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Evaluation of the usefulness of a low-calorie diet

with or without bread in the treatment of
Loria-Kohen V, Gmez-Candela C, Fernndez-Fernndez
C, Prez-Torres A, Garca-Puig J, Bermejo LM. Clin Nutr.
2012 Aug;31(4):455-61. [PubMed]

10 The Meat and Nuts Breakfast of Champions.

Copyright November 1st, 2013 by Alan Aragon

By Matt Jones
13 Jonathan Bailor claims slim is simple but finds
many ways to overcomplicate it.
By Alan Aragon

Has the last decade of nutrient timing research

reached an anti-climax?
By Alan Aragon

Calcium homeostasis and bone metabolic

responses to high-protein diets during energy
deficit in healthy young adults: a randomized
control trial.
Cao JJ, Pasiakos SM, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham
LD, McClung JP, Young AJ, Combs GF Jr. Am J Clin Nutr.
2013 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]

Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates

subsequent to a meal in response to increasing
doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance
Witard OC, Jackman SR, Breen L, Smith K, Selby A,
Tipton KD. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov 20. [Epub ahead of
print] [PubMed]

Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed

macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar
protein synthesis in young men: a double-blind,
randomized trial.

17 Martial arts meets academia: an interview with Dr.

Brian Jones.
By Alan Aragon

Churchward-Venne TA, Breen L, Di Donato DM, Hector

AJ, Mitchell CJ, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Breuille D,
Offord EA, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013
Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Page 1

Has the last decade of nutrient timing research

reached an anti-climax?
By Alan Aragon
Ivy & Portmans big splash in 2004
Ivy and Portmans book Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports
Nutrition1 hit publication and ushered in one of the biggest
trends in sports nutrition. I own a copy myself, and youd be
hard-pressed to find a sports nutrition-oriented practitioner who
hasnt been influenced by the book, which involves detailed
prescriptions for pre-, during-, and post-exercise nutrition. As
stated in the first chapter, specific timing of nutrients enables
trainees to avoid the plateau effect and achieve far greater
gains in muscle strength and muscle mass. However, while the
authors created an awareness of the potential utility of nutrient
timing strategies, the supporting research was comprised largely
of acute (short-term) studies on subjects taken to glycogen
depletion after an overnight fast.
Hit-and-miss after a standout in 2006
Over the course of the next decade, several chronic (long-term)
studies cropped up, and the results have been equivocal. Perhaps
the strongest research supporting nutrient timing was Cribb and
Hayes famous 2006 finding that timing protein, carbohydrate,
and creatine immediately sandwiching both sides of the
resistance training bout resulted in significantly greater lean
body mass (LBM) and strength gains than the same nutrients
positioned far from both sides of the bout.2 From that point
onward, chronic timing studies seemed to be hit-and-miss, yet
the conventional wisdom endured over time. This was despite
research like that of Hoffman et al, which was a similar design to
Cribb & Hayes, but failed to observe significant differences
between the treatments.3
Challenging the paradigm
The anabolic window of opportunity concept became virtually
a foregone conclusion. It was presumed to be a matter of fact,
and thus was rarely questioned. To my knowledge, the first peerreviewed article to challenge the anabolic window concept
was the one I co-authored with Brad Schoenfeld.4 The reach and
impact of this article has been measurably big. Shortly after its
publication in January of this year, it became the number-one
most viewed article in the history of the Journal of the
International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN).

synthesis given an adequate protein dose both at rest5 and postexercise.6,7 An important note about our paper is that it never
claims that the longstanding nutrient timing dogma is useless or
invalid. We never claimed that nutrient timing does not matter.
In fact, the practical applications we outlined for the goal of
maximizing the anabolic response involve specific timing
except the anabolic window is considerably larger than that of
the traditional dogma. We proposed that there is up to a 4 to 6hour peri-workout period in which to dose pre- & post-exercise
protein (with each dose being at least 0.4-0.5 g/kg LBM) and
still maximize the anabolic response to resistance training. The
timing of carbohydrate is left largely to personal preference,
with exceptions being endurance applications where glycogen
depletion occurs more than once per day within close proximity
in the same muscle group. The papers final sentence is an
eloquent summation (if I may say so myself):4 Collectively,
these data indicate an increased potential for dietary flexibility
while maintaining the pursuit of optimal timing.
Quantitative evidence further challenges the paradigm
Conducting a meta-analysis of protein timing studies was the
natural progression of investigation after the publication of our
narrative review. Brad Schoenfeld came up with the idea. He
collaborated with myself and James Krieger on the paper.8 To
our delight, it has become JISSNs #2 most-viewed article of the
past year within less than a month of its publication, and its
already the #6 most-viewed in the history of the journal. The
popularity of this article and its predecessor shows that there are
many folks in both the academic and public domains with an
open mind to the current data, and a healthy skepticism towards
traditional assumptions.
The aim of our meta-analysis (full text here) was to examine the
available protein timing research on strength and hypertrophy in
a systematic, quantitative fashion. Meta-analyses enable an
increase in statistical power by the pooling of data from several
studies. When done correctly, meta-analyses can provide a bigpicture/aerial view of the data and quantitatively uncover the
weight of the evidence (in whatever direction it might lean, if it
leans at all). We used a multi-level meta-regression that
employed a hierarchical/step-wise reduction process designed to
control for covariates (factors aside from timing that might
influence outcomes). Before delving into this any further, it
should be made perfectly clear that we had no agenda and no
pre-conceived hopes or ideas of what the analysis might find.
The whole point of research is to draw tentative conclusions
based on the data. If done backwards, where the data is cherrypicked or manipulated to support pre-conceived conclusions,
then the entire purpose is completely lost.

Our paper (full text here) contains an in-depth discussion of the

limitations surrounding the traditional nutrient timing paradigm,
focusing on protein and carbohydrate. An examination of the
literature revealed that the prevailing protein timing tenets lack a
consistent evidence basis, especially in chronic trials. In
addition, the carbohydrate timing rules for maximizing the
anabolic response were on questionable ground as well. To the
latter point, the available data have consistently shown the
failure of additional carbohydrate to augment muscle protein

The temporal parameters we chose as inclusion criteria are worth

highlighting because theyre critical for properly interpreting the
results. We specifically compared studies where protein was
dosed within an hour of either side of the training bout versus
studies where protein was dosed at least 2 hours away from
either side of the training bout. This framework is based largely
on Ivy and Portmans long-standing, highly influential claim that
the post-exercise anabolic window is approximately 45 minutes,
after which point the opportunity to capitalize on nutrientmediated anabolism significantly diminishes.1

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Selected noteworthy details & findings of our meta-analysis

Our analysis had several interesting findings. First of all, there
was no significant effect of protein timing on strength or
hypertrophy after all covariates were accounted for. This
outcome has disturbed and even angered many folks who
passionately believe in protein timing near the training bout.
However, it must be kept in mind that this result is potentially
limited to the parameters we set for comparison, which again,
were protein ingested 1 hour pre- and/or post-exercise, versus
2 hours pre- and/or post-exercise. Any effects outside of those
parameters were simply not investigated.
Based on the focus of our analysis, we cannot determine whether
or not extended periods of protein neglect beyond 2 hours preand/or post could possibly yield inferior effects on strength
and/or hypertrophy. But once again, our aim was to examine the
proverbial anabolic window of opportunity which is fabled to
be a relatively narrow timeframe to slam that shake.
An important finding was that total protein intake (rather than
timing) was the strongest variable associated with hypertrophy.
Average protein intake in the treatment (timed protein) groups
was 1.66 g/kg/day, whereas it was 1.33 g/kg/day in the controls.
Given this, it appears that treatment conditions involved a more
optimized level of protein intake compared to the controls. This
brings us to the issue of the unfair disadvantage of control
groups where total protein intake was not matched with that of
the treatment groups. The vast majority of studies simply add a
protein supplement near the training bout and compare that with
a non-protein placebo. We recognized this confounding
imbalance, so we ran a sub-analysis of protein-matched studies,
but still, no significant effect of timing was seen.
It should be noted that of the 23 studies included for analysis,
only 3 of them were protein-matched. This limits the statistical
power of the sub-analysis of true timing studies. Interestingly,
2 of the 3 protein-matched studies did not show a significant
effect of timing. Its also worth mentioning that two frequently
cited studies did not meet our inclusion criteria. Esmarck et al 9
didnt make the cut because the protein dose did not contain the
minimum of 6 g EAA. Burk et al10 was excluded because of
insufficient data to calculate effect size. Even if the latter two
studies were included in the analysis, it wouldnt likely alter the
outcomes and conclusions, since Esmarck et al saw positive
effects of protein consumed near the end of the training bout
while Burk et al actually saw greater benefits of a protein
supplement timed away from the end of the bout.

was detected in the full meta-regression model that controlled

for all covariates.
Conclusions, for the time being
So, did nearly a decade of nutrient timing research reach an anticlimax? It depends on how you look at it, since thats quite a
broad claim. Protein timing within a narrow anabolic window
relative to the training bout ( 1 hour pre- and/or post-exercise)
appears to take a backseat to total daily protein. This finding
seems to reinforce basic logic. Those who consume enough total
daily protein and energy to maximize strength and hypertrophy
are likely to spend the majority of their day in the postprandial
(fed) state. Furthermore, they are also likely to spend the
majority of their day in a state of hyperaminoacidemia resulting
from multiple protein-rich meals. These conditions collectively
would minimize the effects of temporal variations in protein
intake relative to the training bout.
It bears reiterating that theres a lack of protein-matched timing
studies. This makes it possible that the null findings we saw
were due to type II error. In other words, false-negative results
could have occurred from insufficient statistical power to detect
significant differences. Another point to consider is that theres
no evidence of an ergolytic effect of protein timed near the
training bout, and there is some evidence of positive effects.
Therefore, scooting the dose(s) close to training is generally a
good idea for maximizing all hypothetical routes toward
muscular size and strength. Avoiding lengthy gaps in protein
feeding relative to the training bout (e.g., significantly more than
2 hours) can also hedge your bets toward maximizing anabolic
adaptations. The degree of timing precision is whats debatable.
People mistakenly debate over nutrient timing importance as if
its a black & white issue. This is a false dichotomy, since it
should be viewed as a continuum. I created the chart below to
outline the variable importance of nutrient timing.11 Notice how
the span of applications of nutrient timing diminishes alongside
the increase of nutrient timing importance.

Indeed, we recognized the scarcity of protein-matched studies as

one of the biggest problems with the literature that traditionally
falls under the nutrient timing umbrella. This scarcity of proteinmatched timing studies is also one of the strongest reasons why
vehemence about the timing of protein immediately near training
is not warranted. The limited statistical power of the small
number of protein-matched studies is also a good reason to not
harbor any strong confidence that protein timing is useless.
Another major limitation of the available research is a lack of
studies that use resistance-trained subjects, since this population
would be most likely to expose any potential benefits of protein
timing. Interestingly, no significant influence of training status
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Page 3


Ivy J, Portman R: Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports

Nutrition. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications;
2. Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and
resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci
Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25. [PubMed]
3. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Tranchina CP, Rashti SL, Kang
J, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of protein-supplement timing on
strength, power, and body-composition changes in
resistance-trained men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009
Apr;19(2):172-85. [PubMed]
4. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is
there a post-exercise anabolic window? J Int Soc Sports
Nutr. 2013 Jan 29;10(1):5. [PubMed]
5. Hamer HM, Wall BT, Kiskini A, de Lange A, Groen BB,
Bakker JA, Gijsen AP, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJ.
Carbohydrate co-ingestion with protein does not further
augment post-prandial muscle protein accretion in older
men. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013 Jan 25;10(1):15. [PubMed]
6. Staples AW, Burd NA, West DW, Currie KD, Atherton PJ,
Moore DR, Rennie MJ, Macdonald MJ, Baker SK, Phillips
SM: Carbohydrate does not augment exercise-induced
protein accretion versus protein alone. Med Sci Sports Exerc
2011, 43(7):1154-1161. [PubMed]
7. Koopman R, Beelen M, Stellingwerff T, Pennings B, Saris
WH, Kies AK, Kuipers H, Van Loon LJ: Coingestion of
carbohydrate with protein does not further augment
postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Physiol
Endocrinol Metab 2007, 293(3):E833-842. [PubMed]
8. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. The effect of
protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a metaanalysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Dec 3;10(1):53. [Epub
ahead of print] [PubMed]
9. Esmarck B, Andersen JL, Olsen S, Richter EA, Mizuno M,
Kjaer M. Timing of postexercise protein intake is important
for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly
humans. J Physiol. 2001 Aug 15;535(Pt 1):301-11.
10. Burk A, Timpmann S, Medijainen L, Vhi M, Opik V.
Time-divided ingestion pattern of casein-based protein
supplement stimulates an increase in fat-free body mass
during resistance training in young untrained men. Nutr Res.
2009 Jun;29(6):405-13. [PubMed]
11. Aragon AA. Continuum of nutrient timing importance
(original schematic). NSCA Personal Trainers Conference,
April 2012.

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Calcium homeostasis and bone metabolic responses

to high-protein diets during energy deficit in healthy
young adults: a randomized control trial.
Cao JJ, Pasiakos SM, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD,
McClung JP, Young AJ, Combs GF Jr. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013
Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
BACKGROUND: Although consuming dietary protein above
current recommendations during energy deficit (ED) preserves
lean body mass, concerns have been raised regarding the effects
of high-protein diets on bone health. OBJECTIVE: The
objective was to determine whether calcium homeostasis and
bone turnover are affected by high-protein diets during weight
maintenance (WM) and ED. DESIGN: A randomized, paralleldesign, controlled trial of 32 men and 7 women were assigned
diets providing protein at 0.8 [Recommended Dietary Allowance
(RDA)], 1.6 (2 RDA), or 2.4 (3 RDA) g kg-1 d-1 for 31 d.
Ten days of WM preceded 21 d of ED, during which total daily
ED was 40%, achieved by reduced dietary energy intake (30%)
and increased physical activity (10%). The macronutrient
composition (protein g kg-1 d-1 and % fat) was held constant
from WM to ED. Calcium absorption (ratio of 44Ca to 42Ca) and
circulating indices of bone turnover were determined at day 8
(WM) and day 29 (ED). RESULTS: Regardless of energy state,
mean (SEM) urinary pH was lower (P < 0.05) at 2 RDA
(6.28 0.05) and 3 RDA (6.23 0.06) than at the RDA (6.54
0.06). However, protein had no effect on either urinary
calcium excretion (P > 0.05) or the amount of calcium retained
(P > 0.05). ED decreased serum insulin-like growth factor I,
increased serum tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase, and 25hydroxyvitamin D concentrations (P < 0.01). Remaining markers
of bone turnover and whole-body bone mineral density and
content were not affected by either the protein level or ED (P >
0.05). CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate that short-term
consumption of high-protein diets does not disrupt calcium
homeostasis and is not detrimental to skeletal integrity. This trial
was registered at as NCT01292395.
SPONSORSHIP: Supported by the US Army Medical Research
and Material Command and the USDA Agricultural Research
Service program Bone Metabolism in Obesity.

progressive resistance training protocol imposed. Resistance

training has a substantive body of evidence supporting its
beneficial effects on bone mineral density.1-3 Higher dietary
protein has recently been shown to reduce bone turnover in the
long-term (24 months) under dieting conditions.4 In this vein,
higher dietary protein (20% as opposed to 10% of energy) has
also been shown to improve calcium absorption from lowcalcium diet, which offsets urinary losses.5 Its plausible that a
high protein intake in combination with progressive resistance
training and sufficient calcium would constitute a potent effect
on increasing or preserving bone mineral density (in addition to
the protective effect on muscle mass). It would have been useful
(and innovative) to investigate a potential dose-response
relationship between graduated protein intakes and bone status
in the presence of a progressive resistance training program. In
this study, exercise was standardized to be low-intensity and
Note that this study was part of a larger study led by Pasiakos et
al that examined varying protein levels on body composition and
muscle protein synthesis.6 They found that both higher-protein
groups lost a significantly higher proportion of fat mass and
lower proportion of lean mass compared to the RDA group,
without any significant differences between the higher-protein
groups (2x versus 3x the RDA). The main findings of the present
study were that despite increases in urinary acidity, diets that are
2 or 3 times the RDA did not significantly alter urinary calcium
excretion, dietary calcium retention, or markers of bone turnover
and bone mineral density when calcium & vitamin D are
consumed at recommended levels.
In addition, what I found interesting was an outcome that wasnt
the specific focus of the present study. There was the lack of
significant difference in total weight loss between the groups
during the 21-day energy deficit period. Weight loss was 3.5 kg
for the RDA group, 2.7 kg for 2x RDA, and 3.3 kg for 3x RDA).
The important detail here is that the increased protein intakes in
the weight maintenance (WM) and energy deficit (ED) phases of
each diet were at the expense of carbohydrate:

Study strengths
This study is unique in that its the first to examine the important
question of how a high protein intake affects calcium
absorption/retention and markers of bone metabolism during
energetic maintenance and deficit conditions. A thorough set of
protein intake conditions was compared (0.8, 1.6, & 2.4 g/kg)
under weight maintenance as well as a 40% deficit condition
comprised of 30% intake reduction combined with 10% increase
in physical activity. Dietary intake was tightly controlled as the
menu was prepared by research dietitians. A similar intake of
calcium among the conditions was enforced via supplementation
to avoid the confounding effects of varying calcium intakes.

Its possible that the study duration (31 days) was not long
enough to reveal potential detriments of the higher-protein
conditions on markers of bone health. Also, there was no

What we have is further confirmation that under conditions that

tightly control total energy intake, theres nothing inherently
advantageous to weight loss about carbohydrate reduction per
se... The authors ultimately concluded that high-protein diets are
not detrimental to calcium metabolism, but also acknowledge the
need for longer-term studies to render more definitive answers to
the question of bone safety of high protein intake.

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Study limitations

Page 5

subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses
of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise.
Witard OC, Jackman SR, Breen L, Smith K, Selby A, Tipton
KD. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov 20. [Epub ahead of print]
BACKGROUND: The intake of whey, compared with casein and
soy protein intakes, stimulates a greater acute response of muscle
protein synthesis (MPS) to protein ingestion in rested and exercised
muscle. OBJECTIVE: We characterized the dose-response
relation of postabsorptive rates of myofibrillar MPS to increasing
amounts of whey protein at rest and after exercise in resistancetrained, young men. DESIGN: Volunteers (n = 48) consumed a
standardized, high-protein (0.54 g/kg body mass) breakfast. Three
hours later, a bout of unilateral exercise (8 10 leg presses and leg
extensions; 80% one-repetition maximum) was performed.
Volunteers ingested 0, 10, 20, or 40 g whey protein isolate
immediately (10 min) after exercise. Postabsorptive rates of
myofibrillar MPS and whole-body rates of phenylalanine oxidation
and urea production were measured over a 4-h postdrink period by
continuous tracer infusion of labeled [ 13C6] phenylalanine and
[15N2] urea. RESULTS: Myofibrillar MPS (SD) increased (P <
0.05) above 0 g whey protein (0.041 0.015%/h) by 49% and 56%
with the ingestion of 20 and 40 g whey protein, respectively,
whereas no additional stimulation was observed with 10 g whey
protein (P > 0.05). Rates of phenylalanine oxidation and urea
production increased with the ingestion of 40 g whey protein.
CONCLUSIONS: A 20-g dose of whey protein is sufficient for
the maximal stimulation of postabsorptive rates of myofibrillar
MPS in rested and exercised muscle of 80-kg resistance-trained,
young men. A dose of whey protein >20 g stimulates amino acid
oxidation and ureagenesis. This trial was registered at as ISRCTN92528122. SPONSORSHIP:
Supported by GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare.

Study strengths
This study breaks new ground by being the first to ever examine
the dose-response relationship of myofibrillar muscle protein
synthesis (MPS) to increasing amounts of whey at rest and after
resistance exercise. Subjects had a minimum of 6 months of
recreational weight-lifting experience. Habitual food intake was
assessed and replicated 48 hours prior to testing. The exercise
protocol was intensive in terms of the work done in the target
muscle group (quads). 16 sets total were done with leg press and
extension at 80% of 1RM with 2-minute rest intervals. A
standout design strength was the assessment of whey-mediated
MPS 3 hours after a standardized high-protein breakfast, in
recognition of the fact that in real world, most people weighttrain in a fed rather than fasted state.

which would require a period of weeks to measure. A final

limitation is a missing intermediate dose between 20 g and 40 g.
It would have been interesting to see the effects of 30 g and 50 g
doses as well, not only to get a finer picture of the response
curve, but also to further exploit where the true plateau is.

The main findings were a lack of significant increase in MPS

with 10 g whey, while MPS significantly increased with 20 g
and 40 g, with a lack of lack of significant difference in MPS
between the latter two doses. However, as seen above, theres an
uptrend in MPS that doesnt appear to truly plateau at 40 g,
despite the difference between 20 g and 40 g failing to reach
statistical significance. In light of this, the authors diligently
acknowledge the possibility that this small difference could
potentially be meaningful in regards to concrete endpoints in the
However, intriguingly, mean postexercise myofibrillar MPS
values were ~19% higher in the 20WP than 10WP but only an
additional ~10% higher in the 40WP. An additional calculation
of the 95% CI for the true difference between the 20WP and
40WP revealed that we could not rule out a 14% increase in the
myofibrillar FSR with the ingestion of 40 g whey protein. [...]
...the long-term physiologic impact of a 1014% higher rate of
MPS in the 40WP on muscle hypertrophy remains unknown.

Although the aim of the study was to examine acute response

(which it did a good job of), the very nature of acute response
data is hypothesis-generating in the context of the bigger picture.
Short-term response does not necessarily translate to long-term
adaptation. So, while investigating anabolic response dosing
thresholds provides valuable data, its still preliminary and in
need of follow-up by trials examining the influence of these
protocols on endpoints such as hypertrophy and/or strength,

The authors astutely mentioned that the dose for maximizing the
anabolic response could potentially vary according to individual
differences in muscle mass. For example, its not known whether
someone with 80 kg LBM would have a greater MPS response
to a higher protein dose compared to someone with 50 kg LBM.
Although this hasnt been systematically tested, it intuitively
would seem to be true. Knowing that larger individuals require
more total protein, it would be fair to speculate that they also
have a larger capacity for MPS from the constituent doses of
protein that comprise the daily total. In any case, older subjects
have been observed to have a higher protein dosing ceiling for
MPS (35-40 g as opposed to 20 g in younger subjects).7,8 Along
with age comes anabolic resistance. Since most of us dont age
in reverse, I would recommend erring toward the higher side of
protein dosing if the main goal is hypertrophy.

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Study limitations

Page 6

Study limitations
Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed
macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein
synthesis in young men: a double-blind, randomized
Churchward-Venne TA, Breen L, Di Donato DM, Hector AJ,
Mitchell CJ, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Breuille D, Offord EA,
Baker SK, Phillips SM. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov 27. [Epub
ahead of print] [PubMed]
BACKGROUND: Leucine is a key amino acid involved in the
regulation of skeletal muscle protein synthesis. OBJECTIVE:
We assessed the effect of the supplementation of a lower-protein
mixed macronutrient beverage with varying doses of leucine or a
mixture of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) on myofibrillar
protein synthesis (MPS) at rest and after exercise. DESIGN: In a
parallel group design, 40 men (21 1 y) completed unilateral
knee-extensor resistance exercise before the ingestion of 25 g
whey protein (W25) (3.0 g leucine), 6.25 g whey protein (W6)
(0.75g leucine), 6.25 g whey protein supplemented with leucine
to 3.0 g total leucine (W6+Low-Leu), 6.25 g whey protein
supplemented with leucine to 5.0 g total leucine (W6+HighLeu), or 6.25 g whey protein supplemented with leucine,
isoleucine, and valine to 5.0 g total leucine. A primed continuous
infusion of l-[ring-13C6] phenylalanine with serial muscle
biopsies was used to measure MPS under baseline fasted and
postprandial conditions in both a rested (response to feeding)
and exercised (response to combined feeding and resistance
exercise) leg. RESULTS: The area under the blood leucine
curve was greatest for the W6+High-Leu group compared with
the W6 and W6+Low-Leu groups (P < 0.001). In the
postprandial period, rates of MPS were increased above baseline
over 0-1.5 h in all treatments. Over 1.5-4.5 h, MPS remained
increased above baseline after all treatments but was greatest
after W25 (267%) and W6+High-Leu (220%) treatments (P
= 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: A low-protein (6.25 g) mixed
macronutrient beverage can be as effective as a high-protein
dose (25 g) at stimulating increased MPS rates when
supplemented with a high (5.0 g total leucine) amount of
leucine. These results have important implications for
formulations of protein beverages designed to enhance muscle
anabolism. This trial was registered at as NCT
1530646. SPONSORSHIP: Supported by Nestec Ltd and the
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
(postgraduate scholarship to TAC-V).
Study strengths
This is the first study to assess the MPS-stimulating capability of
varying doses of leucine added to a sub-optimal protein dose
(within a mixed macronutrient beverage) at rest and after
exercise. Previous research has looked at supplemental leucine
and EAA effects on protein alone,9 so the present study offers
potentially higher practical value. A comprehensive set of
treatments were compared, including two that involved a higher
leucine fortification bringing the total 5 g, whereas previous
research by the same lab totaled 3 g.9 Prepackaged standardized
diets that were consumed during the 2 days immediately
preceding the trials in order to reduce the confounding potential
of dietary variability.
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

The main limitation was the acute (short-term) nature of the

study. While it provides valuable data, it still leaves open
question about whether any of these differences in acute
response would influence long-term adaptations in strength
and/or hypertrophy. Another limitation was that the results may
be limited to the exercise protocol, which consisted of only 8
sets of knee extensions at 80% of 1 RM (this was half the
volume of work done by Witard et al,10 which I reviewed on the
previous page). Another limitation was the use of subjects who
werent necessarily trained. No training age was specified, nor
were any minimums or maximums imposed for training status.

Depicted above are the MPS results in the early and late test
periods in the resting (A) and post-exercise condition (B). Below
A & B are the combined results of the entire test periods in the
resting (C) and post-exercise conditions (D). The notable
findings were that MPS increased significantly in all conditions,
but MPS in the 25 g whey (W25) and the sub-optimal whey dose
plus the higher leucine fortification amounting to 5 g leucine
(W6+High-Leu) was greater than the MPS in the other
treatments, with no significant differences in MPS between those
two treatments. These results are not in full agreement with
previous research by the same lab,9 where 25 g whey was the
most effective treatment for sustaining increased rates of MPS
post-exercise even more so than the sub-optimal whey dose
fortified with an equivalent leucine dose to 25 g whey. However,
the present study included a higher leucine fortification
(amounting to 5 g instead of 3 g). Another difference was the
inclusion of carbohydrate (35 g) and fat (5.68 g).
Interestingly, there were no significant differences in MPS
between the resting and post-exercise conditions. The latter
finding does not align with what Yang et al observed in older
subjects, who experienced greater MPS post-exercise with 40 g
whey than with 20 g,8 suggesting a saturable response to lower
protein doses in younger subject despite the more sensitized
post-exercise conditions.
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Evaluation of the usefulness of a low-calorie diet with

Loria-Kohen V, Gmez-Candela C, Fernndez-Fernndez C,
Prez-Torres A, Garca-Puig J, Bermejo LM. Clin Nutr. 2012
Aug;31(4):455-61. [PubMed]
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Despite the lack of scientific evidence,
bread is one of the most restricted foods in popular hypocaloric
diets. The aim of this study was to compare two nutrition strategies
(with or without bread) designed to promote weight loss in
overweight/obese women. METHODS: A clinical, prospective and
randomised study in which 122 women >18 years, BMI 25 < 40
kg/m(2) were divided into two groups: intervention group (BREAD,
n = 61) and control group (NO BREAD, n = 61). Both groups
received a low-calorie diet (with or without bread), nutrition
education and physical activity guidelines, and were monitored for
16 weeks. RESULTS: 104 women completed the study (48.4 9
years, 29.8 3.5 kg/m(2)). Anthropometric and biochemical
markers improved after the intervention without significant
differences between groups. BREAD group significantly increased
total cereal consumption (3.2 1.3 to 3.7 0.5 servings/day, P <
0.05) and the percentage of energy from carbohydrates (41.2 6.4
vs. 45.9 5.0% P < 0.001) and reduced fat (39.0 6.6 vs. 32.7
5.1% P < 0.001). In contrast, NO BREAD group increased the
discrepancy with recommended consumption. NO BREAD group
had the most dropouts (21.3% vs. 6.6%, P < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: The bread inclusion in a low-calorie diet
designed for weight loss favoured a better evolution of dietetic
parameters and greater compliance with the diet with fewer
#NCT01223989. SPONSORSHIP: This study was made possible
thanks to a research project funded by the Pan cada da (Daily
Bread) open call promoted by the Scientific Committee of Bread
and by Incerhpan (Interprofessional Agrifoods of the Cereals-FlourBread Chain). Study sponsors had no involvement in the study
design, in the analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of
the manuscript or submit it.

Study strengths
This study is quite unique and interesting. Its also relevant in
light of the recent wave of anti-grain propaganda by various fad
diet authors and their followers. This is the first study to ever
compare the specific inclusion and exclusion of bread in
overweight and obese subjects. The authors make the interesting
point that due to this diet lore, the Spanish population has
decreased its consumption of bread from 368 g/day in 1964 to
134 g/day in 2006,11 yet adult obesity prevalence steadily
increased from 17.4% in the 1990s to 24% in the 2000s.12
Subjects received group counseling/education sessions. Physical
activity was imposed (although rather loosely) to at least 3 times
per week for 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical
Study limitations
I would prefer to have seen dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
instead of bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to assess body
composition. Pimentel et al observed BIA to not only
overestimate percent body fat (%BF) in overweight subjects by
14.2%, but also underestimate %BF in obese subjects by
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

10.9%.13 Also, LaForgia et al found BIA to have poor individual

accuracy compared to the four compartment model, 14 which is
the most comprehensive method of assessing body composition,
accounting for fat mass, bone mineral mass, total body water,
and residual mass. The authors of the present study
acknowledged that its unknown how their results might have
panned out beyond the 16 weeks. They also acknowledged that
the results might be limited to the all-female subject sample.

The main findings of this study were 3-fold. First, there was a
lack of significant in body composition change between groups.
The bread group lost 4.3 kg while the no-bread group lost 4.0 kg.
As for body fat, the bread group lost 2.5% while the no-bread
group lost 2.1%. Both groups lost muscle mass (0.9 & 0.7 kg in
the bread & no-bread groups, respectively). This shouldnt be a
major surprise considering that total energy and macronutrition
was similar between groups. Secondly, there were no significant
between-group differences in blood lipids, glucose control, and
other biochemical measures. Finally, the chart above shows
where the effects of each treatment diverge: program adherence.
A significant increase in transgressions (lapses in dietary
compliance by 150 kcal) was seen in the no-bread group, while
no significant increase in transgressions was seen in the bread
group. Furthermore, in the self-reported adherence ratings, the
bread group scored higher than the no-bread group (64.3%
versus 55.6%), and dropout was markedly lower in the bread
group compared to the no-bread group (6.6% vs 21.3%).
Although the reasons for dropping out varied, exclusion of bread
was found to be a significant factor.
This is one of those studies that strongly challenges the antibread/anti-grain movement, specifically in the important realm
of alleviating obesity. Heres an excerpt from the conclusion,
which sums things up well:
This study may be of significant scientific interest since it may
represent an advance in understanding nutrition problems in
overweight/obese people and provides understanding about
how these can influence weight control. It can also help dispel
myths about bread being a dangerous or caloric food by
highlighting the usefulness of a balanced low-calorie diet within
a nutrition education programme as part of patient treatment.

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Page 8












Bemben DA, Bemben MG. Dose-response effect of 40

weeks of resistance training on bone mineral density in
older adults Osteoporos Int. 2011 Jan;22(1):179-86.
Guadalupe-Grau A, Fuentes T, Guerra B, Calbet JA.
Exercise and bone mass in adults. Sports Med.
2009;39(6):439-68. [PubMed]
Suominen H. Muscle training for bone strength. Aging Clin
Exp Res. 2006 Apr;18(2):85-93. [PubMed]
Jesudason D, Nordin BC, Keogh J, Clifton P. Comparison
of 2 weight-loss diets of different protein content on bone
health: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013
Nov;98(5):1343-52. [PubMed]
Hunt JR, Johnson LK, Fariba Roughead ZK. Dietary protein
and calcium interact to influence calcium retention: a
controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009
May;89(5):1357-65. [PubMed]
Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham
LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr,
Young AJ. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and
muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a
Sep;27(9):3837-47. [PubMed]
Pennings B, 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]
Yang Y, Breen L, Burd NA, Hector AJ, Churchward-Venne
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]
Churchward-Venne TA, Burd NA, Mitchell CJ, West DW,
Philp A, Marcotte GR, Baker SK, Baar K, Phillips SM.
Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine
or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein
synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J
Physiol. 2012 Jun 1;590(Pt 11):2751-65. [PubMed]
Witard OC, Jackman SR, Breen L, Smith K, Selby A,
Tipton KD. Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates
subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of
whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise. Am J Clin
Nutr. 2013 Nov 20. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
Varela-Moreiras G, Avila JM, Cuadrado C, del Pozo S,
Ruiz E, Moreiras O. Evaluation of food consumption and
dietary patterns in Spain by the food consumption survey:
updated information. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010 Nov;64(Suppl.
3):S37e43. [PubMed]
Salas-Salvad J, Rubio MA, Barbany M, Moreno B, Grupo
Colaborativo de laSEEDO. SEEDO 2007 consensus for the
evaluation of overweight and obesityand the establishment
of therapeutic intervention criteria. Med Clin (Barc) 2007
Feb 10;128(5):184e96. [PubMed]
Pimentel GD, Bernhard AB, Frezza MR, Rinaldi AE, Burini
RC. Bioelectric impedance overestimates the body fat in
overweight and underestimates in Brazilian obese women: a
comparison with Segal equation 1. Nutr Hosp. 2010 SepOct;25(5):741-5. [PubMed]

Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

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Page 9

The Meat and Nuts Breakfast of Champions.

By Matt Jones

and is involved in wakefulness, attentiveness and memory.

Interestingly, Alzheimers disease is characterized by a
significant reduction in acetylcholine concentration and
function,7 highlighting its importance in human health

Neurotransmitters and nutrition
The suggestion made by Charles Poliquin within the articles and
multimedia section of the Poliquin Groups website reads as
follows: rotating meat and nuts breakfast increased mental
acuity and focused energy allows for a slow and steady rise in
blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time
what you eat for breakfast sets up your entire neurotransmitter
production for the day.
All of these suggestions are made relative to popular breakfast
choices that are generally higher in carbohydrate, including oats,
cereal, and bread.
For those unaware, Charles Poliquin is a well-respected, highly
successful strength and conditioning coach. But as is known
globally, a good strength coach does not necessarily make a
good nutritionist. It is not the aim of this article to openly
criticise Poliquins practices or question his motives or
intentions, nor will I launch an outright tirade on him. That
would be too easy. However, it is necessary to discuss the
application of this much-famed breakfast.
As with all AARR articles, the extravagant claims will be
examined meticulously, and honestly with frequent reference to
the existing evidence base. In this case, Ill examine the claims
of optimised neurotransmission and neurotransmitter production
for the day.
Neurotransmitter basics
A neurotransmitter is a chemical signal that allows for
transmission of signals from one neuron to another, across a
synapse. Neurotransmission allows for, and control muscle fiber
contraction, bodily actions, emotions and feelings. The most
significant neurotransmitters in the human body are
acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, Gamma Amino
Butyric Acid (GABA), glutamate, serotonin and endorphins.
There is a substantial body of evidence to support the notion that
nutrition has a significant influence on the appearance of blood
and brain neurotransmitters.1-3
Neurotransmitters and cognitive function
Research has demonstrated that serotonin is a known sleepinducing agent,4 with human research indicating that serotonin
reduces subjective alertness, objective performance, and
increases feelings of relaxation and lethargy. 5 The
neurotransmitter dopamine on the other hand is associated with
pleasurable reward, behavior, cognition, mood, memory,
movement, attention and learning. Interestingly, dopamine is
critically involved in the drug addiction process by inducing
pleasant states or by relieving distress.6 Acetylcholine has a
number of physiological functions; it is a widely distributed
excitatory neurotransmitter that in the central nervous system
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

Neurotransmitters are primarily synthesized from amino acids,

particularly the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), tyrosine
and tryptophan. The rates at which neurotransmitters are
synthesized depends upon the availability of the amino acid
precursor. Research from rodent studies in the 70s and early
80s demonstrated that increased concentrations of tryptophan
resulted in an elevation in serotonin synthesis, and increasing
concentrations of tyrosine resulted in elevations in dopamine and
certain catecholamines.8
This was supported by earlier research indicating that the
administration of a single dose of tryptophan elevated brain
tryptophan levels, and thus the levels of serotonin and its major
metabolite 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HTP). The
administration of tyrosine, elevated brain tyrosine levels, and
thus catecholamine increased in the central nervous system
(CNS), while the consumption of lecithin or choline (found in
fat) increased brain choline levels and neuronal acetylcholine
synthesis.9 Ultimately concluding that tryptophan was the
precursor for serotonin, tyrosine was the precursor for dopamine
and choline the precursor for acetylcholine.
All of these early studies utilised both observational and knockout rodent models, using a single dose of the precursor, although
similar effects have been seen following the consumption of
dietary sources, real-food. Again using a rodent model, Wurtman
& Fernstrom9 demonstrated that the consumption of a single
protein-free high-carbohydrate meal elevated brain tryptophan
levels. Similarly, the consumption of a single 40% protein meal
accelerated brain catecholamine synthesis through increased
availability of tyrosine. Fernstrom10 concluded that a minimal
change of delta 0.07 in the tryptophan to large neutral amino
acid ratio is required to influence mood following protein
consumption, so a considerable shift in the ratio is required to
have an effect on subsequent cognition.
These data clearly demonstrate that the neurotransmitters
serotonin, dopamine and the catecholamines are under specific
dietary control. Essentially this is the data Poliquin has built his
meat and nut breakfast on, and in that regard he is correct. The
acute effects of a high-carbohydrate protein-free meal, atypical
of a modern Western diet breakfast (think oatmeal and cereals)
does induce marked increases in serotonin synthesis, and thus
may result in increased feelings of lethargy.
However, is the absolute avoidance of carbohydrate justifiable
based on the current evidence? Is the process irreversible as
Poliquin suggests, does breakfast dictate the neurotransmitters
for the entire day? If Poliquin had read a little further instead of
cherry-picking the juiciest data, he would have realized that this
is not the case.
Interestingly, in the same research by Wurtman & Fernstrom9
found that the addition of protein to an otherwise protein-free
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Page 10

high-carbohydrate meal suppressed the increases in brain

tryptophan and serotonin synthesis, because protein contributes
to the blood plasma considerably larger amounts of the other
neutral amino acids (e.g., BCAAs, phenylalanine) than of
tryptophan. Tryptophan and other large neutral amino acids,
most notably the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine share
the same specific transporter across the blood-brain barrier and
thus compete for uptake.11 Therefore, brain 5-HTP synthesis will
increase when there is an increase in the ratio of free tryptophan
to BCAAs in the blood. This explains why the addition of
protein to an otherwise protein-free high-carbohydrate meal can
suppress serotonin synthesis.
This theory has also been confirmed in humans. Using 20 men,
Lieberman et al13 administered single oral doses of tryptophan
(50 mg/kg) and tyrosine (100 mg/kg) in a double-blind,
crossover study. Tryptophan increased subjective fatigue and
decreased self-ratings of vigor and alertness, but did not impair
performance on any of the tests. Compared to placebo there was
no difference in performance with tyrosine, although tyrosine
administration did reduce reaction time relative to tryptophan.
Lieberman et al concluded that tryptophan has significant
sedative-like properties, but unlike other sedatives this may not
impair performance in a series of cognitive tests. However, it is
extremely unlikely probably impossible in fact that a human
would ever consume 50 mg/kg tryptophan in a single dose from
a dietary source, and thus would not necessarily have to worry
about the negative mental effects of isolated tryptophan
Poliquins strong recommendation to avoid carbohydrate at
breakfast, in fear of neurotransmitter malfunction, mental
breakdown and impaired performance has only a handful of
cherry-picked studies to support it. In reality, the brain
neurotransmitters are influenced by the ratio of free tryptophan
to large neutral BCAAs,14 so a mixed meal that is able to
maintain a balance in that ratio is more likely to optimize
neurotransmitter synthesis. Furthermore, an increase in the ratio
of free tryptophan to large neutral amino acids following a highcarbohydrate protein-free meal is reversible through the addition
of protein to that meal, ultimately balancing the ratio again. This
invalidates Poliquins suggestion that the first meal of the day
dictates brain neurotransmitter production for that entire day.
Worth mentioning is an intricate study by Fischer et al.14 They
examined the cognitive effects of isoenergetic meals consisting
of three carbohydrate ratios, a carbohydrate-rich meal (4:1), a
balanced meal (1:1), and a protein-rich meal (1:4) in 15 healthy
subjects, in an attempt to elucidate which breakfast combination
is most suitable in a school environment. Unsurprisingly,
attention and decision times were improved in the first hour with
the high carbohydrate meal, due to the provision of and greater
rise in glucose metabolism. However, during the first hour it was
both the balanced and higher protein meals that resulted in
improved performance. In addition, overall reaction times in a
central task were fastest after both the balanced and high-protein
meal, thus suggesting a high-protein meal or a balanced meal
appear to result in better overall cognitive performance. The
results also revealed participants subjective measures of tasty
and pleasant were greater in the balanced meal than in the
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

high-protein meal, which suggests this would be the most

effective in a practical/dietary adherence sense.
Fischer et als research14 might lead one to presume
carbohydrate-rich foods contain significant amounts of
tryptophan, thus increase free tryptophan concentrations after
ingestion, elevating tryptophan uptake and stimulating serotonin
synthesis. However, this is not the case. A bowl of oats for
example porridge or oatmeal depending which side of the pond
you are a common staple of many a Western breakfast, vilified
by Poliquin for the potential negative effects on
neurotransmission and mental performance. Well, the amino
acid profile of 100g oats indicates a tryptophan concentration of
234 mg, compared to 694 mg isoleucine, 1284 mg leucine, and
937 mg valine, which collectively make up the BCAAs.15 So, a
high-carbohydrate breakfast does not contain that much
tryptophan, although it accelerates serotonin synthesis through
an increase in tryptophan uptake by the brain.
It would appear that although the carbohydrate meal alone does
not contain much tryptophan, the insulin secreted following the
carbohydrate meal results in a rapid removal and significant
decrease in plasma levels of the large neutral amino acids
(tyrosine, phenylalanine, BCAAs and methionine) that would
ordinarily compete with tryptophan for uptake by the brain.
Tryptophan then crosses the blood-brain barrier and is converted
to serotonin.5 It thus appears that it is not actually the
carbohydrate that causes the problem; it is the insulin response
to that carbohydrate that drives the large neutral amino acids out
of the bloodstream, leaving tryptophan free to pass the blood
brain barrier, with no competition.
The insulin index formulated by Holt et al15 clearly demonstrates
that beef, the food favored by Poliquin in his infamous meat and
nut breakfast, elicits an insulin response of 7910 2193
pmol/min/L (expressed as area under the curve, or AUC). Grain
bread, a food demonized by Poliquin in fear of it frying all brain
cells has an insulin AUC of 6659 837 pmol/min/L. The insulin
index clearly indicates beef is more insulinogenic than many of
the carbohydrate-rich foods tested. This suggests that the net
effect in regards neurotransmitter synthesis of a high-protein
carbohydrate-free meal may be similar to that of a mixed meal.
The greater insulin response to beef consumption will lead to a
reduction in the BCAAs and other neutral amino acids, leaving
free tryptophan to be taken up by the brain. Interestingly, 100 g
steak contains more tryptophan than the same portion of oats
(288 mg versus 234 mg).16
Logic, intuition and a basic understanding of the insulin index
suggests this could be true, although a number of rodent studies
have disproved the hypothesis, where Rouch et al17 revealed a
high-protein diet significantly reduced serotonin concentrations
for 2-hours, and Wurtman & Fernstrom9 reported similar
findings. Interestingly, the reduction in serotonin following
protein feeding is thought to be among the reasons why protein
is more satiating that carbohydrate.
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Page 11

As discussed previously, research has demonstrated that

Poliquins suggestion that the first meal of the day dictates that
whole days brain neurotransmitter activity is false. The process
is reversible and easily altered. Looking at more of the evidence
to disprove this claim, Fernstrom and Fernstrom analyzed the
brain tryptophan concentrations and rates of serotonin synthesis
in fasted rats fed a high-carbohydrate meal followed 2-hours
later by a protein-containing meal.18 They demonstrated that
when the high-carbohydrate meal was fed first, brain tryptophan
concentrations increased as did serotonin synthesis, and these
changes were reversed at 4 hours if the second meal contained
protein. Interestingly the authors went on to conclude, quote:
brain tryptophan concentrations and serotonin synthesis are
thus responsive to the sequential ingestion of protein and
carbohydrate meals if there is a sufficient interval between

studies. A mixed meal consisting of protein, carbohydrate and

fat is adequate, and in a practical sense is likely to be optimal.

Rouch et al19 reported the plasma ratio of free tryptophan to

large neutral amino acids was increased by a carbohydrate meal,
and remained high for 2-hours, a subsequent casein (protein)
meal reversed this change. In an intriguing twist, a first casein
meal reduced the ratio, and was not increased again by a
subsequent carbohydrate meal. This finding actually supports
Poliquins claims in that an initial high-protein carbohydrate-free
meal is more favorable than a high-carbohydrate protein-free
meal in regards neurotransmitter synthesis.



Matt is the lead performance nutritionist at Nutrition Condition. He holds an MSc

in Nutrition Science, and a BSc in Sports Science. Matt coaches world-class
athletes, large corporations and personal clients. Matt employs strong scientific
principles within his practices and has is a great proponent of the evidencebased approach. Matt can be contacted at or on
twitter @MattJonesNC



The reversible nature of neurotransmitter synthesis is supported

by the central fatigue hypothesis in humans, which predicts that
the ingestion of BCAAs during exercise will raise plasma
BCAA concentration and hence reduce transport of free
tryptophan into the brain; subsequently reducing the formation
of serotonin and alleviating sensations of fatigue and therefore
improve endurance performance.20 To-date, this hypothesis is
still controversial despite many years of research. Nevertheless,
it highlights the reversible nature of neurotransmitter synthesis.


Conclusion and recommendations


My recommendation based on this evidence is that a single

macronutrient meal can have a significant impact on the brain
neurotransmitters. A protein-free high-carbohydrate meal typical
of the meals consumed at breakfast by many Westerners think
oatmeal, etc can increase serotonin synthesis, and thus increase
feelings of fatigue as Poliquin claims. However, a high-protein
high-fat carbohydrate-free meal can increase dopamine and
catecholamine synthesis. The latter can be favorable, but with
your daily macronutrient requirements in mind, combined with
the fact that eating single-macronutrient meals would be
extremely tasteless and boring, it would be more appropriate for
most to consume mixed meals than to focus on meals free from
certain macronutrients in fear of a surge of sleep-inducing
neurotransmitters. Furthermore, the current evidence does not
consistently indicate decrements in mood, cognitive
performance, or alertness from a protein-rich meal that also
includes carbohydrate.
In conclusion, the exclusive promotion of low-carbohydrate,
high-protein, high-fat meat and nut breakfast is largely
unsubstantiated, but has minimal support by a few cherry-picked
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013





Wurtman, R., & Fernstrom, J. (1974). Nutrition and the Brain.

Scientific American, 230, 84- 91. [The Wurtman Lab]
Growdon, J., Cohen, E., & Wurtman, R., (1977). Treatment of brain
diseases with dietary precursors of neurotransmitters. Annals of
Internal Medicine, 86, 337 339. [PubMed]
Gelenberg, A., & Gibson, C., (1984). Tyrosine for the treatment of
depression. Nutrition & Health, 3, 163 173. [PubMed]
Hartman, E., & Spinweber, C., (1979). Sleep induced by L-tryptophan.
Effect of dosages within the normal dietary intake. The Journal of
Nervous and Mental Disease, 167, 497 499. [PubMed]
Spring, B., (1984). Recent research on the behavioural effects of
tryptophan and carbohydrate. Nutrition & Health, 3, 55 67.
Le Foll, B., Gallo, A., Le Strat, Y., Lu, L., & Gorwood, P., (2009).
Genetics of dopamine receptors and drug addiction: a comprehensive
review. Behavioural Pharmacology, 20, 1 17. [PubMed]
Francis, P., (2005). The interplay of neurotransmitters in Alzheimers
disease. Central Nervous Systems Spectrums, 10, 6 9. [PubMed]
Wurtman, R., Hefti, F., & Melamed, E., (1980). Precursor control of
neurotransmitter synthesis. Pharmacological Reviews, 32, 315 335.
Wurtman, R., & Fernstrom, J., (1975). Control of brain monoamine
synthesis by diet and plasma amino acids. The American Journal of
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Fernstrom, J., (1994). Dietary amino acids and brain function. Journal
of the American Dietetic Association, 94, 71 77. [PubMed]
Maughan, R., (2000). Nutrition in sport. Blackwell Science, United
Chaouloff, F., Kennett, G., Serrurrier, B., Merino, D., & Curzon, G.
(1986). Amino acid analysis demonstrates that increased plasma free
tryptophan causes the increase of brain tryptophan during exercise in
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Carbohydrate to protein ratio in food and cognitive performance in the
morning, Physiology & Behaviour, 75, 411 423. [PubMed]
Holt, S., Miller, J., & Petocz, P., (1997). An insulin index of foods: the
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Page 12

Jonathan Bailor claims slim is simple but finds

many ways to overcomplicate it.
By Alan Aragon

requirement is 2800 kcal and this is certainly not going to be

what sustains a 1000-lb person. Who knows where Bailor got
that figure from (Im assuming he did some wonky math on
progressively increasing intake by 300 kcal each day), but it
makes a good attention-grabber for audiences with zero
knowledge in this area.
Just like no quantity of clean water will ever clog a sink, no
quantity of the high-quality, clean foods we were designed to
eat will ever clog our body. Eat smarter, not less, problem

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jonathan Bailor is a selfproclaimed nutrition and exercise expert and former personal
trainer who specializes in using high-quality food and exercise
to simplify wellness. However, his profile reveals that his main
day-job since 2005 is at Microsoft. His current position is Senior
Program Manager. This immediately reminds me of Dave
Asprey, a computer programmer-turned-health guru with a
pseudoscientific slant and a flair for gimmickry. Bailors book is
called The Calorie Myth, which Im assuming has gotten a
healthy amount of publicity through the marketing might of
publishing giant HarperCollins. Heres his promotional video
thats making the social media rounds. In the clip, Bailor
delivers a summary of the obesity problem, as well as his
solution. Thus far, I havent seen any research-based critiques of
it, and boy, is it begging for one. My commentary will follow
key excerpts from the video, and end off with discussion of his
questionable training methods.
Today more of us are dieting and exercising than ever, and
yet more of us are overweight and diabetic than ever.

While the second part is true, the first part is false. We are not
dieting and exercising more than ever. The latest data shows that
were consuming about a full meals worth of calories (445 kcal)
more than we did in 1970,1 while reducing our energy
expenditure by the equivalent of 30 minutes of walking (142
kcal) since 1960.2 So, contrary to Bailors claim, were actually
eating more and moving less.
Its been proven that on average we are consuming about
300 more calories per person per day than we were in the late
70s. Between then and now, that adds up to well over 3
million more calories per person, which if the starvation is
healthy, count your calories, and metabolism works like math
premise were true, means the average American today should
weigh well over 1000 pounds.

Here Bailor is claiming that reducing calories-in is not the

solution to weight loss. This is another oversimplification, since
for many folks who are overweight or obese from overeating, a
caloric deficit (via reduction of calories-in and/or increase of
calories-out) is precisely what needs to be sustained in order to
reverse the condition. Intake reduction can be achieved a number
of ways. You can reduce the portion size of the foods you
currently consume. Or, you can eat more energy-sparse foods
that end up displacing the amount of energy-dense foods (which
is what Bailor is recommending). Or, you can do a combination
of both. The thing is, all of those options are paths toward
reducing the intake of metabolizable energy. So, its utterly
misleading to say that eating less is not the solution when thats
exactly what ends up happening terms of energy intake when
these tactics are employed.
Compounding the falsehoods, he also claims that increasing
intake will not cause weight gain if its comprised of highquality foods. According to Bailor, food quality is determined by
4 factors: 1) satiating capacity, 2) aggression, or how likely
those foods are to be stored as body fat, 3) nutrient density, and
4) efficiency, or how many calories can be stored as body fat.
The latter factor is a reiteration of #2, but then you wouldnt be
able to build a catchy acronym (SANE). He then goes on to
outline 3 factors that determine the sanity of foods: 1) water,
2) fiber, and 3) protein. Whats already apparent is that in
Bailors attempt to simplify getting slim, he stacks sets of rules
that complicate and cloud the real objective, which again is to
impose and sustain a caloric deficit. This can and should be
achieved on an individual basis that respects personal preference
and tolerance (and athletic goals when applicable). But lets go
on to see Bailors justification of the latter set of rules.
Water, protein, and fiber-rich foods are sane. On the other
hand, dry, relatively low-fiber and low-protein foods are
insane. Starches and sweets such as cookies and bread, pasta
and potatoes are some of the insane foods that will contribute
to a hormonally clogged sink.

The above statement makes no sense at all. If the typical adult

consuming 2500 kcal/day added 300 kcal/day to that, he or she
would eventually plateau at a bodyweight whose maintenance

This leaves a huge gray area of unaddressed permutations. There

are plenty of high-protein, low-fiber foods like meats. What
about protein powders, which are water-free and low-fiber?
Bailor is just fine with protein powder despite its failure to meet
2 of the 3 criteria for sane foods. There are also plenty of lowprotein, high-water, high-fiber foods. According to Bailor,
combining the latter two makes it okay in some cases. To quote
him in the Frequently Asked Questions page of his website,
When it comes to achieving optimal athletic performance, right
before, during, and right after the event, we need to quickly get

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our muscles glucose and amino acids. The most SANE option
Ive found for doing this is blending fruits with whey protein
powder and consuming these shakes before, during, and after
the event. For on-the-go protein he approves of protein bars, as
long as they contain a minimum of 4 times more protein than
sugar. Nevermind that protein bars, like protein powders, are
typically low in fiber, and of course water-free. Along these
lines of irony, Bailor says that the more natural a food is, the
more sane it is. Yet, he recommends consuming low-fat or fatfree versions of dairy products, as well as consuming egg whites
mixed with whole eggs in order to increase the proportion of
protein and decrease fat intake. Harp on insanity but give a
free pass to logical incoherence... Got it.
Bailor calls for the avoidance of starches including potatoes.
He apparently is in denial that potatoes are rich in
micronutrition, water, and fiber. A recent scientific review by
Weaver and Matt describes the misunderstanding and injustice
leveled at potatoes:3
Potatoes are often left out of the vegetable category in food
guidance because of their purported association with higher fat
diets. Yet white potatoes are a good source of several shortfall
nutrientspotassium, magnesium, fiber, and vitamin B-6, and
as consumed, provide 3%-4% of total energy. [...] Potatoes
should be counted as a vegetable in food guidance systems. In
fact, they had their own category in the 1933 USDA food
guidance system because of their important contribution to
nutrient intake.

Its also ironic that Bailor bashes potatoes while harping on the
importance of satiety. Holt et al found that potatoes were far
more satiating than all 38 common foods tested, including
protein-dominant foods.4 Its tough to talk about potatoes
without mentioning Chris Voigt, the head of the Washington
State Potato Commission. This brave man went on a 60-day
potato-only diet and lost 21 lbs while improving his blood lipid
profile and reducing his fasting glucose levels.5
Another fun factoid challenging Bailors stance is that the top 10
countries with the lowest obesity rates unanimously consume a
starch-dominant diet.4 In light of this, its amusing how Bailor
advises to skip the rice when eating Asian dishes, since 8 of the
top 10 countries that lead the world in low obesity rates are
Asian.6 Its given that correlation does not automatically equal
causation, so observational evidence should be viewed with
caution. However, the fact that a low-carb diet is not the
common thread among the leanest (or the healthiest) populations
on the planet strongly suggests that starch avoidance is likely to
be a trivial factor at best in the war against obesity.
As for the controlled interventions, research comparing high
versus low-carb diets rarely matches protein intakes between
groups. Therefore, the higher-protein condition typically yields
more favorable results. This isnt surprising considering the
positive effects of protein on satiety, thermogenesis, and lean
mass preservation. However, studies that do match adequate
protein intake fail to show a weight loss or fat loss advantage of
the low-carb condition.7,8
Eat way more non-starchy vegetables, way more sea food
and nutritious meats, more low-sugar fruit, and more nuts and
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

seeds. Get so full and satisfied from eating as many sane foods
as you want, whenever you want, that youre too full for
dessert. So go ahead, double the portion of your nutritious
high-protein main dish, triple that side of non-starchy

These are the words of someone without a lot of dietary

counseling experience. Granted, you cant really expect that
from someone whose formal background involves computer
software development and management. Heres the problem.
Any push towards filling up on a strict set of foods and strictly
avoiding another set of foods is at best, a short-term solution. At
worst, it can backfire and lead to excessive fat gain and all of the
accompanying problems.
Bailor repeatedly mentions that we need to repair our broken
hormonal systems in order to lower our bodyweight set-points.
Im wondering how he plans to achieve that with dietary
recommendations which combine a fiber fetish with fat-phobia
and carbo-phobia. This is an ideal recipe for decreasing
testosterone9,10 and triiodothyronine (T3) production.11,12 Thats a
double-whammy for compromising muscle gain and fat loss
And yet again, we see how Bailor complicates a simple concept
like eating more fruit by setting rules about the type of fruit
allowed. Demonizing certain foods while deifying others is a
false perceptual framework that can lead to adverse
psychological effects. Hes also putting the evil/off-limits stamp
on dessert, thereby creating a platform for obsessiveness and
food neuroticism. An all-or-nothing, rigid approach to dieting
has actually been associated with overeating, increased
bodyweight, and eating disorder symptoms, while flexible
dieting has shown a stronger association with lower bodyweight
and the absence of depression and anxiety.13,14 Its clear that
Bailors simplifications are anything but simple. Neither are they
logical or grounded in science.
Bailors eccentricity doesnt end with diet
Bailor is strongly enamored with eccentric resistance training
(focusing on the negative phase of the repetition) to the point
of claiming its the best way to train. In fairness, theres an
interesting body of research on the benefits of eccentric training
on strength and hypertrophy. A relatively recent meta-analysis
by Roig et al15 found that eccentric training is more effective at
increasing total and eccentric strength than concentric training.
However, a subgroup analysis of 3 studies that equated intensity
as a percentage of 1RM showed no major differences between
eccentric and concentric training in promoting strength gains.
The authors repeatedly stress that strength gains from eccentric
exercise are highly specific to the mode of contraction and
velocity of movement. One of their caveats is worth quoting
Because total strength was calculated as the average of
eccentric, concentric and isometric strength gains, we must
consider that excessively weighted gains in eccentric strength
could have influenced the measure of total strength.

Now, heres where things go awry. Bailor claims that the

eccentric phase should last 10 seconds. His reasoning is to
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maximally stimulate the type IIB fibers, and thus evoke the most
profound hormonal response possible in terms of making inroads
into fat loss and setpoint-lowering. I sent this video of Bailor
coaching a bodyweight squat to my friend and colleague Brad
Schoenfeld, who I consider to be one of the top researchers in
area of exercise science. Heres his feedback:

Fry et al concluded that allowing the knees to go beyond the toes

may be necessary to optimally distribute forces on all of the
joints involved with the squat. Bailors claim that the knee
should never pass the toe is thus a load of grass-fed baloney.

1. From a strength perspective, there is certainly a transfer from

eccentric training to concentric training, but optimal
concentric strength is achieved through training
2. Eccentric seems to be at least as effective as concentric
exercise for hypertrophy. But optimal hypertrophy would
seem to require that both modes of action be included.
There is some evidence that eccentric training has a
preferential effect on fast twitch fibers and thus the slowtwitch fibers would not be adequately stimulated. What's
more, there appear to be different "types" of hypertrophy
associated with each action: eccentric training has an effect
on "in series" hypertrophy while concentric has more of an
effect on 'in parallel' hypertrophy. It's a highly complex topic
that requires more research (limitations are in the training
experience of subjects, time course of study, and others).
Bottom line is that there current evidence indicates that both
modes of actions are important.
3. Humans don't possess type IIb fibers--these are exclusive to
rodents; we possess the IIx isoform.
4. There is no evidence that a 10-second slow eccentric is
optimal for hypertrophy. In fact, there is evidence that faster
eccentrics are actually more hypertrophic than very slow
eccentrics (although there are some methodological issues
with this research as well).
5. The knees-over-toes myth of squats is something I've covered
extensively. His point should have been that you should not
force the knees into forward translation but rather sit back
into the squat; whether the knee goes past the toes or not is

Im not quick to criticize anyone who makes a diligent effort to

disseminate high-quality information that considers the full
range of scientific evidence. There is a growing number of folks
in this industry who indeed produce excellent, research-based
work. In contrast, Bailors relatively short video clip is just so
crammed with misleading and plain-false information, that it
quickly rustled me into myth-slaying mode. The clip is so wellproduced, that its immediately intriguing and engaging to those
without any solid understanding of physiology. Sure, there are
moments of good information, but those moments are
consistently interspersed with hogwash. For example, many
people do need to eat more vegetables, but then he imposes the
non-starchy vegetable rule. Also, many do need to eat more
fruits, but then he imposes the low-sugar fruit rule. On a final
note, its difficult to tell who is lucidly sheisting the public, and
who sincerely believes their own fairy tales with the best of
intentions. Bailor appears to lean toward the latter, but that
doesnt exempt his material from meeting my red pen.

On the note of Brads final point, Fry et als examination of the

knees-over-toes issue warrants mention.16 They found that
although restricting forward movement of the knee past the toes
(as Bailor recommends) decreases stress on the knees, it also can
transfers stress to the hips and lower back. This picture from
their paper is worth a thousand words:

Concluding thoughts







Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

United States Department of Agriculture. Food Availability

(Per Capita) Data System. Summary Findings: Food Patter
Equivalents and Dietary Trends. Updated Sep 16, 2013.
Church TS, Thomas DM, Tudor-Locke C, Katzmarzyk PT,
Earnest CP, Rodarte RQ, Martin CK, Blair SN, Bouchard C.
Trends over 5 decades in U.S. occupation-related physical
activity and their associations with obesity. PLoS One.
2011;6(5):e19657. [PubMed]
Weaver C, Marr ET. White vegetables: a forgotten source of
nutrients: Purdue roundtable executive summary. Adv Nutr.
2013 May 1;4(3):318S-26S. [PubMed]
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]
Central Intelligence Agency. A Spotlight on World Obesity
Rates. Updated Apr 30, 2013. [CIA]
Soenen S, Bonomi AG, Lemmens SG, Scholte J, Thijssen
MA, van Berkum F, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Relatively
high-protein or 'low-carb' energy-restricted diets for body
weight loss and body weight maintenance? Physiol Behav.
2012 Oct 10;107(3):374-80. [PubMed]
Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H,
Sears B. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no
metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate
diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1055-61. [PubMed]
Anderson KE, Rosner W, Khan MS, New MI, Pang SY,
Wissel PS, Kappas A. Diet-hormone interactions:
protein/carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma
levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective
binding globulins in man. Life Sci. 1987 May
4;40(18):1761-8. [PubMed]

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10. Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, Incledon T, Boetes M.

Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients
and resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997
Jan;82(1):49-54. [PubMed]
11. Mathieson RA, Walberg JL, Gwazdauskas FC, Hinkle DE,
Gregg JM. The effect of varying carbohydrate content of a
very-low-caloric diet on resting metabolic rate and thyroid
hormones. Metabolism. 1986 May;35(5):394-8. [PubMed]
12. Pasquali R, Parenti M, Mattioli L, Capelli M, Cavazzini G,
Baraldi G, Sorrenti G, De Benedettis G, Biso P, Melchionda
N. Effect of dietary carbohydrates during hypocaloric
treatment of obesity on peripheral thyroid hormone
metabolism. J Endocrinol Invest. 1982 Jan-Feb;5(1):47-52.
13. Stewart TM, Williamson DA, White MA. Rigid vs. flexible
dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in
nonobese women. Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):39-44.
14. Smith CF, Williamson DA, Bray GA, Ryan DH. Flexible
vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse
behavioral outcomes. Appetite. 1999 Jun;32(3):295-305.
15. Roig M, O'Brien K, Kirk G, Murray R, McKinnon P,
Shadgan B, Reid WD. The effects of eccentric versus
concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass
in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br
J Sports Med. 2009 Aug;43(8):556-68. [PubMed]
16. Fry AC, Smith JC, Schilling BK. Effect of knee position on
hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. J Strength
Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):629-33. [PubMed]

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Martial arts meets academia: an interview with Dr.

Brian Jones.
By Alan Aragon

feel that I have two full time jobs. I spend my days at the college
teaching classes, going to committee meetings, advising
students, grading, and prepping new courses. I enjoy about 2-3
hours of down time before I go to the martial arts academy. I get
there early, teach, train, and stay late to make sure everything is
in order. I am fortunate to have such a good group of students,
assistant instructors, and training partners that help out. In this
way Valhalla Academy is more club-like than business-like. It is
large enough to be profitable but small enough to be a tight knit
social circle. This sounds like a lot of work and it is. However, I
cannot stand idleness. I get restless when I'm not working on
I am married but do not have children. My wife works long
hours and she is very understanding of my schedule. We make it
a point to make time for each other each week and this makes all
the difference in the world. With family I believe it is important
to set aside absolute times when work will not interfere with
your plans. I know I can call one of my assistant instructors to
cover my jiu-jitsu classes if necessary and my college teaching
schedule is flexible enough that my wife can visit me for lunch if
she is off on a given day.

Dr. Brian Jones has a PhD in exercise science and is currently a
full time faculty member at Georgetown College in Kentucky. He
teaches courses in anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology,
and research methods among others. Dr. Jones has written three
books, authored two textbook chapters, and has written for
numerous print and online periodicals. He has extensive
experience in strength and conditioning/personal training with
clients ranging from professional athletes to clinical special
populations. Dr. Jones is the current state director of the NSCA
and holds the CSCS certification. He is a fellow and faculty
member in the Institute of Martial Arts and Sciences. He is also
a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Carlson
Gracie Jr. and a black belt in judo. Dr. Jones is the owner and
head coach of Valhalla Academy (, a
martial arts school in Frankfort, KY, that teaches BJJ, judo,
submission grappling, and self-defense.
Heres a recent video clip of Dr. Jones training.
First off, thanks for agreeing to do the interview, Brian. My
impression of you is that you have one foot in academia, and
another foot in combat sports. This is definitely a yin-yang
setup. Being a full-time professor at the college level, how
large a role does martial arts play in your schedule? Would
you say you divide your time and effort pretty evenly
between the two, or does one sort of overshadow the other?
I'm asking from the standpoint of a person who is constantly
challenged by the task of balancing work & family time.
Running a martial arts school is much more difficult than one
would imagine. Actually I suppose it isn't any more work than
any other small business but those who don't own businesses
don't see all the after hours work, lesson planning, fees, bills, and
other unglamorous things that self-employed instructors do. I
Alan Aragons Research Review November 2013

Excellent. I figured it might be like running two full-time

careers, and you confirmed my suspicions. Looking back on
both sides of your career, was it more difficult getting your
PhD, or was it more difficult attaining your black belts in
Brazilian jiu-jitsu & judo? When I say difficult, I mean
challenging from the standpoint of mental & physical effort,
time, and/or resources. What were the main benefits you
have reaped from attaining each of those goals? I know
that's a weird question, so thanks for indulging me.
I've been training in martial arts of some type since I was 9 years
old. I began with Tae Kwon Do, got my black belt when I was
about 16. Took a year or so off, then began training in Kenpo for
about 2 years. From there I moved on to the judo and boxing
clubs at the University of Kentucky. I boxed for about 2 years
and trained in judo there for about 5. After that I moved onto
Brazilian jiu-jitsu while still training judo. As I continued with
the BJJ, I started training and competing in amateur MMA but
did not pursue a long career in that or ever do a professional
bout. I was awarded my black belt in BJJ in 2009, the same year
I received my PhD. It is hard to say which took longer since the
paths were so convoluted. However, I really feel a greater sense
of accomplishment in martial arts than in academics. This is
obviously retrospective - hindsight. There were times of really
hard training and also times of overwhelming college
coursework so the answer would have probably been different
depending on when you asked it.
From academics I gained expertise in an applied science and it is
that which allows me to work at my current job. With the PhD
also comes a certain amount of prestige and the ability to write
in academic journals, be part of advisory boards, and operate in
the capacity of a legal expert consultant/witness. The
information I have gained has allowed me to apply a scientific
approach to my martial arts training and coaching.
Martial arts provided me with fitness, a means of self-defense,
an outlet for stress relief, and a social circle of people I would
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never have met in the insular academic community. It is truly

my passion. As a martial artist I have also gotten the opportunity
to teach and interact with some of the America's finest men and
women in law enforcement and the military.
If I understand correctly, there are not many who have
achieved a black belt in BJJ under the tutelage of the Gracie
family directly, so that's quite an accomplishment - not to
mention getting a 2nd-degree black belt under the same
regime. Can you describe the process of getting the first and
second black belt? How do they determine whether someone
is worthy of the distinction?
The Gracie family is quite large and there are a number of
American black belts now, however, the process is a long one. It
took me about 11 years to get my black belt and I have been
involved in jiu-jitsu for nearly 16 now. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu
rank that I earned was based primarily on time-in-grade, skill on
the mat, and technical knowledge. Testing was the culmination
of being evaluated over time by Michael O'Donnell, my
immediate coach, and by Carlson Gracie Jr. I have known
Carlson for many years and he was able to see my abilities when
he came to visit our school. Once you get to black belt the
ranking system is as follows: black belt, first degree black belt,
second degree, etc. The movement through the degrees of black
belt is based on the continuation of training and promotion of the
art, continued loyalty to your association, and continued training.
I opened my own academy and have grown exponentially in the
past four years. I do everything possible to promote the art and
the Carlson Gracie Team in writing, on Youtube, and in
teaching. The Carlson Gracie lineage has produced some of the
greatest names in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts and I
am proud to be a part of it.

fundamental concepts in anatomy and physiology like

homeostasis, negative feedback systems, and the General
Adaptation Syndrome. These run throughout all the courses.
Each level from the cell to the whole organism, operates on
basic principles like that, just in different ways. In coaching
martial arts I try to give my students the same fundamental
elements. We learn the basics, drill the basics, and add in details
as needed. Once they understand and develop proficiency in the
abilities of balance, base, and position then I add details and
troubleshoot problems as they come up.
I believe the whole educational system misses the point by
trying to overburden students with 'facts'. Certainly there is a
certain amount of basic knowledge needed to understand a given
discipline but what many educators forget to stress is that
science (or any other field) is a process. In my field knowledge
is gained and refined through the scientific method. "Facts" don't
appear out of thin air and they are always subject to modification
or falsification. Students need to understand the scientific
process and how to become critical consumers of information
rather than robots who can spew out information devoid of
context. The same is true in coaching. Once my martial arts
students have grasped the fundamental program I teach, I
encourage them to explore and modify the techniques according
to their own styles, body types, and physical attributes. I try to
build innovators, not clones.

Got it. Can you tell me about your competitive history in

martial arts? What matches, victories, or experiences were
most gratifying?
Early in my martial arts career I dabbled in competition. I looked
at it as a way of testing myself and enjoyed the adrenaline rush
associated with putting my skills to the test. I have competed in
collegiate boxing, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and judo. However, I
am not a competitor at heart. I disliked all of the travel, weight
cutting, and waiting around associated with tournaments. I am
glad that I have a competitive history so that I am better able to
coach students who like to compete but his hasn't played a major
role in my martial arts career. I train primarily for the love of the
art, fitness, and self-defense. Also, I love teaching new students
and helping intermediate and advanced students achieve their
As a coach and a professor, what would you say are the most
important things (whether they be attitudes, habits, or skills)
someone needs to master in order to be a good teacher?

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the

world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same
token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for
the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And
education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children
enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their
own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of
undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to
prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common
Hannah Arendt. The crisis in education, in Between Future and Past.
Penguin, New York; 1977.

My teaching and coaching philosophies are very similar. I focus

on the fundamentals. Students in a college classroom are not
likely to remember anything if overburdened with details. In fact
studies suggest they retain very little of what they "learn" when
they graduate unless they use it on a regular basis. I emphasize

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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