The State Of Sports Nutrition Science

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[Editors Note: Here at ProSource, we're always keeping a close eye on the year's most important gatherings of sports nutrition scientists, both as a news-reporting service for our dedicated customers and as research for future elite-quality supplements bearing the ProSource brand. The yearly meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition is one such conference that's always circled on our calendar. Featured ProSource columnist Chad Kerksick, PhD, was our man in the room for the 2014 conference in Clearwater Beach, and he is here to weigh in with his expert opinion on some of the events most important presentations. Take it away, Chad!]

Every year around the middle of June, a lively bunch of sports nutritionists, fitness professionals and sports nutrition researchers get together for the annual conference of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).  This year's conference was held in Clearwater Beach, FL and consisted of two days of presentations that highlighted some of the latest research in the area of sports nutrition. This article will cover the main topics covered from a number of the different presentations and give you the key 'take-home' information on a number of subjects and issues at the forefront of the industry today.

Ursolic Acid and Leucine Supplementation
This presentation was delivered by Dr. Darryn Willoughby from Baylor University, an extremely well-respected scientist who still competes as a bodybuilder. His presentation focused on the impact of leucine and ursolic acid supplementation with regard to increasing the regulation of muscle protein synthesis.

Ursolic acid is a relatively new compound found in the skins of apples and other fruits and is considered by many to be an 'up and comer' type of ingredient.  Previously published studies using cell cultures and animals have shown that ursolic acid supplementation can increase the signaling of key molecules associated with muscle protein synthesis. The study they completed was one of the first studies using humans, which always represents an extremely challenging proposition for scientists. What is your dosage? How long should you supplement?  Should you load? All of these are questions that are important and impossible to accurately address after just one study. 

Willoughby and his colleagues reported a lack of change in IGF signaling and other components of muscle protein synthesis, on the basis of just this one study.  Take-Home Message: Still too soon to tell on Ursolic acid supplementation, but delivering a healthy 3-to-6 gram dose of leucine like that found in a 20-to-25 gram dose of the advanced protein blend found in NytroWhey Ultra Elite continues to be an effective way to drive muscle protein synthesis.

The Many Facets of Keto-Adaptation:
Health, Performance & Beyond

Dr. Jeff Volek presented on a topic he knows better than nearly anyone in the world, Ketogenic Diets and Keto-Adaptation. In what was a standing-room-only affair, Dr. Volek first outlined how carbohydrate status impacts fat burning and concluded by stating that, "Carbohydrate intake (or lack thereof) is the primary driver of fat oxidation."

Dr. Volek then discussed in good detail the misconceptions associated with ketone production, namely the notion that a healthy person who consumes a very low carbohydrate diet will develop ketoacidosis and as a result suffer negative health outcomes. His work along with others who used a ketogenic diet approach to study overweight participants consistently shows that greater losses of body mass and fat occur as well as greater improvements in nearly every worthwhile marker of health found in our blood. 

The next aspect of his presentation was a little more controversial, as it focused upon ketogenic (high protein and fat and lower carbohydrate) on maximal exercise performance. According to his presentation, the applications of this type of diet on very long endurance events may be the ideal scenario, but he also presented data from a study they completed which suggested greater improvements in body composition in a low-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet group versus a low-fat, higher-carbohydrate group. In fact, he highlighted four participants from this study who all gained between 6 to 12 pounds of lean mass while losing anywhere from 19 to 30 pounds of fat over the 12 week period. That's impressive! 

Take-Home Message: More evidence continues to accumulate that suggests a lower carbohydrate diet can improve health and weight loss, enhance fat loss and (when combined with resistance training) this diet may help burn even more fat and build more muscle. 

For you folks who are cutting calories and carbohydrates, the need for high quality sources of protein like that found in NytroWhey Ultra Elite and ProSource's Vectron are key considerations, particularly as you run around working a job, hitting the gym, taking care of your family and so on. [Editor's Note: Vectron is particularly interesting in a fat-loss conversation, because it is formulated with a unique fractionated protein complex called Prolibra that has been shown in an independent, randomized, double-blind 12-week clinical trial (published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism), to help test subjects manifest improvements in the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat Indeed, subjects taking just 24.4 grams of Prolibra per day retained twice as much lean muscle with 79% fat-loss compared to a control group at 51% fat loss.] Additionally, though there is no published science to support this yet, it may be the case that adding HMB (read why below) during a cutting phase may help the body to hold on to muscle even more efficiently. Stay tuned on that potential nugget of science.

Tracking Your Individual Changes
in Fat and Muscle Mass

This presentation by Jordan Moon, PhD, might have the most practical importance for athletes who are tracking their own changes in body fat percentage and especially for trainers who are testing their clients' body fat percentage. 

In the past several years, no person has spoken more about this topic than Dr. Moon and he continually puts together solid presentations that support his points.  Take-Home Message: The bottom line from this presentation is simply if you are having your body fat percentage measured by nearly any technique (and this even includes the "gold-standard" techniques such as DEXA and BOD POD) that for any given individual measurement there will be anywhere from 3 to 4% variation with your measurement. On a positive note, most techniques track changes fairly nicely, but Dr. Moon still recommends tracking your own individual changes by comparing a single skinfold or circumference measurement over time as you diet down and hopefully get ripped.

Molecular Updates on the Effects of
Phosphatidic Acid: Muscle Physiology and Beyond

Going back a decade or so ago, scientists were starting to uncover the impact of leucine and recently a good bit of attention is focused upon further clarifying the impact of phosphatidic acid, a phospholipid molecule found within the lipid bilayer of our cell membranes that has shown to have a key role in muscle protein synthesis.

This presentation was given by Mike Roberts, PhD, an Assistant Professor at Auburn University and a definite "up and comer" in the world of exercise science and muscle physiology. Two recent studies have been published in humans using phosphatidic acid and both studies report favorable outcomes to demonstrate that providing phosphatidic acid may help to improve muscle growth. Dr. Roberts' presentation focused upon animal studies they did which combined whey protein with phosphatidic acid, as they wanted to see if combining the two led to greater results. 

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Overall their results did indicate some positive outcomes regarding the combination of whey protein and phosphatidic acid and more studies in humans are definitely needed. Take-Home Message: Phosphatidic acid is a key molecule shown in a small handful of studies to positively signal key targets involved in muscle protein synthesis. When combined with high-quality whey protein, initial animals studies suggest some positive interactions may go on to impact muscle protein synthesis and it's only a matter of time before more research is available.

MAX Muscle: A Periodized
Approach to Muscle Hypertrophy

A quick mention to a presentation by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld and his work on optimal workout programs to pack on muscle mass. The bottom line from his talk suggests paying attention to how your own body responds and lifting smart according to a few key scientific principles. Follow and abide by key training principles such as overload, specificity and progression. Understand you respond differently than your workout partner and other people at the gym. Use science as your foundation and modify your program according to how your body best responds, not what the latest bodybuilding magazine tells you to do.  

Leucine, HMB and Amino Acid Metabolites that Support Muscle Hypertrophy and Athletic Performance
This excellent presentation was delivered by Shawn Wells and Gabriel Wilson and provided a killer update for awesome topics such as leucine, HMB and other amino acids. To start, they reviewed literature on leucine while emphasizing several key points. For example, leucine contents are higher in complete proteins such as whey, and studies comparing whey to casein and soy have shown that whey increases synthesis rates of muscle protein to a much greater degree than casein or soy, both at rest and after exercise. 

Leucine can single-handedly turn on muscle protein synthesis (that's pretty cool), but other amino acids must be present. Also, a critical threshold of leucine does exist and as you age this amount of leucine climbs higher and higher. Finally, delivering an optimal dose of leucine every 3 to 4 hours may be a key strategy to optimized anabolism. 

Next, their presentation focused on a key metabolite of leucine, HMB, and they highlighted that using HMB pre-workout may offer the best potential advantage as it particularly works well to manage training stress during the early phases of a new workout routine and/or during times when you are training with high loads and volumes. Optimal doses of HMB appear to be around 1.5 grams/day spread out into two, 750-mg doses 2x/day.

The ISSN conference is always an excellent opportunity to check out information-packed sessions that focus upon nutritional agents to improve sports performance, body composition and recovery, and 2014 was no different.  A number of factors were covered that continue to add to the body of science surrounding many of the popular nutritional supplements available right now at ProSource!

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