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2014 ISSN Conference Review - Part IIb

Quick Hit Summary

In Part IIb of our ISSN conference review we shift our focus to the presentations of Day 2. Specific ones highlighted include those presented by Jacob M. Wilson PhD and Ryan Lowery BS CSCS (Fat Loss Strategies for Optimizing Body Composition), Jeff Volek PhD RD (The Many Facets of Keto-Adaptation – Health, Performance, & Beyond), and research from Dr. Lonnie Lowery's lab on The Effects of VIA® Instant Coffee on Bench Press Performance: A Gender Comparison.

Part I & IIa Recap

Figure 1 ISSN logo. Image uses with permission.

We’re pleased to roll out our final report from the 2014 ISSN conference. Hopefully you enjoyed Part I of our conference review which highlighted the following presentations…

  • Juan Carlos Santana, FNSCA – Weight Cutting Strategies for Elite MMA Fighters
  • Krista Varady, PhD – Alternate Day Fasting: Effects on Health & Body Composition
  • Darryn Willoughby, PhD – Ursolic Acid Supplementation
  • Mark Tarnopolsky, PhD – Creatine: Not Just for Sport
  • Steven Orris MS CSCS USAW CISSN – Strength Training and Sports Nutrition for the College Athletes

Similarly, we had a great line-up in Part IIa of our conference review

  • Shawn Wells MPH, RD, CISSN & Gabriel Wilson PhD – Leucine, HMB, And Amino Acid Metabolites Support Muscle Growth and Athletic Performance
  • Mike Roberts, PhD – Molecular Updates on the Effects of Phosphatidic Acid: Muscle Physiology and Beyond),
  • Brad Schoenfeld PhD, FNSCA – MAX Muscle: A Periodized Approach to Hypertrophy Training

With eight presentations in the books, time to get to our final three of the 2014 ISSN Conference – Enjoy!

Jacob Wilson, PhD & Ryan Lowery CSCS – Fat Loss Strategies for Optimizing Boy Composition

Figure 2. Looks like someone has the whole bulking and cutting thing down right. Image source.12

The main focus of Dr. Wilson's talk was, as alluded to in this title, how to maximize fat loss for ideal body composition. Obtaining this ideal physique is a result of two things: A) Minimizing fat accumulation during the “bulk” and B) Enhancing the rate at which fat is lost during the subsequent “cut”.

The Bulk

The central tenant of the classic bulk is that although fat mass will increase, it will allow for greater/quicker gains in leans muscle mass vs. the ‘slow and steady’ approach. For instance, in Bouchard et al.'s classic 1990 study, 12 pairs of sedentary twins consumed an excess of 1000 kcal/d, 6d/wk for 100 days. (For those wondering it was a 50:35:15 split of CHO:Fat:Pro). Although fat mass increased by 5.4 kg, fat free mass did increase by 2.7kg. Although interesting, this study was done in a group of sedentary individuals. Things brings up a couple of questions… What would happen if we had two groups overfeed while on a resistance training program? Likewise, could one experience similar gains in lean muscle mass while minimizing fat gain by taking a less extreme approach to bulking?

Unfortunately there is little formal evidence on the topic; thus, for the most part, we’re left with anecdotal reports. However, Dr. Wilson’s lab recently completed a fascinating, yet to be published study, examining these very questions. In it, 16 recreationally trained individuals (mean age – 20.5) completed a 1 of 2 overfeeding programs – a high or moderate bulk diet (HBD or MBD) as outlined below. In conjunction with the overfeeding was a 5 week resistance training program (full body workouts 2x/wk).

Daily kcal/macros ABOVE maintenance:

  • High Bulk Diet (HBD) – 2280 kcal / 435 g CHO / 9 g Fat / 105 g Pro
  • Mod Bulk Diet (MBD) – 825 kcal / 83.75 g CHO / 3.5 g Fat / 102.5 g Pro

TOTAL Daily kcal/macros:

  • HBD – 4461 kcal / 672 g CHO / 82.7 g Fat / 219.26 g Pro
  • MBD – 2838 kcal / 329 g CHO / 83.2 g Fat / 207.5 g Pro

At the start of the trial, NO significant differences were present between groups with respect to body composition or total body mass. However, things looked much different at the end of the 6 week trial as shown in Table 2 below. As you can see, the HBD had 2x the gain in total mass. However, this added mass was not accompanied with greater gains in lean body mass. Additionally, while the HBD gained ~1 kg of fat, the MBD group actually lost ~ 1.5 kg of fat while experiencing equally as impressive gains in fat free mass

Table 1. Changes in body composition following a 6 week high or moderate bulk diet in conjunction with a resistance training program. Please know these are all approximations based off my eyeball the figures presented by Dr. Wilson. However they should be pretty close. All values significant vs. baseline

Body Comp Variable Change in HBD Change in MBD
Total Body Mass + ~ 4 kg + ~ 2 kg
Fat Mass + ~1 kg kg - ~1.5 kg
Fat Free Mass + ~ 3 + ~3.5 kg

The Cut

There are various ways that individuals complete "a cut." While all involve a decrease in kcal intake, often they vary in terms of macronutrient ratios. One of the more popular approaches is the low carb/ketogenic approach to dieting. This cutting method has yet to be formally studied in a lab based setting – Until now that it is… Dr. Wilson's lab did an interesting 11 week study in which 26 resistance trained men (average squat ~ 1.5x BW; average bench ~1.35xBW) where put on a low carb (LC) or western diet (WD). As outlined in Figure 3, the research team had all participants complete a “diet only” phase for the first two weeks of the study, allowing keto adaptation to take place in the LC group. Then, from weeks 3-10, study participants completed a 3 day/wk periodized training program in which the Mon/Wed sessions were hypertrophy focuses whereas Fri had a strength base emphasis. During the final week of the study, the LC group completed a “carb up” before both groups completed final testing on changes in body composition, strength & blood lipid levels.

Figure 3. Low Carb vs. Western Diet Protocol. * Indicates significance vs. baseline; # indicates significance vs. WD. BW = body weight Image created by Sean Casey

Final results of the study indicated gave a “thumbs up” to the LC group; despite having similar LBM’s at baseline, following the carb up, they experienced greater gains vs. the western diet (LBM – 4.3 vs. 2.2kg) and tended to have greater losses in fat as well.2 It should be noted that the ‘carb up’ significantly enhanced LBM in the LC group; during this time period they experienced a gain of 2.9 kg!3 In terms of blood markers, while dieting the LC group tended to see improvements in HDL levels (+6.69 mg/dl; p = 0.08) and, in contrast to the WD group, rather than experiencing a drop in testosterone levels (- 36 ng/dl), actually saw an increase in the “Big T” (+118 ng/dl).4 For reference both groups testosterone levels were in the 550-600 ng/dl range at the start of the study. The only other major differences between groups were a higher increase in triglyceride levels in the LC (29.3 vs -8.4mg/dl) who also experienced better insulin sensitivity as well. In terms of gains in strength/power, gains were similar between groups.5

Figure 4. Changes in LBM following LC or WD in conjunction with a periodized resistance training program. Image created by Sean Casey.

Figure 5. Changes in fat mass following LC or WD in conjunction with a periodized resistance training program. Image created by Sean Casey.

A few final somewhat random points from the presentation…

  • When losing weight, the leaner you are at baseline, the greater the likelihood of loosing lean mass. Thus, leaner individuals may be able to retain more muscle mass by taking a slow (vs. fast) approach to weight loss.
  • Following a hard cut, one’s metabolism has slowed down and may "preferentially gain fat after dieting". Therefore emphasis should be on a slow regain vs. jumping right into high kcal bulking diet.
  • Fill up your glycogen stores, but don't go gangbusters on carbs. Speaking in terms of generalities, a typical resistance training session 'depletes muscle glycogen stores 25-40 mmols/d.' This can easily be replaced by 3-5g of CHO/kg/d which 'increases muscle glycogen by 10-40 mmols/d, which is likely more than fast enough' to replete glycogen stores 'for a typical training split'
  • Future research in Dr. Wilson’s lab, as presented by Ryan Lowery, is directed towards the effects of various breakfast protocols on health and performance.

Jeff Volek – The Many Facets of Keto-Adaptation: Health, Performance & Beyond

Figure 6. Zach Bitter, ultra-endurance athlete extraordinaire, strongly supports the low carb lifestyle. Zach was the 2012 USA Track & Field (USATF) 50 mile champion. Also, in December 2013 he set the 12 hour world record by logging 101.66 miles. To find out more about Zach and his low carb performance, head on over to our 2012 interview with Mr. Bitter!

"Low carbohydrate/ketogenic diets…" – When I hear these words, one of two names usually pops into my mind – Dr. Robert Atkins and/or Dr. Jeff Volek. Although many will recognize the former’s name, it is the latter individual, Dr. Jeff Volek, who has been one of the main torch bearers on the topic during the 21st century. I still recall one of my former university TA’s (and now PhD), Dr. Jamie Cooper pointing me in his direction with the words of, “This guys doing some pretty interesting research… you may enjoy it.” Needless to say she was right – it was quite interesting. Fast forward 10 years and he’s still putting out fascinating research on the topic of ketogenic diets for health and performance.

During his presentation, Dr. Volek discussed various health conditions that may benefit the most from ketogenic diets (diabetes/pre-diabetes, cancer, PCOS, neurological disorders). Additionally he emphasized that ketogenic diets SHOULD NOT be confused with keto-acidosis, a life threatening event that can occur in those whose bodies can’t produce sufficient insulin (ie – Type 1 diabetics). As shown in Table 2, the order of magnitude between the two is quite significant.

Table 2. Ketone levels under various conditions. Adapted from Dr Jeff Volek’s 2014 ISSN presentation.

Conditions Ketone Levels (mmol/L)
Moderate Carbohydrate Diet (fasted) 0.1-0.3
Nutritional Ketosis (<50g CHO/d) 0.5 – 3.0
Nutritional Ketosis Post Exercise 1.0 – 5.0
Keto-acidosis (insulin insufficiency) 10-20+

What is an ideal ketogenic diet? Although many variations of it exist, Dr. Volek made one thing clear – it is NOT a freakishly high protein diet. In fact, extremely high protein diets are actually counterproductive as extra amino acids can be converted into glucose. Rather emphasis should be placed on a moderate protein intake, 1-1.5g/kg (15-20% of kcal). In terms of the other macronutrients, depending on one’s activity levels, average carbohydrate intake should be ~ < 60 g/day (5-10% kcal) and fat should be used to meet one’s remaining kcal needs (70-75% kcal). In terms of micronutrients, sodium intake is especially important due to the increased urinary losses associated with low carb/insulin levels. A failure to replace this sodium will lead to low blood volume and the confusion/headaches associated with it.

Along with discussing health benefits as well as setting up a ketogenic diet, Dr. Volek discussed an exciting, yet to be published study that his research team recently completed – The FASTER study. In it, 20 elite male ultra endurance runners between the ages of 21-45 were recruited to participate in a 2 day testing session (Day 1 – VO2max test; Day 2 – 3 hr treadmill run at 65% VO2max). Habitual macronutrient intake for these athletes were as follows:

  • High Carb (N = 10): 60% CHO (407g/d), 25% Fat, 15% Pro
  • Low Carb (N = 10): 10% CHO (64 g/d), 70% Fat, 20% Pro

The results of the study were rather fascinating. During the VO2max, the mean peak fat oxidation of the low carb (LC) athletes was > 2x that of the high carb (HC) athletes (1.54g/min vs. 0.67g/min)! Additionally, low carb athletes were able to rely on fat to fuel performance of much higher intensities, upwards of 70-80% VO2max (vs. typical athlete at ~ 50-65% with genetics and training background influencing the range;67 the HC group fell within the typical range). During the submax run on day two, the LC group fueled their run mostly via fat oxidation (~ 85% fuel consistent throughout). In contrast, at the start of the run, the HC runners relied primarily on carbohydrates (~ >50% CHO through hour #1) and even at the end, ~40% of their fuel was derived from carbohydrates.

Now before everyone takes a look at the results from the FASTER study and switches to a low carb/ketogenic diet, I must remind you of one thing – these are ultra endurance athletes. If you’re an athlete whose sport relies primarily on anaerobic metabolism to fuel it (ie – sprinters, basketball athletes, etc), or even endurance but not quite "ultra" level (ie – 5k, 10k, etc) a ketogenic diet is likely not going to be your quickest ticket to success.

Poster Session: Dr. Lonnie Lowery's Lab’s Investigation on Acute Caffeine Ingestion on Performance Differences in Males vs. Females

Figure 7. Percent changes in power, velocity and rate of force development following ingestion of 18 oz. VIA ® coffee vs. decaffeinated placebo. * indicates significant increase vs. decaffeinated coffee. Improvements were similar between genders with respect to power and velocity. Data adapted from Wise A, Frank M, Holy A, Mohney S & Lowery L.8

On day two of the ISSN conference was the research poster session. One particular study that I spent a fair amount of time reviewing was The Effects of VIA ® Instant Coffee on Bench Press Performance: A Gender Comparison.4 It was rather unique as it was one of the first studies I’ve seen which has examined the effects of caffeinated coffee in resistance trained females. Additionally, as implied by the study’s title, gender comparisons were made as well. Now for the details…

The study, completed by Dr. Lonnie Lowery’s research team at the University of Mount Union (USA), was set up in a randomized placebo controlled crossover fashion. In it, 23 resistance trained individuals (12 men, 11 women; mean training age 6.4 yrs) consumed 18 oz. of Via ® instant coffee or decaffeinated coffee 60 minutes prior to completing three smith machine bench presses set at 30% 1RM. For reference, 48-72 hours separated the trials. Also, with respect to the caffeine content of the coffee, google searches on my end indicate that VIA ® contains 135mg/8 oz; thus providing each study participant ~ 300mg/18oz. Key variables examined by the research team included bench press power, velocity and rate of force development.

Upon reviewing the results of the trial, the research team found that relative to the decaffeinated placebo, both men and women experienced significant increases in bench press power and velocity following Via ® consumption. Additionally, when expressed on a relative basis, no significant differences existed between men and women with respect to bench press velocity or power. In regards to rate of force development, only men saw significant increases following coffee consumption.

Bottom Line

Figure 8. Catching up with friends at ISSN. From left to right – Dr. Lonnie Lowery, Dr. Mike T Nelson, Korey Van Wyk & myself (Sean Casey). Brilliant men wear glasses. Image via Mike Nelson.

The 11th annual ISSN Conference was a great place to catch up with friends/make new ones, swap ideas and learn from those on the cutting edge of sports nutrition research and application. I hope to see you all at the 2015 conference in Austin. As you can by the lineup 2015 line-up, it should be a good time.


1 Bouchard C1, Tremblay A, Després JP, Nadeau A, Lupien PJ, Thériault G, Dussault J, Moorjani S, Pinault S, Fournier G. The response to long-term overfeeding in identical twins. N Engl J Med. 1990 May 24;322(21):1477-82.

2 Rauch J, Silva J, Lowery R, McCleary S, Shields K, Ormes J, Sharp M, Weiner S, Georges J, Volek J, D'agostino, Wilson J. The Effects of Ketogenic Dieting on Skeletal Muscle and Fat Mass. University of Tampa. Poster Presentation 2014 ISSN Conference

3 Ormes J, Lowery R, Lowery R, Silva J, Rauch J, McCleary S, Sharp M, Shields K, Georges J, Wilson J. Impact of Glycogen Resynthesis on Lean Mass. University of Tampa. Poster Presentation 2014 ISSN Conference

4 Silva J. The Effects of very high fat, very low carbohydrate diets on safety, blood lipid profile, and anabolic hormone status. University of Tampa. Poster Presentation 2014 ISSN Conference

5 McCleary S, Sharp M, Lowery R, Silva J, Rauch J, Ormes J, Shields K, Georges J, Wilson J. Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Strength and Power. University of Tampa. Poster Presentation 2014 ISSN Conference

6 Wildman R. “Carbohydrates”. pg 55-110 Chapt 3. Nutrition & Performance Enhancing Supplements. Smith-Ryan, Antonio. Linus Publishing. 2013

7 Achten J1, Gleeson M, Jeukendrup AE. Determination of the exercise intensity that elicits maximal fat oxidation. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Jan;34(1):92-7.

8 Wise A., Frank M., Holy A., Mohney S., and Lowery L. The Effects of VIA® Instant Coffee on Bench Press Performance: A Gender Comparison. Department of Human Performance and Sports Business, University of Mount Union, Alliance, OH, 44601, USA. Poster Presentation. 2014 ISSN Conference. June 21, 2014.

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Written on October 26, 2014 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: October 30, 2014

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.