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2013 NSCA Personal Trainers Conference: Looking Back at my Debate with Dr. Jeff Volek

Enjoyable…..but Fricking NUTS!

My second consecutive yr presenting at the NSCA Personal Trainers Convention was one of the crucial rewarding, and undoubtedly probably the most hectic speaking expertise I’ve ever had. The best way it works is that speakers do their presentation twice all through the weekend so the audience has a higher probability of not lacking them. As destiny would have it, I used to be the one speaker in the lineup doing two shows: a Paleo eating regimen dissection & a carbohydrate debate. Because of this I introduced four occasions — and all four shows have been scheduled on at some point (Friday). If the NSCA had a surprise hazing for me in thoughts, they undoubtedly succeeded.

So as to avoid being a full-length novel, this weblog publish will skip the Paleo stuff (there’s loads of that in AARR) and focus on the juicier spotlight of the conference: my debate with low-carb icon Jeff Volek.

Dr. Volek 101

For anybody unaware, Jeff Volek is likely one of the world’s most prolific & influential low-carb weight loss plan researchers. He’s an affiliate professor at the University of Connecticut (full bio right here). He’s additionally one of the authors of the newest installment in the Atkins bestseller saga, New Atkins for a New You. Many think about him to be the prime guy on this area of research. Once I agreed to debate a low-carb advocate, I had no clue who’d find yourself on the other aspect of the cage. Once I acquired word that it was THE Dr. Jeff Volek, think about my pleasure as someone who has been intrigued by his work because the late nineties. I’ve all the time seen him because the “Rebel RD.” It’s because about 10 years in the past when his identify began repeatedly appearing in main magazines, he was the only registered dietitian who brazenly endorsed low-carb/ketogenic weight-reduction plan. The rest of the low-carb RDs – in the event that they existed at all – have been afraid of reproach by the American Dietetic Association.

Volek’s Case

The topic was carbohydrate consumption for athletic efficiency (and to a lesser degree, well being). The planned format was for Jeff & I to present our case (by way of Powerpoint) for 15 minutes each, leaving another 20 minutes for free-flowing discussion and viewers Q & A. So, it was more like some extent/counterpoint factor than a standard debate. Jeff went first and ran about 10 minutes over his limit, then I went on for a barely shorter period. There was no time left for discussion because the entire affair was less than an hour earlier than we needed to clear out of there for the subsequent presenter. So, only 50 minutes for a debate between Volek and Aragon? Sure.  Nevertheless it was an action-packed 50 minutes, that’s for positive. I’ll do my greatest to sum it up as follows.

Jeff started by discussing the problem of endogenous gasoline stores within the context of endurance competitors. While we solely have roughly 1200-2000 kcals of glycogen, we’ve obtained at least 40 occasions that quantity of power saved within the adipose tissue. So, why not practice the body to turn into adept at tapping into this almost bottomless nicely of power we feature around like designer luggage? Jeff then discussed the physiology of carbohydrate-mediated insulin elevations appearing as a brake on fats mobilization & oxidation throughout exercise. He then illuminated the faulty conflation of a relatively benign condition he calls dietary ketosis with an antagonistic situation referred to as ketoacidosis. He drove the purpose that ketosis has gotten a nasty rap, and that ketones are a wonderfully viable gasoline source for not just mind functioning within the absence of exogenous carbohydrate availability, however also to help endurance capacity.

He then discussed research by Phinney et al [1], claiming a upkeep of endurance capacity in well-trained cyclists despite Four weeks of a ketogenic food regimen for the aim of inducing “keto-adaptation” – a physiological shift in the direction of more efficiently deriving power from ketones and fats. Jeff proposes that “hitting the wall” as a consequence of glycogen depletion in endurance competition might be prevented once an athlete turns into keto-adapted (also known as being fat-adapted), and thus extra capable of faucet into stored fats for gasoline. He also discussed a research where obese/obese topics on a resistance training program lost extra fats on a low-carb eating regimen than a low-fat food regimen [2]. I challenged Jeff on the methodology of this research when he introduced it up once more within the second lecture – extra on that in a bit. Jeff concluded his lecture by contending that a growing minority of endurance rivals have efficiently employed the low-carb strategy, and that he’s not the only man difficult typical wisdom. To my amusement, he selected to use Tim Noakes’ current (and quite dramatic) low-carb epiphany as evidence that he’s not alone on this.

My Flip

The purpose of my presentation was to present managed research, observational research, and shopper case studies collectively displaying that the slender position of low-carb supremacy simply doesn’t maintain much evidential weight. I started by discussing the current state of affairs within the low-carb versus low-fat experimental analysis, which is greatest summed up in a current meta-analysis by Hu et al (the most important of its type) displaying a basic lack of distinction in effectiveness for enhancing metabolic danger elements, including weight reduction [3].

I went on to look at the widespread methodological limitation of low-carb versus low-fat comparisons failing to match protein consumption. As such, the benefit of higher thermic effect, satiety, and lean mass retention will strongly favor the groups whose protein is optimized, or at least satisfactory. Low-fat/high-carb remedies typically fall in need of enough protein consumption, and the disadvantages are inherent. A memorable example displaying considerably larger effects on mood and a scarcity of serious difference in physique composition improvement from  a non-ketogenic weight-reduction plan compared to a ketogenic food plan was by Johnston et al [4]. This research confirmed a development toward more favorable results in the non-ketogenic food plan group, and the essential detail is that protein consumption was comparable between groups, and significantly above the paltry RDA degree.

It was serendipitous that Jeff brought up Phinney et al’s 1983 research on highly educated cyclists [1], as a result of I was well-prepared to expose its particulars. This research concerned 5 subjects who, after 1 week on a typical eating regimen, have been put on a ketogenic food regimen for 4 weeks. Both phases have been eucaloric (weight-maintaining). By the top of the 4 weeks, the themes’ steady-state respiratory quotient (RQ) dropped from zero.83 to 0.72, indicating that they indeed have been fat-adapted. Unique carbohydrate utililzation is indicated by an RQ of 1.0 while the unique utilization of fats is indicated by an RQ of 0.7, so with an RQ just a hair above that, these topics have been completely primed for the proposed benefits of keto-adaptation.

Stick with me now… Pre and post-keto-adaptation endurance capacity (measured by time to exhaustion or TTE) was not considerably totally different. This lead the authors to conclude that aerobic endurance at 62-64% of VO2max was not compromised by the 4-week ketogenic eating regimen part. Mean TTE in the non-keto and keto circumstances have been 147 and 151 minutes, respectively. Nevertheless, the authors’ conclusion is deceptive since 2 of the 5 subjects experienced substantial drops in endurance capacity (48 & 51-minute declines in TTE, to be actual). One of many subjects had a freakishly excessive 84-minute improve in TTE, whereas the opposite will increase have been three & 30 minutes. The outlying high worth was instrumental in skewing the results away from any vital decline within the keto situation’s mean TTE.

I proceeded to debate how 21 years after the aforementioned research [1], Phinney wrote a evaluate through which he reflects upon the ergolytic (performance-compromising) impact of the ketogenic food plan part, stating the following (my bolding for emphasis) [5]:

“The bicyclist subjects of this research famous a modest decline in their power degree while on training rides through the first week of the Inuit eating regimen, after which subjective performance was fairly restored except for their dash capability, which remained constrained through the interval of carbohydrate restriction.“

For the report, I have Anthony Colpo to thank for catching the above tidbit. The purpose is, any decrease in sprinting functionality might be thought-about an important legal responsibility, particularly since most endurance races contain sprinting at numerous points. Virtually invariably, sprinting to a point happens toward the final stretch to the end line.

The final phase of my presentation was a discussion of observational research including the carb-dominant dietary habits of the Blue Zone populations, who are among the many longest-living and most disease-resistant on the earth. I also discussed the carb-heavy diets of East African distance runners, who maintain over 90% of the all-time world data and in addition the present top-10 positions in world rating [6,7]. I concluded my lecture by relaying shopper case studies of high-level aggressive & skilled athletes, whose every day carbohydrate gram intakes ranged the high double-digits to the high triple-digits. My point was as an example the sprawlingly wide selection of carbohydrate necessities throughout people, versus the one-size-fits-all ideology of low-carb absolutists. Right here’s the slide that put faces to the case research of my athlete clientele through the years:

The Repeat Round

As I mentioned, each presentation at the conference was delivered twice, and my debate with Jeff was no exception. This made for a really odd second round, since we both knew one another’s material. The moderation was tighter on this spherical, and the 15-minute Powerpoint presentation limits have been strictly imposed to make sure some discussion time. Jeff appeared to portray more flexibility in his place. He opted to go first again after I requested him what he most popular. He was thus capable of pre-empt my mentioning of inter-individual differences within the Phinney research, and pad it with the idea that the authors expected a a lot worse end result after the keto part, however have been stunned that it didn’t utterly obliterate efficiency.

Within the dialogue following our shows, Jeff once again introduced up a resistance coaching research [2] displaying the benefits of low-carb versus low-fat. Unfortunately, this research shouldn’t be readily accessible, nor is it peer-reviewed. In any case, I requested Jeff if protein intake was matched between groups, and he conceded that it was not. This opens up the likelihood that a considerably greater protein consumption in the low-carb group might have induced higher satiety and fewer general caloric intake, resulting in higher fats loss. Once more, a failure to match protein (not to mention match optimized intakes, which underneath weight-reduction plan circumstances can be at least double the RDA) is a frustratingly widespread confounder in a lot of these studies.

Once I asked Jeff how we will reconcile the high-carb diets of the overwhelming majority of world-class endurance champions, he proposed that these populations simply have not given low-carbing a fair enough shot. To me, that is fairly a stretch since one of the best on the earth can be foolish to jeopardize what has been working so stunningly properly because the starting of organized endurance competitors. When Jeff was challenged on the concept of chronically depleted or low glycogen ranges compromising the capacity for muscle progress, Jeff deflected to his current concentration on the medical purposes of carbohydrate restriction fairly than hypertrophic purposes per se.

Did I really feel that Jeff did a superb job presenting his aspect and delivering helpful info? Sure, and I’ve an incredible quantity of respect for him and his body of work. Nevertheless, judging from my own observations – as well as the suggestions from others – he simply didn’t deliver a relatively compelling case for a low-carb/ketogenic food plan’s software to competitive athletes. In contrast, I was capable of current a number of strains of proof displaying the good thing about each ends of the carbohydrate intake spectrum, and lots of factors in between.


General, I loved the convention immensely. I didn’t get an opportunity to see all the shows I needed to, however the ones I used to be capable of catch (by Brad Schoenfeld, Bret Contreras, Chad Waterbury, Lou Schuler, Marie Spano, and Mark Nutting) have been top-notch. All of them delivered theoretical and sensible gems of data, and I can’t categorical enough how excessive the high quality of schooling is. A large debt of gratitude is owed to Jeff Volek for agreeing to share the stage and lock horns with me. Big thanks & kudos are due to the tireless directors of the NSCA (particular shout-outs to Peter Melanson & David Barr) for making this an event to remember.


  1. Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Evans WJ, Gervino E, Blackburn GL. The human metabolic response to persistent ketosis with out caloric restriction: preservation of submaximal train capability with decreased carbohydrate oxidation. Metabolism. 1983 Aug;32(Eight):769-76. [PubMed]
  2. Quann, EE. Carbohydrate restricted diets and resistance coaching: a strong mixture to reinforce physique composition and improve well being. ACSM’s Certified News. Oct-Dec, 18(Four), 2008.
  3. Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis Okay, Eloustaz M, Yancy WS Jr, Kelly TN, He J, Bazzano LA. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic danger elements: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled medical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176 Suppl 7:S44-54. [PubMed]
  4. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, Sears B. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets haven’t any metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Might;83(5):1055-61. [PubMed]
  5. Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug 17;1(1):2.Phinney SD. Ketogenic diets and physical efficiency. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug 17;1(1):2. [PubMed]
  6. Beis LY, Willkomm L, Ross R, Bekele Z, Wolde B, Fudge B, Pitsiladis YP. Food and macronutrient consumption of elite Ethiopian distance runners. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 Might 19;Eight:7. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-8-7. [PubMed]
  7. Onywera VO, Kiplamai FK, Boit MK, Pitsiladis YP. Meals and macronutrient intake of elite kenyan distance runners. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Dec;14(6):709-19. [PubMed]


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