Monday, November 1, 2010

Amino acids in skeletal muscle: Are protein supplements as good as advertised?

When protein-rich foods, like meat, are ingested they are first broken down into peptides through digestion. As digestion continues, peptides are broken down into amino acids, which then enter circulation, becoming part of the blood plasma. They are then either incorporated into various tissues, such as skeletal muscle, or used for other purposes (e.g., oxidation and glucose generation). The table below shows the amino acid composition of blood plasma and skeletal muscle. It was taken from Brooks et al. (2005), and published originally in a classic 1974 article by Bergström and colleagues. Essential amino acids, shown at the bottom of the table, are those that have to be consumed through the diet. The human body cannot synthesize them. (Tyrosine is essential in children; in adults tryptophan is essential.)


The data is from 18 young and healthy individuals (16 males and 2 females) after an overnight fast. The gradient is a measure that contrasts the concentration of an amino acid in muscle against its concentration in blood plasma. Amino acids are transported into muscle cells by amino acid transporters, such as the vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGLUT1). Transporters exist because without them a substance’s gradient higher or lower than 1 would induce diffusion through cell membranes; that is, without transporters anything would enter or leave cells.

Research suggests that muscle uptake of amino acids is positively correlated with the concentration of the amino acids in plasma (as well as the level of activity of transporters) and that this effect is negatively moderated by the gradient. This is especially true after strength training, when protein synthesis is greatly enhanced. In other words, if the plasma concentration of an amino acid such as alanine is high, muscle uptake will be increased (with the proper stimulus; e.g., strength training). But if a lot of alanine is already present in muscle cells when compared to plasma (which is normally the case, since alanine’s 7.3 gradient is relatively high), more plasma alanine will be needed to increase muscle uptake.

The amino acid makeup of skeletal muscle is a product of evolutionary forces, which largely operated on our Paleolithic ancestors. Those ancestors obtained their protein primarily from meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Vegetables and fruits today are generally poor sources of protein; that was probably the case in the Paleolithic as well. Also, only when very young our Paleolithic ancestors obtained their protein from human milk. It is very unlikely that they drank the milk of other animals. Still, many people today possess genetic adaptations that enable them to consume milk (and dairy products in general) effectively due to a more recent (Neolithic) ancestral heritage. A food-related trait can evolve very fast – e.g., in a few hundred years.

One implication of all of this is that protein supplements in general may not be better sources of amino acids than natural protein-rich foods, such as meat or eggs. Supplements may provide more of certain amino acids than others sources, but given the amino acid makeup of skeletal muscle, a supplemental overload of a particular amino acid is unlikely to be particularly healthy. That overload may induce an unnatural increase in amino acid oxidation, or an abnormal generation of glucose through gluconeogenesis. Depending on one’s overall diet, those may in turn lead to elevated blood glucose levels and/or a caloric surplus. The final outcome may be body fat gain.

Another implication is that man-made foods that claim to be high in protein, and that are thus advertised as muscle growth supplements, may actually be poor sources of those amino acids whose concentration in muscle are highest. (You need to check the label for the amino acid composition, and trust the manufacturer.) Moreover, if they are sources of nonessential amino acids, they may overload your body if you consume a balanced diet. Interestingly, nonessential amino acids are synthesized from carbon sources. A good source of carbon is glucose.

Among the essential amino acids are a group called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Much is made of these amino acids, but their concentration in muscle in adults is not that high. That is, they do not contribute significantly as building blocks to protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. What makes BCAAs somewhat unique is that they are highly ketogenic, and somewhat glucogenic (via gluconeogenesis). They also lead to insulin spikes. Ingestion of BCAAs increases the blood concentration of two of the three human ketone bodies (acetone and acetoacetate). Ketosis is both protein and glycogen sparing (but gluconeogenesis is not), which is among the reasons why ketosis is significantly induced by exercise (blood ketones concentration is much more elevated after exercise than after a 20 h fast). This is probably why some exercise physiologists and personal trainers recommend consumption of BCAAs immediately prior to or during anaerobic exercise.

Why do carnivores often consume prey animals whole? (Consumption of eggs is not the same, but similar, because an egg is the starting point for the development of a whole animal.) Carnivores consume prey animals whole arguably because prey animals have those tissues (muscle, organ etc. tissues) that carnivores also have, in roughly the same amounts. Prey animals that are herbivores do all the work of converting their own prey (plants) to tissues that they share with carnivores. Carnivores benefit from that work, paying back herbivores by placing selective pressures on them that are health-promoting at the population level. (Carnivores usually target those prey animals that show signs of weakness or disease.)

Supplements would be truly natural if they provided nutrients that mimicked eating an animal whole. Most supplements do not get even close to doing that; and this includes protein supplements.

Reference

Brooks, G.A., Fahey, T.D., & Baldwin, K.M. (2005). Exercise physiology: Human bioenergetics and its applications. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

67 comments:

Scott W said...

This is why science and supplement marketing don't mix. I'm glad you have taken the time to analyze this.

I have had to give up whey etc. due to dairy intolerance, but have been taking some BCAA's before workouts, assuming I was doing a good thing. I guess I had some vague notion that I was supercharging the availability of amino acids just when my muscles were being rendered most receptive.

So if I understand this correctly, the BCAA's most-probable benefit has little to do with increasing muscle protein uptake by raising plasma levels of aminos (especially since BCAA's are composed of "minor" aminos).

Rather, their most-probable benefit has to do with enhancing the ketogenic, protein-sparing state that is already initiated by weight training more effectively.

That stuff is REALLY expensive.It appears that I am spending a lot of money for a (possible) slight enhancement of an already-strong natural outcome of training...that is free.

Scott W

malpaz said...

AWESOME post especially this paragraph:One implication of all of this is that protein supplements in general may not be better sources of amino acids than natural protein-rich foods, such as meat or eggs. Supplements may provide more of certain amino acids than others sources, but given the amino acid makeup of skeletal muscle, a supplemental overload of a particular amino acid is unlikely to be particularly healthy. That overload may induce an unnatural increase in amino acid oxidation, or an abnormal generation of glucose through gluconeogenesis. Depending on one’s overall diet, those may in turn lead to elevated blood glucose levels and/or a caloric surplus. The final outcome may be body fat gain



seems no one gets the message that eating modified food in any form will ellicit a modified response!!

keeping at the amino acid stuff... you mentioned i should limit my beef liver to once a week, which i will(thankyoU!)but was wondering if it is more a source of dense vitamins as opposed to amino acids. lots of old school body builders were all over popping like 50+ dessicated liver tabs a day for 'aminos' and muscle gain- is there anythign to that?

Hans Keer said...

Nice, but didn't you make a slip of the "pen"? Acetyl-CoA is as far as I know no ketone body. VBR Hans

john said...

Hi Ned,

Maybe we should put [skeletal] muscle meat alongside protein supplements in creating a possible amino acid imbalance. I only eat "typical" meats in company or at restaurants; otherwise, I eat different organs or bone broths.

Malpaz, nutritiondata.com has amino acid amounts, but the information isn't necessarily complete. I think, amino acid-wise, we should just vary the parts of animals we eat. Ha, I used to eat lots of dessicated liver tabs. If you want just tons of bad information or theories, there's no better place to be than hanging out with a bunch of bodybuilders.

Kindke said...

The Supplement industry is certainly massively over-blown in terms of its effectivness compared to normal food.

I use Whey protein shakes and sometimes bars but not becuase I think they will help me build muscle but because thier convenience is hard to match and they are quite satieting aswell as low-carb.

There is alot of research supporting the benefits of BCAA supplementation, both post and pre workout, but I remain skeptical. Having tried BCAA myself I did not notice better gains from workouts but instead just felt more stiff afterwards.

It was interesting to see the heavy proportion of Taurine ( and glutamine ) in muscle composition, I have to admit I did see slightly better gains when I was supplementing 10-15g glutamine per day in the morning, perhaps I should go back to it.

Martin Berkhan said...

Since when do not BCAAs contribute to muscle protein synthesis?

Your article has so many errors I don't even know where to start and I frankly won't bother either.

Dan said...

agree with Martin completely. BCAAs are in fact some of the primary triggers for muscle protein synthesis via the mTOR receptor. what you should have noted is that BCAAs are not a significant part of muscle protein content, which is not the same and makes sense since branched chains aren't so awesome for making folded proteins. the low gradient for BCAAs is effectively a guarantee that plasma BCAA will get into the cell rather easily.
there are a few situations where BCAAs won't turn on muscle synthesis (sepsis, rhabdo) but those are rare.

malpaz said...

haha figured this post was gonna bring controversy from those who swear by BCAA and those who dont use it... John, thanks for the info haha i totally agree about the bodybuilders thing, and the muscle meat! i try to eat as much variety in organs as i can get ahold of, but not for amino just because i like them all haha

Ned Kock said...

Hi Scott.

Yes, that is essentially my interpretation.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Mal, thanks.

John's answer is pretty much what mine would be.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Hans, thanks. It should be corrected now.

Ned Kock said...

Hi John, thanks. I agree entirely.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke.

Yes, glutamine and taurine have the highest concentrations. Just keep in mind that they are nonessential.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Martin.

Just look at the amino-acid concentrations and the composition of BCAAs. It is obvious that they do not contribute much.

Errors will be corrected if I am convinced they are errors. References help in that respect.

Getting to the truth is more important for me than looking smart.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Dan.

The low gradient is only part of the equation. The concentration in skeletal muscle is another part. If the concentration is naturally low, once it is achieved the AAs will be used for other purposes (e.g., oxidation).

Protein oxidation will spare muscle tissue. Fat oxidation will do that too.

Ned Kock said...

I guess since Dan has not provided a reference supporting his views, I will do that for him:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19882215

This one is very recent, and probably supports everything he said. But appearances can be deceiving ...

I will comment on it a bit later. Needless to say, if I am convinced that I'm wrong, I will correct the post accordingly.

Ned Kock said...

Okay, some real work done for the day, so let’s take a look at that reference; the Atherton et al. study. Here is what it comes down to: “Phosphorylation of mTOR and 4E binding protein-1 (4EBP1) were increased …” They say that leucine in particular did that. Leucine is one of the three BCAAs.

Now, what else has a similar effect? Insulin has. In fact, insulin also prevents muscle catabolism. Still, it does not make sense to flood the blood with insulin prior to a strength training session because insulin will blunt many of the positive effects associated with strength training, such as the acute increases in growth hormone levels and FFA oxidation. Growth hormone, together with other factors, increases protein synthesis and fat catabolism.

BCAAs seem to have a protein sparing effect, as I said in the article. That’s pretty much it. If you exercise around noon, having a breakfast at 8 am of leftover meat and eggs will probably have about the same effect. The latter will have one advantage though. You’ll still have a wider range of amino acids in circulation at that point, because you’ll still be digesting that protein. There is nothing like a high concentration of the right amino acids in plasma to increase protein synthesis; not even growth hormone will do that.

Here is a reference for the protein sparing effect of BCAAs:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11440914

An increase in an enzyme that is associated with protein synthesis (e.g., mTOR), induced by ingestion of BCAAs, does not guarantee a significant effect on muscle growth. Not even close. If it did, where is the evidence that a balanced diet with an adequate protein intake leads to inferior results over the long term when compared with protein supplements? The evidence is pretty much nonexistent. And this is for professional athletes. We are not even talking about health in general, which is a totally different matter.

And where is the scientific basis for BCAAs magical effects?

Let us see. About 600,000 years ago maybe only a few of our Paleolithic ancestors were alive. Then aliens arrived and fed them BCAAs for 100,000 years. The end result: BCAAs magic effects on modern humans, making them superhuman!

Or maybe God create humans and said: Go, multiply, but don’t forget to avoid sin and consume plenty of BCAAs!

Chris Robbins said...

Don't forget the recent research in mice showing supplementing BCAAs to have life extending properties. Can it also happen in humans? Possibilty but everything being relative it's probably a few extra days when transfered from mice to humans.

I'm pretty sure Martin only recommends BCAAs during fasted workouts.

Though I'm disappointed that Martin would come into someone else's home and shit on their floor without offering any opposition other than we are to take his word.

"Hi, I'm Martin and fuck you and your hard work but you're wrong and I'm not telling you why."

Martin Berkhan said...

Chris,

It's clear, not only from his post but also from his comments here, that Ned is not well acquainted with the topic. I figured I'd him another day or two to read up on it. I'm a good sport that way. Then, if he still insists on being right, we'll see.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Chris.

Indeed, it is possible. But research on mice also suggests that calorie restriction increases longevity, and this does not seem to be the case with humans:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/10/china-study-ii-does-calorie-restriction.html

As for Martin, I am a bit surprised about his comment above. He comes, and says that the whole thing is not worth his time. Well, you'd expect someone saying that to go away and not come back.

Then not only does he monitor the comments area to see what he gets in return, but also takes the time to comment again in the same childish tone!

Anyway, I think that Martin has done a great job at promoting IF and debunking IF-related myths. I've read several of his posts, and agree with many of the things he says.

This BCAA issue is nothing personal. Taking it personally is a little odd.

JP said...

I liked your post.

May be bcaa are good, may be they are not. I don't care.

What I care about is your conclusion which I very much liked :


''Why do carnivores often consume prey animals whole? (Consumption of eggs is not the same, but similar, because an egg is the starting point for the development of a whole animal.) Carnivores consume prey animals whole arguably because prey animals have those tissues (muscle, organ etc. tissues) that carnivores also have, in roughly the same amounts. Prey animals that are herbivores do all the work of converting their own prey (plants) to tissues that they share with carnivores. Carnivores benefit from that work, paying back herbivores by placing selective pressures on them that are health-promoting at the population level. (Carnivores usually target those prey animals that show signs of weakness or disease.)''

this is why I am an evolutionary eater.

Ned Kock said...

Hi JP, thanks.

Ned Kock said...

The article linked (as a full text PDF) below, by Dulloo et al., is relevant to the discussion we are having here:

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n4s/pdf/0802861a.pdf

The authors, describing population groups at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, state that:

"... these population groups also present elevated plasma concentrations of fatty acids and amino acids, these substrates or their metabolites - by interfering with the uptake and metabolism of glucose in skeletal muscle - are thought to play a central role in the onset of insulin resistance."

This article was also reviewed by My Carb Sane-Asylum on the post linked below:

http://carbsanity.blogspot.com/2010/11/fat-futile-cycling-from-carb-excess.html

A quote from that review:

"The authors describe a state of gluco-lipotoxicity and/or proteo-lipotoxicity that could develop when excesses in either glucose or AA's or both stimulate the conversion of Acetyl CoA to Malonyl CoA that can suppress fatty acid oxidation leading to a vicious cycle of lipid accumulation in the cellular pools."

So, as you can see, amino acids in excess seem to also possibly cause people to become fat and eventually diabetic.

What does this have to do with the post, and more specifically protein supplements?

The answer is that protein supplements, in addition to typically providing an AA composition that is not a very good match for skeletal muscle, bypass natural hunger regulation mechanisms. They do that because they are not usually ingested like natural protein sources are (e.g., after chewing).

malpaz said...

HAHA WOW. i was just going to ask your opinion of Carb Asylum's post... i am not at all schooled enough to understand that article so i am lost, if you could put it in layman's terms.

the BCAA's/protein powder and insulin resistance/diabetes DOES make perfect sense to me. it seems not only chronic stress, but chronic anything, be it protein/fat/carbs/lifestyle, any of it in an unnatural form is going to cause fat gain and diabetes. theres no problem eating a whole animal and taking in all its aminos...but 'drinking' a whole animal is just not right IMO. like people who selfdiagnose themselves with hypothyroid and start self medicating only to screw themselves over in the long run(iodine in particular) artificially putting powders or solely muscle meat in your body isnt natural either and is going to cause more harm than good in the long run

Ned Kock said...

Hi Mal.

I agree with you on the self-diagnosing front. Definitely self-diagnosing and self-treating is dangerous, even when the treatment is an apparently "harmless" supplement.

I think that the main takeaway from the CS post is that a chronic overload of any macro-nutrient is likely to cause problems.

And how does one get to that point? One way to get there is eating foods that fool our hunger regulation systems. Bagels and various kinds of supplements fall under that category.

I think she also makes a good point regarding the Inuit, whose diet is not your typical omnivore diet. CS says, correctly in my view, that the Inuit are adapted to their diet. I don't know if she meant genetic, but that is what I think - they are adapted down to their genes.

As I often say here, food-related adaptations can evolve fast - not millions of years, sometimes a few hundred are enough.

Walter said...

Hi Ned,

When it was proposed to Vilhjalmur Stefansson that the Inuit are adapted to their diet he disputed this based on the members of his expeditions doing well on the diet while they were there and this led to the year long dietary trial (I'm assuming you are familiar with it that's why I'm not providing more detail).

I just wanted to get your take on how this squares with your apparent support for the idea that they are adapted.

My own experience with zero carb (which provides no conclusive proof from a scientific standpoint) makes me wonder why I'd ever want to eat a carb.

Kindke said...

I think its important not to get to carried away with the isolated biochemistry around the citric acid cycle ( which I think My Carb Sane-Asylum is guilty of from reading her posts, no disrespect ) and consider the bigger picture.

I have never heard of anyone becoming diabetic on a strict ketogenic diet when consuming the ketogenic foods.

Likewise, I have yet to see an account of a normal healthy person becoming diabetic from overconsumption of whey protein shakes. You may want to argue, that when looking at the isolated biochemistry, it's possible. But in the bigger picture overconumption of protein shakes is difficult because of how satieting they are and protein and fats loose thier palatability far quicker carbs during feeding.

Lets not be naive, if you want to turn a normal healthy person diabetic, you have to involve fast digesting carbs somewhere in thier lifetime.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Walter.

As it turns out, Stefansson is not a very good example of his own claim, because his parents were Icelandic and could have had Inuit ancestors.

But there is not doubt that many people do quite well on LC and VLC. I guess I would place myself in that category. This is probably due to the fact that we all have different inherited traits and life histories.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke.

I agree with you regarding extrapolations from biochemistry. You make very good points actually. What we often see is something like this. A study shows that substance S leads to enzyme E phosphorylation, where E increases protein synthesis. So the authors of the study conclude that S leads to enhanced protein synthesis. But actual studies with athletes show no actual effect. The exercise physiology literature is full of these cases.

On the protein supplementation front, I also think that the possible negative effects of things like whey protein supplements are not very significant compared with the possible negative effects of white bread. Having said that, we have a few things to consider: (a) whey protein is highly insulinogenic, comparable to white bread; and (b) the incidence of diabetes among bodybuilders is suspiciously high.

The are confounders for sure. For example, we know that abuse of steroids and exogenous growth hormone happens a lot among bodybuilders, and we know that growth hormone supplementation tends to lead to insulin resistance.

There are no studies on the long term effects of whey supplementation, as far as I know, and whey has been one of the most heavily studied.

We know that consumption of refined carbs usually leads to serious problems over long periods of time – 20 years is a figure that is often mentioned.

Ned Kock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ned Kock said...

Btw, isolated populations living on traditional diets tend to deteriorate quickly when they become Westernized.

How badly they deteriorate seems to be related to how well adapted they were to the previous diet, and how different their diet is from a Western diet.

The Inuit tend to do very badly:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/search/label/Inuit

Jim said...

Hi Ned,

I'm not able to understand all of this stuff, but here's another paper talking about the insulinogenic properties of whey.

http://www.dissertations.se/dissertation/2d4bed14b6/

My wife usually has a whey in water drink along with a T of MCT oil before she hurries off to work. Maybe this explains why she finds it so hard to lose her post menopausal fat.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Jim, thanks for the link for the Lund study.

Whey’s insulinogenic response is indeed fairly high, in part because whey is a fast absorption protein. Whey is a rich source of BCAAs, by the way.

Casein is a slow absorption protein. In comparisons of the anabolic effect of casein and whey, casein usually comes out on top.

But there have been reports of isolated casein causing health problems.

So what is one to do?

Why not try some aged cheese, which is rich in casein, particularly cheese made from raw milk? Yes, it has more fat than isolated casein, but it is healthy fat (saturated), and if one needs to reduce calorie intake he or she does not have to eat too much of it. Cheese is also a rich source of a number of nutrients, including vitamin K2. Here are a couple of posts that may be of interest:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/05/cheeses-vitamin-k2-content.html

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/05/cheese-consumption-visceral-fat-and.html

Glenn said...

Ned,
Could you provide a source for the claim that incidence of diabetes is unusually high among bodybuilder? (I don't suppose they seperated out natural from steroid-taking bodybuilders?)
Thanks!

Ned Kock said...

Hi Glenn.

The evidence I have is mostly anecdotal, from conversations with doctors and nurses. In fact, I had a long conversation with a group of local doctors about this around a year ago, and previously with nurses. The path seems to be causal, but it is not the strength training itself that is the problem. In fact strength training per se seems to be very protective against diabetes. This is the “scary” part, something so good being associated with disease. There is also the research by Jeff Volek and colleagues, pointing in the same general direction – the indirect path described below.

Again, from my conversations with doctors and nurses, and my own research, it seems that strength training is very health-promoting. Perhaps because of that, and to some degree because of vanity, many bodybuilders are inclined to try supplements and drugs to enhance their performance and improve their appearance. Often they improve their appearance only in their eyes and that of other male bodybuilders. This is primarily a male phenomenon.

From what I could piece together, it appears that those things don’t have many negative effects while the guys are doing a good amount of strength training. (Besides, those folks are usually young, and have other natural protections as well.) But once they stop doing strength training, or significantly reduce the volume/intensity of training, they tend to gain body fat very quickly. More quickly than folks who don’t do strength training. Obesity often ensues, leading to the metabolic syndrome and eventually diabetes. This does seem to affect natural bodybuilders as well, but one can never tell for sure; frequently patients will not tell their doctors, much less nurses, about past drug use.

As you can see, this is an indirect path to diabetes, with strength training as a mediator variable. These problems are not due to strength training being unhealthy. They are tied to habits that were okay with strength training, but costly without.

Even a very high carb intake, which is common among bodybuilders, can become a problem once you stop strength training. If you are constantly depleting your glycogen stores, carbs will quickly be used to replenish them – even fructose. If your glycogen stores are not depleted, carbs will elicit significantly higher blood glucose and insulin spikes, and will be used (both glucose and fructose) for liver production of fat, released to circulation in VLDL particles.

Published evidence tied to drug use among bodybuilders, linking that directly to diabetes, is easier to find:

http://www.ironmagazineforums.com/anabolic-zone/97877-insulin-physique-enhancer-friend-foe.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1445173

http://bjsportmed.com/content/41/5/335.abstract

Kindke said...

I would just like to point out that bodybuilders who follow a strict ketogenic diet are few and far between.

Also dont forget in the supplement industry theres 2 variations of whey shakes targeted to the market, the first variation is the normal pure whey protein with a few added sweeteners like sucralose, the second is advertised as a "mass gainer" which is a whey shake with huge amounts of added sugars like dextrose and I would guess that bodybuilders consume mostly this variation especially during the phase they call "bulking".

The other situation is common with athletes in general in that they continue thier same way of high calorie eating after they stop retire and stop exercising and gain body fat fast.

Ned Kock said...

> ... athletes in general in that they continue thier same way of high calorie eating after they stop retire and stop exercising and gain body fat fast.

Indeed, and I would say this is especially true with sports that involve a great deal of glycogen depletion.

I am frequently surprised by how much body fat former basketball players in particular put on after they stop playing. This happens a lot with university students who are players. Only a few become professionals. Most of them go on to do other things after graduation.

Basketball is a sport that combines sprint-like activities with endurance, and where glycogen depletion is intense. Basketball players tend to have very low body fat percentages, while they are playing.

David Isaak said...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot of Type II diabetics report blood-sugar spikes from whey. I like whey, myself, but think it can easily be overdone.

One point, though: I'm not sure we aren't confusing two issues here. There is no reason to believe that what is most natural and healthiest is also what best contributes to massive muscle hypertrophy. Strength training is one thing, bodybuilding another, and that which delivers best results for hypertrophy may or may not be healthy.

Back before they were demonized, however, eggs were often said to be the "the perfect protein," and indices of amino acid composition and digestibility are still often calculated relative to egg proteins. And back when I was a kid (50+ years ago), the standard image of a bodybuilder was a massive guy who swallowed down huge quantities of eggs (usually raw).

To quote from the song "You're a Big Man, Gaston" (from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" animated film):

"When I was young I ate
four dozen eggs
every morning to help me get large.

Now that I'm grown I eat
five dozen eggs
and I'm roughly the size of a barge."

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog.

I´m icelandic and I would really like to know on what you base that Vilhjálmur Stefánsson could have had inuit ancestors?

I guess it´s possible but could some inuit ancestry few hundred years back really make the difference?

I´m related to Vilhjálmur Stefánsson (all icelandic people are related in one way or another). our common ancestor was born in 1702.

We have a good genealogy map of our people (of course, it´s not 100%) and we can all look it up on the internet (like I just did).

If there was any mixture of blood it was probably from the viking period because after that the icelandic people got very isolated.

Which make the genetic studies of the population quite interesting.

you can read a bit about it here:
http://acor.org/sgreene/hmsbeagle/html/content/40/people/op_ed.htm

Also, genetics have shown that we're mostly descended from Norwegians and Irish people. I guess it doesn´t exclude some mixture with inuits somewhere but I would think it wouldn´t make much difference.

Then again icelandic people survived for many centuries on very meat-and dairy based diet. If you think it can only take few hundred years of food adaptation then that would be more likely explanation I assume.

David Isaak said...

Jim: "My wife usually has a whey in water drink along with a T of MCT oil before she hurries off to work. Maybe this explains why she finds it so hard to lose her post menopausal fat."

Possibly. Although Drs Mike and Mary Dan Eades have a diet (The 6 Week Cure) where the cornerstone of the first two weeks is whey plus some blended fat (they use cream or coconut milk). It seems to work, and also eems ot be especially good for eliminating visceral fat.

In fact, as long as we're talking about whey, I think it should be mentioned that there is a lot of talk (and some evidence) that whey is beneficial to the liver and also helps produce glutathione. So there may be benfits to whey that aren't really about muscle building

Online Lovegra said...
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Kindke said...

I just came into touch with some new information regarding protein and insulin resistence, particularly this study

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19356713

So indeed it does look like overconsumption of protein ( BCAA in particular ) presents its own problems with insulin resistence.

Obviously its a long shot to further conclude down the line one can become diabetic on extreme protein consumption provided carbs are kept low, but im now convinced that insulin resistence from protein overconsumption is certainly a very real phenonenom.

Ned Kock said...

Two spam entries above deleted - thanks but no Viagra.

Ned Kock said...

Hi David, good point re. bodybuilding vs. strength training for health.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon.

A few hundred years of adaptation can make a big difference, because beneficial adaptations may become dominant. This is a topic of current debate in the field of population genetics, but some think that beneficial genotypes tend to become dominant.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but here is an illustration. A person A has a genotype that protects her against a particular type of kidney problem within the context of a particular diet, which evolved among her ancestors. Person B has a genotype that makes him digest lactose as an adult, which evolved among his ancestors, who were not the same as person A's. If person A and B have a child, the child may be protected against the kidney problem AND be able to digest lactose.

But you bring up another interesting point, which is that Icelandic people in general have traditionally survived on a high-meat/fat diet. I wonder if that is not true of ancestral Nordic populations in general. High-meat/fat diets seem to be a good choice for very cold climates, at least during part of the year.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Kindke, thanks for the link.

I thought this part was amusing given that BCAAs are so highly recommended by some because of their activation of the mTOR enzime:

"Insulin resistance induced by HF/BCAA feeding was accompanied by chronic phosphorylation of mTOR ..."

Having said that, we should not forget that this was a study done with rats.

David Isaak said...

As I mentioned above, there are some studies that suggest whey has some definite benefits on visceral fat. Of course, a lot of these are rodent studies:

http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=22165890

http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/134/6/1454

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-0080.2008.00262.x/pdf

...but there's some research on humans as well, which suggests that whey supplementation reduces fatty liver:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/707601_4

This of course is in line with what the Drs. Eades suggest in their 6 Week Cure, which is a diet that attempts to target visceral fat.

David Isaak said...

Oops. Missed one of the most intriguing human studies:

http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/5/1/8

Ned Kock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ned Kock said...

Hi David.

The Frestedt et al. study doesn't seem to mention visceral fat. As I see it, there are a few problems with this particular study: (a) there were no strict controls of the diet or level of physical activity of the subjects; and (b) they fed the control group a beverage containing maltodextrin.

If the subjects were doing some anaerobic exercise, protein accretion would be decreased in the control group due to the lower protein intake. A better control food, I think, would be an isocaloric portion of lean meat.

Regarding visceral fat, it seems very easy to mobilize. The hard type to mobilize appears to be the "stubborn" subcutaneous fat that remains when individuals reach the "fit" level. That is around 21–24% for women, and 14–17% for men. At that level, visceral fat is relatively low in most people.

David Isaak said...

I take BCAAs sometimes (in a powdered drink), but I seem to respond just as well to whey--which of course is BCAA-rich. I take whey anywhere from 3 to 6 times a week.

Over the last 20 months I lost 56 pounds. My last hydrostatic weigh-in showed this to be a loss of 66.2 pounds of fat and a gain of 10.2 pounds of muscle.

An experiment of n = 1 doesn't prove much. The whey might be irrelevant, or my results might have been even better without it. Or it might just mean that adequate overall protein is good at increasing muscle mass while cutting fat.

Or maybe there's rodent genes in my family tree?

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gwarm said...

I was under the impression l-arginine in BCAAs can decrease ammonia conversion of protein

From top rated comments:

"l arginine gets rid of ammonia"

-
"For example, if you were to ingest 5 grams of free-form arginine pre-workout you would notice a greater pump then without it. If you were to ingest 5 grams of arginine in the form of a whole protein (1) you'd have to eat a ton of protein to acquire the 5 grams of arginine and (2) the rate of delivery would be much slower and (3) you would not be flooding your system with a large dose of arginine at one time. The same holds true for BCAA. Ingesting 10 grams of BCAA will lead to greater activation of mTOR, PI3K, etc.* than ingesting 10 grams of BCAA from a whole protein." from the ad

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Jeff Thompson said...

Good morning Ned...hope you're still following this article and posts...Just finding this and am very interested in what you've said, particularly the chart regarding the amino acid content/profile of muscle tissue vs plasma and the gradient. I have developed an excel "calculator" of sorts, where I can create a protein supplement from known powders in order to match the amino acid profile of something, such as human muscle tissue or human mother's milk. I want to make sure I understand your article, as perhaps my desire to create a powder to match human muscle tissues aa profiles is erroneous, and I should shoot for something else, such as the gradient or plasma....looks like the gradient, but not sure by how much. Any thoughts? Thanks for the great article.

Jeff T

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