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10 Statistics arent so bad!

By Jamie Hale

12 Will diet beverages make you fat?

By Alan Aragon

Copyright January 1st, 2014 by Alan Aragon


Why nutrition is so confusing to Gary Taubes.

By Alan Aragon

Dietary protein distribution positively influences

24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.
Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL,
Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK,
Paddon-Jones D. J Nutr. 2014 Jan 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in

randomized trial.
Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, Eriksson M, Brage S,
Larsson C, Olsson T, and Lindahl B. European Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, advance online publication 29 January
2014; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.290 [EJCN]

Cardiovascular and ride time-to-exhaustion effects

of an energy drink.

13 Interview with Michael Limon, 2014 Gold Coast

Classic Champion.
By Alan Aragon

Nelson MT, Biltz GR, Dengel DR. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.
2014 Jan 22;11(1):2. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]

High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT)

influences resting energy expenditure and
respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals.
Paoli A, Moro T, Marcolin G, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A,
Grimaldi K. J Transl Med. 2012 Nov 24;10:237. doi:
10.1186/1479-5876-10-237. [PubMed]

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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it captures the meat of his speculations about why nutrition is so

confusing, and it also hints towards the NuSi agenda:
Why nutrition is so confusing to Gary Taubes.
By Alan Aragon
Thanks again, Gary
Gary Taubes shows up in AARR regularly, not only because
hes one of the most provocative and popular journalists in
world, but also because he puts out information that I cant sit
back and bite my tongue about. Through his best-selling books,
Taubes has played a major role in shaping a large segment of the
diet & health-conscious publics opinion that carbs are the
villain in the war against obesity. Taubes has also been
instrumental in prodding much of the publics disdain for the
government-issued guidelines which have traditionally been
carbohydrate-friendly and cautionary against fat. This brings us
to Taubes main project called the Nutrition Science Initiative
(NuSi), whose goal is to build teams of multidisciplinary
researchers from independent universities and institutions, and
we make it possible for them to do targeted, cutting-edge
experiments that will directly address the key questions of
obesity and health.
The rather obvious problem with Taubes at the helm of NuSi is
that he has a built-in conflict of interest. Having a deeply rooted
low-carb diet bias is bound to bleed onto every aspect of the
operation, from the choice of researchers, to the study designs,
and on down to the data interpretation and presentation to the
public. Taubes books are dedicated to promoting the idea that
carbohydrate is the inherent crux of the worlds weight and
diabetes problem. To orchestrate research that will do anything
but support the premises in his books is highly unlikely.
Its apparently not enough that Taubes navigates the NuSi ship;
hes teamed up Peter Attia, a physician who happens to beyou
guessed itanother low-carb zealot. Why not balance out the
yin with the yang and team up with a fat-phobic carbophile? Im
being facetious, of course. An organization whose aim is to
further the march of diet research needs to be led by individuals
with no vested interest in any given fad diet dogma. With NuSi,
we pretty much have the makings of the Atkins Diet Revolution
Reloaded, this time with an extra serving of confirmation bias.
Im not alone in my concerns with NuSi. If you havent already
done so, Id encourage you to head back to the August 2013
issue of AARR, where I discuss several letters from researchers
who collectively feel that Taubes aims are misguided, his biases
are obvious, and his understanding of the pathogenesis of
obesity is far from sufficient (to me, its actually deranged).
The latest buzz
Taubes is a talented scribe. He may be the very best there is at
making a mundane topic like diet research sound like a boiling
mix of conspiracy, mystery, and intrigue. However, in his latest
New York Times article titled Why Nutrition Is So Confusing
hes essentially complaining about the worthlessness of the
current body of diet research. This excerpt is worth quoting since
Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

Heres another possibility: The 600,000 articles along with

several tens of thousands of diet books are the noise
generated by a dysfunctional research establishment. Because
the nutrition research community has failed to establish
reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental
triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a
diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause,
cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the
existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesnt
exist to say unequivocally whos wrong.

I flatly disagree with the sentiments Taubes is expressing here.

Theres exactly zero chance that he is going to save the
supposedly sinking ship of obesity and diabetes research by
ushering in his own brand of methodologically perfect
investigations. The current body of nutrition research is
humming along nicely without any further carbophobic bias to
litter the landscape.
As for diabetes, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis by
Ajala et al had three notable findings: 1) The low-carbohydrate,
low-GI, Mediterranean, and high-protein diets all led to a greater
improvement in glycemic control compared with their respective
control diets (which included low-fat, high-GI, American
Diabetes Association, European Association for the Study of
Diabetes, and low-protein diets). 2) The low-carbohydrate diet
was the most effective for raising HDL. 3) The Mediterranean
diet showed the greatest improvements in glycemic control and
weight loss compared to the control diets. To quote their
In conclusion, our review of the existing literature on lowcarbohydrate, low-GI, Mediterranean, and high-protein diets
suggests that these diets may be effective in improving various
markers of cardiovascular risk in people with diabetes and
could have a wider role in the management of diabetes. Dietary
behaviors and choices are often personal, and it is usually more
realistic for a dietary modification to be individualized rather
than to use a one-size-fits-all approach for each person.

In other words, Ajala et al found that the government-issued

diets were outperformed by various alternative diets for
managing type 2 diabetes, but they failed to find anything
special about low-carbohydrate diets for this purpose. Wait a
minute, you mean they didnt identify any diet as the singularly
superior diabetes solution? Thats correct. If any magic was
found for improving glycemic control, it was seen mostly in the
Mediterranean diet, which the authors describe as rich in olive
oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruit, and vegetables, low in
meat/meat products, moderate in dairy products (mostly cheese
and yogurt), fish, and wine, with total fat typically at 2535% of
calories, and saturated fat at <8% of calories.
What about a magical anti-obesity dietsurely that exists, right?
Cant we just avoid certain foods, or even a certain culpable
macronutrient? Nope. This might come as a shock to Taubes, but
the magic anti-obesity diet is the one that enables the
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individual to sustain a caloric deficit over time. The composition

of this diet canand should betailored to the individual. Wu
and colleagues recently did an impressively thorough review of
the full range of diet types, from low-carb to low-fat, and
virtually everything in-between.3 The full text in PDF can be
downloaded here, please read it when you get a chance. To quote
their findings:
Moreover, the difference in weight loss among these diets is
only 1-2 kg or less, which appears to be of little clinical
significance. Thus, overweight and obese people can choose
many different weight-loss diets on the basis of their personal

Imagine that, choosing a weight loss diet based on personal

preference. Apparently, concepts such as flexibility, personal
preference, and individualization fall straight into the ignore
file by Taubes and others that share his magic bullet bias
towards low-carb diets.
The P-word
One little wrinkle I want to add here is the P-word, can you
guess what that is? Ill just end the suspense and say it: protein.
Feel free to chuckle at the fact that nowhere in Taubes 1265word article is the word protein mentionednot even once.
This clearly indicates a lack of awareness of proteins pivotal
role in optimizing weight loss diets. AARR readers are well
aware of my harping about the common failure to match protein
intake in studies that compare high- versus low-carb diets. With
low-carb diets almost invariably having higher protein (and their
comparators often having inadequate protein), a multitude of
advantages are carried by the low-carb conditions, including
greater satiety, thermic effect, and lean mass preservation.
This brings us to one of the biggest reasons diet research can
appear confusing. Its because researchers have thus far largely
neglected to match something as crucial as protein intake. A
recent study Ive referenced repeatedly is by Soenen et al, who
systematically demonstrated that its the higher protein content
rather than the lower carbohydrate content that imparts the
advantage for weight loss and weight loss maintenance.4 The
differences in protein intake between high- and low-carb
conditions is often substantial, but even small differences in
protein intake can have a significant impact. To illustrate, Ill
quote a recent review by Astrup et al,5 who were discussing the
findings of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis by
Clifton et al:6
A 3 times greater effect on fat mass was found in those studies
where a difference between the diets of 5% energy from
protein was still maintained at the end of the study, which was
nearly 1kg better than the normal protein diets. So, just an
increase in dietary protein content from say 16 to 21% of
energy is enough to produce a reduction in body fat that may
be of relevance for public health.

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

Conclusions about the confusion

Taubes message is that nutrition is confusing because the
current body of diet research consists of the noise generated by
a dysfunctional research establishment. The hidden translation
Im seeing is that Taubes is craving more scientific validation
for his preconception that the foothold of Big Grain and Big
Sugar on the research realm needs to be stopped by NuSi. Of
course, the problem is that this crusade is prone to be tainted by
his own Big Bias.
In addition to variable carbohydrate comparison studies
matching optimized protein intakes, the current body of diet
research is also lacking the inclusion of progressive resistance
training with the diet protocols. If Taubes wants to battle the
diabetes problem in the process of battling the obesity problem,
he needs to get current with the importance of resistance training
for maximizing the effectiveness of exercise programs designed
to improve glucose control.7,8 But of course, this could be tough
since a big part of his gimmick has been railing against the
effectiveness of exercise for weight loss. Conveying the
importance of resistance training could be especially difficult in
Taubes case because the question remains... Does he even lift?







Taubes G. Why Nutrition Is So Confusing. New York Times.

Feb 8, 2013. [NYT]
Ajala O, English P, Pinkney J. Systematic review and metaanalysis of different dietary approaches to the management of
type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):505-16.
Wu H, Wylie-Rosett J, Qi Q. Dietary Interventions for Weight
Loss and Maintenance: Preference or Genetic Personalization?
Curr Nutr Rep. 2013 Dec;2(4):189-98. [Springer Link]
Soenen S, Bonomi AG, Lemmens SG, Scholte J, Thijssen MA,
van Berkum F, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Relatively highprotein or low-carb energy-restricted diets for body weight
loss and body weight maintenance? Physiol Behav. 2012 Oct
10;107(3):374-80. [PubMed]
Astrup A, Wium Geiker NR, Efficacy of higher protein diets
for long-term weight control. How to assess quality of
randomized controlled trials?, Nutrition, Metabolism and
10.1016/j.numecd.2014.02.003. [Elsevier]
Clifton PM, Condo D, Keogh JB. ong term weight maintenance
after advice to consume low carbohydrate, higher protein diets
- A systematic review and meta analysis. Nutr Metab
Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Dec 20. pii: S0939-4753(13)00301-3.
doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2013.11.006. [Epub ahead of print]
Oliveira C, Simes M, Carvalho J, Ribeiro J. Combined
exercise for people with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic
review. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012 Nov;98(2):187-98.
Irvine C, Taylor NF. Progressive resistance exercise improves
glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a
systematic review. Aust J Physiother. 2009;55(4):237-46.

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Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h

muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.
Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL,
Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, PaddonJones D. J Nutr. 2014 Jan 29. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
BACKGROUND: The RDA for protein describes the quantity that
should be consumed daily to meet population needs and to prevent
deficiency. Protein consumption in many countries exceeds the
RDA; however, intake is often skewed toward the evening meal,
whereas breakfast is typically carbohydrate rich and low in protein.
DESIGN: We examined the effects of protein distribution on 24-h
skeletal muscle protein synthesis in healthy adult men and women
(n = 8; age: 36.9 3.1 y; BMI: 25.7 0.8 kg/m 2). By using a 7-d
crossover feeding design with a 30-d washout period, we measured
changes in muscle protein synthesis in response to isoenergetic and
isonitrogenous diets with protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner
distributed evenly (EVEN; 31.5 1.3, 29.9 1.6, and 32.7 1.6 g
protein, respectively) or skewed (SKEW; 10.7 0.8, 16.0 0.5, and
63.4 3.7 g protein, respectively). Over 24-h periods on days 1 and
7, venous blood samples and vastus lateralis muscle biopsy samples
were obtained during primed (2.0 mol/kg) constant infusion [0.06
mol/(kgmin)] of l-[ring-13C6]phenylalanine. RESULTS: The 24h mixed muscle protein fractional synthesis rate was 25% higher in
the EVEN (0.075 0.006%/h) vs. the SKEW (0.056 0.006%/h)
protein distribution groups (P = 0.003). This pattern was maintained
after 7 d of habituation to each diet (EVEN vs. SKEW: 0.077
0.006 vs. 0.056 0.006%/h; P = 0.001). CONCLUSION: The
consumption of a moderate amount of protein at each meal
stimulated 24-h muscle protein synthesis more effectively than
skewing protein intake toward the evening meal. SPONSORSHIP:
Supported in part by the Beef Checkoff (D.P.-J.). The study was
conducted with the support of the Institute for Translational
Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch, supported in
part by a Clinical and Translational Science Award
(UL1TR000071) from the National Center for Research Resources,
NIH. Support was also provided by the Claude D. Pepper Older
Americans Independence Center NIH/National Institute on Aging
grant P30 AG024832.

Study strengths
This study breaks new ground since its the first to assess the 24hour protein-synthetic effect of protein feeding distribution
within mixed meals (at maintenance caloric targets), as opposed
to the protein-only designs of preceding studies looking at
shorter (12-hour) periods.1,2 A cross-over alleviated the low
statistical power of the small 8-subject sample, allowing each
subject to undergo both conditions, which reduced the
confounding potential of inter-individual variation. Diets were
prepared and provided by the lab. All meals contained a variety
of high-quality proteins of plant and animal origin. Total
macronutrition between the EVEN and SKEW conditions was
matched, and overall control of the dietary variables was tight.

breakdown, since measuring the latter is problematic in nonsteady-state conditions such as the pos-exercise or post-prandial
state. For this reason, its common for acute-response studies to
only measure MPS. Another limitation they acknowledged
(which is rarely conceded by authors of these types of studies) is
the possibility that a greater total protein intake could have
pushed the anabolic effect further. As things stand, total protein
intake in both conditions was 90 g, which amounted to 1.17
g/kg. While this exceeds the RDA of 0.8 g/kg, it still falls short
of intakes known to maximize muscle anabolism (at least under
maintenance or surplus conditions), which are approximately
1.7-1.8 g/kg.3,4
So, while the protein intake in this study might be relevant for
some populations (such as the elderly and bed-ridden patients), it
lacks relevance to trainees involved in strength and bodybuilding
pursuits, who very commonly consume protein amounts that are
at least double that of the present study. For example, Lowery et
al found that protein-seeking strength trainers reported an
intake of 2.5 g/kg.5 In another example, Kim et al studied the
dietary habits and nutritional status of elite Korean bodybuilders,
who reported an intake of 4.3 g/kg.6 In my observations, those
pursuing muscle mass and strength habitually consume roughly
2.2-3.3 g/kg. This makes the present studys protein intake of
roughly 1.2 g/kg pale in comparison. Further limitations were
the short-term nature of the study, as well as the absence of
resistance exercise.
Comment /application
The main finding was that the EVEN condition (roughly 30 g
protein in each of the 3 meals) resulted in 25% greater 24-hour
MPS than in the SKEW condition (roughly 10, 15, & 65 g
protein in the 3 meals, respectively). At this point its important
to point out the potential role of hitting the so-called leucine
threshold for influencing the outcomes seen here. A wellsupported hypothesis is that a threshold amount of dietary
leucine (approximately 0.05 g/kg, or 2-3 g) is required to
saturate the mTOR pathway and initiate MPS.7 This threshold
dose is attained by roughly 30-40 g high-quality protein. Notice
how only 1 of the 3 meals in SKEW reached the leucine
threshold while all 3 meals in EVEN hit the leucine threshold.

Acknowledged by the authors was the inability to concurrently

measure muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and breakdown, which
leaves open questions about the other side of protein turnover.
They pointed to the logistical difficulty and invasiveness of a 3pool modeling technique in order to assess both synthesis and

To quote the authors, In conclusion, the consumption of a

moderate amount of high-quality protein 3 times a day provides
a more effective means of stimulating 24-h muscle protein
synthesis than the common practice of skewing protein intake
toward the evening meal. I feel that they showed a subtle bias
toward the supposed benefit of evenly distributing the protein,
when its possible that the MPS differences would disappear as
long as a sufficient dose of protein to elicit a robust anabolic
response was reached in each meal, regardless of skewing. A
consistency of research shows that 20-25 g protein maximizes
the acute anabolic response in younger subjects.4 My hunch is
that if they compared the even (30-30-30 g) distribution with a
skewed one comprised of 20-20-50 g, the differences in 24-hour
MPS would be minimal. However, as stated earlier, the results of
the present study have relevance to older subjects especially
those with lower total daily protein intake. A require a higher
protein dose (35-40 g) has been seen to maximize the acute
anabolic response in this population.8,9

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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Study limitations

Page 4

Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese

postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial.
Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, Eriksson M, Brage S,
Larsson C, Olsson T, and Lindahl B. European Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, advance online publication 29 January 2014;
doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.290 [EJCN]
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Short-term studies have
suggested beneficial effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet (PD) on
body weight and metabolic balance. We now report the longterm effects of a pd on anthropometric measurements and
metabolic balance in obese postmenopausal women, in
comparison with a diet according to the nordic nutrition
recommendations (NNR). SUBJECTS/METHODS: Seventy
obese postmenopausal women (mean age 60 years, body mass
index 33kg/m2) were assigned to an ad libitum PD or NNR diet
in a 2-year randomized controlled trial. The primary outcome
was change in fat mass as measured by dual-energy X-ray
absorptiometry. RESULTS: Both groups significantly
decreased total fat mass at 6 months (6.5 and2.6kg) and 24
months (4.6 and2.9kg), with a more pronounced fat loss in
the PD group at 6 months (P<0.001) but not at 24 months
(P=0.095). Waist circumference and sagittal diameter also
decreased in both the groups, with a more pronounced decrease
in the PD group at 6 months (11.1 vs5.8cm, P=0.001
and3.7 vs2.0cm, P<0.001, respectively). Triglyceride levels
decreased significantly more at 6 and 24 months in the PD
group than in the NNR group (P<0.001 and P=0.004). Nitrogen
excretion did not differ between the groups. CONCLUSIONS:
A PD has greater beneficial effects vs an NNR diet regarding fat
mass, abdominal obesity and triglyceride levels in obese
postmenopausal women; effects not sustained for
anthropometric measurements at 24 months. Adherence to
protein intake was poor in the PD group. The long-term
consequences of these changes remain to be studied.
SPONSORSHIP: This study was supported by grants from The
Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (20060699 and 2010-0398), the Swedish Research Council (K201112237-15-6), the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, the
County Council of Vasterbotten and Ume University, Sweden.

Study limitations
One of the very common limitations of diet comparisons and
this one is no exception is that the differences in
macronutrition make it impossible to isolate the effect of the
food choices characterizing each diet. This is the studys most
crucial confounding aspect. Another limitation was the absence
of a formal exercise program. Training positively influences a
wide range of health parameters, so in a sense its justified to
leave it out in order to isolate the effects of diet. However,
focusing on diet alone is not a reflection of wellness
improvement protocols in the real world, which include
simultaneous diet and exercise interventions which can
positively impact health, independent of weight loss.10 Another
limitation is the potential for these outcomes to only apply to the
subject profile (obese, post-menopausal women). Dropout was
higher than expected (37% in NNR and 23% in PD). The larger
the drop-out, the greater the question of how subject retention
might have differently affected the outcomes. A final limitation
is that self-reported intakes have inherently compromised
accuracy although granted, its not feasible for the lab to
prepare and provide dietary intake for a 2-year trial.

Study strengths
This study is the longest study (2 years) to compare a Paleo-type
diet (PD) with a government-guideline diet, which in this case
was the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR), resembling
the typical high-carb, moderate-fat, low-protein model that has
been promoted by most of the major health organizations for the
past 4 decades or so. Good care was taken to ensure the subjects
aptitude at carrying out the diets. Each group attended a total of
12 group sessions held by a trained dietitian (one dietitian per
diet) throughout the 24-month period. Sessions included
information on and cooking of the intervention diets, behavioral
changes, and group discussions. Body composition was assessed
via dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Anthropometric measures
were taken as well as a relatively broad range of health markers.
Free-living physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) was
estimated at baseline, 6 months, and 24 months, using data
collected over a 7-day period with a combined accelerometer
and heart rate monitor.

The authors hypothesis that the PD would outperform the NNR

at fat loss by the end of the 2-year trial did not pan out. As
depicted above, fat and weight decrease (and all related
anthropometric measurements) were significantly greater in PD
at the 6-month mark, but no significant differences in any of
those parameters were seen at the 2-year mark. Aside from
triglycerides which had a greater decrease in the PD, no
significant between-group differences were seen in the decreased
cardiometabolic risk markers at the 2-year mark.

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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One particularly interesting and potentially important finding

was that both groups failed to meet their targeted macronutrient
intakes. The PD group did not meet the targeted protein intake of
30% of total energy. Baseline was 17.1%, at 6 months it was
23.4%, and at 24 months it was 21.9. The NNR groups baseline
intake of 17.2% was barely changed at each assessment point
(18.8% at 6 months, 17.3 at 24 months). Absolute amounts of
Page 5

protein in the PD & NNR respectively were 84.4 g & 85.2 g at

baseline, 93.7 g & 76.5 g at 6 months, and 84.8 g & 73.4 g at 24
months. As you can see, the difference in protein intake
diminished by the final checkpoint from a moderate amount to a
trivial amount. Nevertheless, the difference in protein intake
alone has the potential to account for the significant weight, fat,
and circumference differences seen at the 6-month point, at
which protein content in PD increased from 17.1 to 23.4%. On
the subject of small differences in protein intake having
significant impact, a recent systematic and meta-analysis by
review by Clifton et al noted a threefold greater effect size on fat
mass in studies where the protein difference between diets was
as little as 5%:11
The differences in carbohydrate intake in the present study are
noteworthy as well. Absolute amounts of carbohydrate in the PD
& NNR respectively were 224 g & 222 g at baseline, 120 g &
181.2 g at 6 months, and 136.8 & 189.5 at 24 months. As you
can see, the carbohydrate differences are substantial regardless
of this difference diminishing from the 6-month to the 24-month
point. Reductions in dietary carbohydrate have been consistently
seen to reduce triglyceride levels,12,13 so this outcome is no
Another notable outcome was the difference in total energy
intake between groups. The PD group had a 19% and 20% lower
energy intake at 6 and 24 months respectively, while the NNR
group had an 18% and 12% lower energy intake. This raises the
possibility that the PD was more satiating than NNR. The
authors speculate that it may have been the higher
monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acid
(PUFA), and protein content of the PD that imparted this effect.
While I wouldnt give too much credence to the fatty acid profile
of PD playing a meaningful role (no plausible basis for this
immediately comes to mind), I would agree that the protein
difference did play a role. Another thing Id add here is that the
food choices in PD could have contributed to the greater
satiating effect, as seen previously in work by Jnsson et al.14 To
quote my commentary in the November 2010 issue of AARR,
where I cite Holt et al:15
Another possible explanation was that the carbohydrate type
may have played a role. The Paleo groups fruit intake was the
major source of carbohydrate in the diet. It was double that of
the Mediterranean group, who consumed a significant
proportion of their carbohydrate from cereal grains. Classic
work by Holt et al showed that fruits as a group have a high
satiating capacity, surpassing other carbohydrate sources,
including grain foods by a small margin

Its easy to assume that an increased fruit intake occurred as a

result of grain avoidance. However, sucrose intake in the NNR
group showed a greater decrease than that of the PD group,
which makes a higher fruit intake in PD unlikely. Ultimately,
this study is simply not a compelling case for going Paleo
(avoiding grains, legumes, and dairy). Once again, this is
primarily due to the failure to match macronutrition. Im
wondering how many more Paleo diet comparison studies will
be published before this imbalance is addressed. Notably, this
study does not support the zealously pro-saturated fat/anti-PUFA
position popular among a large segment of the Paleo crowd.
Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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Cardiovascular and ride time-to-exhaustion effects of

an energy drink.
Nelson MT, Biltz GR, Dengel DR. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014
Jan 22;11(1):2. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
BACKGROUND: Currently, there are few studies on the
cardiovascular and fatigue effects of commercially available energy
drinks. PURPOSE: This study investigated the effects of Monster
energy drink (Monster Beverage Corporation, Corona, California), on
resting heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), ride time-toexhaustion, peak exercise HR, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), and
peak rating of perceived exertion (RPE). METHODS: The study used a
double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled, crossover design. After
an 8-hr fast, 15 subjects consumed Monster Energy Drink (ED
standardized to 2.0 mg * kg-1 caffeine) or a flavor-matched placebo
preexercise. Resting HR and HRV were determined. After an initial
submaximal workload for 30 minutes, subjects completed 10 min at
80% ventilatory threshold (VT) and rode until volitional fatigue at
100% VT. RESULTS: Resting HR was significantly different (ED:
65+/-10 bpm vs. placebo: 58+/-8 bpm, p = 0.02), but resting HRV was
not different between the energy drink and placebo trials. Ride time-toexhaustion was not significantly different between trials (ED: 45.5+/9.8 vs. placebo: 43.8+/-9.3 min, p = 0.62). No difference in peak RPE
(ED: 9.1 +/- 0.5 vs. placebo: 9.0 +/- 0.8, p = 1.00) nor peak HR (ED:
177 +/- 11 vs. placebo: 175 +/- 12, p = 0.73) was seen. The RER at 30%
of VT was significantly different (ED: 0.94 +/- 0.06 vs. placebo: 0.91
+/- 0.05, p = 0.046), but no difference between the two conditions were
seen at the other intensities. CONCLUSION: Although preexercise
ingestion of the energy drink does increase resting HR there was no
alteration in HRV parameters. Ride time-to-exhaustion was not
enhanced. SPONSORSHIP: This work was funded in part by the
Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation (Salt Lake City, UT,
USA) (TB).

Study strengths
This is a particularly relevant topic since the consumption of
stimulant-based energy drinks are the second-most popular
supplements behind multi-vitamins in American adolescent
and young adult population,16 and are also reported to be the
most popular supplement among elite young UK athletes. 17 To
my knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effect of the
popular Monster energy drink on resting heart rate (HR) and HR
variability (HRV) as well as endurance capacity. The crossover
design enabled each subject to undergo both conditions, thereby
reducing the confounding potential of inter-individual variation.
Verbal encouragement by training staff ensured maximal
performance effort.
Study limitations
There is some debate over the validity of time-to-exhaustion
(TTE) as a reliable measure of real-world competitive
performance. TTE models have been found to have greater
variability and thus poor reproducibility than time trials
(which measure the time it takes to do a fixed amount of work,
or the amount of work within a fixed amount of time), 18,19 the
authors themselves acknowledged the potential limitation of the
caffeine dose used in the experimental treatement, which was 2
g/kg. It can be argued that this does was not high enough to be
significantly ergogenic, especially in a population whose
habitual caffeine intake was not reported in this manuscript. The
bulk of the evidence points to 3-6 mg/kg being effective for
Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

improving performance.20 Another limitation was the lack of

standardization of the evening meal prior to performance testing
the next day (especially in terms of carbohydrate). Its possible
that variations in muscle glycogen content could have
confounded the TTE results, but as mentioned earlier, a
crossover design served to reduce potential variation across
What follows are the results of selected performance parameters
TTE, peak rate of perceived exertion (RPE, 10-point Borg
category scale), as well as peak exercise HR:

TTE (min)


HR (bpm)

The main findings were that Monster failed to increase

endurance capacity, nor did it have any significant impact on
HRV. These results support previous work by Candow et al,
who saw a lack of effect of Red Bull energy drink (sugar-free
version) on high-intensity TTE.21 The caffeine dose in the latter
study within Red Bull was the same as that of the present study
(2 In contrast, Forbes et al found the regular version of
Red Bull (with sugar, 0.65 g/kg, and the same amount of
caffeine as the sugar-free version) to increase muscle endurance
measured via number of bench press repetitions, but not power
measured via Wingate testing.22 The latter study is supported
at least partially by a recent systematic review by Conger et al
who found that carbohydrate co-ingested with caffeine provides
a significant but small effect to improve endurance performance
compared with CHO alone.23
Perhaps the main concern with popular energy drinks such as
Monster and Red Bull is safety. Here are the safety-related
guidelines on energy drink (ED) and energy shots (ES)
consumption, as outlined by the latest position stand of the
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: 24
Many ED and ES contain numerous ingredients; these
products in particular merit further study to demonstrate
their safety and potential effects on physical and mental
Athletes should consider the impact of ingesting high
glycemic load carbohydrates on metabolic health, blood
glucose and insulin levels, as well as the effects of caffeine
and other stimulants on motor skill performance.
Children and adolescents should only consider use of ED or
ES with parental approval after consideration of the amount
of carbohydrate, caffeine, and other nutrients contained in
the ED or ES and a thorough understanding of the potential
side effects.
Indiscriminate use of ED or ES, especially if more than one
serving per day is consumed, may lead to adverse events
and harmful side effects.
Diabetics and individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular,
metabolic, hepatorenal, and neurologic disease who are
taking medications that may be affected by high glycemic
load foods, caffeine, and/or other stimulants should avoid
use of ED and/or ES unless approved by their physician.
[Back to Contents]

Page 7

High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT)

influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory
ratio in non-dieting individuals.
Paoli A, Moro T, Marcolin G, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A,
Grimaldi K. J Transl Med. 2012 Nov 24;10:237. doi:
10.1186/1479-5876-10-237. [PubMed]
BACKGROUND: The benefits of exercise are well established
but one major barrier for many is time. It has been proposed that
short period resistance training (RT) could play a role in weight
control by increasing resting energy expenditure (REE) but the
effects of different kinds of RT has not been widely reported.
METHODS: We tested the acute effects of high-intensity
interval resistance training (HIRT) vs. traditional resistance
training (TT) on REE and respiratory ratio (RR) at 22hours
post-exercise. In two separate sessions, seventeen trained males
carried out HIRT and TT protocols. The HIRT technique
consists of: 6 repetitions, 20seconds rest, 2/3 repetitions, 20 secs
rest, 2/3 repetitions with 2'30 rest between sets, three exercises
for a total of 7 sets. TT consisted of eight exercises of 4 sets of
8-12 repetitions with one/two minutes rest with a total amount of
32 sets. We measured basal REE and RR (TT0 and HIRT0) and
22hours after the training session (TT22 and HIRT22).
RESULTS: HIRT showed a greater significant increase
(p<0.001) in REE at 22hours compared to TT (HIRT22
2362118 Kcal/d vs TT22 199988 Kcal/d). RR at HIRT22
was significantly lower (0.7980.010) compared to both HIRT0
(0.8270.006) and TT22 (0.8220.008). CONCLUSIONS:
Our data suggest that shorter HIRT sessions may increase REE
after exercise to a greater extent than TT and may reduce RR
hence improving fat oxidation. The shorter exercise time
commitment may help to reduce one major barrier to exercise.
SPONSORSHIP: Supported by laboratory research funds at
University of Padova.
Study strengths
This study investigates the very interesting and important
question of how to maximize energy expenditure while
minimizing the time to do it. Subjects were resistance-trained,
with 4-6 years of experience. This helps circumvent the newbie
gains phenomenon, where novice trainees respond similarly
and dramatically to any protocol thrown at them, masking
differential effects that might be seen in those past the novice
stage. During the 3 days before each training session and during
the day after, subjects were provided a standard diet that
provided designed to meet the free-living energy requirement
estimate according to self-reported physical activity levels. Preand post-intervention dietary intake was software analyzed. This
dietary control measure reduced the potential for confounding
variations in diet that could differently affect performance. This
is the first study to compare the acute effects of high-intensity
interval resistance training (HIRT) with conventional training.

supramaximal/to-failure interval training might not be suitable

for the limited capabilities of the untrained/obese population. I
would also add that the injured and frail elderly or any
populations with a compromised ability to train with high loads
would not be viable candidates for this training regime, whose
6 RM intensity translates to 80-85% of 1RM (taken to failure).
Furthermore, the acute (short-term) nature of the study leaves
open questions about how outcomes such as strength,
hypertrophy, and body fat might have been affected in a chronic
(long-term) comparison of the training protocols.
The main findings were a markedly greater increase in REE in
HIRT (432 kcal) than in TT (98 kcal) by 22-hours post-exercise.
At 22.6%, the REE increase seen in HIRT is greater than
anything seen thus far from resistance training. Research
examining REE increases from resistance training have ranged
from 4-20%, depending largely on intensity (load proximity to 1
RM). Shuenke et al saw a 21.2% REE increase at 24 hours using
a traditional-type protocol (8-12 reps with 2-minute inter-set rest
intervals),25 while Heden et al, using significantly lower
intensity, reported only about a 5% increase. 26 Respiratory ratio
(RR a measure of relative substrate oxidation) was lower in
HIRT as well, indicating greater fat oxidation. These make it a
doubly favorable result for HIRT compared to TT.
The mechanisms behind the greater REE increase are poorly
understood, but among several speculations, its possible that the
greater metabolic stress and accompanying hormonal cascades
and increased protein turnover caused by the higher intensity of
training are at least partially responsible. The mechanisms
behind the lower RR & increased fat oxidation are also
unknown, but potential mechanisms include the shunting of
glucose toward glycogen resynthesis thereby allowing less
competition with lipids as the preferred substrate for oxidation.
Other possible mechanisms involve increases in AMPk, ANP,
GH, cytokines, and other peptides that can exert hormonal
effects. An interesting aspect of these findings is that the total
volume of work (loads x sets x repetitions) in HIRT (3872.4 kg)
was only about half of the total work volume in TT (7835.2 kg).
The description of the HIRT protocol in the manuscript is as
The HIRT technique consisted of three series of 6RM followed
by rest for 20seconds; then the subject lifts the same weight
until reaching the point of failure (habitually 2 repetitions)
followed by 20seconds rest then another 2/3 repetitions [8,1921]. This sequence counted as one set, then subjects rested
230 before performing a second and third set. Leg exercise
included 3 sets with 230 of rest between sets [21,22] whilst
pectoral and latissimus dorsi consisted of two sets. The training
session lasted approximately 32minutes (including the warm
up period).

Ironically, the authors point to the trained state of the subjects as

a limitation (I identified it as a strength). They mentioned that

Its worth mentioning that the above protocol is one of many

possible permutations of HIRT, and its possible to take the
general principles and experiment/adapt them to your personal
preference and tolerance. One such permutation that has
garnered acclaim in the trenches is Borge Fagerlis hypertrophyoriented Myo-Reps protocol, which is explained here.27

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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Study limitations

Page 8

Areta JL, Burke LM, Ross ML, Camera DM, West DW,
Broad EM, Jeacocke NA, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T,
Phillips SM, Hawley JA, Coffey VG. Timing and
distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery
from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein
synthesis. J Physiol. 2013 May 1;591(Pt 9):2319-31.
2. Moore DR, Areta J, Coffey VG, Stellingwerff T, Phillips
SM, Burke LM, Clroux M, Godin JP, Hawley JA. Daytime
pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body
protein turnover in resistance-trained males. Nutr Metab
(Lond). 2012 Oct 16;9(1):91. [PubMed]
3. 4. Rodriguez NR, DiMarco NM, Langley S; American
Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American
College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic
Performance. Position of the American Dietetic Association,
Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports
Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet
Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):509-27. [PubMed]
4. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes:
from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci.
2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. [PubMed]
5. Lowery LM, Daugherty A, Miller B, Dye S, Liming L. The
effect of habitually large protein intake on renal function of
strength athletes: an update. J In Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 Nov,
8(Suppl 1):P33 [JISSN]
6. Kim H, Lee S, Choue R. Metabolic responses to high
protein diet in Korean elite bodybuilders with high-intensity
resistance exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 Jul
4;8(1):10. [Epub ahead of print] [Pubmed]
7. Norton LE, Wilson GJ. Optimal protein intake to maximize
muscle protein synthesis: examinations of optimal meal
protein intake. Agro Food Industry Hi-Tech. 2009;20(2).
[AFIHT] [full-text PDF]
8. Pennings B1, Groen B, de Lange A, Gijsen AP, Zorenc AH,
Senden JM, van Loon LJ. Amino acid absorption and
subsequent muscle protein accretion following graded
intakes of whey protein in elderly men. Am J Physiol
Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Apr 15;302(8):E992-9. [Pubmed]
9. Yang Y1, Breen L, Burd NA, Hector AJ, ChurchwardVenne TA, Josse AR, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM.
Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis
with graded intakes of whey protein in older men. Br J Nutr.
2012 Nov 28;108(10):1780-8. [Pubmed]
10. Gaesser GA1, Angadi SS, Sawyer BJ. Exercise and diet,
independent of weight loss, improve cardiometabolic risk
profile in overweight and obese individuals. Phys
Sportsmed. 2011 May;39(2):87-97. [Pubmed]
11. Clifton PM, Condo D, Keogh JB. ong term weight
maintenance after advice to consume low carbohydrate,
higher protein diets - A systematic review and meta
analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Dec 20. pii:
10.1016/j.numecd.2013.11.006. [Epub ahead of print]
12. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of effects of
long-term low-fat vs high-fat diets on blood lipid levels in
overweight or obese patients: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Dec;113(12):1640-61.

13. Santos FL, Esteves SS, da Costa Pereira A, Yancy WS Jr,

Nunes JP. Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical
trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on
Nov;13(11):1048-66. [Pubmed]
14. Jnsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahrn B,
Lindeberg S. A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie
than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic
heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7:85.
15. Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E. A satiety
index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995
Sep;49(9):675-90. [Pubmed]
16. Campbell B1, Wilborn C, La Bounty P, Taylor L, Nelson
MT, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Lopez HL, Hoffman
JR, Stout JR, Schmitz S, Collins R, Kalman DS, Antonio J,
Kreider RB. International Society of Sports Nutrition
position stand: energy drinks. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013
Jan 3;10(1):1. [Pubmed]
17. Petrczi A, Naughton DP, Pearce G, Bailey R, Bloodworth
A, McNamee M. Nutritional supplement use by elite young
UK athletes: fallacies of advice regarding efficacy. J Int Soc
Sports Nutr. 2008 Dec 15;5:22. [Pubmed]
18. Jeukendrup A, Saris WH, Brouns F, Kester AD. A new
validated endurance performance test. Med Sci Sports
Exerc. 1996 Feb;28(2):266-70. [PubMed]
19. Hopkins WG, Schabort EJ, Hawley JA. Reliability of power
in physical performance tests. Sports Med. 2001;31(3):21134. [PubMed]
20. Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, Kreider R,
Campbell B, Wilborn C, Taylor L, Willoughby D, Stout J,
Graves BS, Wildman R, Ivy JL, Spano M, Smith AE,
Antonio J. International society of sports nutrition position
stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010
Jan 27;7(1):5. [PubMed]
21. Candow DG, Kleisinger AK, Grenier S, Dorsch KD. Effect
of sugar-free Red Bull energy drink on high-intensity run
time-to-exhaustion in young adults. J Strength Cond Res.
2009 Jul;23(4):1271-5. [PubMed]
22. Forbes SC, Candow DG, Little JP, Magnus C, Chilibeck
PD. Effect of Red Bull energy drink on repeated Wingate
cycle performance and bench-press muscle endurance. Int J
Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Oct;17(5):433-44. [PubMed]
23. Conger SA, Warren GL, Hardy MA, Millard-Stafford ML.
Does caffeine added to carbohydrate provide additional
ergogenic benefit for endurance? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc
Metab. 2011 Feb;21(1):71-84. [PubMed]
24. Campbell B, Wilborn C, La Bounty P, Taylor L, Nelson
MT, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Lopez HL, Hoffman
JR, Stout JR, Schmitz S, Collins R, Kalman DS, Antonio J,
Kreider RB. International Society of Sports Nutrition
position stand: energy drinks. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013
Jan 3;10(1):1. [PubMed]
25. Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM. Effect of an acute
period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen
consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur
J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7. [PubMed]
26. Heden T, Lox C, Rose P, Reid S, Kirk EP. One-set
resistance training elevates energy expenditure for 72 h
similar to three sets. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011
Mar;111(3):477-84. [PubMed]
27. Fagerli B. Myo-reps a time-efficient method for maximum
muscle growth. May 1, 2012. []

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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Page 9

Statistics arent so bad!

By Jamie Hale
Learning about stats will help you think in terms of probabilities,
and allow you to gain a better understanding of research data.
Statistics are not easy, but with some effort the basics can be
learned by most people. We can begin the demystifying by
providing a simple definition:
Statistic: One number that summarizes a
characteristic of a set of numbers

property or

Descriptive and inferential statistics

Descriptive statistics are numerical measures that describe a
population by providing information on the central tendency of
the distribution, the width of distribution (dispersion, or
variability), the shape of distribution (Jackson, 2009). Inferential
statistics are procedures that allow us to make an inference from
a sample to the population. That is, we are able to make
generalizations about a population based on the information
derived from the sample.
The importance of statistics
A key reason we need statistics is to be able to effectively
interpret research. Without statistics it would be very difficult to
analyze the collected data and make decisions based on the data.
Statistics give us an overview of the data and allow us to make
sense of what is going on. Without statistics, in many cases, it
would be extremely difficult to find meaning in the data.
Statistics provides us with a tool to make an educated inference.
Most scientific and technical journals contain some form of
statistics. Without an understanding of statistics, the statistical
information contained in the journal will be meaningless. An
understanding of basic statistics will provide you with the
fundamental skills necessary to read and evaluate most results
sections. The ability to extract meaning from journal articles,
and the ability to evaluate research from a statistical perspective
are basic skills that will increase your knowledge and
understanding of the article of interest.

address probabilities rather than basic equations. When I talk

with religious people about the importance of statistics, and they
question its relevance, I say, Statistics is the best tool for
humans to understand how Gods creation works. We may
never know the complete picture, but statistics give us the best
possible estimate.
Beware of person-who statistics!
Results of scientific studies are stated in probabilistic terms.
Science is not in the business of making claims of absolute
certainty (refer to bead model of truth). When science describes,
predicts or explains something, it is understood that the
conclusion is tentative. This willingness to admit fallibility is
one of sciences biggest strengths. In virtually every other area
of knowledge acquisition, admitting fallibility is not a virtue, but
a weakness. Person-who statistics: situations in which wellestablished statistical trends are questioned because someone
knows a person who went against the trend (Stanovich, 2007).
For example, Look at my grandpa, he is ninety years old, has
been smoking since he was in thirteen, and is still healthy, this
statement is implying smoking is not bad for health.
Learning to think probabilistically is an important trait, and can
lead to more accurate thinking. Person-who statistics is an
ubiquitous phenomenon. People like assertions that reflect
certainty. Statistical, scientific thinking is not about absolute
certainty. The conclusions drawn from scientific research are
probabilistic- generalizations that are correct most of the time,
but not every time. People often weight anecdotal evidence more
heavily than probabilistic information. This is an error in
thinking, leads to bad decisions, and often, irrational thinking.
Recently, I was asked, what is the minimal amount someone
needs to know about statistics in order to read the Results of a
study? It is hard to provide an answer to this question. The
statistics reported in the Results section varies. Although it is
hard to provide an answer regarding the previously mentioned
question, it will be beneficial in regards to a basic understanding
of stats to review and understand the questions and answers
provided below.
Research methods & statistics: FAQ
What is a frequency distribution table?

My answer to why stats is important is that pretty much

everything operates based on probability. Even some of the
"hard" sciences are starting to realize that phenomena that used
to only require a basic equation are now having to factor in
probability to account for all that they observe. To understand
events that occur in our daily lives, including understanding
other peoples behaviors, the economy, and health, we have to

A frequency distribution table presents all of the individual

scores in the distribution. Disorganized scores are placed in
order from lowest to highest, grouping together individuals who
have the same score. The frequency distribution table allows a
quick look at the entire range of scores. The frequency
distribution also allows you to see the location of a single score
relative to the other scores. When there is a large range of scores
it is recommended that a grouped frequency table be used. Keep
in mind; a key purpose for constructing a frequency table is to
reflect a relatively simple, organized picture of the entire range
of scores. However, when the number of scores is large using a
frequency table is not practical, is time consuming and not
simple to read. Presenting the scores in a relatively simple,
organized manner requires a group frequency distribution table.

Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

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Gaining knowledge in the area of statistics will help you become

a better-informed consumer. If you understand basic statistical
concepts, you will be in a better position to evaluate the
information you have been given. Recently I asked Dr. Jonathan
Gore (Hale, 2012) the following question: Why is a basic
understanding of stats important for the public?

Page 10

When using the group frequency distribution table groups of

scores are presented rather than individual scores. The groups
are called class intervals. Intervals are often presented when
individual scores arent as important as the range of scores, such
as when teachers check to see how many students received As,
Bs, Cs, etc. on an exam.

As an example, three 1-hour sessions will be more

beneficial than one 3-hour session.
Testing: Test yourself on a regular basis.
Minimize stress: High stress levels are detrimental to
working memory and the formation of explicit long term

What is the distinction between a parameter and a statistic?

Parameter- is a value, usually numerical, that describes a
characteristic of the population. Populations yield different
parameters, depending on the characteristic of interest.
Populations yield parameters, and samples yield statistics.
Parameters and statistics are numerical measures that represent
characteristics of populations and samples. A parameter is
generally derived from measurements of individuals in a
population (entire group- people, nonhuman animals or objectsa researcher is interested in). A statistic is generally derived
from measurements of individuals in a sample (participants/
subjects in a study used to represent population of interest).
How do descriptive statistics describe a distribution?
Descriptive statistics are numerical measures that describe a
distribution by providing information on the central tendency of
the distribution, the width of distribution (variability or
dispersion), and the shape of the distribution. Descriptive
statistics describe, organize, and summarize information.
Understanding descriptive statistics will make learning how to
use inferential statistics much easier. Inferential statistics often
use descriptive statistics when making calculations.
What is alpha level?
Alpha level refers to the level at which we find statistical
significance (difference is large enough that it probably did not
occur due to chance, there is a real difference). For example, if
we say a finding is statistically significant at .05 alpha level, we
mean that our finding could have occurred by chance only 5% of
the time. If we use an alpha level of .01 we mean that our
finding could have occurred by 140 chance only 1% of the time.
The alpha level (level of significance) is a probability value, in a
hypothesis test, that is used to define the concept of very
unlikely. Very unlikely means the result is very unlikely due
to chance.
Statistics are difficult to learn for many people. Are there any
suggestions that can be used to enhance learning?
Focused attention: Minimize distractions (be attentive to
desired sensory inputs while ignoring distractorsunwanted sensory inputs).
Deep processing: Think deeply about the meaning of the
material you are studying.
Memory connections: Try to connect the material you are
attempting to learn to other items you already have in
Spaced Study effects: Multiple, short study sessions
promote learning better than long marathon like sessions.
Alan Aragons Research Review January 2014

In the words of Dr. Osbaldiston (Research Methods and

Statistics Teacher, Eastern Kentucky University) Repetition is
the mother of all skills
If you are interested in learning more about Research Methods
and Stats refer to the sources below:
Recommended sources
Gravetter, F.J., Wallnau, L.B. (2013). Statistics for the Behavioral
Sciences (9th edition). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Jackson, S.L. (2009). Research Methods and Statistics: A critical
thinking approach (3rd edition). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage
Keshav, S. (2007). How to read a paper. ACM Sigcomm Computer
Communication Review, 37(3), 83-84.
Little, J.W., & Parker, R. (2010). How to read a scientific paper.
Mitchell, M.L., & Jolley, J.M. (2010). Research Design Explained
(7th edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Morling, B. (2012). Research Methods in Psychology: Evaluating a
World of Information. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company,
Myers, A., & Hansen, C. (2002). Experimental Psychology (5th
edition). Australia: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.
Patten, M.L. (2004). Understanding Research Methods: An
overview of the essentials (4th edition). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak
Pyrczak, F., & Bruce, R.R. (2003). Writing Empirical Research
Reports: A basic guide for students of the behavioral sciences. Los
Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.
Shaughnessy, J.J., & Zechmeister, E.B. (1990). Research Methods
in Psychology (2nd edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
Publishing Company.

Psychology), is a university instructor,
author, primary researcher, science writer,
and fitness & nutrition consultant. He is an
experimental researcher specializing in
behavioral nutrition and cognitive science.
He has conducted primary research in the
areas of attention, memory, and behavioral
nutrition. He is available for lectures and
seminars. Jamie can be contacted at Visit Knowledge
Summit ( to learn more about Jamie.

[Back to Contents]

Page 11

Will diet beverages make you fat?

By Alan Aragon
Consider the following headlines, all popping up within the past
year in high-profile online news media:
Diet soda could cause weight gain, not loss MSN News
Study: Diet soda doesn't help you lose weight USA Today
10 reasons to give up diet soda Fox News
The list goes on and on. Its a safe assumption that the publics
perceptions of various health claims are strongly influenced by
news stories, especially those with plenty of exposure and
repetition. The claim in question is that artificially sweetened
(diet) beverages are just as fattening, or even more so, than
sugar-sweetened beverages. Well now, isnt that a bummer! But
of course, as science-minded folks, our duty is to consider the
weight of the research evidence. But before we do that, lets
begin with a look at how the concern over diet beverages might
have originated.
More obesity, more suspects
Trends of overweight and obesity prevalence show the sharpest
rise occurring in the 1980s through the late 1990s, after which
point a much flatter but statistically significant increase has
occurred until the present time.1 More than two-thirds of the
adult population qualifies as overweight, and more than a third
qualifies as obese. Since the early 1960s, the prevalence of adult
obesity has more than doubled in the present day (13.4% versus
35.7% now). If you reach enough, diet beverage consumption
trends can be interpreted to have loosely followed the obesity
trend, since non-nutritive sweetener intake increased markedly
in the United States and globally over the past 3 decades.2
Cephalic phase stimulation & insulin response
It has been hypothesized that diet beverages can cause cephalic
phase (before food enters the stomach) stimulation of neurogenic
and hormonal factors that can increase appetite. The converse
has been hypothesized as well; that a lack of cephalic phase
stimulation leads to increased subsequent energy intake.
However, both of these proposed mechanisms involving the
cephalic phase lack a consistent or compelling evidence basis.2
Concerns over insulin release via non-nutritive sweeteners have
also been raised. Diet sweeteners vary in their ability to raise
insulin in the cephalic phase. For example, aspartame has failed
to show an insulinogenic effect, while the less commonly used
saccharin has shown an insulinogenic effect. However, this
concern with insulinogenesis is somewhat moot, since acute
insulin elevation is actually appetite-suppressive.3

studies leave us with large question marks. Along similar lines

when discussing relevance, observational research often gets
shafted for being unable to demonstrate causation, but its part of
the evidence puzzle nonetheless, and thus should not be ignored.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, observational data examining the
relationship of diet beverages and bodyweight is mixed, running
the gamut outcomes from a positive association, no association,
to an inverse association.4-6 An important concept to keep in
mind is the potential for reverse causality. In other words, obese
individuals may have a tendency to consume diet beverages in
order to try to lose weight (or mitigate weight gain), as opposed
to the diet beverages themselves causing the state of obesity.
This substantial body of equivocal results begs for the rigor of
controlled experimental research, so well look at that next.
Interventional data
Interventional research carried out past acute periods is where
we find the strongest data for or against the use of diet beverages
since they have the potential to establish causation. The body of
controlled data is not vast, but its telling, nevertheless. Trials
involving normal-weight and obese subjects lasting 3-10 weeks
comparing sugar-sweetened beverages with diet beverages have
shown the latter to result in weight loss as opposed to weight
gain in the non-diet beverage intake.8,9 Longer trials lasting 6
months have shown either modest weight loss,10 a lack of
diffecence,11 or the prevention of weight gain when sugarsweetened beverages were replaced with diet beverages.12 So,
based on the evidence as a whole, the claim that diet beverages
will make you fat is a load of you-know-what.


Weight Control information Network, US Department of Health and Human

Services/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Overweight and Obesity Statistics. Last Modified: March 12, 2013. [WIN]
Mattes RD, Popkin BM. Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects
on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr.
2009 Jan;89(1):1-14. [PubMed]
Pliquett RU, Fhrer D, Falk S, Zysset S, von Cramon DY, Stumvoll M. The
effects of insulin on the central nervous system--focus on appetite regulation.
Horm Metab Res. 2006 Jul;38(7):442-6. [PubMed]
Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling
the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight
gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Aug;16(8):1894-900. [PubMed]
Vanselow MS, Pereira MA, Neumark-Sztainer D, Raatz SK. Adolescent
beverage habits and changes in weight over time: findings from Project EAT.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec;90(6):1489-95. [PubMed]
Stellman SD, Garfinkel L. Artificial sweetener use and one-year weight change
among women. Prev Med. 1986 Mar;15(2):195-202. [PubMed]
Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of
sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational
analysis. Lancet. 2001 Feb 17;357(9255):505-8. [PubMed]
Tordoff MG, Alleva AM. Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or
high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990
Jun;51(6):963-9. [PubMed]
Raben A, Vasilaras TH, Mller AC, Astrup A. Sucrose compared with artificial
sweeteners: different effects on ad libitum food intake and body weight after 10
wk of supplementation in overweight subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002
Oct;76(4):721-9. [PubMed]
Ebbeling CB, Feldman HA, Osganian SK, Chomitz VR, Ellenbogen SJ, Ludwig
DS. Effects of decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption on body
weight in adolescents: a randomized, controlled pilot study. Pediatrics. 2006
Mar;117(3):673-80. [PubMed]
Ebbeling CB1, Feldman HA, Chomitz VR, Antonelli TA, Gortmaker SL,
Osganian SK, Ludwig DS. A randomized trial of sugar-sweetened beverages
and adolescent body weight. N Engl J Med. 2012 Oct 11;367(15):1407-16.
de Ruyter JC1, Olthof MR, Seidell JC, Katan MB. A trial of sugar-free or sugarsweetened beverages and body weight in children. N Engl J Med. 2012 Oct
11;367(15):1397-406. [PubMed]

Moving past the short-term: observational data


Short-term data provides valuable food for thought, but

outcomes over the longer-term are what hold more relevance.
Trials lasting a period of weeks or months can reveal body
composition and/or bodyweight changes, whereas acute response


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Interview with Michael Limon, 2014 Gold Coast Classic


First off, thanks for agreeing to do the interview. Please tell

the readers some background how you got into bodybuilding
(age you started, what sparked the interest, & what factors
contributed to your decision to compete). Also, please outline
your competitive history.
I was given my first full-body workout machine in junior high. It
was a bench press, which had a few attachments to allow full
body exercise to be executed. After high school football was
over I still enjoyed spending hours in the gym and constantly
improving my strength and size. It was at this point I decided to
become a personal trainer and help others reach their goals as
well. While working for Golds Gym I was constantly
surrounded by pictures of great bodybuilders from the past on
the walls. It was then I realized I wanted to compete. I was about
26 at the time. At 27 years old I did my first competition at
Muscle Beach on the 4th of July, 2010. It was a great learning
experience. I took a couple years off to complete a radiology
program and after graduating in the summer of 2013, I started
hitting the weights with the purpose of competing again. On
February 8th [of 2014] I competed in the NPC Gold Coast
Classic. I worked very hard and it paid off. I took 1 st place in
lightweight Novice, 1st place in lightweight unlimited, and
Overall Novice. It was a great night.
Congratulations on winning both the novice & open in your
weight class - all on your second contest ever, and against
some tough competition. Is there any advice you can give
about fitting in the rigors of training and dieting for a
contest with having a life outside of that - or did you
basically put everything in your life (job, friends, family) on
temporary hold while prepping?
Competing in a contest is very time-consuming and requires
100% dedication if you want to do well. Once you figure out a
good routine and how to cook in bulk so that your food is
prepared ahead of time for a few days it makes it much easier to
spend the extra hours of the day having fun. I strongly believe
that family always comes first so its important to keep your
personal priorities in place.
What was your starting/off-season BF% & total bodyweight,
as well as your contest BF% & bodyweight? I realize these
questions might be moot if you did not take quantitative
measures of these parameters. How many weeks did you
allot to get dialed into contest shape?
My starting-off weight was about 185lbs and around 13-15%
body fat. As I began to prep I took that down to 161.5lbs and 45% body fat on the day of the competition. I started getting
dialed in about 3 months out from the contest as the months
before were used to put on as much strength and muscle as
What was the most difficult part of contest prep for you?
Some have cited hunger & mood as major issues, others cite
the tediousness of preparing the diet a particular way. What
were your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenges would have to be controlling my hunger
and sticking to my meal plan and not snacking in between. The

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closer I got to the competition the harder it was. Some days were
harder than others. Being moody comes along with the territory,
but if you have self control it shouldnt be a problem.
What was your weight training split each week? Please
include sets, & reps. About how many average weekly hours
of weight training did you do?
During the bulking months my training split was 5 days a week,
hitting every body part hard once a week. Most workouts I used
a 10-12 rep range with 3 sets. I usually tried to hit a total of 1520 sets per workout. As I got closer to competition, I increased
the rep range to 12-15 reps and 3-4 sets. I also started hitting
every body part twice a week with one heavy day and one light
What was your weekly cardio regimen?
As for cardio, I started doing 3-4 days a week of about 30-45
minutes fasted cardio in the early AM. I then increased that to 56 days a week. As I hit two months out I added in 30 minutes of
cardio after my PM weight training.
Did you track calorie and macronutrient intake during

Do you have a particular post-contest eating strategy in

terms of transitioning into maintenance intake and perhaps
moving into a surplus for bulking - or are you going to hold
your condition for shoots, movie roles, etc :)
Post-contest I think its important to increase your caloric intake
and definitely treat yourself unless you plan on doing photo
shoots and that. If so, youve got to stick to your diet and
maintain until youre ready to start bulking.
What did you do better this time around compared to your
first contest? Is there anything you plan on doing differently
for your next contest?
My nutrition played the biggest role in improving from my first
competition. I learned a lot and plan and using every bit of it to
bring a better package to the stage next time. Its always better to
be ahead of schedule then trying to cut corners if youre behind
on your training.
Thanks Michael, all the best to you on your next contest.
Michael graciously gave me permission to provide his email
( if anyone wants to contact him directly
with questions or comments about his most recent contest prep & victory.

I started out around 3200 calories. 3200 calories was what I

needed to maintain my weight, in order to lose a pound of body
fat a week I simply deducted 500 calories a day. I tracked my
macro nutrients as often as possible. I started with a 40-40-20
(P-C-F) split, and as I got closer to competition I increased my
protein and fats and lowered my carbs. I was somewhere around
a 60-10-30 by the time I was ready for the show.
So, just to get it straight, did that 500 kcal drop from 3200 to
2700 take you all the way to stage weight, or did you have to
push down towards the 2000's toward the end of prep?
I only dropped the calories once to 2700. As my cardio and
workout intensity increased, dropping any lower wouldve most
likely had me burning away muscle and too much weight.
Got it. What was your supplement regimen? Did it differ in
the off-season compared to prep?
As for supplements, they definitely helped and are necessary to
aid you training. I took a multivitamin, vitamin C, an Omega 36-9 complex and Vitamin D daily. I took 2-3 protein shakes a
day. One shake during the day, one post work out, and another at
night which was casein protein with some extra glutamine. I
always took a pre-workout to fuel my weight training and
BCAA during the workout to aid in recovery.
What was your showtime peaking strategy?

Dan Green is a multi-world record-holding powerlifter who

recently lifted a total of 2083 lbs at a bodyweight of 242 lbs in
raw competition. Here is some live seminar footage (length:
21:19). Notice the hilarious section from 11:12-12:50 where he
conveys a general unawareness & disregard for nutrition details
when someone asks him what about his diet keeps him

Showtime peaking is essential as it can make or break your final

look. Sodium intake was lowered as much as possible by 2-3
weeks out. The last week some good advice I received was to
carb deplete and then start carb loading by mid week. At this
point you would begin to lower your water intake as well. As a
dry hard look it was judges look for.

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, bones of

contention, cheers, jeers, guest articles youd like to submit, or
any feedback at all, send it over to

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