Protein Pulse Feeding

Bodybuilders have always eaten protein over multiple meals throughout the day. They do this in order to get a steady supply of protein, so their muscles can grow and they don't become catabolic.  Protein pulse feeding is a recent theory, that slaps that notion in the face. The idea came from bodybuilders when research a few years ago, suggested that large infrequent doses of protein, was better for muscle growth.

Protein pulse feed studies:

A study published in (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 69, No. 6, 1202-1208, June 1999) was done on 15 elderly women for 15 days. One group had protein spread over 4 meals, the other 80% at noon. The protein for both diets was 1.7 grams per kg of lean mass. Results showed protein synthesis and nitrogen retention better in the pulse group.

However this followup study by researchers (Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:1700-1704) showed different results on younger women. The average mean age was 26 with 1.7 grams per kg of lean mass. They found no improvement in nitrogen retention or protein synthesis resulting from pulse feeding.

Another study by the researchers (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 278: E902-E909, 2000;) showed young and older women were in a beneficial state for protein retention, one day after the study had stopped.

This same study group even did a study later on rats (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 132:1002-1008, 2002). The study was done on older rats, all starting with 10 days of adaption diet. Then half were switched to a pulse diet for 21 days. Results showed increase in protein synthesis and complimented the previous human studies.

Is protein pulse feed better for muscle growth?

The evidence from the studies all done by the same researchers, suggest protein pulse feeding is more beneficial for muscle growth, than spreading it out. However, these studies are done on untrained individuals and are done for a short time. They would be more convincing if they were for 2 months. If the studies were done for a few more weeks, the body might learn to respond to a radical change in protein consumption. I suspect that the reason why pulse feeding is beneficial initially in the first few weeks, is because the body is putting itself in "protein starvation mode". It doesn't know when the next dose of protein is coming, so it is not releasing it. I would think that over enough time (just a theory of mine), this benefit would wear off and probably even go in the opposite direction.

Another important point is these studies aren't done on bodybuilders (or even athletic people). I imagine that when you consider protein synthesis increases for 24-36 hours after a workout, that protein pulse feeding diet would probably not be effective diet under these conditions.
Hopefully there will be more studies on this issue in the future, so we can get a clearer answer. I think most bodybuilders would love to know they only had to consume protein in 2 or 3 meals instead of 5-7, but I highly doubt at this point this diet will work as good as a regular bulking diet.

For additional reading, here are some previous articles of ours:

-How much protein can we digest in one meal?
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How Much Protein Can We Digest In One Meal?

All bodybuilders have experienced protein gas and other side effects, when we first started a high protein diet. Protein is harder to digest than carbohydrates. Many bodybuilders believe in a certain amount the body can only digest in a given meal. The standard numbers that gets thrown around, is usually 30 or 50 grams. This is why bodybuilders break up their meals into roughly 6 a day. This allows a steady supply of aminos throughout the day, while minimizing protein waste and side effects from excess protein.

The idea of 30 to 50 grams comes from some obscure scientific studies. Most of the studies are done on sedentary individuals with no protein diet experience. I wouldn't find any studies convincing, unless it was done on experienced bodybuilders(or athletes) on a high protein diet before the study. Our protein digestion, will depend on our genetics, and diet and training experience.

A person just starting a high protein diet won't be able to digest very much protein. After a few weeks, the side effects will get much better with the same high protein diet. This is because their body has adapted, by increasing stomach enzymes to break it down easier. Everytime you increase your calories and protein intake, your body will adapt a little more. In other words, just like training, your body will adapt it's digestion to what you eat. Everybodies genetics will be different too. How much you can digest will also depend on your sex. Not everyone will digest protein at the same level naturally.

I believe that a 3rd factor could be weight training. Excercise probably causes physiological changes in the digestion, as the body will demand protein to heal muscles. So unless a study is done on someone who is an active athlete, who has been on a high protein diet for many weeks or months, the study won't mean much. Even if we could pinpoint the number as said earlier, there still will be differences in each individual due to genetics and their sex.

How can we tell if we aren't digesting it all?

If you notice side effects, but you haven't recently increased your protein intake, then it's too high per meal. Side effects of your protein not digesting properly could include; very bad gas, diarrhea, or nausea.

What can I do to help protein digestion?

You could take a protein digestion enzymes bromelain with each meal meal, or break up the protein into less amounts into more meals.

Comparing HIIT Cardio vs. Low Intensity Cardio for Fat Loss

The average person and many novice bodybuilders, don't know that regular low intensity cardio is not the most effective form of cardio for fat loss. Low intensity cardio burns calories during the activity, but it doesn't increase your metabolism rate afterwards.

HIIT (High intensity interval training) cardio on the other hand, has the ability to raise your metabolism and fat burning capability. This makes HIIT much more valuable then just a simple calorie deficit. You will burn calories from the excercise and for many hours post excercise and more of it will be fat compared to low intensity cardio.

HIIT Cardio Studies:

Post excercise metabolism changes is measured by researchers by EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption). When our metabolism increases, our cells in the body require more oxygen.

Two studies done by the same researchers, were published in Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Mar;25(3):332-9. The first study was done on two groups of 352 total men, those who did High intensity activities regularly and those who did not. The study showed that men who were more likely to be in high intensity activities not only had lower bodyfat and subcutaneous fat, but even when they ate more than the sedentary group. The 2nd study was more direct, measuring the effects after a high intensity excercise. They found that oxygen consumption and fat oxidation increased afterwards. They also found that the oxygen consumption effect was much greater in the high intensity group compared to low intensity. In other words, the high intensity group not only had increased metabolism and fat loss abilities for hours post excercise, but the metabolism increasing effect was much higher over the low intensity group. Interesting part is they found these effects to stop with the addition of propranolol, researchers concluded that beta adrenergic stimulation, may be the major role in the after effects from high intensity excercise.

Another study published in Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8 They compared a group (8 women 9 men) doing 20-week endurance-training compared to a group (5 men 5 women) doing HIIT. The decrease in subcutaneous skinfolds when adjusted for energy expedenture were 9 times greater than the endurance group! Researchers concluded that higher intensity, was not only superior for metabolism and fat burning effects, but also for skeletal muscle adaptions.

The study published in (J Appl Physiol (December 14, 2006). doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01098.2006) done on moderately active women for 2 weeks. Results showed increased capacity in fat burning in muscles and whole body, during HIIT cardio sessions.

Why doesn't every bodybuilder do HIIT cardio then?

HIIT is very intense cardio and is only recommended for very fit people. Even physically fit people should find it very exhausting. Many bodybuilders would just rather walk on a treadmill or bicycle at a steady pace and watch the T.V than do HIIT. HIIT cardio sessions are about 1/3 as long as long as lower intensity cardio sessions. Another consideration is that for hardgainers (naturally fast metabolism), they may find HIIT cardio too catabolic(muscle wasting). HIIT cardio done with leg excercises such as the bike or running, should also be beneficial for helping to maintain leg muscle mass. Doing low intensity cardio instead of HIIT, may cause changes in your muscle fiber type composition, causing your leg muscles to shrink. Weight training during fat loss cycles however, might help ward off these muscle fiber type changes with low intensity cardio.

HIIT cardio should always be done after a meal, since your body will start eating into your muscle, when glucose levels drop during the excercise. Your body needs quick energy to perform HIIT and when glucose runs low, then it moves to protein as an alternative quick fuel source. Since low intensity cardio doesn't have much of a metabolism burning effect, it is recommended to be done in the morning upon wakeup. This is because your glycogen stores will have been depleted and you will be ripe for a state of fat burning during the excercise. Doing low intensity cardio in the day will mostly result in burning carbs. You will create a calorie deficit either way, but it won't be as effective as if you had done it in the morning. In the morning you will be taking advantage of fat burning instead of carb burning. Whether you burn fat or carbs it won't make much of a difference in the long run, since fat loss is mainly about calories in vs. out, but every bit does help.

Weight Training Effects on Libido & Erections

I’ve seen some bodybuilders complain in forums, that ever since they started weight training they have lower libido or even erectile dysfunction (ED) problems. Like many other bodybuilders, I always thought weight training promoted healthy testosterone levels, so it wouldn’t have this effect. It wasn’t until I started studying the hormonal reactions from weight training recently, that I realized it certainly could have an effect.

Within about an hour of starting a weight training workout, there will be a spike in cortisol. There will also be a spike in testosterone and other hormones. A few hours later though, testosterone will drop quickly below normal pre-training levels. They won't return to pre-training levels for a day or 2. Testosterone plays a crucial role in men, for libido and erections. I believe during the time it is well below normal, is when problems libido or ED problems could occur.

Excessive weight training (overtraining) would just make the problem even worse. Bodybuilders sometimes find that they're sex drive goes up when they take a couple weeks off. This is because taking a break off does restore your hormone levels, if you have been overtraining or gone months without any breaks from lifting. After reading this you may, think that bodybuilding does more harm than good for healthy hormonal levels. In the long run however, bodybuilding will help maintain (or slightly increase) your resting testosterone levels, provided you aren't overtraining. It is just during the period of immediate recovery for about 24 to 36 hours, that your testosterone levels drop temporarily. Common diet and supplement practices of bodybuilders, such as high calorie diet and plenty of healthy fats and getting plenty of sleep has been shown to increase natural testosterone production.

Does Weight Training Increase Risk of Hernia?

Hernias are very common in men. While bodybuilders are told how to lift with proper form and breathing, sometimes that is lost when we lift too heavy a weight to show off in the gym.

Hernia studies:

A recent study published in Surgery Volume 141, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 262-266 was done between 2002 and 2004 on over 1200 people. They were divided into a control or case group on whether they had inguinal hernia. Inguinal hernia is a hernia located in the abdomen, the most common surgical performed hernia. Each person was asked to fill out a standard questionnaire. The results of the study showed that chronic obstructive airway disease was a risk factor for direct hernia(one type of inguinal hernia). Family history was a independent predictor for inguinal hernia. Total activity index and family history of hernia, were significantly related to both direct and indirect hernias( two types of inguinal hernias). Family history was the most important cause, not activity index, of inguinal hernia. Those with a positive family history, were 8 more times likely to have one. Total activity index could include a lot of things in a lifestyle, besides weight training. I'm sure most of the people in the study were not weight training.

This study and many others, point to genetics as the most overwhelming risk factor for hernias. Many males will eventually develop the hernia anyways, given enough time. However, I would not brush off the risk with weight training completely. If weight training is not performed correctly you can increase your risk of Hernia. A study published in (European Journal of Epidemiology Volume 8, Number 2 / March, 1992 pg. 277-282) and many other studies, have shown that strenuous exertion jobs or lifestyles increase risk. I believe this increased risk is mainly due to improper form. When your lifting boxes or furniture for a living, your going to wind up having to contort your body in unusual ways to lift it. This will cause a strain on your abdomen and cause a hernia. Lifting barbells and dumbells in contrast, is very easy to pick up and do with proper form. It is important you breath in on the negative portion of the rep and out on the positive. You should lift with your target muscles and not use bad form or cheat to lift a heavy weight. Leave your ego at the door, as cheating to lift a weight will cause strain on your abdomen, which could cause a hernia. When doing squats and deadlifts, also make sure you lift the weight with your legs and not with your abdomen.

What Causes Overtraining?

Bodybuilders always tell newbies to watch how many workout sets they do, to avoid overtraining. The word gets thrown around so much, without anyone describing the cause of overtraining. Many bodybuilders don’t even believe in overtraining. Some bodybuilders have claimed that there is no way to overtrain, just that some people are undereating. I believe this is because most bodybuilders don’t have a true concept of what causes overtraining.

Does overtraining even exist?

Yes. Bodybuilders claiming that overtraining only exists because they aren’t eating enough, is foolish and goes against the laws of basic science. The body works on the law of diminishing returns. In other words, in the beginning eating more might help the body recover better, but it's going to hit a point where increasing calories isn't going to stop overtraining. Think of it as putting safety features on your car. There is only so much you can do to making a car safer, before a really big wreck will still wind up killing you!

How one enters the overtraining state:

Our body at all times, is either in an anabolic(muscle building), catabolic(muscle wasting), or equilibrium state(protein synthesis and breakdown equal). Overtraining is a catabolic state, where you have done too much for your body and it's hormones.

In order to recover completely from a weight training session, the following must happen:

- your muscles must heal from the previous workout
- your CNS (nervous system) must heal
- your cortisol levels must lower to pre-training levels
- testosterone must increase back to normal pre-training levels
- your muscle glycogen must be restored

After a weight training session, it puts stress on all the above factors. If you keep compounding the problem by continuing work out, then things will get worse and you are in an overtraining state.

Does overtraining involve muscle parts or the whole body?

Some people think of overtraining as a specific muscle. Overtraining is much more than just a specific part of the body. Overtraining involves the whole body because testosterone, cortisol, and other hormones are involved. When testosterone levels are low and/or cortisol high, you will be breaking down muscle more than you are building it up. Cortisol is probably the main cause hormonally for entering the overtraining state.

During hormonal levels like this, you would be better off taking a rest than doing a weight training session. Each time you weight train cortisol levels increase and testosterone levels drop. So the last thing you want to do, is weight train again when your hormones are in a catabolic state. Because of this persistent and overwhelming state, overtraining is considered a syndrome.

How does one get out of overtraining state?

Rest. Cortisol blockers might help a little to speed up recovery from this state, but you still will have to wait for your entire body to recover, not just cortisol. Weight training or even daily stress(which causes high long term cortisol levels), will keep you in an overtraining state indefinitely.

Signs of overtraining:

Insomnia, tiredness in the day, aching muscles and joints, high resting pulse, strength loss on lifts, are the most obvious immediate signs you are overtraining. Long term you will notice fat gain and muscle loss.

Appetite Increasing Drugs & Supplements

Bodybuilders have to eat thousands of calories a day in order to pack on a ton of muscle. Many bodybuilders find that the appetite itself, is what keeps them from being able to eat enough calories to gain weight. Hardgainers are the most vulnerable of all people in this regard. I decided to look around and try to find all the substances that have been used for stimulating appetite.

Cyproheptadine Hydrochloride (Periactin): This is a anti histamine drug that relieves allergy symptoms. It also has the ability to stimulate appetite, probably due to it's serotonin blocking action on the receptors.

Sources:
- (Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2004 Nov;5(11):2287-92)
- (Nutr Clin Pract. 2005 Aug;20(4):400-10.)
- (Pediatr Pulmonol. 2005 Sep;40(3):251-6)

Periactin is sometimes prescribed clinically by doctors for underweight people who need appetite stimulation. This has led bodybuilders to wonder if other anti-histamines like benadryl will have the same effect on appetite. This doesn't seem to be the case though. One major side effect of periactin, is it will make you groggy and tired like other histamines.

Glucocorticoids: These are drugs that work on the cortisol receptor such as Prednisone. These drugs are counterproductive to bodybuilding however, as they are inherently catabolic.

Megestrol acetate: A progestin that has been used clinically for people with cancer, to help stimulate appetite. This drug is also catabolic and of no help for bodybuilders.

Marionol & Marijuana: Marionol is a pill with THC derived from marijuana plant, to help stimulate appetite in cancer patients. Both can stimulate appetite in healthy people.

benzodiazepines: They appear to have a slight appetite increasing effect in some people, but the side effects and addiction properties outweigh the benefits.

Pro-hormones & Anabolic steroids: These will stimulate appetite, probably because of the nutrient partitioning effects on the body.

B vitamins: Vitamin B has been used clinically and by bodybuilders to stimulate appetite. Many bodybuilders inject vitamin B because they believe it absorbs better than orally. However, studies have shown Vitamin B orally to be just as effective as injections. (Clin Ther. 2003 Dec;25(12):3124-34).

Anti-Estrogens

Years ago, anti-estrogens were only available for bodybuilders by prescription. Their purpose was for during and after a cycle. Since then, with pro-hormones hitting the supplement industry, various supplement companies have put anti-estrogens on the market.

About Anti-estrogens:

Anti-estrogens are compounds taken by bodybuilders, for the purpose of controlling estrogen levels in the body. There is two major ways they can act. The first type acts as a weaker estrogen, competing with real estrogen on the receptors. It therefore acts as a damper and mimics low estrogen levels in the body, without actually lowering it. Nolvadex and clomid fall under this group. Depending on other tissues in the body, these anti-estrogens can act like a estrogen or an anti-estrogen, giving different side effects.

The other type is aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors block the enzyme from converting to estrogen, resulting in lower body estrogen levels. Arimidex and the first legitimate anti-estrogen supplement available over the counter 6-OXO, are just a couple from this group. Because aromatase inhibitors actually kill off the enzymes and lower the estrogen levels, there is usually a rebound effect on estrogen, after stopping use.

Use of Anti-Estrogens for bodybuilders:

Anti-estrogens have been used by bodybuilders after a steroid cycle to bring back natural testosterone, called PCT (post cycle therapy). At one time, bodybuilders never used to use PCT. Contrary to common bodybuilding belief, anti-estrogens are not necessary to get natural testosterone production back in most people. However, taking anti-estrogens speed up the pace making recovery and retention of muscle better. They also help prevent Gyno, which you are susceptible to post-cycle from the low testosterone high estrogen ratio post cycle. Certain individuals may not be able to restore testosterone to pre-cycle levels, without anti-estrogens. Some are so slow to recover, that they may have to resort to longer cycles at higher doses of anti-estrogens.

Anti-estrogens have also been used by themselves as testosterone booster cycles, for the purpose of enhancing muscle gains or cutting. Taking anti-estrogens even when your testosterone levels are normal, will automatically boost your testosterone levels. Your body measures it's estrogen levels and when it declines through use of anti-estrogens, it makes more testosterone. This has made some bodybuilders think that taking anti-estrogens by themselves, could give muscle gains or fat loss.

While anti-estrogen use looks good on paper, with the higher tesosterone and lower estrogen, it doesn't work that way. Estrogen works in conjunction with testosterone to burn fat and gain muscle. It is a bodybuilding myth that estrogen hurts your gains and eliminating it will help. Excessive estrogen does, but not when you have healthy testosterone levels and the ratio of testosterone to estrogen is balanced. For further reading on estrogen, please read our previous articles:
-Fat loss effects of estrogen
-Anabolic effects of estrogen

While studies show anti-estrogens give significant boosts in testosterone and decline in estrogen, they have never shown success for body recompositioning purposes. Those with low testosterone who never have done steroids have also considered taking anti-estrogens. While anti-estrogens would help these people, when they come off them they will begin to drop again. The only way it would work is if they stayed on them indefinitely. However, the long term use of anti-estrogens is not healthy. Estrogen has beneficial effects on the body. Anti-estrogens should only be used when necessary, that is bringing back testosterone levels after a cycle.

Hydroxycut Hardcore X Review

Hydroxycut Hardcore X is being advertised everywhere on TV and magazines these days. I'll analyze the ingredients, but first some background. Years ago, all the major fat loss supplements contained ephedra. There was no question that ephedra was a very potent fat burner. As hydroxycut and other companies dropped it for legal reasons, many bodybuilders flocked to getting pharmaceutical grade ephedrine. Most fat loss supplements on the market are now based on synephrine or yohimbe, as ephedrine substitutes. The question is whether or not without ephedra, if Hydroxycut Hardcore is worth the money?

I decided to look through some of the ingredients of Hydroxycut Hardcore. The major fat loss ingredients in the product are; Green tea extract, caffeine anhydrous, white willow extract, black pepper extract, and Methyl 17 alpha-hydroxy yohimban-16 alpha-carboxylate hydrochloride.

Green Tea: Green tea is very beneficial for fat loss, as it dramatically raises metabolism. However, you could just get green tea, by replacing your daily cup of joe.

Black Pepper Extract: Black pepper like other peppers, can assist in fat loss and metabolism raising. I wouldn't consider this a major fat burner on it's own though.

Methyl 17 alpha-hydroxy-yohimban-16 alpha-carboxylate hydrochloride:
This is one form of Yohimbe. Yohimbe is main fat burning stimulant in the Hydroxy Hardcore stack. Yohimbe like ephedrine, are stimulants that increase adrenaline (among other things) that help aid in fat loss. Yohimbe is different chemically and pharmacologically though. Yohimbe works in promoting the negative feedback loop, whereas ephedrine causes direct stimulation on the adrenaline receptors. Many topical fat loss transdermals use it, for spot reduction in fat. Yohimbe probably won't burn fat as effectively, as synephrine and especially ephedrine.

Caffeine & white willow extract: They are trying to follow the old ECA stack supplement, ephedrine plus caffeine plus aspirin(white willow extract is where aspirin is derived from). Although there is no ephedrine, the caffeine plus yohimbe is a common bodybuilding stack, to help aid in the fat burning effects of yohimbe. Caffeine by itself, doesn't directly burn fat. The reasoning for using aspirin for fat loss since it thins the blood, is weak at best. Not to mention, asprin also stops protein synthesis.

After reviewing the ingredients, Hydroxycut Hardcore X has valid fat burning ingredients. However, it probably won't give you the results of ephedra or other more potent stimulant based stacks, found commercially or customized by bodybuilders. Not everyone may want to tolerate the effects of the more potent fat burning stimulant stacks or bother creating their own stack. One other thing I should address, is that some people found Hydroxycut Hardcore to be hard on the stomach and digestion.

6-OXO Review

6-OXO came on the market a few years ago. It revolutionized testosterone boosting in a effective, yet safe way.

About 6-OXO:

6-OXO is the brand name by ergopharm, for a aromatase inhibitor compound named 3,6,17-androstenetrione (4 etioallocholen-3,6, 17-trione). It was the first legitimate legal aromatase inhibitor available in the supplement industry. Before this, there were only prescriptions or junk herbs that didn't work.

How 6-OXO works:

Aromotase inhibitors block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, similiar to the prescription drug arimidex. 3,6,17 androstenetrione is more specifically, a suicide aromatase inhibitor because it permanently binds together. As a result your system estrogen levels go down, but your testosterone levels should go up dramatically. If you want your estrogen levels to return to normal, then you can stop taking 6-OXO and eventually your body will replace the aromatase enzymes, restoring normal estrogen levels.

While estrogen is seen as an evil by most bodybuilders against muscle gains, it is also beneficial in moderate amounts. Therefore cycling 6-OXO to boost testosterone levels, probably will not benefit you further in muscle gains. 6-OXO and other anti-aromatase inhibitors, have not shown much benefit in increasing muscle gains in clinical studies. This is probably due to the lowering of estrogen, which is crucial in muscle gains. You can read more about estrogen's actions on muscle gain and fat loss in 2 previous articles of mine.

- Estrogen's anabolic effects

- Estrogen's fat loss effects

Increasing well above the recommended dosages, would also probably cause a rebound effect, due to overcompensation. Therefore, it is best to stay within the normal dosages, to not cause extremely low estrogen or a rebound.

When should you take 6-OXO?

After a pro-hormone or steroid cycle, 6-OXO should help increase your testosterone levels back to normal. 6-OXO is an alternative to nolva, clomid, and other prescription anti-estrogens post-cycle.

Does 6-OXO really work?

6-OXO was developed by the Patrick Arnold, a world expert in supplement and steroid chemistry. He has also developed many other hormonal products over the years including 1-AD and 11-OXO 6-OXO is also naturally found in the body as a metabolite (Steroids. 1965; 5:479-493) and in the placenta(Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1984 Feb 14;118(3):805-13), thereby making it legal as a supplement. Bodybuilders have been using it for years now, with significant increases in strength and muscle gains in a short period of time. Multiple studies have shown this compound works as a anti-armotase in the body including one published in (J Steroid Biochem. 1987 Sep;28(3):337-44) and (J Med Chem. 1985 Jun;28(6):788-95). A study done on castrated rats (J Endocrinol. 1978 Oct;79(1):69 76.) showed this compound increased testosterone levels.

If you are trying to restore your normal natural testosterone levels after a pro-hormone or steroid cycle, then 6-OXO will work well. Although Ergopharm markets it as a testosterone booster for increasing muscle and strength gains, there is no evidence to suggest it would also be beneficial in that regard.


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