to Train Better by Asking Questions”
-“Genetics, Muscle Fiber Composition &
-“Diabetes: An Education in Prevention”
– ASKING QUESTIONS TO IMPROVE YOUR TRAINING
story once told how the Ancient Greeks determined the smartest
philosopher. It turns out that it was the guy who asked
the most questions, not the one who had the most answers.
Makes sense because after all, asking questioning shows
a sign of intelligence. Going through school we have all
become accustomed to believing everything the authority
figure says, and that continues on into the realm of athlete
conditioning and personal training.
reading training websites or magazine, regardless of whether
or not you agree with the writer, always respect authors
that have a different view on exercise, lifting, and nutrition.
They think “outside the box” and motivate readers and clients
to question what is considered “fact”. Hopefully you will
question things too, such as the whether or not one can
tell if their muscles are fast-twitch or slow-twitch, based
on the information in the second article of this issue.
addition, even simple training theories thought of as exercise
“rules” need to be questioned. For example, just the other
day the question was asked why 8-12 repetitions are considered
best for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Here is a brief explanation…
put, one must have sufficient levels of intensity and volume
for a growth stimulus to be effective (for hypertrophy to
occur). Performing 8-12 reps is a nice tradeoff of both
intensity and volume, or perhaps better termed, the optimal
amount of both.
example, a 1 RM represents the utmost intensity (neglecting
eccentric contractions) but the volume (or time under tension
or what-have-you) of muscle contraction in a 1 RM is insufficient
for maximal growth, unless you performed 20-30 of these
in one session. And the same goes for using a 20 RM, the
weight is probably too light to obtain the best results.
is very, very little concrete evidence regarding the exact
stimulus for muscle hypertrophy, although Dr. Marty Gibala
from McMaster, in his excellent review article*, puts it
very bluntly, "Resistance exercise represents a potent
stimulus for skeletal muscle hypertrophy". The problem
is, most people want some information that is a little more
precise than just, “3 sets of 10 reps”.
(1960's) research suggested the 3 sets of 6 reps workout
was the best "protocol" for increasing arm strength.
The legend grew from that and from bodybuilding practices
and tradition, so that now 8-12 reps per set is ingrained
in Personal Training literature as the best repetition protocol.
Unfortunately, at present there is little research funding
given to training studies, so we are stuck with this recommendation.
as for the exact number of repetitions in a set or the number
of sets per exercise or even the number of exercises per
muscle group per workout, none of these have been established
to have an optimal number for best results. Training recommendations
are merely combined extensions of general scientific principles
and personal philosophies.
though we see that powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters
can restrict their training to 1RM and 5RM training and
still have the ability to grow large muscles whereas many
bodybuilders claim to do 15-20 sets of 12-15 reps per muscle
for there successful growth. The 8-12 reps is just a recommendation,
perhaps thought to err on the side of safety. However, in
my opinion this higher repetition range (leading to high
training volumes) may cause overuse injuries (i.e. shoulder
this article must stop here because debate on this unresolved
situation could go on forever.
Gibala, M. Nutritional Supplementation and Resistance Exercise:
What is the evidence
enhanced skeletal muscle hypertrophy? Can. J. Appl. Physiol.
– YOUR MUSCLE FIBERS & YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
(an excerpt from my thesis)
of a “what came first?” issue…
physical activity background of individuals may influence
and account for muscle fiber composition or alternatively,
the inherent fiber type composition of an individual may
influence his or her selection of events. Endurance trained
athletes have a greater composition of type I fibers (Costill
et al., 1976a; 1976b; Jansson and Kaijser, 1977; Larsson
and Ansved, 1985; Tesch and Karlsson, 1985) and a lower
composition of type IIx fibers (Friden et al., 1984; Ingjer,
1978b; Tesch et al., 1984) compared to control subjects.
a cross-sectional study designed to examine the contrast
in muscle fiber composition between elite athletes, sprinters
had a small proportion (24%) of slow twitch fibers in comparison
to the large slow twitch fiber (69%) composition in distance
runners (Costill et al., 1976a).
the difference is due to training, or selection of the sport
as influenced by genetics, is unknown. Tesch and Karlsson
(1985) hypothesize that long-term endurance training may
influence muscle fiber composition. Not only was their hypothesis
supported by a large proportion of type I fibers in the
vastus lateralis of runners, but also by a large proportion
of type I fibers in the deltoid muscle of kayakers and wrestlers
(Tesch and Karlsson, 1985). Differences in fiber type have
been shown to be associated with significantly greater maximal
oxygen consumption in endurance-trained athletes (Ingjer,
dancers also have a significantly greater proportion of
type I fibers and a lower proportion of type IIx fibers
in the vastus lateralis, when compared to sedentary individuals
(Dahlströhm et al., 1997). This greater proportion of type
I fibers would benefit these performers, because their activities
are of low intensity and long duration. Larsson and Ansved
(1985) conclude that fiber type make-up is not determined
exclusively by heredity and can adapt to physical
and untrained individuals were shown to have similar type
I percentages, but the weightlifters had a lower average
percentage area of the type I fibers (Gollnick et al, 1972).
Percent fiber area is calculated as a product of the percent
fiber type and the fiber area, as a proportion of the entire
muscle area. Percent fiber area may be more important than
fiber proportion in determining function. A greater type
II percent area would result in a larger proportion of fast
myosin heavy chain isoforms in the muscle and therefore
a faster velocity of shortening.
Tesch & Karlsson (1985) found the type II fiber
area of weightlifters to be significantly greater than in
wrestlers or kayakers and that runners had the smallest
fiber areas for the vastus lateralis. The small fiber areas
of the runners would contribute to a lower force production
and a possible impairment in power production.
if by training you increase the size of your type II fibers
to a greater extent than your type I fibers, you will, by
definition, have a “faster” muscle, provided that there
is no change in fiber type.
Available upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org
–DIABETES: WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
recent estimate proclaimed that 25-35 percent of Westernized
populations could suffer from a degree of insulin resistance
or from some of health consequences associated with this
disease of lifestyle in the future. After further reading
of websites and research papers, the following tips were
found that were suggested to reduce the risk of acquiring
information is not meant to cure the disease, but because
it is more a disease of lifestyle than anything else, scientifically
validated information is available to help you reduce your
risk. This is mostly information that you have heard all
before, good nutrition, good health, and exercise, but judging
by the incidence of disease from the numbers presented above,
people still have not been told enough.
ideal diet for modifying insulin resistance should reduce
body weight, decrease fat while sparing muscle tissue, and
improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity refers
to the increased uptake of blood sugar by muscle cells,
which is particularly important because high levels of blood
sugar (blood glucose = same thing) are associated with disease.
While it is relatively simple to find agreement within the
literature on these general points, it is difficult to find
an agreement among experts regarding the ideal diet that
will best help to accomplish these goals.
fiber diets are recommended, as is decreasing the amount
of saturated fat in the diet. However, processed carbohydrates
(high-glycemic carbohydrates) often take the place of fats,
but excess carbohydrates can be very deleterious because
they lead to very high levels of blood sugar. North American
diets are high in processed food, for example, 8 spoons
of sugar in a 355ml soft drink, and the excess sugar-diet
is likely one of the largest contributors to the great prevalence
of diabetes (aside from a sedentary lifestyle).
bread, sugary cereals, pretzels, sports drinks, and flavored-beverages,
etc. are all packed with high-glycemic carbohydrates ready
to skyrocket your blood sugar levels. They are calorie-dense
but severely lacking in nutrients. Sure pop tarts and frosted
flakes are truly low-fat foods, but with chronic consumption
are these better breakfast foods than eggs and whole-wheat
toast? I honestly can’t say for sure.
high-glycemic carbohydrates may not need to be fully eradicated
from the diet, they should not be the staple foods of your
meal plans. In fact, reduce your consumption of high-glycemic
simple carbohydrates to immediately post-workout. Plan around
vegetables and lean meats and fruits, and include processed
foods as a low priority.
people have used all types of diets successfully and unsuccessfully.
NOTE: everyone is on a “diet”, this simply refers to the
food that you eat…for example, a University student may
be on a diet of Pasta, Pizza, Burgers, and Beer, and even
though this student may get fat, he/she is still on a “diet”
anyway, some skinny people can eat a lot, and some skinny
people can eat a lot of high-glycemic carbohydrate, while
overweight individuals can eat relatively healthy, and average
individuals can eat a wide-variety of food and all end up
with no change in their body compositions. After seeing
all this, who is to say what the best “diet” and macro-nutrient
composition is for everyone, or for you?
like training, nutrition is sometimes best learned by trial
and error, but reading literature on healthy eating helps
as well, even though you are guaranteed to find two experts
with completely opposing views on the best way to lose body
fat, etc. Most importantly, if you can’t stick to your food
schedule due to a complete hatred of the foods you are eating,
than that food plan is likely to be unsuccessful, regardless
of how well thought out that it is.
just like training, nutrition is best tweaked to individual
considerations, what works for a young man to get “lean
for the beach” may not necessarily be the healthiest diet
for a middle-aged, overweight, pre-diabetic. Educate yourself.
Learn what foods are healthy, and pick the ones from that
list that you enjoy. Eating can be enjoyable and healthy.
bodybuilders and athletes get caught up over-emphasizing
the macro-nutrient profile of their meals (i.e. how much
protein and fat is in a meal of chicken and rice). However,
they will fail to consider the amount of micro-nutrients
that are lacking in this bland meal (i.e. very little vitamin
C, and other healthful antioxidants, etc.). The recommendations
are for self-education and consultation with a true expert
if necessary. Oops, getting a little sidetracked, so let’s
return to looking at some other risks for diabetes:
smoking – It is unbelievable that this is this still legal.
– Very difficult to prove that stress causes illness, but
many experts believe that decreasing the amount of stress
and hassle in life goes a long way towards increasing overall
health. So, get rid of your stress. Sometimes you need to
remember that there is nothing that you can do about certain
things in life, so accept that. But if you can change things,
do so for the better.
Physical activity is important for disease prevention. Exercise may be
the single most important lifestyle factor for both preventing
and reversing insulin resistance, but don’t let it be an
excuse for a poor diet! Everyone should attempt to maintain
low (yet healthy) levels of body fat and moderate amounts
of muscle mass. The recommendations are quite simple, but
regular exercise is huge step in the right direction, away
from diabetes. Pick some activities and do them consistently.
The importance of resistance training in overall health is no longer just
my opinion, but is gaining great scientific support. If
you jog 5 times a week for nothing more than health reasons,
you could reduce that to 3, even 2 sessions, and replace
the other days with resistance training for a greater overall
health benefit. Why? Resistance training increases muscle
Muscle serves 3 important functions: One, it is a very metabolically active
tissue, helping to take up and use more blood glucose, and
thus it may help improve the blood sugar profiles of diabetics.
In fact, after young healthy men did weight training for
several weeks, they needed to release less insulin to deal
with a large amount of carbohydrate, thus indicating that
insulin sensitivity increased with an increase in muscle
mass (Yarasheski, 1992).
Second, muscle provides strength for daily function and should help to
prevent injuries (for example, more muscle should reduce
the injury risk associated with “pounding the pavement”
(jogging) 5 times a week). And three, plain and simple,
everyone looks a little better with some “pipes” rather
than “pipe-cleaners” in their sleeves.
people age, they lose muscle, which in my opinion is due
mostly to lack of activity, rather than aging factors. Again,
in my opinion, it is a matter of “what came first?”, the
loss of muscle and then decreased activity, or no activity
leading to a decrease in muscle? According to *Hasten and
colleagues, sedentary older men and women (age 78+) have
lower rates of protein synthesis than younger sedentary
within just 2 weeks of resistance training the older individuals
were able to increase their rates of protein synthesis as
much as the younger men and women. Therefore, it shows that
older individuals maintain the ability to increase muscle
growth in response to short-term resistance exercise. My
conclusion: It is never too late to get out and train for
muscle mass and health. But…
A key point to remember if you are sedentary, don’t jump
back into things too quickly! Any activity you do today
is more than you did yesterday, so slowly but surely, build
exercise and strength capacity. As always, consult an expert
if your knowledge is limited in this field.
Will we ever be free of disease? No, unfortunately that
is not likely to happen. But there are many simple steps
that can help improve health. If you improve your health,
fitness and performance improvements are likely to follow.
In the future, research will guide us along the path to
better lifestyle choices, and fortunately will provide us
with some help to correct our mistakes. However, since lifestyle
factors play such a prominent role in insulin resistance,
we can modify the bad habits right now, so that insulin
resistance can be avoided in the future.
D.L. et al. Resistance exercise acutely increases MHC and
mixed muscle protein
synthesis rates in 78-84 and 23-32 yr. olds. Am. J. Physiol.
278: E620-626, 2000.
K. et al. J. Appl. Physiol. 1992.