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Bethesda, MD – A visit to the meat counter at any supermarket is proof positive that a good number of Americans are avoiding carbohydrates and consuming high levels of protein and fat, in accordance with the Atkins diet. This carbohydrate-free, fat- and protein- rich diet is for those seeking immediate weight loss, which means most of us.But what do others, such as weight lifters and callisthenic enthusiasts, do about carbohydrates? Their goal is muscle preservation and strengthening, but for years, different theories have been offered about the effectiveness of carbohydrates in maintaining an appropriate muscle protein balance. A new study may lead to a truce in the debate at the nation’s gymnasiums, and those dedicated to resistance training may finally have an answer as to whether carbohydrates have a positive role in muscle development.

Background

Resistance exercise — also called strength training — increases muscle strength and mass, bone strength, and the body’s metabolism. The different methods for resistance training include free weights, weight machines, calisthenics and resistance tubing. When using free weights, dumbbells, and bars stacked with weight plates, you are responsible for both lifting the weight and determining and controlling your body position through the range of motion.

The body’s net muscle protein balance (i.e., the difference between muscle protein synthesis and protein breakdown) generally remains negative in the recovery period after resistance exercise in the absence of nutrient intake, i.e., the muscle’s protein is breaking down complex chemical compounds to simpler ones. However, it has been demonstrated that infusion or ingestion of amino acids after resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Furthermore, as little as six grams of essential amino acids (EAA) alone effectively stimulates net protein synthesis after a strenuous resistance exercise session.

The body’s response to the six grams of EAA does not appear to differ when 35 grams of carbohydrates are added. This reflects the uncertainty of the independent effects of carbohydrates on muscle protein metabolism after resistance exercise. Additionally, it is unclear how carbohydrate intake causes changes of net protein balance between synthesis and breakdown and how it relates to changes in plasma insulin concentration.

Interpretation of the response of muscle protein to insulin is complicated by the fact that a systemic increase in insulin concentration causes a fall in plasma amino acid concentrations, and this reduced amino acid availability could potentially counteract a direct effect of insulin on synthesis. A past study found that the normal postexercise increase in muscle protein breakdown was slowed by insulin, thus improving net muscle protein balance. However, whereas local infusion of insulin may effectively isolate the effect of insulin per se, the response may differ from when insulin release is stimulated by ingestion of carbohydrates.

A New Study

Accordingly, a new study set out to investigate the independent effect of carbohydrate intake on muscle protein net balance during recovery from resistance exercise. The authors of “Effect Of Carbohydrate Intake on Net Muscle Protein Synthesis During Recovery from Resistance Exercise,” are Elisabet Børsheim, Melanie G. Cree, Kevin D. Tipton, Tabatha A. Elliott, Asle Aarsland, and Robert R. Wolfe, all from the Department of Surgery, Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-Galveston, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX. Their findings appeared in the February 2004 edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology. The journal is one of 14 peer-reviewed scientific journals published each month by the American Physiological Society (www.APS.org).

Methodology

Sixteen recreationally active and healthy subjects took part in the study. At least one week before an experiment, subjects were familiarized with the exercise protocol, and their one repetition maximum, a maximum weight possible with a leg extension, was determined. The subjects were assigned to one of two groups: carbohydrate group (CHO; n = 8) or placebo group (n = 8). Subjects were instructed not to exercise for at least 48 hours before an experiment, not to use tobacco or alcohol during the 24 h before an experiment, and not to make any changes in their dietary habits.

The two groups of eight subjects performed a resistance exercise bout (10 sets of eight repetitions of leg presses at 80 percent of one repetition maximum) before they rested in bed for four hours. One group (CHO) received a drink consisting of 100 grams of carbohydrates one hour after exercise; the placebo group received a noncaloric placebo drink. Leg amino acid metabolism was determined by infusion of 2H5- or 13C6-labeled phenylalanine, sampling from femoral artery and vein, and muscle biopsies from vastus lateralis, the lateral head of quadriceps muscle of anterior (extensor) compartment of thigh.

Results

Key findings of the study included: 

  • Plasma glucose concentration was significantly increased in the carbohydrate group until 210 min after intake of drink. 
  • Plasma concentration of insulin reflected the changes in glucose concentration. The drink intake did not affect arterial insulin concentration in the placebo group, whereas arterial insulin increased by several times after the drink in the CHO group. 
  • Arterial phenylalanine (a common amino acid in proteins) concentration did not change after intake of drink in the placebo group but decreased and stabilized in the CHO group. 
  • Net muscle protein balance between synthesis and breakdown did not change in the placebo group but improved in the CHO group during the second and third hour after the drink. The improved net balance in the CHO group was due primarily to a progressive decrease in muscle protein breakdown.

Conclusions

This study is the first to compare net muscle protein balance (protein synthesis minus breakdown) after carbohydrate ingestion with control after exercise. The principal finding was that intake of 100 grams of carbohydrates after resistance exercise improved muscle net protein balance.

The findings from this research demonstrate that carbohydrates intake alone can improve net protein balance between synthesis and breakdown. In this work, the gradual improvement in net muscle protein balance after carbohydrate intake was due principally to a progressive reduction in breakdown. However, the improvement was small compared with previous findings after intake of amino acids or amino acids and carbohydrates.

The researchers conclude that intake of carbohydrates alone after resistance exercise will modestly improve the anabolic effect of exercise. However, amino acid intake is necessary for a maximal response, one desired by most participating in resistance exercise programs.

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Article adapted by Sports Performance Research from original press release.

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Contact: Donna Krupa

American Physiological Society 

Source: Journal of Applied Physiology. The journal is one of 14 peer-reviewed scientific journals published each month by the American Physiological Society (www.APS.org).

The American Physiological Society (APS) was founded in 1887 to foster basic and applied science, much of it relating to human health. The Bethesda, MD-based Society has more than 10,000 members and publishes 3,800 articles in its 14 peer-reviewed journals every year.

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ATHENS, Ohio – Men over 60 may be able to increase their strength by as much as 80 percent by performing intense weight training exercises, according to physiologists involved in studies of the health benefits of weight lifting. The researchers also have found that older men gain strength at the same rate as men in their 20s.

In a study of 18 men ages 60 to 75, Ohio University physiologists found that subjects who participated in a 16-week, high-intensity resistence training program on average were 50 percent to 80 percent stronger by the end of the study. None of the participants had engaged in weight lifting prior to the study. Researchers also observed improvements in the seniors’ muscle tone, aerobic capacity and cholesterol profile.

These are some of the latest findings from a decades-long examination of the impact of exercise on the health of men and women of all ages. When researchers compared the strength gains of the elderly participants in this study to findings from other studies they’ve done of college-age men, they found that changes in strength and muscle size were similar in both age groups. The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Gerontology.

“There have been a number of research projects that have come out over the years that suggest there is no age limitation to getting stronger from resistance training,” said Robert Staron, co-author of this study and an associate professor of anatomy in the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s become obvious that it’s important to maintain a certain amount of muscle mass as we age.”

This new study also suggests that elderly men can handle heavy workloads over a long period of time. Participants – who all were in good health and closely monitored during testing and training – performed leg presses, half squats and leg extensions twice a week to exercise the lower body. When the men began the study, they were able to leg press about 375 pounds on average. After the 16-week period, they could take on about 600 pounds. Studies elsewhere have involved low-intensity exercises over a shorter term.

In addition to the increase in strength, researchers found that weight lifting had a beneficial impact on the participants’ cardiovascular system. Tests on an exercise treadmill showed that their bodies used oxygen more efficiently after weight training.

“The individuals run until they are completely exhausted, and it took longer for them to reach that point after resistance training,” Staron said.

Blood samples taken before and after weight training also showed favorable changes in participants’ overall cholesterol profiles, he said, including increases in HDL cholesterol levels and decreases in LDL cholesterol levels.

Losing muscle tone and strength is not uncommon for many senior citizens, Staron said, but this research suggests that a lack of physical exercise can contribute to the problem.

“Certainly, inactivity does play a role in contributing to the decrease in muscle mass,” Staron said. “If we can maintain a certain level of strength through exercise, our quality of life should be better as we age.”

Before beginning a weight lifting regimen, it’s a good idea to consult a physician, Staron advised, adding that it’s also important to learn proper weight lifting techniques. Staron and his colleagues now have turned their attention to how certain weight training routines impact young people.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Andrea Gibson
Ohio University

Collaborators on this project are Fredrick Hagerman, Robert Hikida and Thomas Murray of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, former graduate student Seamus Walsh, Roger Gilders of the College of Health and Human Services, Kumika Toma of the College of Arts and Sciences and Kerry Ragg of the Student Health Service.

Investigators in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have identified the role of a protein that could potentially lead to new clinical treatments to combat musculoskeletal diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Results of these studies appear in the March 11, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These studies, led by Brian Kaspar, PhD, a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University, focus on a protein called follistatin (FS). Using a single injection, gene-delivery strategy involving FS, investigators treated the hind leg muscles of mice. Results showed increased muscle size and strength, quadruple that of mice treated with proteins other than FS. The muscle enhancements were shown to be well-tolerated for more than two years.

According to Dr. Kaspar, increased muscle mass and strength were also evident when this strategy was tested using a model of DMD. Apart from the injected hind leg muscles, strengthening effects were also shown in the triceps. In addition, fibrosis, abnormal formation of scar tissue and a hallmark of muscular dystrophy, was decreased in FS-treated animals.

“We believe this new FS strategy may be more powerful than other strategies due to its additional effects, including its ability to reduce inflammation,” said Dr. Kaspar.

The strategy showed no negative effects on the heart or reproductive ability of either males or females. The results were also replicated in older animals, suggesting that this strategy could be useful in developing clinical treatments for older DMD patients.

“This research provides evidence of multiple potential treatment applications for muscle diseases including, but not limited to, muscular dystrophy,” said Jerry Mendell, MD, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute, a co-author on the study, and professor of Pediatrics in Neurology and Pathology at The Ohio State University. “These results offer promise for treatment of potentially any muscle-wasting disease, including muscle weakness due to other illnesses, aging, and inflammatory diseases such as polymyositis. Our next step is to pursue clinical trials.”

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a patent pending on the FS technique due to the major role it may play for muscular dystrophy treatment and other muscle-wasting diseases.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pam Barber/Mary Ellen Fiorino
Nationwide Children’s Hospital