How to Lose Visceral Fat vs. Subcutaneous during Dieting & Cardio

Visceral fat and subcutaneous are very different anatomically and physiologically. Both have their pros and cons in wanting to get rid of first. I had to really dig deep to find the information on subcutaneous and visceral and how diet and cardio effects each.

Differences between visceral fat and subcutaneous

When people think of fat, they usually only think of subcutaneous. That's the fat right below your skin that you can grab as flab. There is another type of fat called visceral fat, which makes up about 10 to 20 percent of your total fat. Its buried deep inside your body, especially around your abdomen area. Men tend to have more visceral fat than women, which is why they tend to carry more of a protruding gut.

Visceral fat is the most unhealthy and effects your entire body. It leads to insulin resistance, high cortisol levels, sleeping problems like sleep apnea and snoring, diabetes, and other chronic degenerative diseases. Generally fat people with a large gut and thick neck have a lot of visceral fat, but even sometimes skinny people can have a lot of visceral fat. Genetics plays a role if skinny people have a lot of visceral fat naturally. If they have a poor diet and other factors like lack of excercise and smoking and drinking that can increase the risk of visceral fat. The high levels of visceral fat even in skinny people was shown in recent studies that made major headlines in the news a few years ago. Just because you are skinny doesn't always mean you are healthy.

Losing subcutaneous fat doesn't really have much of an impact on your health according to the studies done on patients who went through liposuction, which just removes subcutaneous fat. Therefore, getting rid of visceral is to feel better and be healthier vs. subcutaneous is mainly for just looking physically better.

Factors that affect how visceral vs. subcutaneous fat is lost

After looking at all the evidence in studies of different factors affecting visceral fat is mainly sensitive to hormones; insulin, testosterone, and cortisol. Genetics also play a role, as some people just naturally lose and gain more visceral fat than others. Thats why some guys tend to get big beer guts when they get fat and others store it more evenly. Visceral fat is very easy to lose and gain compared to subcutaneous, which seems more stubborn. A higher percentage of your fat loss in the beginning of a diet will be visceral because it's easier to lose. This is supported in studies and I have observed it myself.

Insulin sensitivity plays a crucial role in visceral fat loss. When you restrict calories, your insulin sensitivity goes up. This is probably why visceral fat comes off the easiest when first starting a diet. People who went on low carb diets tended to lose even more visceral fat and I believe this is because low carb diets increase insulin sensitivity moreso than high carb diets do. Lowering saturated fat intake and replacing it with mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also helped lower visceral fat in studies. Saturated fats increases insulin resistance.

Subcutaneous fat seems more correlated with cardio. When people increased the amount of cardio and the intensity they lost more subcutaneous according to studies. The intensity is also important, HIIT cardio seems to really melt the subcutaneous compared to regular cardio.

Older people tend to have more visceral fat too. That's why on body fat measurement scales, they have different adjustments based on age. They assume that as you get older more of your fat is visceral instead of subcutaneous. I believe as you get older you become more insulin resistance naturally, which may explain the change in visceral fat.

Women and men also have different levels of visceral fat. Hence why big beer guts are rarely seen on fat women. I believe this has to do with differences in estrogen and testosterone. Testosterone causes more of your fat to be gained as visceral fat. Subcutaneous is correlated with estrogen. There is even Aromatase enzyme in subcutaneous fat that convert testosterone to estrogen. The more subcutaneous fat you have the more estrogen you will produce. There may be an ancestral reason for this. Visceral is a source of quick energy and men generally had to use fat quickly while away looking for food and the women stayed home.

Alcohol and smoking may also increase visceral fat. Hence why they tend to have beer guts. Stress and depression have been shown in studies to cause visceral. This isn't surprising since visceral has a lot of cortisol receptors and more visceral fat leads to more cortisol released. If someone is stressed or depressed they have chronic high levels of cortisol, which leads to visceral fat storage in an endless cycle. You might want to read one of my other articles where I discuss how to naturally lower cortisol levels

Lets just review a few studies I have come across.

Visceral fat & subcutaneous loss studies

The study below showed that visceral fat only responded to calorie deficits (either from diet or more excercise). Whereas subcutaneous was correlated to amount of cardio.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Dec;29(12):1549-53.

Twenty-six sedentary young women (27.9% body fat) were randomized into three groups: nonexercising control (C, N = 8); 1-2 sessions/wk plus a 240 kcal caloric restriction (1-2SW, N = 9); and 3-4 sessions/wk without caloric restriction (3-4SW, N = 9). There was a equivalent decrease in the percentage of body fat and total fat mass in both exercise groups compared with that in C. Reduction in SFM was significant in 3-4SW, but not in 1-2SW or C. A negative correlation was observed between training frequency and changes in SFM (r = -0.65). In contrast, VFM decreased significantly and equivalently in both 1-2SW and 3-4SW, but there was no correlation between training frequency and changes in VFM (r = 0.20). It is suggested that the decrease in SFM, but not VFM, is proportional to the amount of aerobic exercise training. A change in VFM appears to be related to an deficit in caloric balance either by dietary restriction (decrease caloric intake) or by increased caloric expenditure.

The study below compared HIIT cardio to regular cardio. Subcutaneous fat loss was 9 times larger in the HIIT cardio group.

Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.

The impact of two different modes of training on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism was investigated in young adults who were subjected to either a 20-week endurance-training (ET) program (eight men and nine women) or a 15-week high-intensity intermittent-training (HIIT) program (five men and five women). When corrected for the energy cost of training, the decrease in the sum of six subcutaneous skinfolds induced by the HIIT program was ninefold greater than by the ET program.

The study showed that high carb diet increased visceral fat and insulin resistance, but switching to a low saturated fat with plenty of mono-unsaturated fats lowered visceral fat storage and increased insulin sensitivity. Even the saturated fat diet did a better job of keeping off visceral fat than the high carb diet.

Monounsaturated Fat–Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects

Published ahead of print at on 6 April 2007. DOI: 10.2337/dc06-2220.

All subjects underwent three dietary periods of 28 days each in a crossover design: 1) diet enriched in saturated fat (SAT), 2) diet rich in monounsaturated fat (MUFA) (Mediterranean diet), and 3) diet rich in carbohydrates (CHOs).

RESULTS— Weight, body composition, and resting energy expenditure remained unchanged during the three sequential dietary periods. Using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry we observed that when patients were fed a CHO-enriched diet, their fat mass was redistributed toward the abdominal depot, whereas periphery fat accumulation decreased compared with isocaloric MUFA-rich and high-SAT diets (ANOVA P < 0.05). Changes in fat deposition were associated with decreased postprandial mRNA adiponectin levels in peripheral adipose tissue and lower insulin sensitivity index values from a frequently sampled insulin-assisted intravenous glucose tolerance test in patients fed a CHO-rich diet compared with a MUFA-rich diet (ANOVA P < 0.05). An isocaloric MUFA-rich diet prevents central fat redistribution and the postprandial decrease in peripheral adiponectin gene expression and insulin resistance induced by a CHO-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects.


Any diet or cardio plan will lose both types of fat simultaneously, no matter what. However, depending on diet and lifestyle changes you will change how much you will lose more of each type up to a certain extent. Depending on your goal of vanity vs. health, you may want to target visceral or subcutaneous more. If your stomach width is at least half the size around the belly button as your height in inches, than visceral fat is a major health concern. Anything less and visceral may or may not be a concern depending on your genetics and lifestyle choices effect on if you store a lot of visceral fat.

How to Prevent a Muscle Building Plateau

One of the first and most common problems bodybuilders find themselves in weight training is overcoming a plateau in muscle building or increasing strength. Plateaus come in the form of muscle building where you stop putting on muscle and in your workout routines where you have trouble increasing strength or reps. Many bodybuilders actually give just bad advice on how to stop a plateau. They make plateau prevention way too complicated. You hear them talking about how you gotta do this fancy new program that is a plateau buster routine or you gotta try some supplement or some other crazy idea. Some bring in the concept of periodization which is a very complex laid out plan to switch up your routine in certain phases. This is all the wrong way of doing it. Its actually very easy to prevent a muscle building plateau or stop them once they happen.

Ways to prevent a muscle building plateau

1) Calories: You must increase calories if you feel a plateau is coming on. If your struggling to add weight every week and your muscle gains are slowing its time to increase calories. Calories is the most important aspect of muscle building and strength gains. If you don't increase your calories to gain a steady amount of weight each week, your strength and muscle gains WILL plateau. Period.

2) Progressive overload: Make sure each week you try to make your routine a little harder. Try to squeeze out an extra rep or increase weight on some of your sets if possible. Not every week you will be able to do this and don't force it if your not stronger. You don't want to injure yourself with bad form trying to do more than you could if you really aren't stronger. The goal is to try to do it on a regular basis when you can.

The calories will be the impetus behind your growth, the progressive overload just works together with it so your muscles have more reason to grow. If you don't use progressive overload on a consistent basis you might as well not even weight train because your not stimulating your muscles by introducing new loads. Progressive overload enhances your muscle gains as you gain weight.

3) Don't overtrain: If you do way too many sets a week your body becomes drained after awhile and your body just stops adapting to changes and you hit a plateau. It then enters a state of overtraining where you make things worse every time you workout. Instead of increasing calories to make things better, you should lower your volume first to an amount that doesn't make you feel exhausted and unable to recuperate. Naturals really only need about 3 days a week of weight training.

4) Take breaks: Even if you do a volume that is suitable for you after 2 or 3 months your body will be worn down and start over training. You can not stop this completely because our body becomes resistant to too many changes over a certain period of time. Therefore, just continuing to work out every week won't make the situation better. You will eventually once again enter a state of overtraining.

You could increase calories and probably keep gaining, but your gains will be lousy and eventually your body will plateau. The only way to stop this is to just stop excercise completely for a couple weeks and let the body reset mentally and physically at a hormonal and cellular level. There is studies that show that after a break weight trainers hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone back to normal resting levels. It also gives your brain a chance to feel mentally refreshed again because subconsciously are brain gets exhausted of the same workout week after week.

4) Stick to compound exercises mainly. Compound exercises don't plateau in strength as easily as the isolations. Compound exercises also have the most potential for mass building. If your routine is built around a lot of isolations or machines and not compounds, your gains will stall easier and be lousy.

There you go. Thats how you prevent a plateau in muscle building or strength. You don't need to change your routine to shock your muscle. In fact if you just change your routine or keep adding weights week after week without increasing calories or taking a break, your going to go backwards as you overtrain or stagnate. You may do that if you are getting bored of your routine and want to try something else mentally, but its not necessary in curing a plateau.

Best Protein Form to Gain Muscle Mass

One of the first thing newbie bodybuilders do when they get on a high protein die,t is they start to obsess over which is the best protein form to gain muscle mass. Who can blame them when there is hundreds of different supplement companies saying they have the best protein form for gaining muscle. Every bodybuilding guru seems to say something different about each protein form. Some protein forms go in fads where one year everyone is advocating some new technologically advanced protein. Is all the obsession over different protein forms really overrated or could finding the best protein really make a difference in gaining muscle mass? I’m going to go over some of the major protein types and discuss some aspects on some of the protein forms you probably haven't heard before.

Biological Value (BV) of each protein form

One of the first things we need to know before you can find the best protein form is something called biological value. Every protein has different biological values. The higher the value the better your body can retain the proteins in your body (called nitrogen balance). This has been verified in studies and the baseline number 100 given to eggs as a reference point.

In theory, a protein with a poor nitrogen balance means you will have to take more of it in order to get the same results. For example, plant protein sources tend to be incomplete. This is because the ratios of amino acids have to be in certain ratios for optimum utilization in the body. If one amino acid isn't available it can become a limiting factor from the body using other amino acids to build proteins. A good rule of thumb is plant proteins you need about 1/3 more grams of protein to equal the average animal protein source.

Biological value is a bit overrated though as there is multiple factors that you need to look at when comparing a protein form. If it was that easy to compare proteins there would be no need to compare each protein in depth and I could just simply list in order the BV values of each protein form. The higher the biological value protein form, it means it usually exits the body faster too. You won't get that steady stream of amino acids slowly entering and leaving the body with the protein forms that have really high biological value. Therefore, biological value is not the end all be all. A fast digesting protein does though have its purpose when a bodybuilder needs a fast digesting protein. We will go into that more throughout the article.


BCAA or Branch chained amino acids that have special importance to bodybuilding because they are the most crucial to gaining lean muscle mass. This has been verified in studies and is why bodybuilders often supplement with extra BCAA powders at certain times, even though protein itself already has a lot of BCAA in it.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the most common protein powder supplement used for bodybuilding. It is derived from skimming the top when they are making cheese. The reason why its so commonly used is because its the cheapest, has the highest biological value, and the highest level of BCAA. The biological value can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on when you are using it. Whey protein seems to have the best health benefits too. The growth protein factors in it seem to really boost the immune system. Studies have shown its reduced tumors in mice.

Whey protein concentrate

Whey protein concentrate is in its regular form and its the cheapest. It has a biological value of 104. It usually has more lactose and less protein per serving than whey isolate. Those very sensitive to lactose may want to try whey isolate instead. Whey protein concentrate should be taken with fat or fiber to slow its digestion down if your not taking pre or post workout or breakfast.

Whey Isolate

Whey isolate has a much higher biological value at 157. It might be more expensive, but you get a lot more bang for your buck. Unfortunately, this protein really leaves the system fast, so its not an ideal protein for just any meal. This protein would be only good for pre and post workout and breakfast when you wake up and need an instant source of amino acids. Any other part of the day if you insist on using this protein, you definitely should use fat or fiber along with the meal to help slow the digestion.

Hydrolyzed Whey protein

This protein has been broken down to short amino acid chains. Regular whey protein has very long bound amino chains all wrapped up that takes a while to digest. Hydrolyzed whey protein has been pre digested making it easier for the stomach to break it down into very short amino acid chains.

Unfortunately, hydrolyzed is a serious health concern and I do not recommend it. Hydrolyzed whey protein releases large amounts of glutamate acid freely due to the hydrolysis. They can then convert to MSG. MSG has had some health experts thinking it could play a role in disease. While the jury is really out on how much MSG impacts the health and we can absorb in our body, I would stay away from this type of protein as a precaution. Its more expensive and unnecessary anyways.

Casein Protein

Casein protein powder is derived from milk. Milk is part casein and whey protein. I would say that casein protein powder is the 2nd most popular protein powder used by bodybuilders at the moment. Casein digests much slower than whey protein with a biological value at 77. Its been shown in studies to release very slow and minimizing the catabolic effect as a result. Casein is preferred protein powder for night time or day meals that aren't around your workout or breakfast. Its ideal for those times you need a slow increase and emptying of amino acids to keep your blood stream amino acids steady. That way you never have the chance to break down muscle due to lack of amino acids in the blood.

Milk protein

Milk protein is both whey protein and casein so you get the best of both worlds. Its BV at 80 means its mainly casein. It digests slowly while at the same time has extra BCAA from the whey portion.


Eggs have 100 BV. They were the common protein form back in the golden age of bodybuilding before protein powders were common. Eggs are starting to come back. The cons to eggs are they are expensive if you get them in powder form. And there is only so many eggs the average person can eat in a day, without feeling like puking. The cholesterol could be hard on the liver if you go overboard.


Soy protein is derived from the soy plant. Its more of a common source of protein powder by vegetarians and non-bodybuilders. Vegetarian bodybuilders usually drink this as a source of protein. Soy has gotten a lot of negative press over the years and I believe rightly so. Some studies have suggested soy lowers testosterone, libido, sperm, and increases estrogen. Ive gone over the studies and there are studies that suggest that and then there are others that don't. There is even a wise tale that japan wives give it to their husband to keep them from straying. Your going to have studies that say anything, but the fact there are so many studies that show a negative impact in conjunction to the wives tales and anecdotal evidence, definitely makes me think soy does do these things.

Soy contains the highest level of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are found in plants that act like weak estrogens. Now they can actually act like estrogen blockers because they are so weak and prevent the more potent real estrogen from attaching. This is how nolvadex works in men when they use it post cycle after steroids to lower estrogen and increase testosterone again. Everytime you eat oatmeal or fruit your getting a dose of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have health benefits. The difference between soy and other food sources, is it is many times higher than any other food source per serving. I believe that is why soy has a negative impact and the other foods don't. The levels of phytoestrogens become so high that it overloads the body and instead of acting like weak estrogens it just becomes an estrogen effect on men.


There really is no such thing as the best protein form to gain muscle mass. The only 2 protein forms I recommend you should always stay away from as pointed out earlier, is soy protein and hydrolyzed protein forms. Fast digesting proteins like whey are preferred during breakfast, preworkout, and postworkout. Casein protein powder, milk, or meat would be better at those other times. Even then, whey protein can be used at other times like before bed if its taken with plenty of fats to really slow down the digestion. As you can see any protein form can work, it just depends on what time of the day you are using them and whether you add fat or fiber to slow down the digestion to accommodate its natural digestion speed.

HGH Supplements: Scams or Do They Work?

As you get older your growth hormone production starts to decline. There is also some muscle building and fat loss properties in growth hormone. Many people wanting to look younger and bodybuilders wanting to gain more muscle and lose fat are looking for ways to add HGH (human growth hormone) into their supplements regimen. My first inclination on HGH supplements is they are scams because if they worked you wouldn't have people going to anti-aging clinics or or illegal black market trying to buy prescription grade HGH. I thought I would do my own research because things I find aren't always as obvious as they seem in the supplement industry.

HGH supplements cannot contain any real prescription HGH

This is against the law of the FDA if they contain real HGH. Many HGH supplement sites use deceptive marketing to suggest they either contain real HGH or some sort of analog of the real stuff tricking the layman. If they claim to contain HGH or something that is equivalent to it, they are scams because they would be prescriptions not available over the counter. Don't fall for the false advertising.

HGH is very complex protein. Its 191 different amino acids in a very functional 3D protein. If you have ever taken biology you would know that every part of the 3D structure must maintain its integrity or else it loses its functionality to attach to the receptor. There is no way that this huge protein could ever maintain its integrity at room temperature and during shipping. It is VERY HARD to manafacture real HGH and make sure it stays full integrity. That is why real prescription HGH cost thousands of dollars a month. Do you really expect HGH manafactured in a supplement for 50 bucks to be equivalent to something that costs thousands to recreate? The real prescription HGH is stored at a refrigerated temperature.

Now that we have knocked out some HGH supplements out of the way that claim to contain any amounts of actual HGH. Lets talk about some HGH supplements that claim to work through other mechanisms for boosting your growth hormone levels.

Do HGH Secretagogues work?

These HGH secretagogues GHRP-6 and GHRP-2 are peptides claimed to help boost Growth hormone naturally in the body. Bypassing the whole argument of needing real HGH to do the job. Can these claims really work? Well it actually appears they do work according to studies. Ancedotal evidence by some bodybuilders has suggested they work too.

Unfortunately, HGH secretagogues GHRP-6 and GHRP-2 are illegal in the US for regular supplements as the drug companies have put patents on it. The only way I've seen them sold is in non supplement form for "research purposes". The same way some other bodybuilding drugs are sold openly on the net. Its a legal grey area. If you see HGH secretagogues sold as regular supplements its either a scam or not the ones that are shown to work in the studies I give below.

HGH Secretagogues GHRP-6 and GHRP-2 Studies

D Wu, C Chen, J Zhang, C Y Bowers(1) and I J Clarke
Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, PO Box 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia and (1) Department of Medicine, Tulane University Medical Center, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112, USA

The effects of GH-releasing peptide-6 (GHRP-6) and GHRP-2 on intracellular adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cAMP) levels and GH secretion in ovine and rat somatotrophs

The mechanism of action of GH-releasing peptide-6 (GHRP-6) and GHRP-2 on GH release was investigated in ovine and rat pituitary cells in vitro. In partially purified sheep somatotrophs, GHRP-2 and GH-releasing factor (GRF) increased intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) concentrations and caused GH release in a dose- dependent manner; GHRP-6 did not increase cAMP levels. An additive effect of maximal doses of GRF and GHRP-2 was observed in both cAMP and GH levels whereas combined GHRP-6 and GHRP-2 at maximal doses produced an additive effect on GH release only. Pretreatment of the cells with MDL 12,330A, an adenylyl cyclase inhibitor, prevented cAMP accumulation and the subsequent release of GH that was caused by either GHRP-2 or GRF. The cAMP antagonist, Rp-cAMP also blocked GH release in response to GHRP-2 and GRF. The cAMP antagonist did not prevent the effect of GHRP-6 on GH secretion whereas MDL 12,330A partially reduced the effect. An antagonist for the GRF receptor, [Ac- Tyr(1) ,d- rg(2) ]-GRF 1-29, significantly diminished the effect of GHRP-2 and GRF on cAMP accumulation and GH release, but did not affect GH release induced by GHRP-6. Somatostatin prevented cAMP accumulation and GH release responses to GHRP-2, GRF and GHRP-6. Ca(2+) channel blockade did not affect the cAMP increase in response to GHRP-2 or GRF but totally prevented GH release in response to GHRP-2, GRF and GHRP-6. These results indicated that GHRP-2 acts on ovine pituitary somatotrophs to increase cAMP concentration in a manner similar to that of GRF; this occurs even during the blockade of Ca(2+) influx. GHRP-6 caused GH release without an increase in intracellular cAMP levels. GHrelease in response to all three secretagogues was reduced by somatostatin and was dependent upon the influx of extracellular Ca(2+) . The additive effect of GHRP-2 and GRF or GHRP-6 suggested that the three peptides may act on different receptors. In rat pituitary cell cultures, GHRP-6 had no effect on cAMP levels, but potentiated the effect of GRF on cAMP accumulation. The synergistic effect of GRF and GHRP-6 on cAMP accumulation did not occur in sheep somatotrophs. Whereas GHRP-2 caused cAMP accumulation in sheep somatotrophs, it did not do so in rat pituitary cells. These data indicate species differences in the response of pituitary somatotrophs to the GHRPs and this is probably due to different subtypes of GHRP receptor in rat or sheep.

Here is another

Frieboes RM, Murck H, Antonijevic IA, Steiger A.
Effects of growth hormone-releasing peptide-6 on the nocturnal secretion of GH, ACTH and cortisol and on the sleep EEG in man: Role of routes of administration
Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 11(6):473-478, 1999 Jun.
Author Keywords
Growth hormone, Growth hormone-releasing peptides, Corticotropins, Clinical neuroendocrinology, Sleep.
KeyWords Plus® by ISI®
Normal men, Factor-i, Secretagogue, Receptor, Hexarelin, Pituitary, Insulin, Intranasal, Prolactin, Efficacy.

After repeated intravenous (i.v.) boluses of growth hormone-releasing peptide-6 (GHRP-6) we found recently increases of growth hormone (GH), corticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol levels and of the amount of stage 2 sleep, In clinical use, oral (p.o.), intranasal (i.n.) and sublingual (s.l.) routes of administration have advantages over i.v. administration, We compared the sleep-endocrine effects of 300 mu g/kg of body weight (b.w.) GHRP-6 in enteric-coated capsules given p.o. at 21.00 h and of 30 mu g/kg GHRP-6 i.n. or 30 mu g/kg GHRP-6 st. given at 22.45 h in normal young male controls with placebo conditions. After GHRP-6 p.o. secretion of GH, ACTH and cortisol remained unchanged. The only effect of GHRP-6 s.l. was a trend toward an increase in GH in the first half of the night. GHRP-6 i.n. prompted a significant increase in GH concentration during the total night and a trend toward an increase in ACTH secretion during the first half of the night, whereas cortisol secretion remained unchanged. Furthermore, after GHRP-6 i.n., sleep stage 2 increased in the second half of the night by trend, and spectral analysis of total night non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep revealed a decrease of delta power by trend. In contrast sleep stage 2 decreased during the second half of the night after GHRP-6 p.o. Our data demonstrate that GHRP-6 is capable of modulating GH and ACTH secretion as well as sleep. However, the effects depend upon dosage, duration and route of administration. [References: 41]

Blandine Laferrère, Cynthia Abraham, Colleen D. Russell and Cyril Y. Bowers

Obesity Research Center (B.L., C.A., C.D.R.), St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1090 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York 10025; and Tulane U


GHRP-2 is a synthetic agonist of ghrelin, the newly-discovered gut peptide which binds to the growth hormone (GH) secretagogue receptor. Ghrelin has two major effects, stimulating both GH secretion and appetite/meal initiation. GHRP-2 has been extensively studied for its utility as a growth hormone secretagogue (GHS). Animal studies have shown its effect on food intake. However, whether GHRP-2 can also stimulate appetite in humans when administered acutely is not known. We subcutaneously infused 7 lean, healthy males with GHRP-2 (1 µg/kg/h) or saline for 270 minutes and then measured their intake of an ad libitum, buffet-style meal. Similar to what has been reported for ghrelin administration, our subjects ate 35.9 ± 10.9% more when infused with GHRP-2 vs. saline, with every subject increasing their intake even when calculated per kg body weight (136.0 ± 13.0 kJ/kg [32.5 ± 3.1 kcal/kg] vs. 101.3 ± 10.5 kJ/kg [24.2 ± 2.5 kcal/kg], p = 0.008). The macronutrient composition of consumed food was not different between conditions. As expected, serum GH levels rose significantly during GHRP-2 infusion (AUC 5550 ± 1090 µg/L/240 min vs. 412 ± 161 µg/L/240 min, p = 0.003). These data are the first to demonstrate that GHRP-2, like ghrelin, increases food intake, suggesting that GHRP-2 is a valuable tool for investigating ghrelin effects on eating behavior in humans.

Do HGH sprays work?

HGH sprays are scams because if it contained real HGH trying to absorb through the nasal or oral cavity layers the product is a scam. As pointed out earlier, over the counter natural HGH supplement can't contain real HGH or they would be a prescription drug. Even if it wasn't a scam, the HGH molecule is too big and to sensitive to environmental change to get through effectively intact.

Natural supplements that do boost HGH production

In addition to secretagogues, amino acids boost production of growth hormone in the body. Glutamine supplements has been shown in studies to really spike the growth hormone. Protein is composed of amino acids though and since bodybuilders already take plenty of protein, this won't be very helpful knowledge. L-dopa in supplements, a neurotransmitter, also can spike growth hormone naturally.

Does prescription HGH work?

Yes, but since this is a natural bodybuilder blog, we don't advocate the use of HGH prescriptions, for bodybuilding. I would put secretagogues in that group to avoid also, since you are ingesting a peptide precursor to try and artificially boost your levels of growth hormone really high instead of through a more natural means. HGH isn't a very effective mass builder by itself anyways. They are used more for fat loss properties.

Realize if you are using HGH for anti-aging purposes and not bodybuilding because you you are older and have a deficiency, its probably not a good idea either. The use of prescription HGH for cosmetic reasons hasn't really been around commonly by enough people to really get a good scope of its effect on our health yet. Its very expensive and only in the last few years has really taken off widespread. There is some research to suggest that taking HGH injections may cause bad side effects on your health.

From a scientific standpoint, their still is yet any evidence that it truly helps reverse or stops the aging process either. Although people who do take HGH injections do look younger, that may not actually stop the aging process. Aging is a very complex process at the cellular level and resulting from free radicals and wear and tear. I doubt taking growth hormone could stop the aging process completely. Its a big gamble on your health for a temporary boost in looking younger when there are safer ways to prevent the aging look.

Testosterone & Myostatin Levels Effect on Muscle Gains

When people think about muscle building and what in the body helps muscle gains they usually just think of testosterone. Testosterone is a very important muscle builder, in fact its probably the most important factor. That is why women generally can't build muscle as well as men naturally, unless they take steroids, to get a artificial source of testosterone. There is other hormones that interact with testosterone and others that are unrelated that affect muscle growth like myostatin.

Testosterone impact on muscle growth

Testosterone as most bodybuilders know increases protein synthesis by attaching itself to the androgen receptors on the muscle. One important thing most don't realize is it also simultaneously blocks cortisol. It allows you to avoid over training more and not have to worry about muscle breakdown from high cortisol. That is why guys on steroids can workout longer and more frequently and have faster recovery. Natural bodybuilders need to do the opposite and keep workouts short and volume and frequency low.

Another mechanism people don't realize that testosterone does is it stimulates a thing in the muscle cells called satellite cells or myonuclei. These are the powerhouse centers inside the muscle cells. As you will see in studies I give below, the muscle fibers need a certain amount of myonuclei before they grow. So if testosterone isn't there to stimulate the growth of new myonuclei, then your muscle gains will plateau.

Patrick Arnold, an expert on steroid physiology, has alluded to this powerful effect of satellite cells from testosterone / steroid use. He also theorizes it may lead to more permanent muscle gains via hyperplasia (formation of new muscle fibers). Hyperplasia has been a hot debate in the bodybuilding community, but there is evidence that testosterone can play a crucial role in it.

Here is a study that supports Patrick Arnold's theory of steroid use on increased satellite cells and actually the growth of new muscle fibers. Even though this blog advocates natural use an no steroids, studies on steroids often help us understand how hormones like testosterone work on muscle growth.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Nov;31(11):1528-34.

Muscle biopsies were obtained from the trapezius muscles of high-level power lifters who have reported the use of anabolic steroids in high doses for several years and from high-level power lifters who have never used these drugs.

RESULTS: The overall muscle fiber composition was the same in both groups. The mean area for each fiber type in the reported steroid users was larger than that in the nonsteroid users (P < 0.05). The number of myonuclei and the proportion of central nuclei were also significantly higher in the reported steroid users (P < 0.05). Likewise, the frequency of fibers expressing developmental protein isoforms was significantly higher in the reported steroid users group (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Intake of anabolic steroids and strength-training induce an increase in muscle size by both hypertrophy and the formation of new muscle fibers. We propose that activation of satellite cells is a key process and is enhanced by the steroid use. The incorporation of the satellite cells into preexisting fibers to maintain a constant nuclear to cytoplasmic ratio seems to be a fundamental mechanism for muscle fiber growth. Although all the subjects in this study have the same level of performance, the possibility of genetic differences between the two groups cannot be completely excluded.

The study below showed that preventing activation, proliferation, and/or differentiation of satellite cells seems to stop hypertrophy.

Phelan JN, Gonyea WJ. Effect of radiation on satellite cell activity and protein expression in overloaded mammalian skeletal muscle. Anat. Rec. 247:179-188, 1997

Irradiation may prevent hypertrophy by impairing activation, proliferation, and/or differentiation of satellite cells. Small fibers in overloaded muscle appear to be new fibers arising from satellite cells. IGF-I may have a role in muscle hypertrophy involving satellite cell activation, or perhaps a more direct role that requires additional factors

Study below shows evidence that during hypertrophy the number of myonuclei increase proportionally to the increase in fiber volume

J Appl Physiol. 1999 Aug;87(2):634-42.

The effects of 10 wk of functional overload (FO), with and without daily treadmill endurance training, on the cross-sectional area, myonuclear number, and myonuclear domain size of mechanically isolated single fiber segments of the adult rat plantaris were determined.

All fiber types in both FO groups had a significantly larger (36-90%) cross-sectional area and a significantly higher (61-109%) myonuclear number than did control. The average myonuclear domain size of each fiber type was similar among the three groups, except for a smaller domain size in the type IIx/b fibers of the FO compared with control. In general, these data indicate that during hypertrophy the number of myonuclei increase proportionally to the increase in fiber volume. The maintenance of myonuclear domain size near control values suggests that regulatory mechanisms exist that ensure a tight coupling between the quantity of genetic machinery and the protein requirements of a fiber.

Bodybuilders with higher natural testosterone levels may have more muscle fibers due to hyperplasia. Boosting testosterone naturally may help induce this too.

Other hormones working with testosterone to build muscle

IGF-1 seems to be a potent hormone that works in conjunction with testosterone to increase protein synthesis and satellite cell activation. Postworkout there is a huge spike in IGF-1 and many believe this helps activate the protein synthesis increase we see for about 24 hours post workout. When testosterone levels are high IGF-1 tends to be high and when they are low so is IGF-1. Estrogen actually helps anabolism too. Estrogen is a natural byproduct already from the conversion of testosterone to DHT and estrogen. Growth hormone also seems to help muscle building. Growth hormone doesn't seem to build much muscle on its own. Most bodybuilders suggest that growth hormone works together with testosterone to build muscle.

Myostatin studies on muscle growth

Myostatin levels is more ingrained into your genetics. Its not something that fluctuates based on many lifestyle factors like testosterone. Unfortunately, it does play a big role in muscle growth. Rats that were able to have this gene removed grew to freak size muscularity.

This study showed that myostatin declined a lot post excercise. Remember that a myostatin DECLINE means that muscle growth becomes easier because the higher the levels of myostatin the more it inhibits (slows) muscle growth.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 May;36(5):787-93.

We determined and compared the magnitude of changes in resting plasma myostatin and IGF-1, muscle strength, and size in response to whole body or local muscle resistance training in healthy men.

RESULTS: In subjects of both groups, elbow flexor 1-RM and cross-sectional area increased (P = 0.05) by 30 +/- 8% (mean +/- SD) and 12 +/- 4%, respectively. Individual changes in myostatin ranged from 5.9 to -56.9%, with a mean decrease of 20 +/- 16%, whereas IGF-1 did not change from pre- to posttraining. There were no significant differences in any of the responses of the subjects between the two training programs. CONCLUSION: Myostatin may play a role in exercise-induced increases in muscle size, its circulating levels decreasing with resistance training in healthy men.

The study below says that myostatin mrna declined during weight loss. This may help as a way to help avoid too much muscle wasting during weight loss.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun;89(6):2724-7.

Myostatin mRNA levels result clearly decreased after weight loss, suggesting a role in counteracting the progressive decline of muscle mass after BPD. Myostatin may provide therefore another mechanistic explanation for the control of energy partitioning between protein and fat, working against muscle wasting. Our data suggest that myostatin might represent an important regulator of skeletal muscle size also in conditions of food restriction in obese subjects.

How to change natural testosterone and myostatin levels

Testosterone levels are easy to boost naturally via a high calorie surplus. Studies show that eating a high calorie surplus boosts your testosterone, IGF-1 through the roof. Eating plenty of fats helps maintain or increase testosterone too. Getting a healthy amount of saturated fat and monounsaturated fats really helps boost testosterone. Polyunsaturated fat doesn't have that effect, it actually works against you, so don't eat too much of your fat from polyunsaturated sources. You should try to get plenty of fats while bulking or dieting to help maintain testosterone levels. There is many studies that show high fat diet helps boost testosterone. One thing I will say though if your already eating a large calorie surplus the fat boost probably won't be existent. Calorie surplus already increase testosterone dramatically, so you probably can't boost it any higher just by increasing the amount of fat you intake together with a calorie surplus.

There is also studies showing colder weather, lack of quality sleep, stress, and alcohol lowers testosterone. There isn't much evidence on how to manipulate myostatin levels naturally, other than the studies I gave. It seems to fluctuate based in response to your weight training and dieting. There are some myostatin blocking supplements you could try to manipulate your myostatin levels.

Most Important Factors to Build Muscle

The most important thing I’ve learned after all these years of trying to build muscle is how much time I spent worrying about the stuff that has very little effect on building muscle and the wishing I had spent more time on stuff that does build muscle. As a newbie its easy to get confused in priorities. You see supplement ads everywhere promising all these amazing muscle building properties with no effort. Then you have bodybuilding gurus promising their workout program is the "magic routine" that will build muscle better than any other program.

After awhile you realize the vast majority of supplements are a bit overrated and even the ones that seem to work don't make a significant impact on building muscle in the long run. Generally beyond protein powder and vitamin orientated supplements, most are just a drain on your wallet. You also learn that those magic routines aren't so magic after all. Its just a genetic freak that will respond to any workout routine given to him. When you try the same routine your results aren't much different than from your old routine. If their routines are high volume and your used to lower volume your results will probably be even worse because your genetics can't handle the high amount of volume like a genetic freak who has fast recovery.

Top Important Factors to Build Muscle

Here is the most important factors in order

1) Calories - Gaining muscle, especially in significant amounts, is virtually impossible without a calorie surplus. If you are not gaining weight don't expect to gain muscle. PERIOD! On the flipside if you gain weight you will gain muscle. There have even been studies done on people who massively increase calories for 2 weeks and build muscle even without weight training! This is because dramatically increasing calories to a surplus to gain weight increases testosterone, IGF-1, growth hormone, and other hormones. Thats the main reason why calories are extremely anabolic and its almost impossible to build muscle without a calorie increase. Of course you should weight train with the calorie surplus, so your muscle gains will be better and less of your gains will be fat.

2) Progressive overload - This basically means that you must make your routine harder each workout. Try to do more reps or weight or more sets or shorter rests than the previous workout. When you use progressive overload in conjunction with a calorie surplus you are putting your muscles in the optimum position to build muscle. Progressive overload isn't effective without a calorie surplus. Your body will plateau if you do it that way.

3) Start your bulk at a LEAN bodyfat percent - There is studies that suggest when someone bulks leaner they tend to put on more of their weight as muscle instead of fat. In other words if you bulk at a high bodyfat percent a lot of your new gains will just be fat. I've also experienced it myself. When I bulk at a high bodyfat percent my new gains tend to be a lot more fat. The magic number that many bodybuilding experts who have looked over this and based on my own experience find under 15% bodyfat is considered the sweet spot to start bulking. If your over 15 percent bodyfat you should cut first.

4) Concentrate on compound free weight excercises Stick to the basic excercises like bench press, bent over rows, pullups, squats and deadlifts, and shoulder press. That should be where the majority of your sets are from. Thats where most of your growth will also come from. You should do isolations for arms and traps, but compounds should be your main focus. Compound excercises release the most testosterone and GH and involve the most muscles and weight overload, so they are going to stimulate the most muscle growth in your body. Isolations don't even release any hormones. Avoid machines too.

5) Don't do too much Most naturals only need a 3 day split to grow optimally. Take one rest day between each workout to allow the body to rejuvenate. All these guys working out 4 or 5 or 6 days a week are following splits designed by steroid users. Steroid users can resist volume and over training a lot better than naturals because they block the action of cortisol and they don't have to worry about the lowering of testosterone after a workout since they get an artificial source to keep it high. You want to do the opposite of them. Keep your workouts under an hour and 3 days a week.

6) Take Breaks. Even with a calorie surplus your body becomes stale after awhile. Our body gets tired of adapting to change, it prefers to be in homeostasis. Our anabolic hormones decline, our cells become more resistant to adaption to training and building muscle after many weeks of weight training. After 2 or 3 months you should take one to 2 full weeks of complete rest from excercise. It gives your body a chance to reset hormonally and mentally. It desensitizes your body so it will be primed for another growth phase. In bodybuilding taking 1 step back in order to do 2 steps forward is important approach you will learn over time.

There you go. Follow those simple principles and that's all you need to build muscle. Don't waste time trying to find some special workout technique that you think is going to turn you into a pro-bodybuilder overnight. Forget it its not going to happen. Genetics plays a big role in bodybuilding and workouts are only a small portion, supplements play an even less importance. Diet is actually is responsible for the majority of your results. As the ole bodybuilding saying "Muscles are made in the kitchen not in the gym".

Do Squats and Deadlifts Help Upper Body Muscle gains?

Im so sick and tired of newbie guys in the gym who only want to work their upper body. They usually get a little annoyed by us telling them to do squats and deadlifts. They think were being elitist bodybuilders and they think its silly and too much work to do legs. All they care about is just getting big arms and chest and some abs. These guys will never get truly big and probably will quit after a few months and certainly will never step on stage for a bodybuilding competition.

Why doing squats and deadlifts help upper body gains

All the advanced bodybuilders do squats and deadlifts. The most important reason they do it is because it helps overall body gains. Working squats and deadlifts just doesn't help your leg gains, it helps your upper body gains too. There is plenty of ancedotal evidence at all levels to support this.

You can't name any natural bodybuilder that has ever developed great upper body gains without doing squats or deadlifts seriously. Even newbie bodybuilders who neglect legs find their gains are improved when they start squatting and deadlifting. No matter how much leg gains impact the upper body you should do them anyways. It looks ridiculous to most gym goers and even some that don't workout, when you have the ridiculous light bulb look. Most won't take you serious if it only look like you work your upper body just to look good at the beach. And skinny legs look even worse on someone with a big upper body.

Scientific evidence on squats and deadlifts effect on body

If all the anecdotal evidence isn't enough to convince you, then lets just delve into some science. There is thousands of studies and research that show the amount of testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol, that are released are related to how large the excercise is among other factors. Squats, cleans, and deadlifts have a much larger hormone release than any other excercise. Small isolation excercises have very little release of these hormones. Multiple sets done with short rests and medium reps release more overall of these hormones than less set volume, less reps, and longer rests.

Here is one study below that showed the hormonal response from bench press was 7.5 percent however in a jump squat only using 30 percent of their one rep max (light weight) they had double the release at 15 percent. So even a light jump squat had a much more pronounced hormonal response than a heavy bench press.

Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise.

J Appl Physiol. 1994 Mar;76(3):1247-55.

Manipulation of resistance exercise variables (i.e., intensity, volume, and rest periods) affects the endocrine response to exercise. Twelve men performed a bench press exercise protocol (5 sets to failure using a 10-repetitions maximum load) and a jump squat protocol (5 sets of 10 repetitions using 30% of each subject's 1-repetition maximum squat) with 2 min of rest between all sets.

There was a significant (P < or = 0.05) increase in postexercise T compared with preexercise values for both the bench press (7.4%) and jump squat (15.1%) protocols; however, C was not significantly different from preexercise concentrations. These data confirm that high-intensity resistance exercise results in elevated postexercise T concentrations.

In the study below one set of squats had no impact on testosterone immediately after workout, but 6 sets had a 20 percent jump. So volume does matter in weight training. You can't just do one or 2 sets and call it a day.

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Jan;93(1):35-42. Epub 2005 Jan 25.

Nine resistance-trained men (age=24.3+/-4.4 years) performed the squat exercise for 1 (SS) and 6 sets (MS) of 10 repetitions in a random, counter-balanced order. No acute elevations in serum total testosterone were observed following SS, whereas significant 16-23% elevations were observed at IP, 15, and 30 min post-exercise following MS. No acute elevations in plasma cortisol were observed following SS, whereas significant 31-49% elevations were observed for MS at IP, 15, and 30 min post-exercise.

Which helps body gains better squats or deadlifts?

There is some debate on whether squats or deadlifts are superior to overall body gains. It's important to know because if one is a lot better than the other we would want to focus most of our sets exclusively on that excercise. I haven't seen much scientific evidence to suggest one is superior to the other. Only one obscure study by mens health that reported that the deadlift was superior to the squat by releasing more growth hormone and activating more muscles. The study is questionable and there is more than meets the eye.

I don't believe the answer is very definitive. First off squat and deadlift strength generally is very close to each other. Many say their deadlift is stronger than squat, but in some cases its just the opposite. For example, Im about as strong in my deadlift as my squat. I think structural differences in which muscles are our strong point determine which excercise we are stronger in and by what degree. I tend to be more lower body developed than upper body, which may explain not being a lot stronger in deadlifts. My theory is that deadlifts involve more upper body and less lower body than squats so someone who is genetically not as good in the upper body may do just as well if not better in strength for squats.

Since squats and deadlifts are so close in how much weight they move and there are differences between individuals, I think whichever you are stronger in is probably the most effective excercise for you. Whichever your lifting more weight in is probably affecting more total muscles in a way that will release the most hormones.

Either way, since they are generally close in strength there won't be much difference no matter which you choose. Deadlifts use less range of motion on lower body, but involve more muscles. Squats involve less upper body muscles but use more range of motion in legs. So from an anatomical standpoint they should be fairly close. This leads me to believe that squats and deadlifts will release similar amounts of testosterone and growth hormone. Therefore, you should work both together in almost equal amounts. That way you don't have muscle imbalances in your body and you have well rounded development of your lower body. If you only squat you can wind up causing an imbalance between the quads and hamstrings that could lead to knee injuries.

When squats or deadlifts do not matter in upper body gains

Steroid users don't need squats because their body gets artifical sources of elevated testosterone. Many of the guys with big upper bodies in the gym who don't do squats and deadlifts are usually steroid users from my experience. Natural bodybuilders need deadlifts and squats to get big upper body gains.

If You Miss a Meal While Bulking Will You Lose Muscle?

Most bodybuilders are taught either from other bodybuilder gurus or from obsessive compulsive routine and trying to be "hardcore" that they must not ever miss a meal. Its equivalent to a bodybuilding sin. You know the bodybuilding guys were talking about. They practically jump out a window if they are going to miss a meal. They will even plan their vacations or events to make sure they will always get their food at regular intervals. If they miss a meal or two they think their entire weeks progress in the gym will be severely diminished or even reversed. Is it really that big a deal if bodybuilders miss a meal occasionally while bulking?

What happens in the body when you miss a meal

To understand how important each meal is we first have to have a basic understanding of how the body of a bodybuilder reacts to bulking and protein and lost meals. When you are bodybuilding assuming you are getting a meal containing protein and carbs every 3 hours chances are your body has a steady stream of amino acids in the bloodstream. Your glucose levels won't drop too much. This means that your insulin levels will stay in the normal level for most of the 3 hours. When insulin levels start to drop significantly when you go too long without a meal (say 3+ hours) then your Glucagon levels rise. This causes your cortisol levels to rise too. Insulin blocks cortisol and also increases protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown by up to 50% (University College London 2006 (2006) Proc Physiol Soc 3, C46) Unfortunately cortisol loves to break down protein. If it can't get the amino acids from the blood stream its more likely to get them from your muscles. You enter a catabolic state at that point because when protein synthesis drops and protelysis (protein breakdown) increases you have a net loss of protein from the muscles. This is why dieting often causes substantial muscle loss.

How bad will the muscle loss be from a lost meal?

It depends on how many hours a person is going without a meal, how often they are doing this, what critical times of the day, and if they are trying to make up those lost meals somehow. If your missing a meal within the critical 24 hour window after you have a much bigger impact, since its during this time the protein synthesis is heightened to rebuild muscle. Missing
a meal during the breakfast and early part of the day is more important too. Your metabolism is higher and your body needs more nutrients and it sets your physiology for the rest of the day.

What can we do to minimize muscle loss during lost meal?

If you can't have a full meal, anything with some protein will avoid the muscle loss. If you can't have significant protein, anything to spike your insulin should also dramatically help. Whether it be some candy or a sugar drink. Just spike your insulin and your muscle loss should be minimal or none at all.

Can we make up the lost muscle from a lost meal?

Generally speaking, I don't think its the end of the world if someone misses a meal while bulking as long as they make it up very soon with extra calories. For example, if you missed a 300 calorie meal the evening of your weight training day, but then make up the meal with an extra 300 calories that night or the breakfast the following day you should be ok. If you didn't make up the meal then you probably won't be at a calorie surplus. It's impossible to gain significant muscle without a calorie surplus, so its important you make up the calorie difference to keep you at a surplus.

If you wait too long to make up the meal its a lost cause I believe. For example, lets say you miss breakfast and it was within a 24 hour window of your weight training workout. If you miss the meal and don't make it up during the 24 hour window when your body is primed then you can't grow muscle because the window has passed. To sum it up, when you miss a meal, make sure you make it up within 24 hours of your post weight training workout by adding more calories to meals equal to the lost meal.

Do Low Carb or High Carb Diets Preserve Muscle Better?

I’ve always been skeptical of Low Carb Diets for the average bodybuilder, unless they are getting ready for a competition. Low carb diets are needed for competition condition so they come in very dry. It’s almost been accepted as fact in the bodybuilding community for years that low carb diet was the quickest way to lose muscle, especially if you are a hardgainer. Recent bodybuilding authors like Lyle Mcdonald, who is making low carb diets very popular and new studies released, may prove that high carbs are not the best after all.

Low carb diets vs. high carb diet metabolism

In high carb diets you generally eat around 40 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. There are different Low Carb Diets usually called keto diets for bodybuilders, but most like the TKD (Targeted Keto Diet) has you eat about 10 percent of your calories as carbs and you cycle carbs at certain times and days. Instead low carb diets eat a lot more protein and fat to make up for the loss in carbs.

During High carb diets your body continues to metabolize macronutrients as usual, using glucose from carbs mainly for energy. With very Low Carb Diets your glycogen levels would get very depleted extremely fast with the lack of carbs shuttling glucose into your muscles. Your body has to come up with an alternative energy source to preserve some of that glycogen in your muscle for your brain, which needs glucose from the bloodstream. It does this by entering ketosis, where fat sources are used to make ketone bodies. Your brain tends to prefer glucose so that is mainly reserved for brain, while ketone bodies are burned for energy for other activities. Glycogen in the muscles won't be completely depleted either, especially when carb load up days are utilized like in the TKD diet. Therefore during your weight training days you can use glycogen from your muscles for short term energy.

Studies on Low carb and muscle preservation and fat loss

There seems to be studies supporting both sides of the argument when it comes to muscle preservation. Many studies show low carbs preserving muscle better during diet than high carb diets and many studies say the complete opposite too. Here is just 3 studies I want to go over.

The study below shows a simultaneous fat loss and significant muscle gain while dieting low carbs. There was also lower insulin levels in the low carb diet. No other hormonal changes between the two groups such as testosterone or cortisol.

Volek JS, Sharman MJ, Love DM, Avery NG, Gomez AL, Scheett TP, Kraemer WJ: Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet.

Twelve healthy normal-weight men switched from their habitual diet (48% carbohydrate) to a carbohydrate-restricted diet (8% carbohydrate) for 6 weeks and 8 men served as controls, consuming their normal diet. Subjects were encouraged to consume adequate dietary energy to maintain body mass during the intervention.

Fat mass was significantly (P less than r=.05) decreased (-3.4 kg) and lean body mass significantly increased (+1.1 kg) at week 6. There was a significant decrease in serum insulin (-34%), and an increase in total thyroxine (T(4)) (+11%) and the free T(4) index (+13%).

There were no significant changes in glucagon, total or free testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), cortisol, or triiodothyronine (T(3)) uptake, nor were there significant changes in body composition or hormones in the control group. Thus, we conclude that a carbohydrate-restricted diet resulted in a significant reduction in fat mass and a concomitant increase in lean body mass in normal-weight men, which may be partially mediated by the reduction in circulating insulin concentrations.

The study below shows that most of the loss in weight was due to fat and not muscle on a low carb diet.

Willi SM, Oexmann MJ, Wright NM, Collop NA, Key LL Jr: The effects of a high-protein, low-fat, ketogenic diet on adolescents with morbid obesity: body composition, blood chemistries, and sleep abnormalities.

Six adolescents, aged 12 to 15 years, weighing an average of 147.8 kg (range, 120.6-198.6 kg) and having an average body mass index of 50.9 kg/m (39.8-63.0 kg/m), consumed the K diet for 8 weeks. Daily intake consisted of 650 to 725 calories, which was substantively in the form of protein (80-100 g). The diet was very low in carbohydrates (25 g) and fat (25 g). This was followed by 12 weeks of the K diet plus two carbohydrates (30 g) per meal (K+2 diet)

Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry showed a decrease from 51.1% +/- 2.1% body fat to 44.2% +/- 2.9% during the K diet and then to 41.6% +/- 4.5% during the K+2 diet. Lean body mass was not significantly affected.

The study below measured protein breakdown at the site and found no difference between low carb and high carb.

Vazquez JA, Adibi SA: Protein sparing during treatment of obesity: ketogenic versus non-ketogenic very low calorie diet.

Metabolism 1992 , 41:401-14. OpenURL

The following study showed that the higher carb diet lost less total fat and lost more muscle (ie. a larger percentage of their weight gains lost were muscle instead of fat)

Young CM, Scanlan SS, Im HS, Lutwak L: Effect of body composition and other parameters in obese young men of carbohydrate level of reduction diet.

They compared three diets containing the same amounts of calories (1,800 kcal/day) and protein (115 g/day) but differing in carbohydrate content.

After nine weeks on the 30-g, 60-g and 104-g carbohydrate diets, weight loss was 16.2, 12.8 and 11.9 kg and fat accounted for 95, 84, and 75% of the weight loss, respectively

These are just some of the studies supporting low carb diets are better at preserving muscle. There are many others out there. There is also many studies out there that show high carbs preserved muscle better.

Final conclusion on low carb vs. high carb

One common denominator from most of the studies I have come across is that Low Carb Diets are a better fat burner. Regardless if one preserves muscle better than the other, if fat loss is your number one concern than low carb diet is the best way to go. That has been the general consensus among bodybuilders for years anyways. The muscle preservation part is more controversial theory I believe. If you're a hardgainer or your muscle genetics aren't that good then it matters a lot more whether or not low carb diets or high carb diets are better in regards to preserving muscle. From all the studies I've seen its really hard to tell which side is right if you don't do some further digging. Even Lyle Mcdonald in his book on keto diets the biggest advocate of low carb diets for bodybuilders, suggests that the results vary and that some lose muscle on low carb and for some its the opposite. Not exactly the most assuring assessment from the number one advocate in the industry.

The other thing I've noticed is most of these studies weren't done on people who weight train. I believe that when someone is working out hard with weights 3+ times a week, the lack of carbs could be a game changer. Carbs give you plenty of energy and strength by keeping your glycogen levels full. When they get depleted more in low carb diets, its much harder to maintain strength and endurance. As you lose strength and do less reps week after week as you get fatigued easier its much harder to hold onto your muscle since they aren't getting the same stimulation so your muscles are going to shrink.

The other reason I'm skeptical that Low Carb Diets hold onto muscle better than high carb diets is insulin is the most potent anabolic hormone in the body. Most people don't realize this, they usually think of Testosterone first. Insulin increases protein synthesis and stops muscle breakdown by up to 50 % (University College London 2006 (2006) Proc Physiol Soc 3, C46) and helps shuttle nutrients into the muscles. Its hard for me to believe that when your eating mainly protein and fat which have very little impact on insulin compared to carbs, you can hold onto your muscle to the same degree. Insulin also counteracts cortisol the main culprit for muscle breakdown.

Could both sides be right?

Lower insulin levels have been shown in these studies for those on Low Carb Diets. They also show no changes in cortisol or other hormones between the two groups that may have an effect. Insulin resistance does lead to poor nutrient partitioning (higher bodyfat percent). Your body doesn't burn fat as effectively or build muscle as well when you don't respond to insulin and become resistant. As said earlier insulin is a potent anabolic hormone and if your body becomes resistant to it your fat loss should be less and your more likely to burn muscle instead.

Perhaps the insulin sensitivity changes in low carb diets are enough to overcome the other obstacles of a low carb diet and actually lead to better fat loss and muscle gains. If someone is borderline diabetic or has a lot of insulin sensitivity due to be overweight or genetics, then perhaps the switch to low carb diets puts their body into a different shift primed for not only losing fat better, but even sometimes gaining muscle. Perhaps this is why results vary between individuals. If someone is presently insulin resistant than low carb diet may be a better option.

Other possible reasons to avoid low carb diets

Whether or not Low Carb Diets works better for fat loss or muscle preservation, some choose to not do them because the risks outweigh any slight gains. I think low carb diets are much harder to stick to long term. What good is a diet if you can't stick to it? Its very hard to come up with a diet for months or years that relies on mainly food that isn't carbs. Also it is very hard to get enough fiber in your diet with such a low carb diet. Low fiber leads to constipation and increased risk of cancer. I also worry about the long term health effects on the body of such low carbs. Low carb diets also make you lose massive amounts of water weight which can give you the false impression of more fat lost than you really lost. You will be dissapointed when you carb back up and gain a lot of that water weight back giving you a more bloated fat appearance.

Is Periodization Necessary for Optimum Gains & Avoiding Plateaus?

Periodization has been a technique used by powerlifters and bodybuilders for decades as a way to avoid plateaus in muscle and strength gains. The terminology and science behind periodization sort of scares off new bodybuilders, so sometimes other terms or phrases are used such as "shocking your body" or "switch up your routine to avoid a plateau".

What is Periodization and it's purpose in training

Periodization is basically where you radically change your training at certain times in a schedule. Periodization can help avoid overtraining and plateaus. The reason is because if you keep training a certain way week after week your body will start getting resistant to those changes. Its how our body is, it likes to stay in equilibrium. This is called the General Adaptive Syndrome. Our body will change its body hormonally and at different ways in the cellular level in order to resist those changes. It takes a lot of extra energy for our bodies to change, so its natural reaction is to not want to adapt to the same training for too much and for too long.

Periodization advocates radical changes to your training to keep your body guessing and to not do training to close to each other. For example the first few weeks you might do medium reps heavy weight high volume at short rests to gain muscle. Then the next phase for 2 weeks might be a powerlifting routine where you do very low volume, low amount of excercises, very heavy weight at low reps and long rests. Then you might do a endurance phase for a couple weeks where you do high reps, short rests light weight at very high volume. Then finally you go back to your main program for a few weeks again where you are doing medium reps at high volume.

As you can see each phase works different muscle fibers and it gives your body a chance to rest from working one type of way. It also makes it harder for your body to adapt because each phase is so different from the rest.

Different types of Periodization

Linear Periodization is where you do each workouts for weeks in special phases for weeks sequentially. There is another type called non-linear periodization where you alternate between each workout every week. For example you might hit chest 2 times a week. One workout is high reps lots of volume and short rests, the other workout is medium reps heavy weight and medium volume and rest.

Is Periodization Necessary for optimum gains?

I don't believe Periodization is necessary for optimum gains or even at all, for a couple reasons. People get so caught up into this idea of Periodization they lose sight of the big picture. Periodization won't even work effectively by itself if you don't gain weight simultaneously in order to build muscle and get stronger. When you increase calories you will gain weight and build muscle, regardless if you do periodization or not. Calories is extremely anabolic, which is why you won't gain substantial muscle without gaining weight. Increasing calories will break any plateau. Over time as your metabolism adjusts you need to slowly adjust calories up periodically to continue gaining weight and break a muscle building and strength plateau.

Even when you are gaining weight, your body will still wear down physically and mentally over time to resist those changes. However, this doesn't mean you need periodization to solve it. I believe taking a full week or 2 off from excercise at least every 3 months or less is enough to recuperate the body to avoid the overtraining from the General Adaption Syndrome. When you take a break you reset the body and allow hormones and other chemical reactions to return to normal. You are desensitizing and reversing the body from any adaptions it made under the General Adaption Syndrome. You can return to your old routine when you return. There is nothing wrong with using the same routine again.

The second reason I don't believe Periodization is necessary is because when you work your muscles a certain way, you wind up losing the adaptions on the other. You get a mediocre average between the results between the two. For example lets say you are doing high rep phase and are focusing on working your slow twitch muscle fibers, capillaries, and increasing glycogen retention. When you switch to lower reps your working fast twitch or medium twitch fiber groups and endurance fibers and capillaries and glycogen retention aren't getting hypertrophied much. The opposite happens when you train the other way. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too, but it doesn't work exactly like that. When you train one way it has a negative impact on the other side because it is getting neglected.

To make matters worse studies have also shown that high endurance training following lower rep training actually causes your muscle fibers to shrink.

(Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;61(1-2):37-41)

One group did high reps and the other did low rep strength training in 2 different phases sequentially. The results showed that for the first phase, both types of training increased the fiber size of I, IIA, and IIB. However, the group that did strength phase 2nd, showed a increase in size in the I and IIB fiber types, but the endurance group in the 2nd phase showed decreased size in all fiber types. This study suggests that both types of training increase all fiber type sizes, but switching to endurance training after strength training, will reverse the hypertrophy gains.

(Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15.)

This study shows that in the high rep group not all fiber types hypertrophied, but in the low and medium rep group all fibers hypertrophy.

Even if you alternate between the training during the week like in non-linear periodization, you're only do half the volume for each side that you would normally do. Therefore, not really stimulating the muscles to the necessary optimum volume for optimal muscle gains. It also doesn't change the fact that working the endurance fibers with high reps light weight can reverse the gains from the other type of training you got in the week.

According to studies I have come across, Periodization has enhanced gains over those who didn't use periodization. I have a problem with the studies though. They don't say whether either group was gaining weight or not. If both groups are at the same weight and stay that way the whole time it doesn't disprove my theory that periodization isn't necessary and that there is an alternative that works just as well. If neither group isn't gaining weight in these studies, then it doesn't disprove my theory that you need to gain weight to break plateaus and build muscle. You can't grow significantly if your not gaining weight regardless if you are periodizing or not. However, if you are gaining weight simple calorie increases and periodic breaks from training will keep you growing and avoiding a plateau. If the group not using periodization was gaining weight, they would probably gain just as well if not better than the group gaining weight who was using periodization. At that point, Periodization is completely unnecessary because you are using calories to break the plateau and breaks to avoid overtraining.

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