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Research Updates

  • Fitness-Branded Foods Can Lead to Eating More

    Fitness-branded foods can actually make people eat more. Attractive packaging can induce the idea that these foods are better. People tend to eat more of them and reduce the actual focus on physical exercises. Those looking to lose weight can be doing more harm by actually eating extra food, which takes them in the opposite direction of controlled caloric intake.

    Fitness foods and what researchers say about branding

    Those looking to lose weight are often targeted by fitness branding. Protein bars and weight loss supplements are just a few of the products consumed by those looking to lose weight. Made with attractive branding, they can sometimes be detrimental as people associate them with healthy foods and simply eat them in larger quantities.

    Research shows that this is not the sole problem of branding, as consumers tend to overlook physical activity. These foods can often be mistaken as a substitute for actual workouts.

    The methods of the research included observing a group of subjects told to act normally, as in everyday life, when it comes to snacking. In a controlled environment, the group was given a healthy snack which also had images of running shoes to imply the idea of health and fitness. After consuming one such product, they had the option to go train on a stationary bike or consume the snack. Unless they were strictly prohibited by their diets, the subjects of the study chose to consume another snack.

    Made with the purpose to investigate the effects of fitness branding, the study concluded that these healthy snacks can be a problem for those trying to keep their weight under control and that attractive branding had a major impact on this problem.

    Recommended alternatives

    The researchers also made a few recommendations. While the products were actually beneficial, they suggested that manufacturers would need to use other ways to promote a healthier way to lose weight, instead of implying it through pictures and branding. Gym vouchers or exercise tips were recommended as an alternative. These alternatives would be a more realistic solution which would not diminish the importance of physical training for those trying to manage body weight.

    Simply put, fitness branding can discourage physical activity, despite the fact that it promotes consuming more calories. This is counter-productive for those trying to lose weight. The research made by the American Marketing Association raises awareness of the issue of branding in the health and fitness space. Many products use different imagery to suggest the idea of exercising, without directly recommending physical activity.

    Researchers recommend an increased attention on marketing techniques in the fitness space. Of course, a healthy snack can be a better alternative when a quick caloric intake is needed. But it is often the misleading branding which makes people eat multiple snacks. However, those which have been on strict diets where they knew which foods were allowed and which foods were not recommended for consumption, made it clear they did not want to consume another healthy snack.

  • Combination DHA And EPA Supplementation from Fish Oil may Improve Physical Performance, Study Review Finds

    The benefits of fish oil consumption have been expounded upon for years; it is now well-established to promote heart health, cognitive function and support the wellness of your joints. However, studies that demonstrate clear benefit and exercise performance have been limited, and a mixed bag to say the least.

    Researchers in Japan who conducted a review of the simultaneous consumption of EPA and DHA from fish oil have stated that they do have a possible synergistic effect on physical performance, but more studies are needed to clarify findings.

    The Review

    Researchers from Japan’s Hosei University and Teikyo University reviewed studies that investigated the effects of simultaneous consumption on muscle mass and strength, as well as nerve and muscle damage amelioration.

    Their findings on the effects of supplementation on strength loss were determined to be somewhat incomplete, owing to the fact that studies have shown no noticeable difference in muscle strength decline attenuation after consuming DHA and EPA.

    The researchers indicated that previous studies had lasted durations of just 3 to 4 weeks, whereas supplementation of EPA and DHA typically require between 30 and 60 days to reduce the decline in muscle strength observed after eccentric training. This means that previous studies had ended too early, not giving enough time for effects to possibly manifest.

    Following eccentric contraction, levels of inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-A) and interleukin six (IL-6) are elevated, but supplementation of the EPA and DHA combination were able to inhibit such elevations.

    Reviewing the effects of neuromuscular damage attenuation by EPA and DHA, they were only able to find one study that included rodents as test subjects, positing the need for further investigation.

    The fish oil combination consumed over the course of eight weeks resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness, indicating the possibility of usage to manage post workout pain.

    Other reviewed studies included the effect of EPA and DHA intake on inhibiting decreases in muscle mass, which have been found to be of benefit in rodent studies, but further human studies are needed to confirm this.

    It is also found that persons between the ages of 60 and 85 that consumed a combination of EPA and DHA daily over the course of six months experienced growth of thigh muscle mass, while younger men (aged between 21 to 24) did not notice any such benefit.

    Conclusions/Caveats

    Even though a few studies have found preliminary positive results, there is still a very large gray area with respect to supplementation. For instance, it is generally agreed that the combination is very effective for improving the neuromuscular adaptation that occurs following your work out, but exact mechanisms for this are unclear.

    On another note, the exact dosage that is required to elicit the desired benefits also require further investigation. Considering that safety guidelines recommend a maximum consumption of 3 grams daily, and athletes routinely consume in excess of this amount, further variables such as training experience, age and gender to name a few need to be factored into subsequent studies in coming to positive conclusions.

    References

    Eisuke Ochi, Yosuke Tsuchiya. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaneoic Acid (DHA) in Muscle Damage and Function Nutrients 2018, 10(5), 552; doi 10.3390/nu10050552

  • Athletic Performance is not Affected by Controlled Carb Intake

    A 2018 study published by the Nutrients scientific journal shows that a controlled and low carbohydrate intake combined with a high fat intake has a minimal effect on athletic performance. In order to understand this study and its findings, athletes need to comprehend that this idea of controlled macronutrients is not new. The ketogenic diet is seeing a strong rise in popularity, even if it has been strongly criticized when its ideas were first published in 1920. It was believed that the diet can have a positive effect on epilepsy sufferers and today, many people associate the diet with weight loss and in some cases, with improved physical performance.

    Research methods and findings

    The study was part of a project of Australia’s Centre for Sport and Research at Deakin University. It went on to investigate the blood composition of two groups of subjects. The first group followed a diet of low carbohydrates and high fats such as the keto diet while the second group followed a diet high in carbs. All subjects were elite level walkers.

    There is a clear indication that the controlled carbohydrate intake doesn’t influence peak performance. It is explained by the study which measured the acid-base status in these elite athletes. But what is acid-base status? Measured in pH, acid-base status is the natural balance between acidic and basic alkaline compounds in the blood. The kidneys and the lungs are responsible for the acid-base balance.

    Controlled carb intake does not affect the athletic performance of the two groups in the study either due to pre-existing training adaptations or due to the actions of the kidneys and the lungs which directly impact acid-base. Of course, the study found that the differences in the pH levels of the two groups were significant. However, this was not enough to change the acid-base.

    The innovation of the study

    The research comes to offer new information in an area which was not studied at all. While there are other studies which seek to answer similar questions, they were not focused on elite athletes. It is why the researchers chose top athletes who performed at the Olympic Games or at World Cup championships. Even more, the researchers went to great lengths to ensure all subjects had the supervision of qualified dietitians.

    In these conditions, the main conclusion of the study is that over a period of three weeks, the low carbohydrate and high fats diet of the athletes had no influence on acid-base status. This anomaly can be associated with the fact that elite athletes have a different training status than the subjects from previous studies, which were in a healthy state, but not at an athletic. However, it can also be explained by the higher capacity of the body to neutralize dietary acids simply by expulsion either through the respiratory system or through the renal pathways. In other words, changes in athletic performance while on the ketogenic diet are not likely to come from changes in acid-base status.

    Source: Nutrients 2018, 10(2), 236; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020236

  • Astaxanthin Supplementation May Help Improve Strength and Endurance in the Elderly, Study Finds

    As we age, it is natural for muscle loss to occur. This process, known as sarcopenia, is estimated to occur at the rate of approximately 1% to 2% muscle loss annually after the age of 50, and is largely inevitable.

    In like fashion, strength also decreases starting around this time, at a rate of about 1.5% annually starting at age 50, and in some cases as much as 3% annually after age 60. Regardless, a study was devised to investigate if supplementation with astaxanthin could help ameliorate some degree of sarcopenic muscle loss, and help to preserve a large degree of strength.

    Owing to the fact that over $18 billion is expended annually on health care costs attributed to sarcopenic disorders, it is wise to see if supplementation with a readily available formulations can help offset such expenses.

    The Study

    First published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, September 2018, the study included 42 participants whose ages ranged between 65 to 82, and sought to compare muscle size and strength between a group that received placebo, and a study group that received a combination of astaxanthin (12mg daily), tocotrienols (10mg) and zinc (6mg daily), over the course of four months.

    Subjects started supplementation with the placebo or active supplement, known as Astamed, one month before starting a 3 month active exercise training program, as the effects of the supplement were to be studied along with an exercise regimen.

    The Results

    Both groups reported improvements to overall endurance, as was observed during interval walking sessions on a treadmill set to an incline. Average distance covered over the course of six minutes also improved in both groups, but the Astamed supplement group also reported other favorable findings.

    These included an average 2% larger muscle mass volume, 14% average increase in maximal voluntary force, and 12% increase in specific force. None of these improvements were observed in the group receiving placebo.

    Possible Mechanisms

    Astaxanthin is best known as a carotenoid compound that is often supplemented to preserve the health of the eyes. It does this by virtue of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, which is postulated as being the same mechanism by which it is able to reduce sarcopenic muscle loss.

    In particular, the neuromuscular junction – the interface where muscles meet the nerves, are subject to oxidative damage that may lead to subsequent reduction in maximal force output. Buffering of the oxidative damage is believed to help with rejuvenation and reactivation of signals sent the muscles, in turn increasing the likelihood of muscle fiber recruitment.

    In simple terms, enhanced activation of muscle fibers equates to reduced muscle loss owing to sarcopenia.

    Conclusion

    Being the first study of its kind, the findings show the exciting potential that Astamed may have on reducing age-related mobility loss, and may also assist with preservation of functional strength in the elderly.

    More studies will need to be done to confirm these findings, but there is unlikely to be any harm from consuming such a combination now.

    References

    Sophia Z. Liu Amir S. Ali, et al. Building strength, endurance, and mobility using an astaxanthin formulation with functional training in elderly. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle September 2018 doi 10.1002/jcsm.12318

  • A Combination of Maize Starch and Glucose Improves Hydration Better than Glucose alone, Study Finds.

    The use of glucose rich rehydrating liquids is widely accepted and practiced by both recreational and professional athletes alike, but the results of a study done in Australia suggest that the addition of maize starch may be even better.

    The Study

    A group of researchers from Adelaide, Australia’s Flinders University conducted a study which gave footballers a high amylose maize starch and glucose drink to investigate the effect it would have on overall hydration.

    A total of 27 Australian football players participated in the study performed over the course of four days; two control days and two days actively using the combination drink.

    All participants were club players from Adelaide football club currently undertaking preseason football training in the hot summer months, outdoors, where temperatures routinely reach 90°F.

    Control days involved athletes consuming their usual hydration drink of choice, while interventional days included athletes consuming 100 g of the high amylose maize starch in 600 mL of flavored milk the evening before, in an effort to accomplish preloading.

    On the subsequent day of training, participants then consumed a blended sports drink containing 5 g/L of glucose and 45 g/L of the resistant maize starch.

    The Results

    Athletes that consumed the combination of maize starch and glucose as part of their hydration strategies experienced not only a better hydration status post training, but also at the commencement.

    These observations were made by measuring their hematocrit volume and body weight (as acute weight loss is indicative of dehydration)

    In addition to improved hydration status before and after training, the approach was also found to be a better one at the commencement of training, superior to glucose alone [1].

    Rationale For The Study

    Even though glucose was accepted as a suitable part for the role of rehydration drink, it was less than ideal. Based on medical observations, the amount of glucose found in commercially available drinks are far higher than necessary for effective rehydration.

    It was even found that high glucose concentrations in the small intestine, at a concentration exceeding 80mmol/liter impairs water resorption, contributing to further hypo hydration.

    The new combination rehydration drink seeks to reduce the amount of glucose deemed necessary, improving overall hydration status in the process and preventing impairment of exercise performance [2]

    Limitations Of The Study

    Owing to the fact that the study was only single blinded, a fair amount of bias could have existed when recording findings. For instance, athletes knew what they were consuming and on which days, and could have compensated by increasing the amount of liquid consumed on those days, along with the rehydrating drink.

    In addition, a total of four subjects experienced abdominal discomfort after preloading with the 100 g maize drink the evening prior to training, which mandated a reduction of the dose to 50 g (as necessary). These considerations need to be kept in mind when formulating new studies.

    Conclusion

    Based on the magnitude of observed findings, it appears promising that such a combination drink may provide a superior alternative for improving hydration status in the near future.

    However, further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to take into account the new findings obtained from this study.

    Dehydration to the extent of just 2% can have a profound impact, impairing both physical and cognitive performance [3]. This study shows the exciting potential the combination of maize starch and glucose can have on performance.

    References

    1. Sinead Mary O’Connell et al. Comparison of a sports-hydration drink containing high amylose starch with usual hydration practice in Australian rules footballers during intense summer training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2018 doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0253-8
    2. Barr SL. (1999) Effects of dehydration on exercise performance. Can J Appl Physiol. 1999 Apr; 24(2):164-72.
    3. Shaun K Riebl, Brenda M. Davy (2013) The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013 November/December; 17(6): 21–28. doi:[10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182a9570f]
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