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[Editor's Note: Advances in training and conditioning theory and practice often dictate the trajectory of supplement science. So if you want to see where the future of supplementation is headed, it pays to listen to what athletes (and training experts) are saying. The best place to do that is at the yearly meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Featured ProSource columnist Chad Kerksick, PhD, was our man in the room for the 2014 conference in Las Vegas, and he is here to weigh in with his expert opinion on some of the event's most important presentations.]

Recently, scientists, fitness professionals and strength coaches converged upon the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas for the annual meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The NSCA is one of the largest professional organizations devoted to bettering the practice of strength and conditioning and currently boasts over 30,000 members worldwide. This three-day event is one of the best meetings to attend and hear some of the best speakers on any topic related to fitness, strength and conditioning.  

Muscle Growth and Cardio
For exercise and nutrition enthusiasts, the meeting could not have started any better. The morning of the first day, Jacob Wilson, PhD, a faculty member at the University of Tampa and a prolific exercise and nutrition researcher, presented on "Exercise and Nutrition Strategies to Prevent the Negative Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Resistance Training Adaptations." 

For many people, this topic hits home because you are suspicious of cardio and its effect on strength and muscle mass. Dr. Wilson began his talk by highlighting that greater amounts of cardio do a nice job of burning fat, but also commonly result in decreases in strength, power and capacity to grow bigger muscles. In an excellent paper he authored, it was highlighted that nearly all positive changes related to resistance training were lessened when cardio exercise was added to it. Not ideal, but fortunately he offered three outstanding exercise training recommendations to help counteract this potential negative response:

  1. For starters, he strongly recommended that cycling be performed over running, mainly because the cycling movement is more similar to squats and leg press while running also causes more muscle damage and may make it harder to move heavy weights in subsequent workouts.

  2. Perform cardio using higher intensities and in more of an interval style of a workout as this will reduce duration, promote greater hormonal responses as well as more favorable changes in muscle activation.

  3. Lift your weights before cardio. And he cited research that clearly showed that if cardio was performed first, the energy depleting aspect of the cardio exercise negatively impacts the muscle cell's ability to grow bigger and stronger.
He also offered a few nutritional strategies to help offset the negative changes which may occur. For starters, he strongly recommended to pay attention to early timed administration of carbohydrate after completing a workout if you complete a weight and cardio session on the same day. He then discussed the potential importance of HMB to help promote favorable adaptations to intense exercise training.  For example, he discussed available research that shows:
  • HMB can decrease the breakdown of protein that occurs after high volumes of aerobic exercise
  • HMB decreases muscle damage that occurs after prolonged bouts of running
  • HMB can speed recovery by reducing soreness after stressful, damaging exercise
  • Finally, other research he cited showed that HMB can help attenuate loss of strength after very prolonged exercise and promote greater increases in lean mass and improvements in body fat percentage
Carbohydrates and Performance
The afternoon of Day 1 was highlighted by a presentation by Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD titled, "Managing Weight and the Role of Carbohydrates in the Diet of an Athlete." Dr. Kleiner is one of the most respected sports dietitians in the field today and has been for the past 20 years. 

Thinking about cutting carbohydrates in your diet and still expecting to being able to train at high enough intensity to stimulate positive adaptations to your training program? Think again! Dr. Kleiner presented a number of studies using both endurance and resistance exercise that highlighted the importance of adequate carbohydrate in the diet. 

For example, one study she discussed highlighted athletes who perpetually followed a low carbohydrate diet to force their body to burn more fat for fuel and found these athletes struggled to climb hills and could not adequately support higher power outputs during training. In other words, their training quality suffered markedly due to carb deprivation.

Another study she discussed involved completion of simple, straight-forward bouts of leg press by experienced male resistance trained athletes. After following a diet and single-leg exercise program to reduce glycogen levels in one leg, the authors reported that when carbohydrate stores were depleted in one leg, the athletes were unable to complete five consecutive repetitions with the leg that was glycogen depleted (but not the other leg which had normal levels of muscle glycogen).

The take-home message from this presentation is simple.  If you want to get bigger, stronger and leaner you need to train hard and do so consistently.  Following a diet that severely restricts carbohydrate intake can have drastic, negative implications on an athlete's ability to complete quality workouts leaving you vulnerable to overtraining and poor adaptations to your training.

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Nutrition Timing
Two sports-nutrition-centered presentations took place on Day 2 and the first was titled "Evidence-Based Nutrient Timing: A New Paradigm" by Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon. Both individuals have recently published papers that have critically examined the literature involving the timing of protein. 

In brief summary, their contention is that the number one factor related to protein intake and resistance training adaptations is the total amount of protein intake that occurs throughout the day. In other words, they feel that the timing of protein is not as important if an athlete is consuming adequate amounts of protein. Optimal protein intake for resistance trained athletes is somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass each (0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body mass per day). Optimal sources of protein include whey protein isolate like that found in the pioneering whey isolate, original NytroWhey, and its super-premium successor, NytroWhey Ultra Elite.

The researchers also highlighted the importance of providing enough leucine throughout the day, as this amino acid appears to be a critically important factor at turning on mechanisms related to muscle growth. This key fact again brings us back to NytroWhey Ultra Elite. This superior formulation contains a unique Leucine-Bound Leucine Peptide technology designed to upregulate the utilization of highly anabolic leucine, thus providing up to four times the bioavailable leucine content of other brands. Nytro Whey Ultra Elite also contains the highest-quality whey isolate and whey hydrolysate proteins avavilable anywhere, sourced from Glanbia Nutrition, the USA's foremost protein manufacturer.

However, it should be stated that in several of these studies many individuals do respond favorably to timing strategies that involve supplementing with a 20 to 25 gram dose of a high quality protein and for these reasons, both authors contend that timing strategies may be effective for these individuals. The best summary from this situation comes from ISSN CEO, Jose Antonio, where he asks, "When is it not anabolic to eat?"

Body Composition and Anabolic Activity
The last sport-nutrition-centered presentation discussed in this article will highlight information shared during a symposium titled "Nutritional Supplementation, Body Composition and Anabolic Activity." The first presentation in this symposium was titled, "Nutritional Supplementation to Increase Muscle Mass." This is a big topic and the presenter, Trent Herda, PhD, from Kansas University, provided a general overview of protein supplementation and highlighted that whey protein use is an effective strategy to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and, when completed over a nine-month period, resulted in greater increases in muscle mass when compared to soy protein ingestion. He also highlighted data that illustrated key cellular signaling events resulting in muscle protein synthesis occurred when whey protein was provided.

Dr. Herda also discussed ATP supplementation and reported data to suggest that vasodilation and oxygen delivery to muscle could be improved. Finally, he (like Dr. Wilson) highlighted that HMB supplementation can effectively enhance recovery to damaged muscle and can help increase lean body mass early in resistance training programs. The presentation was titled, "Nutritional Supplementation to Decrease Muscle Breakdown" and the focus of the presentation was first on avoiding scenarios which accelerate the loss of muscle:
  • Excessive bed/couch (being sedentary)
  • Prolonged (>120 min) endurance training, especially with low glycogen stores
  • Excessive volumes of training
  • Aging
Certainly, some of these can be avoided more easily than others and some cannot be avoided. Again, the presenter highlighted data using HMB to illustrate its seemingly beneficial effects to promote recovery, facilitate higher quality training and minimize muscle damage. Additional key points were highlighted for HMB use:
  • Optimal dosage seems to be around 1 to 3 grams
  • Two forms exist, a calcium and free acid form
  • Calcium-bound HMB appears slower in the blood, peaking after around 60 to 120 minutes while the free acid form peaks around 30 minutes
Conclusion
The 2014 NSCA National Conference was a great event with a number of topics related to sports nutrition. Overall the presenters did a great job at reviewing the available literature, reviewing old foundational topics and introducing new data on other topics.

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