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  • Muscle Mavens: AHS 2014 Wrap-Up


    Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com

    If the theme at PaleoFX earlier this year was “stress,” it’s safe to say that “muscle” was a popular word at the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS), held just a couple weeks ago. This year’s conference was held at UC Berkeley, and was attended by scientists and researchers, medical practitioners, bloggers and writers, and folks curious to know more about what’s new in the field of ancestral health.

    I heard some pretty amazing talks, and while the variety of topics was as diverse as gut health to sustainable coffee (and everything in between), I was pretty taken with how many folks at AHS were talking about muscle.

    First worth mentioning was “Specific Requirements & Health Benefits of Strength Training for Women,” the talk I gave with Stacy from Paleo Parents. She is an avid strongwoman competitor, and I’m an Olympic weightlifter, so it was a natural fit to talk about something we are both so passionate about.

    Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com
    photo courtesy Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom

    Here’s our presentation on the AHS14 YouTube channel (I encourage you to check out the other talks…the one on bone broth is excellent!), and here’s a summary:

    • A vast majority of women lack the genetic capability to build very large muscle mass (due to a gene for the protein myostatin and the very small amount of testosterone we produce).
    • To be most effective and positively influence metabolism and body composition, lifting should be 1) heavy (relative to the person’s current capacity); 2) low rep (in the realm of 1-5 reps); 3) involve compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and presses; and 4) involve type II (fast twitch) fibers that are most active under heavy load and “fast” speeds.
    • The 1600+ women who took our survey most often cited improvements in body composition, confidence and a sense of community amongst the reasons they like lifting.

    Another excellent talk was Jamie Scott’s lecture on “The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease” (which you can watch for free by clicking here). In it, Jamie elucidated muscle’s grossly underestimated role as an endocrine organ, involved intimately in our body’s metabolism. I highly, HIGHLY recommend you watch his talk.

    Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com

    He also brought home a critical point: In the world of ancestral health and in conventional medicine, we (as a collective) are often focused so much on fat gain or loss that we overlook how important muscle is. This has incredible implications, not just in terms of moving our bodies for sport, but for the regulation of metabolism, and as an incredible protective mechanism as we age.

    A couple other great presentations on muscle were by Skyler Tanner and Keith Norris.

    I also got to work at my publisher’s booth, and finally got to meet some of the folks involved in making our books reality.  It was pretty surreal to see my cover up there with some other sweet Paleo titles such as The Frugal Paleo Cookbook, The Paleo Foodie, and Paleo Takes 5. My book is being copyedited right now, and then it’s on to the final design phase. You can pre-order through Amazon or Barnes & Noble and save 25%!

    Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com

    I’m already looking forward to attending the New Zealand AHS next year (with these guys above), and I’m already plotting my presentation.

    Click here to pin this!

    Muscle Mavens: AHS14 Wrap-Up | stupideasypaleo.com

    Have a question? Leave it in the comments section below!

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    6 thoughts on “Muscle Mavens: AHS 2014 Wrap-Up

    1. Interesting summary points, especially the second one regarding most effective practices for muscle building: low rep, heavy weight movements is counter to everything I did growing up, and on through college (endurance athlete, up through competing D1-NCAA). Two questions: would you say that doing the low weight/high rep scheme is beneficial (more/less so) for endurance athletes (non-sprint runners, swimmers, triathletes), or should/could be supplemented by heavy weight-training? Are your conclusions based on personal experiences and/or published scientific research? I really enjoy reading your posts- Thanks!

      1. Hi Clare!

        As a generalization, endurance athletes have a predominance of type I fibers in comparison to power athletes (who tend to have more type II fibers). The issue is that type I fibers are not associated with the same benefits to metabolism as type II fibers. We can only work type II fibers by putting them under heavy load and making them generate a lot of force. This is the sort of paradigm we work under as Olympic weightlifters, but you’ll also see it in powerlifters and other sports that train for the generation of power.

        Often times in a race, you’ll need to accelerate to pass someone, etc, which is where training type II fibers come into play. In addition, you’re increasing the efficiency of the muscle by training more fiber types (that is, type I and II).

        The conclusions in our presentation were the result of both personal experience and published research. Our sources are listed on the presentation, so when it’s available online through the AHS YouTube account, I’ll be sure to link it up. Another great article in the meanwhile (with lots of primary research cited) is here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-lift-and-lower-heavy-things/.

        Thank you!

        1. Hi Clare and Steph

          I have worked extensively with the strength and conditioning of endurance athletes (particularly cyclists). I am yet to see an endurance athlete not benefit from a well-planned and periodised strength and conditioning programme.

          Whilst we consider type I fibres ‘endurance’ fibres and type II’s strength/power, in reality, it isn’t as black and white as that. Type I’s are generally quite weak and are good for keeping an athlete at a steady constant pace. They are, however, not good for changes in speed and overcoming inertia. This is where the type II fibres kick in. Any aspect of an endurance athlete’s race which requires acceleration, changes in direction, climbing, descending, and so on, will require strength and power beyond what the type I’s alone can provide.

          Type II fibres can also be ‘endurance trained’, with the capacity to develop a degree of lipolytic metabolism, and augmenting the performance of an athlete. In many forms of endurance racing, the winner is the athlete who fatigues the least over a race. Having extra capacity in all fibres adds to this fatigue resistance.

          If you want to build strength capacity, as Steph rightly points out, low reps + high load is the best way to do this (total volumes can be altered to suit individual circumstances and requirements). Doing high rep strength training is largely a waste of time and resources in my opinion.

          See my AHS talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVPGLmEvQWE&list=UUSIUpXeC1QEjNm54X7KylkQ

          See various blog posts here: http://thatpaleoguy.com/?s=strength+training&submit=Search


          1. Jamie, thank you as always for adding your expertise!

            Excellent point about training those type IIs for muscular endurance. Great stuff from you as always!

            1. I’d add to Jamie’s comment about the potential for phenotypic changes in muscle fibre type. We published a review paper a couple of years ago looking at the potential effects of high intensity (effort) resistance training upon cardiovascular fitness, as well as the acute mechanisms and chronic physiological adaptations that catalyse the fitness improvements. There is considerable potential for type IIx fibres to undergo a phenotypic change to type IIa fibres, maintaining their force producing potential but achieving a greater degree of fatigue resistance.

              Here’s the paper: http://www.asep.org/asep/asep/JEPonlineJUNE2012_Steele.pdf

              1. This is excellent, James. I really appreciate your addition to what Jamie said…going to check out the paper right now!

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