Mike: Well, howdy, howdy. There I’m Mike Matthews. This is muscle for life. Thank you for joining me today for another installment. In my research Roundup series, where I break down a handful of studies on building muscle, losing fat, getting stronger, getting healthier, getting happier, and try to help you understand both how scientific research is conducted and how to apply that research in your life.
So in today’s episode, I’m gonna be going over a few studies and one is on boosting your daily step count and how that can make your cardio workouts more effective. Interesting research. The next study is on weightlifting cues. There’s really only one right way to use cues. And many people don’t do it this way.
And then I have some research on artificial sweeteners and body composition, weight loss slash weight gain. And. Jining and testosterone in men, because many people claim that Jining different types of Jining at least can boost testosterone in men. But first, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you want to help me do.
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Okay, first up on my list here is boosting your daily step count and how that can make your cardio workouts more effective. So my source here is a paper called the effect of aerobic training and increasing non-exercise physical activity on cardiometabolic risk factors. And this was published on October 1st, 2021 in the journal medicine and science in sports and exercise.
Now I have. Previously covered. I have written about and spoken about how walking just helps you stay healthier and live a longer life. And I have advocated for years now that people go for walks, especially outside in nature. I think that is one of the. Most unsung forms of exercise out there. But according to the results of this study, I’m sharing with you today, which was conducted by scientists at east Carolina university, that also might affect how well you respond to regular formal exercise, endurance exercise, or.
Cardio. So in this study, researchers randomly split 45 middle aged obese people into three groups. One group walked on an incline treadmill for 40 to 50 minutes at an average heart rate of 125 to 130 beats per minute, which is a pretty brisk walk. And they did that three to four times per week for six months.
Another group did the same thing. Also increased their daily step count by about 3000 steps per day. So that’s outside of their structured workouts. So some additional walking on top of the incline treadmill workouts, and the last group had the privilege of doing nothing. They sat on their butts, they were the control.
And at the beginning of the study, all of the participants were averaging four to 5,000 steps per day in these little workouts. And so the group who had to do more than that, they were. Doing about seven to 8,000 steps per day. And the researchers measured the participant’s body weight and waste circumference, and did blood testing to measure several health markers, such as cholesterol, insulin, and glucose levels.
And they did that both at the beginning and the end of the experiment. And of course the people who. Walked did a lot better than the people who did nothing. They lost more weight. They improved their health and fitness. But what was interesting is how much better the group did that boosted their normal step count compared to the group who was exercising without the extra steps.
So those who did just 3000 more steps per day, lost about twice as. Weight. So four pounds versus two pounds. They decreased their waist circumference by about twice as much, two inches versus about one inch. They lost more body fat. They decreased total cholesterol over twice as much as well. And they improved several measures of cardiovascular fitness and metabolic health compared to the people who only did the walking workouts and that additional walking was maybe 30 minutes or.
Again, a mile and a half. Now you might be thinking that those benefits are just from working out more well, yes and no, because while exercising more is obviously going to help you get fitter faster. What’s interesting is the degree to which the extra steps. Helped. Although these people only did 30 to 40% more work, they saw a 50 plus percent improvement in results.
And remember those extra steps were mostly from just low intensity puttering around. They weren’t even doing incline, treadmill, walking. Like they were in their workouts. That was harder than the extra steps they were. Now there are a few methodological quals worth noting here. Most importantly, the differences did not reach statistical significance, except for those in the cardiovascular fitness bucket that said, given the strong trend in favor of the extra steps group, it is reasonable to conclude.
There was some benefit there, even if it wasn’t statistically impressive. Another point that adds some weight to the findings is if you excluded the people who did not stick to the protocol throughout the study, then the results would probably be even bigger. They’d be more impressive for that extra steps group.
And finally, you could also say that the absolute gains weren’t all that great. Especially considering that this was a six month experiment. And that’s also not surprising though, because the participants did not change their diets. They only changed. Activity levels. And so to me, the most important thing, and the most practical thing about this study is that it’s just more evidence that points to the outsized value of even seemingly trivial amounts of exercise.
And especially when you are cutting when every extra calorie burned matters a little bit more. And when low intensity exercise is especially useful because your body can only take so much abuse when calories are restricted. And so if you’re doing say three to five strength training workouts per week, You can only do so much high intensity, especially high impact cardio endurance exercise.
On top of that specifically, I don’t recommend more than a couple of hours of cardio per week period, and probably no more than maybe one hour of high intensity cardio per week. And I would say certainly no more than an hour of high impact high intensity cardio. Per week when cutting, at least you can probably get away with a bit more when you are maintaining and lean bulking.
Although if you are lean bulking, you should know that doing a lot of cardio is going to cut into your gains in your strength training. So it might be counterproductive. And so anyway, all of that is to say, this is me advocating once again for walking, getting outside. Walking, you could go for one 30 minute walk, for example, per day, that would be again about an extra 3000 steps or so, or split that in half.
That’s what I prefer to do. So I prefer to get outside usually around lunchtime, go out for a 15 minute walk, maybe with my dogs. And then do that again. Usually after dinner, maybe 7, 7 30, maybe even eight or eight 30, depending on the day. Okay. Now let’s talk about some research on weightlifting cues, which is something I have talked about and written about several times in the past.
But what I’m going to share with you today is a little bit different. And so let’s do it. This comes from a paper called acute and long term effects of attentional focus strategies on muscular strength, a meta-analysis. And this was published on November 12th, 2021 in the journal sports. And if you are not familiar with the term, a weightlifting cue is a mental mantra of sorts that you recite during your exercise that draws your attention to a particular aspect of what you’re doing.
So for example, squeeze, the bar is a common cue for bench pressing because it encourages you to maintain upper body tightness and to aggressively drive the bar upward and to squeeze the bar really hard. And all those things improve your performance on the bench. Press. You can divide weightlifting cues into two categories.
You have internal cues and external cues, internal cues direct your attention toward what you’re doing with your body. So hips up in the squat, that’s an internal cue, external cues though. They direct your attention toward how your movements are impacting or interacting with an object in your environment.
So push the floor. In the deadlift, for example, that’s an external cue now researchers and this effort by the way, was spearheaded by Dr. Gabriela Wolf. They have proven many times over that external cues are superior to internal ones for improving performance in basically every sport. Imaginable for example, studies have shown that external cues can improve endurance.
They can improve balance agility, coordination, speed, movement efficiency, and throwing and kicking and golf shot accuracy. There’s a lot of research on cues and most of these studies have focused on skill skill-based sports. And while one study showed that internal cues are about as good as external ones for improving leg extension performance.
Ho hum. No researchers had systematically compared the research and the data on internal versus external cues until now, because in this review, the researchers combed through the results of seven studies and they found that external cues boost strength significantly more than internal cues on the whole.
Now some of the studies measured obscure kinds of strength, like grip, strength, and finger strength, which. Necessarily applicable to those of us who bang weights researchers, they have to work with what they have available. Right. But other studies showed that external cues also boosted strength in more relevant ways.
At least to us like the squat, the deadlift in the mid thigh. Pull most importantly, when the researchers looked at long-term data, they found that those who used external cues tended to gain more strength over time and particularly lower body strength than those who did not. So, in other words, you don’t need to spend a decade studying the arcane ways of the Bena Jesuit priests to interpret the results.
If you want to get as strong as possible on basically any exercise or if you wanna. Better at basically any sport you want to use external cues instead of internal ones. And if you want a catalog of my favorite weightlifting cues, head over to Legion athletics.com and search for weightlifting cues, and you will find an article called complete list of weightlifting cues for perfect form and new PRS.
Go check that out. There’s a lot of good stuff in. And by the way, if the cues that you use and you like, or at least some of them, if they happen to be internal ones, you can tweak them to be external. So let’s say an internal cue that you like is keep your back straight. Well, you could turn that into push your shoulders into the ceiling.
Ultimately, if you still like the internal queue more, if it works better for you, then stick with it. Of course, there are always outliers to all research, but in most people, external cues are more effective than internal cues. Okay. Now let’s talk about artificial sweeteners. Do they boost weight loss? Do they make you gain weight?
Do they do nothing? Well, let’s get into it. So my source here is a paper effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on body, weight, and BMI in diverse clinical context, systematic review and meta-analysis. And this was published on March 25th, 2020 in the journal obesity. Reviews. So you probably know that weight loss ultimately boils down to calories in versus calories out.
If you consistently burn more calories than you eat, your body, fat percentage goes down. And so when you want to lose weight, it’s not a great idea to. Eat and drink stuff that is sweetened with a lot of sugar because those foods and beverages, they tend to be really high in calories. For example, 12 ounces of most sodas and energy drinks, 150 calories.
And you can drink that in. 10 minutes, five minutes, maybe even chug it down in five seconds. Right now, food and drinks that are sweetened with non-nutritive artificial sweeteners. They of course tend to be much lower in calories. Therefore consuming artificially sweetened stuff should help you lose weight.
Right. Well, maybe many people say absolutely. I think probably is the furthest. I’m willing to go on this, but the research is a lot fuzzier than you might think. Some studies show that people who eat artificially sweetened foods and drinks do indeed lose more weight and others show people who. Eat more of those foods are actually more likely to be obese than those who don’t now to help rattle out this Gordian knot researchers at Marisa university of Marita conducted a meta-analysis of 20 studies that involved a total of 2,914 participants.
And that lasted at least a. Each and what they found is that people who consumed artificially sweetened foods and drinks lost more weight, about three pounds more on average, and saw a greater decrease in body mass index than people who did not. And when the researchers dug deeper into the results, what they found was.
Pleasingly in line with common sense in and of themselves, artificial sweeteners have basically no impact on weight loss. They are not fat loss supplements, but where they can help is if you are replacing caloric sweeteners, like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. And if you are not tracking calories, or if you are not accurate, at least in the calories that you think you are eating.
Then yes, you are almost guaranteed to subconsciously consume fewer calories. So when it comes to weight loss, artificial sweeteners are mostly benign. They are a tool you can use. For example, I’ve heard from many people over the years who find that they really like having a diet soda or two, when they’re cutting that it helps stave off cravings and it’s very satisfying to them.
And I think that’s. That is a great way to increase dietary compliance, which increases effectiveness and allows you to get back to the fun stuff, get back to maintaining and lean bulking. Now you might know that my sports nutrition company Legion does not use artificial sweeteners. We naturally sweeten and flavor everything.
Why it’s certainly a lot more expensive to use the natural stuff. In some cases, it costs me several dollars per bottle, just to sweeten and flavor the product. Whereas artificial sweeteners and flavoring would run me maybe 50 cents. So there could be. Big savings for me, at least my margins could grow, but I am committed to using natural ingredients across the board actually, but I am committed to natural sweeteners in particular because I don’t think it’s smart to consume large amounts of artificial sweeteners every day, basically forever.
And I know that that’s what a lot of fitness folk. Do and would do if my products were artificially sweetened because a lot of people are going to have a few scoops of protein powder every day. They’re going to use my pre-workout. They’re going to use my postworkout. Maybe even my greens supplement. And when you start doing the math.
That can add up to eight to 10 plus servings of SLO or ACE K or Asper tame per day. And again, I don’t think that’s a great idea while the negative health effects of these chemicals are often exaggerated. There is still some concern about what impact they might have long term, and particularly on our gut health, which then can impact many other aspects of our health and wellbeing.
So why take that risk when there are safe, healthy, natural alternatives that taste good. Some people would say they don’t taste as good. Some people don’t like Stevia. For example, they find that it has a little bit of a strange after taste. And I do understand that. I myself don’t mind it. And Legion has now served over 350,000 customers.
We’ve sold, close to a hundred million dollars in supplements over the years. So there are many other people out there who are at least okay. Enough with the natural sweeteners to stick with us. So anyway, they come back to artificial sweeteners and weight loss. They can be a great way to reduce your calories.
If you are eating a fair amount of sugary sweet things and that’s about it. Okay. Last up here is some research on gin sang and testosterone. Does it boost testosterone? I wish it did, but let’s get into some details here. So my source here is the effect of gin saying supplementation on anabolic index, muscle strength, body composition, and testosterone and cortisol response to acute resistance exercise in male body builders.
That was a mouthful. And this was published on March 6th, 2021 in the journal science and sports. Now, this was just exploratory research. This was research that was meant to scratch the surface, to see if there was something that was worth looking into further. It was not meant to be a conclusive answer to the question of red, Korean, and testosterone.
And so then of course, supplement companies. Touted it as definitive fantastic evidence that gin saying does, in fact, increase your vitamin T levels. And then some pesky scientists over at Islamic ADE university thought that maybe they should see if that was even remotely true. And so they conducted a study to determine whether gin saying.
Boost testosterone levels in male bodybuilders. So what the researchers did is they randomly split 20 male quote unquote natural drug freeish maybe bodybuilders into two groups. You had a gins group and a placebo group. Both of them took two capsules twice daily. And the only difference was the gin sang groups.
Capsules had 250 milligrams of gin sang and the placebo groups, capsules were filled with some Coke and drain. Now it was just glucose powder. And so then throughout the six week study, the participants continued to eat their regular diet and they followed a three day per week training plan. And at the beginning and end of the study, the researchers measured the participants’ BMI.
Waist to hip ratio, resting testosterone and cortisol levels, testosterone to cortisol ratio and estimated bench and leg press one rep max. And what the results showed is supplementing with gin saying had no effect on body composition, strength or hormone levels. And although the people who took gin saying had ever so slightly higher testosterone levels post workout, the difference was so small that it would not be enough to.
Anything. And so the results of this study should not be surprising. Of course, if you’ve been following me in my work for any amount of time, you know, where I stand on testosterone boosters of any kind, the only testosterone booster that works is testosterone. And I wish that were not the case. I wish that I could create a fantastic natural testosterone booster.
So. Take it myself and sell it to all the people who constantly ask Legion, why we don’t have a testosterone booster, just like they ask why we don’t have BCAs. I wish I could make an evidence based argument for why you should use a natural testosterone booster or use BCAs. Because again, I would use them myself and I could make a lot of money with them, but there is no good evidence based argument for either of those supplements.
And I wanted to share this study with you because it’s a great example of how unscrupulous pill and powder pushers will use weak, preliminary, and unreplicated research to try to convince you to buy things. So just to be very skeptical with supplements, be very skeptical with marketing claims, even if they appear to be evidence based, if they are citing research, even if the person making the claims has impressive credentials, those can be good signs, but very often.
Research will be intentionally misinterpreted will be twisted to make certain marketing claims or will be cherry picked. So maybe the weight of the overall evidence is that something does not work, but you can find some outlier studies that suggest it does work. And so marketers will often just take those couple of studies that support their claims and ignore the rest.
And there are many people out there with very impressive credentials who are willing to lie for money. Remember that? And so something I like to do when I’m trying to come to a conclusion on something, when I’m trying to make up my mind about something, at least until my mind has changed is to seek.
Both sides of an argument to seek credentialed people, to seek experts on both sides and to look at the strongest arguments on both sides of an issue, and then decide for myself, which side has the more compelling. Argument, which side has the more compelling evidence, which side has the weight of the evidence on their side.
And of course this isn’t a perfect method and it doesn’t allow me to be always right about everything, but it certainly allows me to be more right, more often than people who just follow their own biases, who just. Gravitate toward one side of an issue and then seek out a bunch of information that confirms whatever led them to that side.
Sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s circumstances in their own life. Sometimes it has to even do with their self identity and never even look at the other side or at least never even seriously consider the other side of the issue. Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.
Shoot me an email Mike muscle for life.com, muscle F or life.com. And let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode.
And I hope to hear from you.