As those of you who follow this blog series will know, we learn new things about fitness every month. As personal trainers its crucial we stay up to date with all of this research so we can keep making sure our clients are receiving the best possible support. So what have we learned from the latest research this month? Our fab trainer Elliot, a personal trainer at Trimnasium in Cheltenham, has trawled it all to bring you five gems.
1. Volume isn’t always king
Performing just about every exercise known to man during your session is common practice for many gym-goers, it almost seems like a good idea to exhaust a muscle of everything it has and to be limping out of the gym…
Although even though it seems the norm, is it really more productive to go above and beyond?
If you’re finding yourself particularly sore after training, feeling as if you’re not quite recovering and not able to really push hard, then the amount of work you’re doing in the gym may be doing more harm than good.
A recent study was done to compare the physiological response to a high volume workout to the response to a high intensity workout with lower volume.
What they found may have you re-thinking your next workout… Even after 72 hours, the power output of the athletes who trained with high volume hadn’t returned to their initial baseline, while the athletes who trained at high intensity had returned to that level. Not only that, but markers of muscle damage were significantly elevated following the high volume workout.
So rather that thinking about how much you can fit in during your workout window, strike a good balance between volume and intensity to ensure you’re at your peak whenever you get in the gym.
2. Low carb, high fat or low fat, high carb?
I personally feel as if this question has been asked for as long as I’ve been in the industry and I feel as if it always will be… We are all individuals and will all respond in different ways to different macronutrient ratios, so you’ll hear a lot of ‘this works for me!’ But what does the science really have to say about this…
In a study carried out on a number of overweight individuals, some were assigned to Low Carb, High Fat (LCHF) diets and others were assigned to High Carb, Low Fat (HCLF) diets. Both groups saw significant reductions in both body weight and waist circumference, however the LCHF group saw the greatest changes in both.
Does this give us a definitive answer on which is superior? Maybe, maybe not…
Unfortunately, the subjects were not monitored 24/7 and were not forced to specifically eat certain meals with certain calorie contents. So there are quite a few drawbacks to this study and the LCHF group may have just eaten less and done more activity, unfortunately we’ll never really know.
My opinion: find what suits you the best and stick to it; also understand that science suggests that the LCHF diet may be superior (and science never lies…)
3. Are knee sleeves worth the investment?
If you’ve watched any type of powerlifting competition, strong man event or even if you watch the guy who squats the most in your gym (certainly not me), then you’ll notice that they are probably wearing knee sleeves. What are they for you might be wondering? San they help me squat as much as those guys? And are they really worth the £50-60 pound some of the more reputable brands are selling them at?
The answer… Potentially, but not entirely…
When assessing the powerlifters using knee sleeves, researchers found that knee sleeves seem to improve balance and proprioception, increase knee flexion and reduce knee adduction.
If you’re a keen powerlifter who wants to get as strong as possible in the squat, then they may be worth the investment. Anything that helps increase stability, especially in such a demanding lift, will certainly be of benefit and even more so when handling such heavy loads.
But if you only visit the squat rack on the odd occasion and your main goal isn’t to be the strongest squatter in the gym, then you should be just fine without them.
4. To beet or not to beet?
If you know anything about me, you know I love a good health food fad. I’ll try anything once if it supposedly has a positive effect on your physical or mental wellbeing, my latest venture is apple cider vinegar but that’s another story for another day…
In this study, they tested something that I’ve heard great things about but have never personally tried - ‘beetroot juice.’ They simply wanted to see if it had any benefit over a generic energy drink when it comes to recovery.
The subjects were separated into different groups and consumed different drinks, they all had to participate in a workout specifically designed to produce exercise-induced muscle damage…
What they found was neither the beetroot juice nor the generic energy drink could reduce the loss in strength, however beetroot juice was effective for reducing PWO muscle soreness.
Maybe this will be next on my list!
And last but certainly not least…
5. How long does it take to recover from an intense contest prep diet?
As a physique competitor and someone with a great interest in the endocrine system and the effects it can have on our physical and mental health, it was inevitable that I would delve head first into this study. Most of us may never compete, but if you are dieting or are planning on getting into a very lean state this may also interest you. Considering that for the most part it’s usually anecdotal evidence we hear, it’s nice to see some research done on this topic.
You’ll quite often hear competitors say that the sport is not healthy, but how much does it really impact our hormones?
The study takes a look at a natural male athlete over the course of the 8 months during his competition preparation period. What they found was pretty notable; his testosterone had dropped by almost 70%, his thyroid hormones (T3,T4) were both significantly reduced and his cortisol (A.K.A ‘stress hormone’) was up.
So, as you can see the prep took a huge hit on this athlete, however they continued to monitor the athlete following his competition prep, and after five months of recovery the athlete was able to return to his baseline numbers.
So this is certainly something to bear in mind if you’re in the thick of an intense diet, especially considering not everyone will respond the same way and return to their previous baselines like this athlete did.
1. Bartolomei, S., Sadres, E., Church, D. D., Arroyo, E., Gordon III, J. A., Varanoske, A. N., & Hoffman, J. R. (2017). Comparison of the recovery response from high-intensity and high-volume resistance exercise in trained men. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-12.
2. Zinn, C., McPhee, J., Harris, N. K., Williden, M., Prendergast, K., & Schofield, G. (2017). A 12-week low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet improves metabolic health outcomes over a control diet in a randomised controlled trial with overweight defence force personnel. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.
3. Sharif, N. A. M., Li, G. S., Usman, J., & Safwani, W. K. Z. W (2017). Biomechanical and functional efficacy of knee sleeves: A literature review. Physical Therapy in Sport.
4. Clifford, T., Howatson, G., West, D. J., & Stevenson, E. J. (2017). Beetroot juice is more beneficial than sodium nitrate for attenuating muscle pain after strenuous eccentric-bias exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.
5. Pardue, A., Trexler, E. T., & Sprod, L. K. (2017). Case Study: Unfavorable But Transient Physiological Changes During Contest Preparation in a Drug-Free Male Bodybuilder. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1.