Tag Archives: muscle

Dietary Fat Preserves Muscle?

Preservation of lean muscle mass matters for long term health and function.  It is also important to those who want to gain muscle mass so they can look hot and/or awesome.   it is also important for strength and for athletic performance. Whatever your interests, here is a report of a recent study on dietary fats and muscle mass.

Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.
Dietary fat may help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

Dietary Fat and Protein Turnover

Dietary fat may regulate protein turnover.  The thought is that dietary fats influence both inflammation and insulin.  This study was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition.   Study subjects were 2,689 women who are part of a study of twins in the UK.  Data was collected on:

  • Percent of Calories obtained from Fat
  • Fatty acid profile
  • Fat -free mass in kilograms (an indicator of muscle mass)
  • Fat-free mass measured by X-Ray absorptiometry

Results of the Dietary Fat and Muscle Study

  • Women whose diets were higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids had higher fat-free mass (more muscle).
  • Women who got more of their calories from fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more saturated fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more unsaturated fatty acids had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who are more transfats had less fat free mass (less muscle)

Women who were in the top 20% for energy intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids had about a pound more muscle mass than women who were at the bottom 20% for polyunsaturated fatty acid.  This is about the same difference in muscle mass that would be seen in a 10 year aging period.  You could look at this and say that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids saves 10 years of muscle aging.  And you might be right.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and seem to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer as well.  We don’t know what drives age-related muscle loss.  It might be related to the same factors that drive cell-aging in general.  

The Simple Takeaway for Dietary Fat and Muscle Mass

ResearchBlogging.orgThis is the first study of its kind and more research is needed to figure out what is going on.  However, this study supports the idea that a diet higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids is protective against loss of muscle mass.  As many are sure to proclaim: correlation is not causation.  That claim does not end arguments, although it is often used that way.  It simply means that we need to know more.   This is an interesting study that should lead to further investigation.  Thanks to the team (Alisa Welch, Alex MacGregor, Anne-Marie Minihane, Jane Skinner, Anna Valdes, Tim Spector and Aedin Cassidy) for your hard work.

 

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary fat and Fatty Acid profile are associated with indices of skeletal muscle mass in women aged 18-79 years. The Journal of nutrition, 144 (3), 327-34 PMID: 24401817

Polyunsaturated fats may protect against loss of muscle mass

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Our previous post (see below or click here) discussed the impact exercise on long-term strength.  In a nutshell, exercise has long term effects, even after the program has been halted.  This week we will talk about new research that shows that dietary fats may also be important for muscle mass.  Who’d have thought?  Researchers are unsure how it works, but . . . dietary fat may influence protein turnover through its effects on inflammation and insulin.  This may be important for long term health.   Preserving muscle mass may be important for athletes and for maintaining a competitive edge.  Loss of muscle mass occurs with age and is one of the leading contributors to frailty in the elderly.  Preserving muscle mass may also allow people to enjoy active lives longer.

A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition  looked at what types of fats were eaten by 2,689 women who are part of the UK study of twins.  The women were between the ages of 18 and 79.  Researchers also looked at ratios of the different types of fats (polyunsaturated /saturated fats), the percent of calories obtained from fat and the womens’ fat free mass.   “Fat Free Mass” is used as an indicator for muscle mass.  Its imperfect.  Bone, of course, has mass.  But people with higher fat free mass usually have more muscle mass.

Women who ate more polyunsaturated fats had the most fat free mass.  Women who ate more transfats, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats had less fat free mass.  The researchers also noted that the difference in fat free mass between women who ate mostly unsaturated fatty acids and those who ate mostly saturated fatty acids was about the same amount of fat free mass loss that occurs over the course of a decade.  Interesting.   These are, of course, correlations.  More research will be needed to find out if it is certain that unsaturated fats can protect people from age-related loss of muscle mass.

Good sources of unsaturated fatty acids include:

Olive oil
Avocado
Flax
Nuts
Etc.

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary Fat and Fatty Acid Profile Are Associated with Indices of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women Aged 18-79 Years. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24401817

Timing of protein intake: 20 grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise builds muscle with max efficiency

Timing of Protein intake builds muscles after resistance training.

Timing of protein intake matters.
Timing of protein intake can matter. Before or shortly after exercise seems to work best.

Today’s topic is an overview of dietary protein and amino acids and how these help build muscle and prevent muscle loss.  First, just a tiny bit about proteins and amino acids.  Proteins are made of amino acids.  Proteins are (for the most part) broken down into amino acids during digestion.  Once that happens they can be reassembled into whatever proteins your body needs.  Amino acids are hugely important to physiology.  They are needed for enzymes, hormones, hair and other things.  For most people, the first thoughts of protein and amino acids are muscle.

There is good evidence that consuming protein directly before or after resistance training reduces muscle breakdown and increases muscle mass accumulation.  The fine points of how much, which amino acids and exactly when they should be taken are under investigation.  Here are a few highlights.  Bear in mind that these may change as research continues:

  • Timing of intake: so far it looks like protein has its best protective effect when taken just before or soon after resistance training.  Consuming protein as late as two hours after exercise doesn’t seem to work as well as consuming proteins within five minutes of an exercise session.  Keep in mind that this timing difference may not matter functionally.  Even without extra protein, muscles are in active building mode for about 48 hours after exercise.
  • Which amino acids: How different amino acids stack up against each other is unknown to date.  Studies conflict.  One study is not necessarily wrong.  Two studies can conflict and still provide valuable information.  Results that seem to contradict one another may be caused by differences in how the study was done.  How old were the subjects; were they all men, or men and women?  What was the timing?  What training protocol was followed?   How much protein was given?  What else were the subjects eating or doing in their real lives?
  • How much: 20 grams of amino acids (or protein in a meal) seems to induce maximal results for young adults.  Older adults and elderly people may need more to get the same benefit.  This is probably because they (we) aren’t as efficient as we used to be.  Bummer.  But there you go.  Elderly people taking 35 grams of amino acids after exercise have had better results than elderly people taking 20 grams of amino acids. Elderly people in one study needed 40 grams of protein to reach maximal rate of muscle protein synthesis.

Timing of Protein Intake and Amino Acids can help prevent muscle loss during dieting.

Protein intake is important body builders and hyper-jacked crossfit nuts.  But it is also important to people on weight loss programs.  Increasing protein while dieting can help preserve muscle mass.  Preserving muscle mass matters to many people for aesthetic reasons.  Muscle gives form and definition.  Having well-developed muscle may also help people keep weight off.  That is pretty well accepted.  Less attention is given to the importance of preserving muscle mass during aging.  People who are constantly dieting and losing muscle mass may end up with even less when they are older.  Loss of muscle with aging is a major cause of frailty and loss of independence.   People with no interest in sporting huge muscles should still pay attention to this aspect of health.

Protein after exercise

If you are a young adult you can get your 20 grams of protein by using a protein bar or shake.  Powerbar makes a bar containing 20 grams of protein at a cost of about $2.00.  You could also have a glass of milk and a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich at a cost of about $0.60.  The milk and peanut butter sandwich would have about 23 grams of protein.  You could save $1.40 each time.  Please consider donating that money to research.  Many of our Paleo Diet readers will consider milk, bread and peanuts as horrors of the dark.  Its OK to eat these things.  Especially if the alternative is refined snacks, processed food or junk food.

If you are a masters athlete or older adult you may need to think about the extra calories you might get from two glasses of milk and two peanut butter sandwiches.  Timing meals with exercise may help.

Take away:

Twenty grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise helps build muscles with maximal efficiency.  Older adults may need 35 to 40 grams to get the same effect.

ResearchBlogging.org

Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland TM, & Phillips SM (2013). Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Amino acids, 45 (2), 231-40 PMID: 23645387

Strength, Masters Athletes and Finger length ratios.

Masters Athletes are markedly different than other athletes. Loss of muscle mass may begin as early as the Mid-20s. And the rate of loss increases once a person passes the age of 60 or 65. Good news is that resistance training and exercise increase muscle anabolic response. Even for older people. Muscle maintenance or increase in muscle mass may be aided by additional protein intake. Especially in Masters athletes and older people in general.

Masters Athletes and Finger length ratios.

Masters Athletes. As with most things, people vary.  People may be more or less likely to lose strength and muscle mass as they age. One of the factors that may be important is the amount of androgens (testosterone) an individual was exposed to before birth (Halil et al. 2013). There is not much that can be done about this now. Other than to keep working out and eating well.  But it might help to know if you needed to keep more of an eye out. And take steps to protect yourself by maintaining strength and fitness. There are plenty of Masters athletes, CrossFit and otherwise, out there. We will be keeping an eye out for masters athletes during the upcoming CrossFit Games. Hopefully someone is collecting all that data.

How to tell if you are likely to lose strength or stay strong.

The ratio of the index finger to the ring finger is used as a marker for pre-natal androgen exposure. (that’s androgens, such as testosterone, before birth). The longer your index finger is than your ringer finger = the more testosterone your were exposed to before birth. New research indicates the longer your ring finger is in proportion to your index finger the stronger you are likely to be in old age. A longer ring finger is also associated with better math skills and higher risk of autism. Ratio of these fingers is also associated with bunch of other interesting things. People with longer ring fingers are more likely to be varsity athletes in college and are more likely to find success in sumo wrestling (Tamiya et al. 2012).

CrossFit workouts for people with long index fingers

If you have relatively long index fingers, don’t panic. There’s no point worrying about something you can’t change. But you can continue to do CrossFit workouts. And keep weight lifting. And being active. Resistance exercise is probably the best thing you can do.

 

Giffin NA, Kennedy RM, Jones ME, & Barber CA (2012). Varsity athletes have lower 2D:4D ratios than other university students. Journal of sports sciences, 30 (2), 135-8 PMID: 22132823

Halil M, Gurel EI, Kuyumcu ME, Karaismailoglu S, Yesil Y, Ozturk ZA, Yavuz BB, Cankurtaran M, & Ariogul S (2013). Digit (2D:4D) ratio is associated with muscle mass (MM) and strength (MS) in older adults: possible effect of in utero androgen exposure. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics, 56 (2), 358-63 PMID: 23219021

CrossFit Nutrition: Should men increase selenium intake to increase testosterone?

What is Selenium and Will Increasing Selenium intake increase Testosterone?

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What is selenium?  Selenium is an essential nutrient that is needed create essential enzymes.  That includes enzymes needed for testosterone and thyroid hormone.  It is also plays an important role an anti-oxidant production.  There seems to be a lot out in the popular press or online material that increasing selenium will increase a healthy man’s testosterone.  However, there is little, if anything, in the scientific literature to support the idea.

There has also been recent emphasis on consumption of Brazil nuts as a natural source of selenium that will boost testosterone and increase virility. You may have heard advocates of the paleo diet talking about this. (if you want to know more about the paleo diet here is a link.  It tells you what is the paleo diet and includes criticisms and controversies rather than telling you the paleo diet is the answer to all life’s problems).

Increasing selenium to increase testosterone is also promoted for athletes hoping to improve CrossFit training.  Or sports performance in general.  So far there is no evidence that increasing selenium will increase testosterone levels in healthy men.

Are there any problems with taking selenium to increase testosterone?

Yes.  There are a lot of good things about selenium, but as with a lot of other things, you can damage yourself by overdoing it.  Selenium is protective against prostate cancer, and some other cancers and is important for testicular development (during the fetal period) and possibly protective against other oxidative-stress-induced ailments, testicular or not. On the other hand, selenium, at high concentrations can cause DNA damage, and thus increase risk of cancer. The problem with supplementing, either through tablets, or through consumption of a natural product high in selenium, is that we do not know where the lines of good and evil cross. No one knows yet how much is ideal or at what point intake becomes more of a liability than a help.

Are Brazil Nuts good for testosterone?

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The upper limit for selenium intake for a healthy adult is 400 mcg. You can easily get twice this much from a handful of Brazil nuts. Selenium concentrations in any plant should be dependent on the concentration of selenium in the soil in which it grows, therefore, the concentration of selenium in Brazil nuts will vary. Nuts grown in Manaus-Belem region of Brazil have more than ten times higher selenium content than those grown in the Acre-Rondia region. I’m guessing packaging doesn’t tell you where the nuts you might buy are grown.

Bottom Line:  If you eat a lot of Brazil nuts and take selenium supplements you might want to lay off or do one or the other. Don’t assume that more is better.  References are listed below.  For a better way to increase testosterone see this earlier post.

 

 

Chang, J. (1995). Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil Chemosphere, 30 (4), 801-802 DOI: 10.1016/0045-6535(94)00409-N

ATIF, F., YOUSUF, S., & AGRAWAL, S. (2008). Restraint stress-induced oxidative damage and its amelioration with selenium. European Journal of Pharmacology, 600 (1-3), 59-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.09.029

Brozmanová J, Mániková D, Vlčková V, & Chovanec M (2010). Selenium: a double-edged sword for defense and offence in cancer. Archives of toxicology, 84 (12), 919-38 PMID: 20871980 

Henderson, B. (2000). Hormonal carcinogenesis Carcinogenesis, 21 (3), 427-433 DOI: 10.1093/carcin/21.3.427

Shafiei Neek L, Gaeini AA, & Choobineh S (2011). Effect of zinc and selenium supplementation on serum testosterone and plasma lactate in cyclist after an exhaustive exercise bout. Biological trace element research, 144 (1-3), 454-62 PMID: 21744023