Everyone’s heard someone say they need to lose weight fast. With beach season just around the corner, plenty of active adults find themselves tempted to go all out on dieting. A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria illustrates the trade off that comes with attempts at rapid weight loss.
Researchers put 25 subjects on a very low 500 calorie per day program, and another 22 volunteers on a more sensible 1,250 calorie per day plan. After 5 weeks, the very low calorie diet produced an average weight loss of a little over 19 pounds. Interestingly, subjects who adhered to a 1,250 calorie per day diet lost nearly 19 pounds on average.
The difference is in the amount of muscle mass lost with body fat. Very low calorie dieters lost 3.5 pounds of fat-free mass compared to the 1.3 pounds of muscle lost by subjects who got 1,240 calorie per day. Four weeks after the diet had ended, those on the 500 calorie per day program were still down by 1.3 pounds of muscle from baseline, while the 1,250 calorie dieters were only lacking 0.7 pounds from before the diet began.
True Strength Moment: Although scientists didn’t reveal the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat either of these diets allowed, exercise and extra protein can help dieters perverse muscle mass. A realistic weight loss target is about a pound per week – especially if retaining muscle mass is a priority.
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When you eat a big carbohydrate-rich meal, your blood sugars can spike before rapidly dropping off leaving you with a loss of physical energy commonly referred to as a ‘crash’. A study published in the journal Diabetologia suggests that brief intense bouts of ‘exercise snacking’ can reduce the effect better than 30 minutes of moderate effort.
For 30 minutes, nine volunteers aged 18 to 55 walked on an inclined treadmill to keep their heart rate at around 60% of the theoretical maximum about half an hour before eating. The next day, they performed six sets of 1-minute effort equivalent to 90% of their max heart rate half an hour before eating. In the final session, subjects split their six sets of intense effort between running and resistance training. Both of the intense ‘exercise snacking’ sessions controlled blood sugars more effectively than a moderate 30-minute workout.
True Strength Moment: Although these subjects all showed signs of insulin resistance, the same strategy might work for healthy active adults. Test it out after your next session of high intensity interval training to see if it helps prevent a late afternoon food coma following a big lunch.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid, better known by the acronym CLA, is a stimulant-free diet aid based on fatty acids found in eggs, dairy products and red meats. Basically, it’s a fat that can help you fight fat. So how does CLA supplementation fit into an active lifestyle? A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests it won’t hold back any fitness gains.
Thirty-three untrained men in their early 20s supplemented with 8 ml of CLA or a placebo daily while engaging in 30 minutes of aerobic training twice weekly. Before the 6-week program started and after its conclusion, subjects were tested on timed sit ups, standing long jump and cycling to exhaustion. There were no differences between CLA supplementing and placebo groups pre- to post-training.
True Strength Moment: Unfortunately, these subjects weren’t weighed before and after the 6-week study program, so we don’t know the weight loss benefits of CLA supplementation combined with aerobic training. All we can say is CLA isn’t likely to have an adverse impact on building your level of fitness.
Everybody keeps track of their fitness journey in one way or another. If your benchmark is setting a new personal best, and you’ve reached a sticking point on squat performance, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research offers a variable resistance warm up that might help you grind out a higher one rep max (1RM).
After determining squat 1RM for 16 recreationally active men in their mid-20s, on separate occasions these subjects returned to perform 2 sets of 3 reps using 85% of their 1RM with free weights or banded free weights where band tension generated 35% of the load. 1RM squat was then tested 5 minutes after this short workout. Variable resistance significantly increased 1RM on the final lift.
True Strength Moment: Band resistance potentiated maximal lift performance without changing knee angle or muscle activity. It only slowed the velocity of concentric and eccentric contractions. Give this technique a try to see if it can help boost your best effort on leg day.
Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in numerous metabolic functions. They are considered ‘essential’ because your body can’t make them; they can only be taken in through diet. Because of their double bonds, fish oils might help combat the oxidative stress that can occur during intense training. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism tested this theory on 20 male subjects.
For a 6-week period leading up to a workout consisting of 200 eccentric knee contractions, subjects received either fish oils or a placebo. Although there were no differences in markers of muscle damage or soreness between groups, DNA damage was lower in fish oil supplementing subjects immediately following exercise.
True Strength Moment: Whether or not this protective effect helped these subjects realize greater gains than the placebo group isn’t known, but a previous study conducted on female volunteers suggested fish oils may have helped them achieve greater improvements in strength and functional capacity through weight training.