduction (that is, deliberately reducing fat stores in specific areas of the body) is not possible, and the body will mobilize preferentially those stores with the highest concentrations of adipose cells.36, 37, 38 There is evidence in the current study that this principle may not apply to every exercise modality. In HIIE, where work is done primarily by the musculature of the legs and the trunk muscles act as stabilizers, there was a decrease in FM and an increase in lean mass, which summated to a significant change in percentage of fat in these two regions. This was not the case with the SSE group.
So where work triggers core stabilizers to get that extra intensity, there may be a seeming spot fat loss effect. It's also interesting to note that only the HIIT group had lean body mass increase.

Translating Results to Other Modes? Do these findings translate to other modalities for HIIT - like oh i dunno, maybe kettlebells? Don't know. Perhaps that would be an interesting comparison for bike, hardstyle with it's tension at the top of the swing say, and that hip/core/lat activation, and GS with its more relaxed swing. Do GS/HS differences fall away as the bell weight gets heavier?

In the meantime, the authors offer the following:
In conclusion, 20 min of HIIE [on a bike - mc] , performed three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of 40min of SSE exercise was associated with significant reductions in fasting insulin, total body fat, subcutaneous leg fat and abdominal fat.

While the authors tested their participants with the 8/12 interval, their earlier work with the 24/36 suggests the benefits might be even greater - on a bike, but maybe with a kettlebell or a rowing machine, too.

Take Away: the Skinny on the Fat & HIIT
There are at least two ways to talk about HIIT - in the performance arena, and in fat burning. In performance, there is a small but not insignificant edge to interval work over intense steady state. In fat burning there is a really significant effect. Here's what i think it is.

While the authors make much of the spot fat reduction - and that's not nothing - the more intriguing thing is that *only* the HIIE group lost fat & had their lean body mass go up.

I've cited before work to show that without diet, any weight loss changes, even over 12 weeks of working out are small. In this case, there was no deliberate dietary intervention. So that there was such fat loss without more or less trying dietarily as well is really kinda eye openingly "what the heck?"

So i am intrigued by the authors' speculation about that catecholamine effect and glycerol release and potential effect on let's say homeostasis - a reduced reach for high cal foods, naturally. Wow. That makes HIIE worth looking at from a whole other point that has a whole lot less to do with the calories burned on the bike and the effect of those intervals throughout every other day of the week. And that's only 3*15. What would 3days at 20 or 30 or 40 minutes do? More is not always better - and intervals can be fatiguing but. Hmm.

Related Posts

main refs
Trapp, E., Chisholm, D., Freund, J., & Boutcher, S. (2008). The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women International Journal of Obesity, 32 (4), 684-691 DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781

GORMLEY, S., SWAIN, D., HIGH, R., SPINA, R., DOWLING, E., KOTIPALLI, U., & GANDRAKOTA, R. (2008). Effect of Intensity of Aerobic Training on VO2max Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40 (7), 1336-1343 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31816c4839

Trapp, E., Chisholm, D., & Boutcher, S. (2007). Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 293 (6) DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00780.2006

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fasting and Workouts: does it work out?

ResearchBlogging.orgThere is growing interest in intermittent fasting and athletic performance - or how can i train if i'm not eating? In the past year there have been a couple of cool studies looking at athletic performance and the effects of the Ramdam fast on same. The Ramadan fast is, to the best of my knowledge, a total break in eating for part of a day: from sun up to sun down, no food. Since this is the time of day most athletes train, one might think going without food would make training impossible, or that athletes would start to cave in competition against their opponents.

So no kidding this particular combo of IF and Sport has been studied a LOT - just put ramadam and exercise into Pubmed, and you'll see.

There was a large study, however, carried out in 2006 and reported on in 2008. The study involved three teams that lived in residence at the training ground. The abstract is so complete, rather than paraphrase, let me present it here.

J Sports Sci. 2008 Dec;26 Suppl 3:S3-6.
Influence of Ramadan fasting on physiological and performance variables in football players: summary of the F-MARC 2006 Ramadan fasting study.

Zerguini Y, Dvorak J, Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, Bartagi Z, Kirkendall DT, Al-Riyami M, Junge A.
Centre d'Evaluation et d'Expertise en Medecine du Sport, Algiers, Algeria.

The timing of food and liquid intake depends on the times of sunset and sunrise during the month of Ramadan. The current body of knowledge presents contradicting results as to the effect of Ramadan fasting on body mass, body composition and metabolic changes. The main objective of the present investigation was to gain additional information and scientific data in conformity with the philosophical background of Islam to allow optimisation of the daily training and dietary regimen in relation to the mental and physical performance of football players. The four teams, along with their coaches and trainers, attended a residential training camp at training centre 3 weeks before the start of Ramadan and throughout the study. Energy intake was relatively stable in the fasting group, but there was a small, albeit significant, decrease of approximately 0.7 kg in body mass. Water intake increased on average by 1.3 l/day in line with the greater energy intake in the non-fasting group in Ramadan. Daily sodium intake fell during Ramadan in the fasting players but increased slightly in the non-fasting group. Fasting players trained on average 11 h after their last food and drink, and reported that they felt slightly less ready to train during the Ramadan fast. None of the assessed performance variables was negatively affected by fasting while nearly all variables showed significant improvement at the third test session, indicating a training effect. Heart rate measurements in one training session during the third week of Ramadan appeared to suggest that the training load during training was marginally greater for the fasting than for the non-fasting players. However, the overall exercise load measures indicated that there was no biologically significant difference between the fasting and non-fasting groups. In the present study, biochemical, nutritional, subjective well-being and performance variables were not adversely affected in young male football players who followed Ramadan fasting in a controlled training camp environment. Physical performance generally improved, but match performance was not measured. We recommend that players should ensure adequate sleep and good nutrition during Ramadan to preserve football performance and general health.
SO, pretty much doing a ramadam style sunrise to sunset fast doesn't negatively impact pretty durn intense competitive training.

What this and other studies have noted, however, and you can see it in the recommendation of the last line - is that athletes' biggest issue was their perception of sleep quality - feeling like the had about an hour less a night than when they weren't fasting. One other report was that, even though the actual performance measures were not impacted, they did subjectively feel less ready to train than when they weren't fasting. Training was about an 11h day, by the way.

CAVEAT: I have to note that the funding for the study was provided by FIFA, and it makes sense that it would be in their interests to find that religious observance did not interfere with physical/professional requirements. On the other hand, they might be just as keen to know if there was a problem with their highly paid athletes not being able to perform optimally.

So what's a geek to do? Look for more evidence. A 2009 review of the literature on athletes and Ramadam seems to concur with the above outcomes being repeated in other studies, and so it asks a new question: what the heck is going on to let athletes perform well under these conditions?

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Dec;4(4):419-34.
Effects of ramadan intermittent fasting on sports performance and training: a review.

Chaouachi A, Leiper JB, Souissi N, Coutts AJ, Chamari K.

Research Unit "Evaluation, Sport, Health," National Centre of Medicine and Science in Sport, Tunis, Tunisia.

The month-long diurnal Ramadan fast imposes a major challenge to Islamic athletes. Sporting events are programmed throughout the year, with the result that training and competition are often scheduled during Ramadan. The small numbers of well-controlled studies that have examined the effects of Ramadan on athletic performance suggest that few aspects of physical fitness are negatively affected, and only modest decrements are observed. Whereas subjective feelings of fatigue and other mood indicators are often cited as implying additional stress on the athlete throughout Ramadan, most studies show these measures may not be reflected in decreases in performance. The development and early implementation of sensible eating and sleeping strategies can greatly alleviate the disruptions to training and competitiveness, thus allowing the athlete to perform at a high level while undertaking the religious intermittent fast. Nevertheless, further research is required to understand the mechanisms and energy pathways that allow athletes to maintain their performance capacities during Ramadan, and which factors are responsible for the observed decrements in performance of some individuals.
That's cool when a summative paper actually says ok, based on this what are the cool questions to look at, and there are at least two: (a) what's happening physiologically to allow this kind of performance, despite less than optimal feelings about it and (b) how come this doesn't seem to work for some people - some people's performance does go down. Why/how are they different?

Take Away: In the context of a 30 day, summer daylight fast (long days; shorter nights) as Ramadan is at least for people practicing it in Tunisia, it is possible to fast during that time, when eating and resting appropriately on either side of the fast to support athletic training consisting mainly of endurance style effort for football.

This approach to eating for training at very limited times raises interesting questions about nutrient timing. We also don't know what would happen if this approach to training were carried on longer than a month.

Indeed, in the fifa funded study (the first one, above) there's a reported satelite study that showed that after the fast, in the two weeks of follow up, the post-fasting team members' endurance went up.

While this finding is different than the approach in Intermittent Fastingof work like Eat Stop Eat (24hour long fasts, max) that says it's ok to fast and resistance train in a fasted state; there's no muscle loss as long as resistance work is kept up, can we say categorically that fasting and training go well together? There's a seemingly obvious kind of correlation that says, at least for brief periods - whether 24 hours of no eating, or 30 days of daylight limited eating - we can handle training in a fasted state.

Whether this is optimal or not is not clear, but it seems to be at least ok.

Related Posts

Zerguini Y, Dvorak J, Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, Bartagi Z, Kirkendall DT, Al-Riyami M, & Junge A (2008). Influence of Ramadan fasting on physiological and performance variables in football players: summary of the F-MARC 2006 Ramadan fasting study. Journal of sports sciences, 26 Suppl 3 PMID: 19085447

Chaouachi A, Leiper JB, Souissi N, Coutts AJ, & Chamari K (2009). Effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on sports performance and training: a review. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 4 (4), 419-34 PMID: 20029094

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Glucomannan: the Super Weight Loss Satiety Support Supplement (with Fiber, too) Lawd, it can be hard when dieting to get enough fiber. Turns out there's a supplement that's been investigated since the 198o's at least that actually seems to keep showing up only positive results in all sorts of contexts. Glucomannan. The fiber of the Konjac root. A soluble fiber, but, what's more, it seems to enhance satiety with less food. And is safe. And seems to do many other Wonderful Things.

I first heard about this stuff in a Precision Nutrition interview with phd Casandra Forsythe of New Rules of Lifting for Women fame. Then there's this cool video on T-Nation showing how much liquid a bit of glucomannan absorbs.

Success -on so many levels.
Studies looking at adding glucomannan to calorie-restricted diets have consistently found that glucomannan groups lose more fat than the non-fiber'd up groups. In one study in 2005, over 5 weeks, the GM group dropped an additional .8/kg. Indeed, in a review of research done on GM and obesity up to 2005 found that adding 2-4g of the stuff to food a day had good weightloss effects while also doing other good things like lipid status, carb tolerance and satiety (as talked about way back in 92 as well).

Fat Related.
The review reiterated what's been one of the earliest findings with GM: resduced serum cholesterol AND ldl (1984). IN looking at likely the most popular soluble fiber sup, psyllium, it *seems* that the results on lipoproteins levels are better with GM too.

Weight Loss. In the weightloss space, though, terms like carb tolerance and statiety are really important. Does the person on the calorie restricted diet feel full? That may reduce cheating. Satiety turns out to be a huge topic, and achieving satiety on 1200kcals, for example, is no small thing.

Likewise, being better able to handle starchy carbs means better insulin sensitivity means potentially not taking on board quite so many since one's getting the benefit from them that's approriate with appropriate insulin response.

Related Symptoms? Heck probiotics (eat yogurt) + GM have been shown to reduce acne.

Better Movement. Likekwise having good bowel movements while dieting can be a real challenge. Since gut health is a huge indicator it seems of overall wellbeing, lots of dieters tend to reach for psyllium as a main fiber solutions.

Turns out, though, there are advantages to going the soluble route with glucomannan. Besides just getting better more regular BM's, in a 2006 study, the group using GM (aka Konjac) also shows a significant increase in bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and total bacteria. You know, that friendly stuff we need. The GM "supplement also promoted colonic fermentation as shown in the decreased fecal pH (P < href="">this is one supplement that's actually being suggested can play a role as part of a regimen with kids, where other diet approaches - like drugs - cannot.

Why Does it Work for Weight Loss?
Glucomannan does so many good things, it sounds like it's compressing every thing that goes along with just eating right into one humble but potent powder. But for most folks doing diets, a biggie reason for adding a little GM (like 4 g, 1.5/meal mixed in with food, not caps) to our lives may be that simply eating less leaves us feeling fuller rather than lesser.

This effect of feeling full is not necessarily obvious - having a full gut does not always leave one feeling satisfied (review of gut triggering brain mechanisms; review of meal size brain signaling). One can have their stomach filled up with water, and as many dieters know, a stomach that's full - of water - doesn't necessarily result in a lack of desire to eat more. So what glucomannan seems to be doing within food use is to assist in having less food register as more satisfying, tripping off those sensors in the gut/brain signaling that say less is more in this case. That is very cool.

That it also helps with "increased fecal energy" as that 2005 review suggests, may be one more reason towards simply feeling better with what one is doing more of the day - i speculate. But feeling good is feeeling good.

Recommendation: If you are struggling with aspects of low-cal'ing, from feeling full, to having healthy bowel movements, glucomannan may be just the ticket. If you have LDL issues as well and are dieting, this may also be a good supplement in any case. Check with your Doc if you're on any medication that may be counterindicated.


Birketvedt GS, Shimshi M, Erling T, & Florholmen J (2005). Experiences with three different fiber supplements in weight reduction. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 11 (1) PMID: 15614200

Keithley J, & Swanson B (2005). Glucomannan and obesity: a critical review. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 11 (6), 30-4 PMID: 16320857

Walsh DE, Yaghoubian V, & Behforooz A (1984). Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: a clinical study. International journal of obesity, 8 (4), 289-93 PMID: 6096282

Sartore, G., Reitano, R., Barison, A., Magnanini, P., Cosma, C., Burlina, S., Manzato, E., Fedele, D., & Lapolla, A. (2009). The effects of psyllium on lipoproteins in type II diabetic patients European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63 (10), 1269-1271 DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.60

Al-Ghazzewi FH, & Tester RF (2009). Effect of konjac glucomannan hydrolysates and probiotics on the growth of the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes in vitro. International journal of cosmetic science PMID: 19818083

Marsicano LJ, Berrizbeitia ML, & Mondelo A (1995). [Use of glucomannan dietary fiber in changes in intestinal habit] G.E.N, 49 (1), 7-14 PMID: 8566676

deFonseka A, & Kaunitz J (2009). Gut sensing mechanisms. Current gastroenterology reports, 11 (6), 442-7 PMID: 19903419

Grill, H. (2010). Leptin and the systems neuroscience of meal size control Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 31 (1), 61-78 DOI: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2009.10.005

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eye Health: How Fast can You Switch Focus?

Our eyes are moved by a set of 6 muscles. Intriguingly, we rarely work these muscles with any of the attention we give to our other more obvious prime movers like hips or arms; how we work them is usually only in a very restricted range of motion and action. And like any other tissues in the body, use 'em or lose 'em.

There are huge benefits from actually practicing eye movement, speed of focal accommodation being one of them. How quickly can we shift from where we're looking now to refocus where the next target is?

Tech Tip of the day: Near Far Eye Drills. The idea of this simple drill is to work the muscles of the eye that help focus. The drill is taught as part of a suite of eye health movement drills in z-health (what's that?) on both the Neural Warm Up I and the S-Phase Complete Athlete, Volume 1 DVDs (reviewed here).

In the following excerpt from the S-Phase DVD, Master Z-Health Trainer and Sr RKC Sara Cheatham demos how the drill works: one hand far, one hand near; switch focus between hands as quickly as possible for reps; switch hands.

The goal of the drill is not just to move our eyes from the near hand to the far hand, but to move our eyes to the other object and FOCUS on that object, so it's important to make sure that our hands are set at distances relative to our eyes that will require that re-focus/acquisition. By practicing this simple drill, we can improve the speed of acquisition. We likewise help keep our eye muscles in better responsive physical shape.

Start off with this drill slowly: when we're not used to working our eyes, we can get a headache pretty quickly. Also watch for signs of stress: shoulders hunching up, face getting tight. A few deep breaths in through the nose, out slowly through pursed lips, and we're likely good to go again.

The benefits are huge in a sport context of speedy target acquisition, but in regular life, practicing responsiveness can be a life saver, too. The eyes are our primary sensory system - before vestibular, before proprioception. The more quickly we can detect something with practiced efficiency, the less stress in an actual event, the more skill brought to the action requiring a response.

Another quick tip? Try using your eyes to see something before turning your head - but again, go slowly. This can be fatiguing quickly when unaccustomed to the motion. Eye rather than head movement has lots of neurological benefits too, described in this post on the arthrokinetic reflex. Doing so also simply works the muscles of the eye in a more complete range of motion, enhancing perfipheral view.

More Eye Work for more kinds of Performance Strength. There are many other drills that can be practiced with the eyes that have a range of benefits including amazingly strength and cognition. Many of these eye drills, based in sports vision and behavioural optometry, are on the Nerual Warm Up 1 and 2, the S-Phase Video, and many are taught at the Elite Performance Workshop. More focal accomodation drills are on the NWU vids; more of the cognition/performance drills are on S-phase. Many can be practiced seated at a desk with just your hands or with a pencil, so they're easy to do anywhere. The point is to know 'em, love 'em and do them.

Related Posts

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Audio Fitness & Ear Health for the iPod'ing Athlete: In Ear Phones + Custom Sleeves

You're going deaf and it's your ipod+gym's fault. The volume needed to crank the phones on a pod to counter act the noises of the environment usually verges on or goes beyond 80db's. That's not good. In fact it's actually bad. And the rate of youth hearing impairment has gone up so much in the era of the iPod, that the EU is freaking out.

The typical ear bud phone (like the one that comes with ipods) is a big part of where the blame sits, as it sits right beside the ear canal, thus having to crank the volume to be heard - over other competing sounds.

Isolation from the Noise Environment.

There is a fix. It's earphones that support noise isolation. This approach is different than noise cancelation, done by batteries and mics on headphones. Noise isolation is simply achieved by blocking off a great deal of incoming sound into the ear.

The usual method is to use an "in ear" or "canal" headphone design, rather than having something sitting beside the ear canal, ie ear buds. Simply think: earbuds = bad. In ear phones = much better. These enable the ear, effectively, to be plugged, isolating one's hearing from the outside noises; focusing on inner audio peace. The consequence of these monitors is also awesomely that the actual volume of the music can then be turned DOWN substantially. And thus, one's ears are getting the same audio experience at lower decibles. That's critical.

Another plus is that audio quality can improve with better isolation and less drive. This one change can make an audio system feel like new, and a better quality new (more on this elsewhere)

IEM's - In Ear Monitors - the rich variety of type and price
There are numerous types of these headphones now available. Here's a sample listing. The best solution is (of course) a custom made "in ear monitor" designed to fit just YOUR ear. You'll see stage musicians using such monitors rather than those big black speakers facing towards them on stage. More recently, these IEMs have taken off in the audiophile space for simply great listening.

Aside: Indeed, good 'phones and a good headphone amp is a great way to get audiophile audio experience at literally or proportionally a tenth of the price. And if you haven't tried that, and you love music, you owe it to yourself. Here's an entire article on high fidelity on the cheap (another passion of mine)
But even saying you got yourself this little piece of audio heaven like these awesome custom made ACS T2's, would you want to use these in the gym? Or out and about? Maybe not so much.

So how get, good audio and the audio isolation to protect one's hearing?
A great solution to bring out the best of great audio and excellent hearing protection isolation in a package that is gym safe is to combine some decent off-the-shelf in ear phones with custom sleeves.

Enter Etymotic Research and ACS. Delighted was i to learn that my fave get around in ear phones, the Etymotic Resarch 6i's, were being paired (so far just in the UK/EU) with such custom sleeves via (i have nothing to do with this company). I've reviewed the Ety 6i's and Ety's awesome customer service previously (again, no association with the company).

The sleeves are produced by the UK's Advanced Communication Solutions (again no affiliation other than customer), makers of those awesome T2's that Stephen Fry's been blogging about.

Why i like this particular set up is that the Ety 6i's really are a just-right headphone for the quality audio most of us put on our ipods for regular listening (mp3's of 320kbps or less, or aac of some sort; rarely aiff). The 6i ( i is for iPod) is specifically balanced, especially in the bass, for the iPod. If a person wants more audio oomph while staying true to the sound, then it's time to consider a wee exernal amp to drive the ipod sound, like Robert Gerkhe's, discussed here. But that is not a typical gym set up where you may also be using your ipod with an interval timer, say.

Indeed, the 6i is beyond just alright, especially when considering price, value and function and of course audio quality here. They are so infinitely beyond the phones that come with the ipod, it really is like getting a whole other instrument to hear one's music, but they have an unfussy, robust build that can well handle typical ipod scenarios. Like the gym.

Adding custom sleeves makes a great earphone headset even more resiliant and effective.

Sound Comfort. The advantage of the sleeves is at least two-fold. Of the many of these in-ear stock phones i've sampled, none feels effortless to wear. You do notice them. The Ety's stock sleeves of silicon are likely some of the easiest wearing stock configurations (shown in the white headphones above) and are used by the company's primo Ety 4's as well, but compared to a custom sleeve, well there's no comparison.

The ACS sleeves, shown right in clear and above in colors, is not made of acrylic (like some customs) but a special silicon blend that can be worn all day long (sometimes all night long if one falls asleep to music).

Form = Function. Perhaps more importantly, because they are custom fit, the sleeves do their job as noise isolators better than the non-custom types with that added comfort that makes them really a joy to use, along with the enhanced sense of audio precision. I think i mentioned comfort? They can also be washed, which is great, cuz well, we're talking workouts and sweat here.

How it (the customization + iem purchase) Works
  • First a person orders their custom ety 6i's from the web site's partners. The pack includes the 6i's and a voucher to get the custom moulds done (if you already have 6i's you can get the custom sleeve pack separately)
  • ACS has partnered with a number of audiologists thoughout the UK that will take the ear impressions on presentation of said voucher (yes that's right: an audiologist puts goo into the ear canal that takes the shape of your ear, and from these shapes, the sleeves are fit).
  • Within two weeks, the custom sleeves are deliverd to your door.
  • Swap the ear flanges on the ety's for the custom sleeves.
  • enjoy enjoy enjoy.
Availability beyond the UK. Currently, the Ety/ACS partnership.My understanding in talking with Andy Shiach, head honcho at ACS is that they are working to bring this combo to other countries (like that little one over the pond - something ends in an a...). In the interim there are companies in the US like senssaphonics that will do the sleeves, but prices aren't posted, and you're not getting the combo price. If you do get ear moulds done in another country, ACS can arrange shipping - talk with ACS directly about this.

Other Phones
Personally, for the gym and related to'ing and fro'ing, i think the ety's and the customs are the perfect blend, but you may already have in-ear phones that you love. If you would like to customize these for this comfort, db isolation and enhanced audio zip, you can. As a quick note, ACS does sleeves for most IEMs, too. Here's the page on their site for the info and a list of the brands for which they do customs.

Improving All Parts of Well Being
Working out the physical parts while compromising the vestibular/audio parts is sort of a health contradition, but a lot of us do it: playing our audio to create our own private universe meaning that we have to play it way loud to get the isolation. In ear phones go a long way to redressing the audio overload while improving audio quality. Custom sleeves make that experience that much better - and way more comfortable.

Indeed, in trasit, these are great to wear on trains or planes or the occaisional automobile without being plugged into the 'pod, just for noise isolation. No batteries required.

Again, i'm not remunerated by either Ety or ACS. I do know that they make great products and have awesome customer service. And intiguingly, there's something it seems the UK has put together (with a US partner) in a consumer friendly pacakge ahead of it's US or Euro cousins that is da wee audio bomb - but it a good way.

UPDATE: even more options for iPhone Athlete, via ACS, Ety and the Apple Store

Related Posts

Friday, January 15, 2010

CoQ10 (coenzyme q10)- is it worth it - from an athletic perspective

ResearchBlogging.orgIn the world of alluring supplements, coq10 feels like a relative new comer. Is it worth considering adding to one's regimen? CoQ10 is being investigated in so many contexts, the following is a consideration of where it's been looked at in athletics to help make a determination as to whether or not it's worth considering for your own regimen. Shaking the magic 8 ball, signs point to Yes, especially as we age.

CoQ10 as a supplement has been around for awhile, has been heavily studied it seems in Japan in particular, where it became a legal food supplement in 2001. The first review on any toxicity seems to have been done only in 2008 (it's "highly safe"). In the west, it's mainly been used in the area of heart conditions, muscular dystrophy and some uses to combat effects of statins (cholesterol drugs). More generally it is being promoted as a free-radical buster (anti-ageing) and as something good for the skin. In Athletics, however, it's mainly been considered as to whether or not it does anything for aerobic power.

Coq10: What is it Where is it and Why is it
Co-enzyme Q10 is produced in the body - everywhere in the body. Hence it's other name: ubiquinone - ubi, latin, everywhere. It's in that amazing cell, the mitochondria. We develop increasing amounts of mitochondria when we do aerobic work over time. Aerobic work means pretty much everything where we aren't sucking wind as aerobic=predominantly oxygen based. Mitochondria is the fat burning engine of the bod y. We develop more of it from aerobic work to help better oxygenate our bodies' processes including energy production. Indeed, CoQ10 is involved in the electron transport chain - a key part of converting fuel into ATP, so it's essential to that conversion process.

The thing about exercise is that the harder the effort, the more free radicals and reactvie oxygen species are produced. There are questions in research right now about how these things contribute to muscle damage experienced as everything from fatigue to DOMS. Since 96, it's been hypothesized that ROS and muscle stress impact coq10 levels in muscle tissue, and somehow this has a negative effect on muscle performance. The complement to this observation of course is that well, let's bring the level of coq10 up with supplementation.

We see similar logic and results operating with creatine to be available for ATP conversion in the high effort early anaerobic short duration phosphagen energy system (discussed in this b2d article on creatine and beta-alanine for aerobic power).

The plus side also of keeping an aerobic system able to work more may also mean that aerobic threshold extends, putting off going anaerobic for fuel - to the speedily available but sparse glycolytic (think carbohydrate) energy system.

Overview of Research on coq10 and Aerobic Effort
Study results have been all over the map in terms of whether More is Better for athletes. The intriguing thing about such studies and results is how the protocols - the way the study was performed - differs. So we can't just say CoQ10 didn't effect aerobic power - we have to ask, under what conditions is the jury still out - where if anywhere is their promise?

Consider a way early study in 1997 of whom some might say are the ultimate aerobic athletes, cross country skiiers. 94% of these elite Finnish team athletes "felt" their performance and recovery was better compared with only 33% on placebo. Beyond the affect, there were also results that showed a not huge but still significant effect on both anaerobic and aerobic groups compared with placebo over 6 weeks of training.

In 2003, there was a 'systemic review' of CoQ10 in physical exercies (hypertension and heart failure, too). The finding was that "six showed a modest improvement in exercise capacity with CoQ10 supplementation [including the one above] but five showed no effect."

Here's an interesting finding about those papers:
We identified eleven studies in which CoQ10 was tested for an effect on exercise capacity, six were positive and five showed no effect. Of the six positive trials (Table 1), four were in trained sports persons, athletes, cyclists and skiers, and two involved untrained individuals. Subjects (n = 18 to 28 per study) were given CoQ10, 90 to 100 mg per day for 4 to 8 weeks. Benefits were observed in terms of improved maximum oxygen consumption, averaging 8% (range 3% to 18%) and improved exercise capacity, averaging 13% (range 5% to 33%). Five trials failed to show any statistically significant benefit of CoQ10 (Table 2). Four of these were in trained sports persons and one in untrained individuals. Trials included 10 to 19 subjects and the duration of treatment was four to eight weeks. Dosage and duration of therapy were similar in the two groups of studies.

It is worth noting that whereas all the negative studies were published in peer-reviewed journals, only one of the six positive studies [our skier paper -mc] were published in this way, the other five being published as conference proceedings, probably not peer-reviewed and therefore carried less weight. In conclusion it appears that a modest improvement in exercise capacity may be observed with CoQ10 supplementation but this is not a consistent finding. Inconsistencies in trial results may be due to small numbers of subjects enrolled [in both the showing signs of effect and no signs - mc] and to differences in experimental design. In view of the indication of benefit in some studies, further larger randomised trials in this area are indicated.
Has anything changed since 2003?
In 2005, in what seems an even crappier study for population, took 6 people and over four weeks looked at whether their was an effect. There wasn't. I can't get at the actual study to see how it was run or whether these men with similar vo2max levels for their age (not great).

But here's something recent that seems really interesting. A new (2010) study spent 8 weeks with groups of sedentary guys.

Study Ref: Gökbel, Hakk; Gül, Ibrahim; Belviranl, Muaz; Okudan, Nilsel (2101). The Effects Of Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation on Performance During Repeated Bouts of Supramaximal Exercise in Sedentary Men Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24 (1), 97-102 : 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a61a50

It's a randomized, double blind kinda set up. Fifteen guys. Here's what was found using wingate tests (those things elsewhere shown to be pretty good for developing mitochondria in 6 mins of effort). The measures are Peak Power, Mean Power and Fatigue index.

The cool thing that the researchers found is that the benefit of the coq10 didn't show up in the coq10 group until the fifth wingate (WT) test.

Let's put this in perspective. Wingates are pretty much your all out sprint for 30 secs. Doing one is hard. Doing 3, is absolutely no fun (what the blokes in the 6min a week trial did). Doing 5? With 2 mins of recovery between each? That's not really what you'd call full recovery. It's a break. And it's hard. Why they decided to do 5 of these gruelling sprints?

The rationale tells us about the hypothesis of what we might see with coq10.
The WTs 30-second duration was chosen for being sufficiently long, not only for eliciting maximal glycolytic power but also for requiring a good measure of ‘‘glycolytic/anaerobic endurance’’ (10). The WT strongly stimulates both the adenosine triphosphate-phosphocreatine and glycolytic systems (26), and thus activates purine catabolism and lactic acid production (12). In addition, supramaximal anaerobic exercise has been associated with major increase in plasma catecholamine levels [catecholamines, by the way, are important for fat mobilization, and while any action spurs them, the greater the load the greater the release it seems -mc] (36). These factors are the cause of oxidative stress in supramaximal anaerobic exercise.

It has been shown that during WT, performance to be dependent on energy release from both anaerobic and aerobic processes (3,11). It has been suggested that the WT may be used as an exercise task that stimulates both aerobic and anaerobic processes (21). In the previous studies, it has been demonstrated that aerobic contribution in WT is between 19.5 (3) and 27% (28) but during the repeated supramaximal activities aerobic contribution might be increased.

Therefore, in this study, we are planning to investigate the effects of CoQ10, which has been known to effects on aerobic performance. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of oral CoQ10 supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise.

In other words, the reason for the multiple bouts of wingates is, taking it from the top:
  • coq10 is found in mitochondria
  • it is important for converting (oxidizing) fat (it's aerobic energy source) into ATP for energy
  • there's some work that shows that repeated wingates start to push into the aerobic energy system more than the carb/sugar based glycolytic (fascinating!) and so
  • if the extra coq10 in the mitochondria is going to show up, it will show up by being fatiuge busting in these more aerobic, later repeats, by being able to make more energy availabe when the system goes more oxidative.

Wow. And guess what the researchers saw? See below:

Peak power across the trials continued to go down; fatigue goes up. This isn't particularly surprising. With only two minutes recovery between repeats, one is going to get pooped. But what is rather interiguing is mean power (shown above). Only in the coq10 group, does mean power go up, and this in the fifth trial, from 285.6 6 +/-47.7W to 331.5 +/- 84.3Wcompared
with the baseline exercise session (p less than 0.05).

More intriguingly, when considering that fifth trial peak power, they harken back to previous work. Let me give you the whole thing, because the use of related research to make the case is fascinating, and has implications for one's decision to take coq10 or not. For this, bear in mind the energy system hierarchy, simplified, of phophagen - burns out in about 30 secs; takes about 5 mins to recover. 2 mins recovery before going into another anaerobic interval is not going to recharge that, which means cutting into the glycolytic - sugar stores. Those have about a 3-10min shelf life and at supramaximal, we're talking the shorter end of the scale. Then there's the aerobic, fat burning system.
Bonetti et al. (6) suggested that increase in muscle performance might be due to the antioxidant effect of CoQ10 supplementation and/or its probable action on the central nervous system. There is a direct relationship between the PP and MP: PP is based on the alactic (phosphagen) anaerobic processes and reflects to maximal anaerobic power and MP shows the anaerobic glycolysis rate in muscles (25,32).

[...] In conclusion, the most important effect of CoQ10 supplementation is an increase in MP during the WT5. Increase of the MP during WT5 suggested that contribution of aerobic metabolism was increased during the repeated supramaximal exercises and CoQ10 supplementation increased performance in this type of exercises. Therefore, we concluded that CoQ10 supplementation increases exercise performance, especially anaerobic capacity during repeated bouts of supramaximal exercises. This is the first study investigating the effects of CoQ10 on supramaximal exercises.

While these are cool results - especially because they map to the hypothesis of what should be shown in the trial if the model is in the zone of being correct, is that difference in power a really big deal? Maybe indirectly in terms of what it *might* be doing anti-oxidatively.

Here's what the authors say:
This study suggests that the effects of 8 weeks of CoQ10 supplementation on PP and FI during the 5WTs were limited. Of primary importance, our results demonstrate that CoQ10 supplementation increased MP during the repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise. This increase in MP might be due to antioxidant effect of CoQ10 or contribution of CoQ10 to the aerobic metabolism and increasing of the aerobic contribution caused to amelioration of performance during the repeated bouts of the supramaximal exercises. It means that CoQ10 might be used as an ergogenic aid to increase anaerobic power after its effect clearly exhibited with the further research.
An ergogenic aid is just something that helps performance. But note the typical reserved speculativeness of the research claims. (1) The effect is limited and (2) we still don't know exactly what's causing the effect we see in the results.

What Do these Results Portend?
The interesting thing, i find, about the results, is that, despite the limited effects, there may be especial benefit for athletes as we age. Coq10 levels go down with age - hence the other research that looks at heart disease and skin and anti-oxidation etc. If we see that the effect on aerobic power is from anti-oxidant processes, perhaps that's a good sign in general for enhancing recovery - one of the things that gets more challenging, again, as we age.

Another possibility here is that the coq10 is helping the body make use of fat oxidation longer rather than having to punt to the less abundant resources of the anaerobic system. This result also has benefits for effort and recovery.

One of the things to note is that unlike the previous study on sedentary men, this more recent study took 8 weeks to run, not four, and used a somewhat different (better reasoned) protocol for its supramaximal load reps - timing the effect to be seen when going long enough and hard enough to trigger a more aerobic response, the aerobic being where the mitochondria oxygen burners kick in. Again, the directly observed effect mayn't be great. But it's still statistically significant, and it may be, as one of the grocery chains in the UK claims that "every little helps"

Putting Together the Supplement Package
Last week, b2d presented a review of where creatine and beta-alanine may fit into benefitting aerobic effort by improving ventilatory threshold in particular at sub-maximal efforts and total work done, as well as time to exhaustion.

Coq10 is showing up as benefitting effort in supramaximal efforts - those intense wingates.

The obvious question would be what might the combined effect be for aerobic power across sub to supra efforts?

Dosing of CoQ10?
The usual doses on the shelf of coq10 are either 30 or 100mg. Natural coq10 being usually advised over synthetic for absorption etc. Most of the athletic research averages out around 100mg - none are anywhere as low as 30. In a way that's kind of too bad. I haven't seen in any of these pieces a rationale for the particular amounts of CoQ10 chosen, or for that matter why regular dietary sups are only 30. More is not always better, but all i can point to is that the *limited* effects/benefits shown in the CoQ10 work are all at the 100's-ish levels.

On a website by Dr Ray Shalen, MD, he reports the following personal experience after reviewing the usual uses of CoQ10:
The effect from 30 mg is mild, mostly consisting of a slightly higher energy level. The effects become more noticeable with 50 mg. I have taken up to 100 mg in the morning. On this dose, I notice an increase in energy as the day goes on, with an urge to take a long walk or be physically active. There is enhanced focus, motivation, and productivity, along with the desire to talk to people. The 100-mg dose of CoQ10, though, is too much since I feel too energetic and alert even in late evening when I want to slow down and get ready for sleep. I usually do not recommend more than 10 to 50 mg of CoQ10 on a long term basis without medical supervision.
Wow again. Personally i've been doing 30mg and haven't noticed a thing - not even mild. Perhaps i work out more than Dr. Shalen and so 30mg is still being attenuated by these training bouts? I may bump it up to 100 for a month or so and see if there's any perceivable effect.

Is it Worth It?
This supplement may be of interest for different reasons to different groups: for those wanting to eek out that wee bit more effort in their training, this may be a complement to that work. For those going off warranty (as a colleague calls hitting over forty) its value may be more in the potential recovery benefit than in direct work.

It's not a cheap supplement, especially at 100mg, and it seems reasonably to need about 2 months of regular use to judge effects. Based on the above toxicity we know harm is in the nil zone (but check with your doctor if you have ANY medical conditions if this is ok or not), so if you think these effects sound good to you, happy trialing. Let me know, please, what you find.


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