Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are You Training or Trash Collecting?

It's hardly breaking news that exercise does wonders for mind and body betterment — it burns calories, reshapes your body, wards off diseases, slows aging, puts you in a good mood and, well, the list goes on. But as of last month, we may better understand some of the reasons why getting a move on is such a powerful health tool: It takes out your body’s trash.

According to recent research published in the journal Nature, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that exercise may stimulate autophagy, or "self-eating," a process in which the body’s cells literally clean themselves up so that they can continue to function properly. Study co-author Beth Levine, a pioneer in autophagy research, calls it "an intracellular recycling system" that works by surrounding the cellular trash with a membrane, breaks it down, then burns it for energy. Getting rid of this cellular trash, which may be caused by bacteria, injury or the normal aging process, keeps cells functioning properly and may help suppress tumors and inflammation, slow aging and strengthen your immunity against viruses and infectious diseases.

The study compared the muscle cells of two groups of mice — one with normal trash pick-ups (i.e., normal-functioning levels of autophagy) and the other bred with messy muscle cells designed not to activate autophagy during exercise. The researchers fed both the control group and the mutants a high-fat diet that gave them diabetes. Then they sent them running.

The results were clear: The mice which could not activate autophagy through exercise got tired much more quickly than the normal trash-removing mice. They also couldn’t burn up the sugar in their bloodstream, so they maintained their diabetes and had higher levels of cholesterol, whereas the mice with the normal autophagy function reversed their disease.

Bottom line: When the exercise-autophagy link was switched off, exercise did not make the mutant mice healthier and fitter. Does this mean that autophagy is the key reason why exercise makes you fitter … and makes you live longer … and stops chronic diseases … and all the rest? Maybe.

    In a person over 50, when you see skin becoming wrinkled and eyesight going bad, it may very well be the result of biological trash accumulating all over the body.

"Autophagy is very hot now, and this is a very exciting, interesting piece of research done by a very reputable group," says Paul Spector, MD, ASCM, a Columbia-trained physician and Tier 4 trainer at Equinox in New York City with a focus on the effect of diet and exercise on aging and disease. "But it is very early in the story — after all, it’s mouse tissue, not human."

Still, Spector admits that the new research may help position autophagy — and therefore exercise — as a key tool in disease prevention and anti-aging. "Knowledge of autophagy has been around for a long time, and we thought until recently that it was the body’s way of removing cells gone bad," he says, "But studies like this show that autophagy has a lot of functions — including prevention of cells going bad."

"We are in a chronic state of sympathetic nervous system arousal — the fight or flight mechanism — and it is not followed by motor activity unless you exercise,” says Spector. In other words, without exercise, there’s no clean-up crew to mop up the stress, which is manifested in the form of high blood pressure, high cortisol levels and diminishing insulin sensitivity.

The same crew, it seems, is also responsible for keeping you young. "The 'Disposable Soma' theory, a Darwinian model which postulates that we stay healthy only until we reproduce, then begin to fall apart, could be due to a failure of DNA maintenance — a failure of cellular housekeeping," says Spector. "In a person over 50, when you see skin becoming wrinkled and eyesight going bad, it may very well be the result of biological trash accumulating all over the body."

Spector says the human body is, in many ways, no different than any machine that must be maintained. Not keeping the gears and circuitry clean gums up the mechanisms — and even gums up the cleaner. "It’s a vicious cycle: autophagy can only take care of so much, and gets impeded and overwhelmed by too much toxic trash."

While it remains to be seen whether running humans respond like a bunch of running mice, the findings point to physical activity as a key force in keeping your cells, and their cleaning mechanism, in tip top shape. "The best way to fight all the symptoms of aging is to be in prevention mode,” says Spector. And that, of course, means exercise.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Afterburn Effect - Myth or Magic Bullet?

The term ‘afterburn effect’ comes up repeatedly in connection with high intensity training. For some, it’s a miracle cure for burning calories; others claim it has hardly any effect. To this day, afterburn effect has not been fully researched because of the complex interaction between the underlying processes and systems.

Oxygen deficit and compensation

Among other things, our body needs oxygen to generate energy – the more work it must do or the more intense the stress on the body is, the more oxygen it needs. High intensity exercise such as WBC training raises your pulse, respiratory rate and body temperature and your entire metabolism to a very high level over a very short period. 

It takes a few minutes after beginning a vigorous workout that your body is able to use as much oxygen from the air as it needs. Due to this time delay, an oxygen deficit has occured. This deficit will be compensated after training. Then, even more oxygen is absorbed, more than is actually needed to recover the deficit. You could say that the oxygen debt is being repaid with interest. This effect is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Even when we are all rested after a training and our breathing has seemingly normalized, cellular respiration continues at full speed. Much energy is being used to regulate the many different systems back to their normal levels. In addition, our muscles remain in a heightened state of tension and regenerative process, such as the replenishment of glycogen and oxygen reserves. During this time, the repair of the micro traumatisms and increased protein synthesis, the depletion and recovery of lactate, the strengthening of the heart and vessels, the distribution of corresponding hormones, and many more processes, are all initiated. Together these require a large amount energy from our body, so prompting the so-called ‘afterburn effect.’

How long does the afterburn effect last?

The intensity of the workout determines the duration of the subsequent afterburn effect. Although strictly speaking, an afterburn effect also occurs with low and medium intensity exercises, it is only really significant at a high intensity level. Researchers agree on one thing: the afterburn effect reaches its climax in the first hour immediately after a workout; then it decreases exponentially.

How is the afterburn effect detected and measured?

The content is measured via a breathing mask and a spirometry device, which the athlete wears during and after the workout. The result: with high intensity workouts, a high carbon dioxide content is shown not only during exertion, but also several hours later – a clear indication of increased cell and thus metabolic activity.

What exactly is the intensity of the afterburn effect?

Since performance determines the intensity, the relative value of the afterburn effect cannot be determined exactly. The highest possible afterburn effect, however, can only be achieved if the athlete really goes to the limits of their performance during the workout. Training conditions can also vary greatly from workout to workout: sleep, nutrition, stress, illnesses, hourly hormone composition and many more have a direct impact on performance, which can therefore vary from training to training.

Particularly for people with a low metabolism and the objective to burn fat, the afterburn effect triggered by high intensity workouts could be a deciding factor!

Afterburn effect and food intake after a workout - a contentious issue

The afterburn effect and its impact has not yet been fully researched. With regard to optimal nutrient utilization, faster regeneration time and psychological well-being, we generally advocate for food intake immediately after a workout. As always, we recommend fresh and high-quality products, and the focus should be on proteins.