Monday, December 3, 2012


"There is tremendous grief because in a sense a part of you is dying. What you thought you were is stripped away and what you are left with is something, someone, you don't recognize, don't want or don't even like. Some get mad, others sad, some feel frustration, and still others lash out or withdraw into themselves in reaction to the ravages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And then, eventually, you
somehow accept it. Not give up or give in, but accept it. You accept the circumstances and the limits the illness imposes on you. You learn to rest, to have peace and still be sick. You never stop fighting and striving or recovery, but you learn not to react or run from the pain. You even learn to turn into it. You choose how to respond, choose the attitude you will take. You realize you are not a victim. You choose to live."
Michelle Akers, 1999 US Women's Soccer world cup team member.
I wanted to start out with this quote because it carries with it more profound weight, truth, and heaviness than I could ever convey.
As I approach the end of my undergraduate education this Friday (yikes!) I am faced with a reality that I've tried to ignore. The past year, I've staid positive, hidden my pain behind my smile, set my standards high despite the trauma and hardships of the past year. But still that reality lurked behind every good grade, every corner that I turned, waiting for me to find it.
4 years ago I thought I had my entire life planned out: I had my weightlifting goals, my dreams and aspirations, my quest to become either a Steve Irwin-wannabe or a nurse. I knew who I was going to marry, and one day we were going to own our own gym and have 3 wonderful children. Now, it sounds silly to have had all of that planned out, but in my mind that was my perfect world.
December of 2010 that entire world was shattered. Really, it had begun to splinter and crack long before that, but I trudged on waiting for someone, something outside of myself to fix the physical pain that I was in. 
After that, I was forced to carry on despite the splinters. And the truth is, I have still held on to that idea in my mind that I need to be in a certain place right here, right now. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. For 4 years of high school I carried the weight of perfection, of drive, that so many Holy Names students carry. To have that all shatter underneath me left me with nothing, a foundation that had crumbled and slipped away.  And now, I find myself staring at those shattered pieces that once made up who I thought I was.
Which way to go? The original piece is destroyed. Now, I have the job of picking up each shard and following it. One of those will lead me down a path and become part of another picture. Rebuilding, incorporating that one shard of who I was into a new self. But now, the reality of those shattered pieces stares me in the face, and it's incredibly difficult to look at.

Michelle Akers sums it up perfectly, beautifully, sadly, and truthfully. The silent battle I fight day in and day out. The battle that few people see fully, where pillows and kittens are the ones who receive my tears when the rest of the world sees my smiling face. The reality that I'm not the person I want to be or feel that I am meant to be right now ... but that I'm forced to accept this right now, to look at Friday, my last day of Undergrad, and acknowledge that no, I am nowhere where i want to be. I'm not who I want to be. But the task is mine to find that broken shard and mend it into something beautiful.

Galadriel: You are a Ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.
Frodo: I know what I must do, it's just that... I'm afraid to do it.
Galadriel: Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spotlight Organization

It's been a while since I've posted, and I want to do a short post about this amazing project called "Project Unbreakable."

Project Unbreakable's goal is to give survivors of sexual assault a chance to regain their voice. Sexual assault too often takes the voices of victims, and leaves them in silence to suffer alone. This project, started in October 2011, photographs survivors holding posters of what their attackers said during their assaults, hoping to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault and the devastation it can leave. But it also illustrates hope, in that victims can regain their voice and do not have to suffer in silence.

WARNING: this website can be disturbing and triggering. Use discretion.

Click here to view Project Unbreakable

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fasting and exercise performance

So being in the CrossFit world for many years, I've been bombarded with various nutrition regimens, Intermittent Fasting (IF), paleo, and the Zone Diet being the 3 main ones. I love CrossFit, but I got sick of the various nutrition regimens, because every other year it was something different (paleo is, in my opinion, the most important and valuable one, but more on that in another post!).

I dabbled with IF for a while, and it definitely did NOT work for me; I lost weight, and my performance suffered. However, I was curious if there had been research on what happens in the body during fasting and a bout of exercise. For my research paper in exercise physiology, I did a paper on Ramadan fasting and exercise performance (Ramadan had the most research on fasting and exercise performance). Obviously, not all of us will be engaging in fasting like in Ramadan, but the research was interesting in that it showed how fasting such as Ramadan fasting affects (or, as most of the research showed, does not change), exercise performance.

In the United States, Americans are bombarded by media that describes the numerous ways to exercise and lose weight; a number of these endeavors involve some sort of caloric restriction and/or moderate fasting, which many individuals find difficult to manage. On the other hand, in the Islamic religion, Muslims who choose to participate in Ramadan are required to fast fromsunrise to sunset for one month – abstaining not only from foods, but fluids as well. Athletes who choose to participate in Ramadan are of particular interest to researchers; with the increased amount of stress that the body is subjected to during athletic activities, the question arises whether,during Ramadan, people adhere to such a fasting protocol. In this review of the literature, studies conducted on various types of athletes are examined, as well as the various metabolic adaptations (if any) were present in the subjects, and whether exercise performance was compromised by the increased amount of stress involved in fasting itself.
Studies in Physically Active Men
Two of the studies looked at physically active men who did not engage in any formal sport. In one study, Trabelsi et al. analyzed the differences between aerobic training during the day during the fasted state, and at night, after the break of the fast. 19 physically active men were brought to the lab on 4 separate occasions: 3 days before Ramadan, the 15th day of Ramadan, the 29th Day of Ramadan, and 21 days after Ramadan; 10 were exercising in the fasted state (between 4 and 6 pm), and 9 in the fed state (between 9:30 and 10:30 pm). Sessions included one of cycling, running, and rowing. While in the lab, body composition, dietary analysis, urine specific gravity, serum glucose, blood glucose, uric acid, total cholesterol, triglycerides, urea and creatinine were measured and assessed. In the fasting group, urine specific gravity, renal function markers, sodium, chloride, urea, and uric acid all increased, which indicated dehydration; none of these factors increased in the fed group. HDL levels rose in both, and the fasting group also experienced a loss of body weight and body fat, while the fed group only experienced a decrease in body weight, although this lack of change of body fat could have been the result of human error in measurement, according to the researchers (Trabelsi et al., 2011).
On a different premise, Souissi et al. examined Ramadan’s effect on the diurnal variations in anaerobic performance. In this study, 12 physical education students were assessed for anaerobic power at 7 am, 5 pm, and 9 pm, 1 week before, the 2nd week of Ramadan, the 4th week of Ramadan, and 2 weeks after Ramadan. Participants were assessed via the force-velocity test, which is repeated bouts of 6 second all out sprints against resistance that increases until the subject can no longer maintain 100 revolutions per minute. Subjects were also assessed in the Wingate test. From the two tests, Ppeak, Pmax, and Pmean were calculated. Comparing the values before and during Ramadan, there was no significant difference during Ramadan for the 7 am tests, but the values were lower at 5 pm and 9pm during the second and fourth weeks of Ramadan. The results of this study suggest that Ramadan directly effects the circadian rhythm of anaerobic power, although other possible explanations were that the later times of day were just more fatiguing for the participants because they had been without food and drink for quite some time (Souissi et al., 2007).
Studies in Male Middle-Distance Runners
Chennaoui et al carried out a study in which they examined Ramadan’s effect on diet, sleep, mood, metabolic, hormonal, and inflammatory responses in middle distance runners who maintained their normal training volume during Ramadan. In this study, 8 runners performed an incremental running test to exhaustion on 3 separate occasions: 5 days before and days 7 and 21 of Ramadan; cortisol and testosterone levels were measured before and after the running test. Blood samples were also taken at 3 separate times (before, at the end of Ramadan, and after Ramadan).  The MAV (maximal aerobic velocity test) decreased at days 7 and 21 compared to the test before Ramadan; sleep and energy intake were also lower at day 21 than before, and fatigue had increased by the end of Ramadan. During the second blood test, IL-6, an inflammatory parameter, increased, melatonin decreased, and adrenaline and noradrenaline increased; these values all returned to normal after Ramadan had ceased. No body composition changes were seen during this time. The ratio of testosterone to cortisol was measured, because a value of 1 indicates a balance between anabolic and catabolic occurrences in the body; in this study, the ratio had decreased by the third week, followed by a decrease in the MAV test. This study concluded that Ramadan induced a decrease in aerobic capacity and increased pro-inflammatory responses in these athletes (Chennaoui et al. 2009).
Studies in Male Rugby Players
Rugby is a popular sport in Islamic countries, and athletes who choose to fast could be at greater risk for dehydration from the fasting. In one study, Rebai et al measured dehydration status in 12 male rugby players during rugby sevens matches (a 14 min game of rugby in which there are 7 players a side). The players performed 3 matches: 1 day before, at the end of the first week, and at the very end of Ramadan. Body weight was taken before and after matches, to determine fluid loss, as well as blood samples. By the end of Ramadan, increases were seen in resting hematocrit, hemoglobin, and plasma osmolarity values, compared to the beginning of Ramadan. After a match, hematocrit and plasma osmolarity saw increases at the end of Ramadan, which indicates acute levels of dehydration.  There was no change in the percentage of body water status markers, nor was there a significant change in total body water. A decrease in body weight was also seen, likely due partly to a decrease in water consumption as well as an increase in fat oxidation. Although the athletes exhibited signs of dehydration, a rugby sevens match does not exacerbate the magnitude of responses to matches of blood and body water status markers (Rebai et al., 2011).
Similarly, Bouhlel et al led a study to examine Ramadan’s effect on fuel oxidation during exercise. In this study, 9 male rugby players were tested on 3 separate occasions: before, during, and at the end of Ramadan. During this time, the players performed a submaximal cycle ergometry test that progressively increased loads corresponding to 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60% of Wmax. Substrate oxidation was measured via indirect calorimetry. At the end of Ramadan, decreases in body mass and fat mass were seen, with a preservation of lean tissue. Daily energy intake was reduced, but fat constituted a higher percentage of daily food intake. Hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were higher at the end, at both rest and after exercise. The researchers also saw an increase in fat utilization, demonstrated by an increase in the crossover point at the end of Ramadan (35% of Wmax compared to 30% at the end vs. beginning, respectively); the crossover point is the point in which carbohydrate becomes the primary energy source). LipoxMax, which is the point where the utilization of lipids is highest, was also higher at the end  (265 mg/min vs. 199 for end and beginning, respectively). Plasma glucose levels remained unchanged, which could be explained by glycogenolysis or gluconeogenesis. Although the results indicate a shift toward increased fat oxidation, RER was found to be extremely varied and individual, with one participant even seeing an increase in RER by the end of Ramadan. Nevertheless, this study demonstrated that Ramadan results in an increase in lipid oxidation and a decrease in body mass and fat mass (Bouhlel et al. 2006).
On a different note, Denguezli et al. measured parameters of insulin resistance in trained rugby players at rest and after aerobic exercise. 9 male rugby players were tested 1 week before, at the end of the first week, and during the fourth week of Ramadan; testing was done between 2-4 pm w/ last meal having been taken at 1 am the previous night. The players were tested on a progressive cycle ergometer test, which was the same as the preceding study. Various metabolic and hormonal parameters were measured at rest and after exercise. Daily caloric intake was greatly reduced during Ramadan. Fat intake did not change significantly, but fat constituted a larger percent of energy intake during Ramadan. Resting and postexercise triglycerides increased during Ramadan. Although there was a reduction in body mass and body fat, there was no change in adiponectin or leptin values (adiponectin is usually correlated with fat loss). The adiponectin:lepitin ratio can also provide a useful measure of insulin resistance, but no change was seen with this ratio. This suggests that the food restrictions associated with Ramadan do not disrupt this balance. It was also suggested that the rugby players saw an increase in fat oxidation, partly due to the increase in the percentage of calories coming from fat, which resulted in more lipid availability for oxidation. There were also no changes in levels of creatinine, which suggested that there was no protein catabolism, therefore demonstrating that fat loss occurred, but lean tissue was maintained (Denguezli et al., 2008).
Studies in Young Male Soccer Players
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in Muslim countries, and the majority of the research done on athletes partaking in Ramadan have been done on soccer players, many of them being youth players.  The majority of these studies saw similar trends in data. In a study by Zerguini et al., the researchers examined 4 teams during an 8 week training camp in which 64 members fasted and 36 did not. Zerguini et al. observed a small decrease in the body mass of the fasting group, and an RPE that indicated the fasting group was a little less ready to train; but none of the performance tests during the camp were affected by the fast, nor were biochemical factors; in fact, by the end of the 3rd testing session (which included soccer specific sports drills as well as shuttle runs), most of the performance tests had improved in the fasting group (Zerguini et al., 2008).  Similarly, Guvenc tested 16 young male soccer players during Ramadan for body composition and aerobic performance, and they found that body fat percentage decreased, but that BMI and fat free mass was relatively unchanged. These young soccer players also had a slight increase in their RPE scores, but blood lactate and heart rate during and after the incremental running test decreased by the end of Ramadan. These soccer players also saw improvements in their peak running and running velocity at the anaerobic threshold. There were also no changes in total body water and urine specific gravity, which indicates that the players were relatively hydrated (Guyenc, 2011).
These results were similar to Aziz et al. who tracked the National Under-18 soccer squad who were divided into both fasting and fed groups during a 4 week training period. The players were tested by the shuttle run, as well as soccer specific training four times per week; both fasting and non-fasting groups trained together, and it was found that there were no significant differences between the fasting and non-fasting groups in their RPE after exercise, nor their test performance before and after Ramadan; in fact, the fasting group was able to keep up with the non fasting group for the entire month. An obvious limitation of this study, however, was that other factors indicating performances, like heart rate and blood lactate and running speed were not measured (Aziz et al., 2011).
In terms of anaerobic capacity in young soccer players, Chtourou et al. tested 10 soccer players in the Wingate test at 7 am and 5 pm on three different occasions throughout Ramadan. Before Ramadan, peak power, mean power, and fatigue index were greater in the evening than in the morning, but these diurnal variations went away by the end of Ramadan. RPE was also higher in the evening by the end of Ramadan than before Ramadan. Similar to the study done by Souissi et al., this was thought to be due to a modification in the circadian rhythm during Ramadan (Chtourou et al., 2011).
Another interesting study done by Wilson et al. sought to see how the timing of sleep was altered during Ramadan, and how this affected practices in professional soccer players. 20 players were monitored over 8 weeks, and it was found that during Ramadan, the average bedtime was 4:26 am, compared to 1:07 am after Ramadan, and that sleep duration during Ramadan was greater (9 hours and 49 minutes and 8 hours during and after Ramadan, respectively). Practices were also shifted to later at night (8:30 pm) during Ramadan, as opposed to 5:30 pm after Ramadan ended. It was also found that there was a 2.7% loss of body mass during Ramadan, partly due to dehydration as indicated by an increase in urine osmolality. Peak core temperatures were also approaching hyperthermic levels, although the soccer players continued to train despite these increased stresses (Wilson et al., 2009).
In conclusion, the documented research on how Ramadan affects competitive athletes has conflicting results depending on the study. In general, the current research documents a variety of different types of athletes and also has a mixture of various parameters measured, including both physiological (hydration status, body composition, aerobic, anaerobic training, and more) and mental (RPE, for example); this variety is a strong point in the current research as a whole. All of the studies also had a control period (either before or after Ram
dan) in which to compare the results obtained during Ramadan. However, one major weakness of most of these studies is the absence of a true control group; only the studies done by Zerguini et al. and Aziz et al. had true, non-fasting control groups to compare values to. The majority of these studies would be much stronger if they had a control to compare their results too. In addition, there are no studies on women. Although most likely due to culture differences, it would be of use to obtain research studies that document female athletes, and to see how female athletes are affected by Ramadan in comparison to men. It would also be of use to conduct research on a variety of sports in addition to the ones present here; there is a lack of data on strength training and strength responses during Ramadan, which could be of use, especially to sports teams who strength train as part of their regular training regimen.
Although there are conflicting results, the majority of the research appears to demonstrate that as long as athletes maintain their normal hydration and caloric intake during the times that they are permitted to eat, there is not a significant decrease in performance. Because fat tends to constitute a larger part of the diet during Ramadan (Denguezli et al.), fat oxidation increases, and thus decreases in body fat are common, even though lean body mass is generally preserved. It could also be suggested that athletes modify their exercise or training regimens to right before the break of fast, or after the fast has already been broken, as this helps to alleviate the discomfort associated with not being permitted to drink or eat after exercise earlier in the day; it would be interesting to examine if shifting exercise to just before or after the break of fast lowers inflammatory parameters that were seen in the study by Chennaoui et al. For future research, more studies need to be done on women, and studies should aim to have a control group.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Exercise Induced Growth Hormone (EIGH)

As spring quarter comes to a close, my exercise physiology class has spent the past couple weeks working on a 10 page research paper. I myself did a paper about fasting and exercise performance, which I will post at another point. One of my classmates did a very fascinating topic -- exercise induced growth hormone. Because most of us either 1) want to optimize performance 2) optimize muscle growth or 3) want to do both, I found his paper particularly interesting. Below you'll find his paper; if anyone is interested in reading the full study, or has any questions regarding terminology, let me know. Thanks to Troy Bratten, on the Seattle University Men's soccer team, for letting me borrow his work.

I. Introduction
Interest in exercise induced growth hormone has significantly increased due to its emergent usefulness in the development, recovery, and conditioning of muscle fibers.1 A largely effective method of increasing EIGH is seen in highly intense, short-burst exercises as well as by the ingestion of a specific post-exercise macromolecular ratio.2 It is well known that GH is a vital hormone that is key for physical strength, health and longevity.1 Along with the proper exercise, there is a proper synergy window after exercise that food must be ingested. In order to optimize EIGH production, and to facilitate the rate at which amino acids can mobilize muscle tissue, it is crucial to abide by a certain ratio of carbohydrates to proteins for post exercise food intake.2,3
The widely accepted ratio for post-exercise carbohydrates to proteins will be expounded upon in this paper. Then, this ratio will be tied into how it relates to fitness professional Phil Campbell’s Peak 8 program. Campbell’s program, along with the proper post-exercise food, concurrently enhance the production of EIGH.1 The Peak 8 protocol includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercises in such a way that EIGH production is optimized. With this optimization, research shows that anaerobic exercise and post-exercise food ingestion are the underpinnings of EIGH production.2,3 Knowing about the activity of EIGH is essential for athletes who are seeking to recover quicker and increase muscle and bone density while also decreasing adipose mass. The specific processes of the Peak 8 program, as well as a discussion of the importance of GH in muscle building and fat loss will be elaborated in this paper.  

II. Growth Hormone Rebuilds Muscle and Bone Tissue While Also Decreasing Fat
The significance of GH is well known for its role in the developmental process with how it makes an individual grow tall.1 Furthermore, recent research indicates that the power of EIGH is also shown in its ability to rebuild muscle tissue, bone tissue, as well as stimulate the process of lipolysis.2,3,5 There are two ways that EIGH can naturally be increased to produce vast physiological health benefits. These two modes of EIGH increase can be found in combined aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as well as proper food ingestion after exercise.2

III. Types of Exercise Proven to Increase EIGH
The research is clear that short burst, high intensity exercise can be used to increase baseline GH levels by as much as 530%.1 Moreover, this type of exercise needs to involve all three energy systems of the body, giving the heart both an anaerobic and aerobic workout, and thereby involving all three muscle fiber types. Among the literature, the most successful program was created by Phil Campbell, and is named Peak 8 because of the 8 intense, 30 second bursts that it involves. The Peak 8 protocol consists of the following: (1) 3 minute warm-up, (2) 30 second sprint, (3) 90 second recovery, (4) Repeat 7 times, and (5) Cool down for 3-5 minutes at a 50% RPE. This is not an easy program, and it is meant to be completely exhausting by the 8th sprint. It should be noted that this program is designed for moderately fit to elite individuals, and is not advised for obese or highly untrained individuals.2,3
This seems to be the general pattern with studies on EIGH within the literature: the protocol is designed for fit individuals and mostly fit individuals are the only group to be studied. However, a modification of the protocol can be made in order to accommodate untrained athletes. This can be done by decreasing the amount of sprints from 8 to 2 for the most severe cases. More research needs to be done on un-trained individuals before the production of EIGH can be widely ascertained among all demographics.

IV. Why Peak 8 Increases EIGH
 The program’s effectiveness is seen in the way it utilizes the anaerobic process during the sprint and the aerobic process during the recovery. It should also be noted that the recovery is supposed to be performed at 50-60% maximal effort. In a study done by Phil Campbell, at half of maximal exertion, the resting heart rate for a 56 year old male in the aerobic recovery phase shows the resting heart rate to be 145 bpm on his 5th sprint.4 This heart rate is similarly achieved when on a long distance run at one speed for a long duration.2 In this sense, there is a cardio portion of the protocol that one gets from the 3:1 rest to work ratio. At times, the subject’s heart rate rose to his max Karvonen’s upper limit threshold, indicating that he was just below his second anaerobic threshold. Research shows that training just below your second anaerobic threshold is optimal for buffering lactic acid in subsequent exercise, and is a major benefit to athletic performance.7,10 Since athletic performance and the ability to produce EIGH are directly related, Peak 8 exercise once again shows its effectiveness.

V. The Three Energy Systems At Work
During the subject’s Peak 8 workout, the ATP-PCr system is used in the first 6-8 seconds of the sprint; then the Glycolitic System is used in the next 22-24 seconds of the sprint, while the aerobic system is used during the active recovery. The use of all three energy systems is critical for increased production of EIGH at the pituitary, and is what makes the Peak 8 program so effective.1 Studies done by Godfrey et al. augment to this by concluding that humans will produce large amounts of EIGH only if lactate has accumulated in the bloodstream.9 The Peak 8 program is designed to push the individual to the brim of the onset of lactate accumulation, which according to Godfrey is indicative of high EIGH production.9 The other mode by which the Peak 8 program proves its effectiveness is by means of post-exercise food intake of a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins.

VI. Nutrition After Exercise Can Increase or Inhibit EIGH Production
Research shows that EIGH is secreted at the pituitary up to two hours after exercise.2,3 Taking advantage of this 2 hour window is essential for optimal EIGH production. Optimally, one can take full advantage of this synergy window by consuming a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins within 15-30 minutes of a combined anaerobic and aerobic workout.1 However, it is crucial to ingest the right type of carbohydrates and proteins, paying closer attention to the carbohydrates due to their effect on insulin levels.
The critical aspect that determines the production or inhibition of EIGH after exercise is seen by an individual’s insulin resistance.3,4,5 Most researchers now agree that the lower an individual’s levels of insulin after exercise, the more prolific the individual will be in producing EIGH. A recent study in the Journal Of Applied Physiology found that eating a low-carbohydrate meal after combined anaerobic and aerobic exercise enhances insulin sensitivity.8 This is highly beneficial, since impaired insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, is the underlying cause of type two diabetes, and a significant risk factor for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease.2
The commonly accepted post workout macromolecular ratio is 4 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein.1,3,4 A recommended minimum of 20-25g of protein is needed to experience an increase in EIGH.4 The ratio of 4:1 is optimal for EIGH production but only from certain carbohydrates and protein sources. Moreover, the exact food cannot be suggested because of the variability of insulin resistance. Depending on how an individual produces insulin in their body immensely effects the production of EIGH.5 Insulin sensitivity is highly variable, and is therefore hard to measure without a blood test. 

VII. The Inevitable Slowing Of Growth Hormone Production
A common misconception is that the slowing of metabolic rate with age is the only reason for the resistance of fat burning and muscle building. Recently within the scientific literature, there have been widespread consistencies pointing to an event called somatopause.2,5 When breaking up somatopause into its two roots, it is articulated “somatotropin” and “pause.” Somatotropin is a broad term that describes human growth hormone, and somatopause could literally be called “growth hormone pause.” Research shows that somatopause is tied directly to the way the body decreases the amount of growth hormone at the end of development or around the age of 32 or 33. Increasing baseline GH is essential to combat Somatopause and maintain athletic performance for middle-aged people.2

VIII. Review of Strengths and Weaknesses of The Selected Literature
The studies and articles that were used for this paper have advantages and disadvantages for supporting claims concerning EIGH. The articles by Mercola are meta-analysis articles that are comprised of multiple peer-reviewed journals. Even though the articles are written for the general public, they are still a valid source of collective literature. However, it is important to not that they do not hold the same credibility as a peer-reviewed journal. Mercola is an osteopathic physician and has excellent reliability and discretion of legitimate studies, which is why his information is included in this paper. Also, Mercola had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Campbell, the creator of the Peak 8 program. A lot of the information included in this paper was taken from video seminars and articles posted by Dr. Mercola that involved Phil Campbell, giving a more interactive summary his studies.  
The study included by Rudman et al. is a highly cited study within sports and exercise science literature, showing its validity concerning somatopause, and its usefulness among health related topics. Its frequency in the literature is most likely due to its age, which is also a minor weakness. However, it is one of few studies available that studied how exercise can produce growth hormone to combat somatopause. More studies need to be done before growth hormone as a somatopause combatant can be ascertained.
The study by Newson et al. was endorsed by Phil Campbell and is highly applicable to the Peak 8 workout. It is well cited amongst scientific literature and is generally well accepted. The protocol for this study was extensive and thorough, however it would have been more widely applicable if they included women, and untrained athletes within their sample. Moreover, the sample size for this study included only 9 fit men. The strength of this study would have been increased if the sample size were representative of a wider demographic. Overall, this study clearly concluded that eating a low glycemic diet after workouts increases insulin sensitivity among well-trained men. More studies need to be done before one can predict that insulin sensitivity will behave similarly for a more representative sample.
The study by Wasserman is a highly cited study among the sports medicine literature and is considered to be the foundation of anaerobic related studies. It should also be noted that although its conclusion regarding lactate buffering is well known, the study dates back to over 20 years ago. Also, only the abstract is available online, which makes assessment of this study to be limited to what is shown in the conclusion. Wasserman’s conclusion states that reaching the lactate threshold is important for lactate buffering in subsequent exercise bouts, and this is well known and cited frequently. The validity of his study is promising due to its high frequency within sports medical literature.
The study by Armanini is highly specific and uses detailed protocol that involves blood monitoring, hydrostatic weighing, and even psychological quantitative analysis. Although this study used rigorous measures to conclude that the blood of Olympic athletes is highly concentrated with growth hormone, it failed to examine a representative sample. In fact, this study only examined one female individual’s growth hormone levels. Female growth hormone levels have not been diligently studied in the sports and exercise science world in comparison to male growth hormone levels. However, it is compelling after combined anaerobic and aerobic exercise that a female would respond to growth hormone in a similar way to the widely studied fit male.

IX: Summary
Overall, there is compelling research that claims short burst, high intensity exercise as well as proper post-workout food intake can dramatically increase the production of EIGH. Growth hormone is highly effective in muscle and bone tissue repair, as well as inducing lipolysis, and is therefore an essential tool for those who exercise. Due to virtually all studies inclusion of only fit individuals within the sample, more studies need to be performed before recommendations can be made for women and untrained people regarding EIGH.
There have been numerous studies administered on fit, mostly male individuals that clearly conclude EIGH levels rise with: (1) a high taxation of all three energy systems, (2) a high taxation of all three muscle fibers, and (3) a low-glycemic post-workout consumption ratio of 4 parts carbohydrates to 1 part proteins. If each of the aforesaid criteria have been met, research shows that baseline GH will increase for fit males, however, more studies need to be done on females and un-trained subjects before anything can be widely ascertained.1,8,9

Friday, May 25, 2012

For fun...

I think photos are worth 10,000 words; I'm really honored that one of the students here took these of me, I think they're fantastic!

More to come =)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Exercise and a cancer diagnosis

Yet again, I find that it's been a little while since i've posted. I've gotten bad at that, haven't I? Ha. 'Tis the life of a college student!

I have been mulling some ideas over in my mind about this blog for a while, and have some good ideas for post that I'm going to start working on in the future, especially with my undergrad studies coming to a close.

But first, I'd like to offer my very first guest post by David Haas! David is a support group and patient advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and is passionate about helping not only cancer patients, but also their families and support networks. Because of my mom's experience with cancer, and the many lives that cancer touches, I'm grateful that David has offered some of his perceptions about exercise and cancer diagnosis. To learn more about David, click here.

The Importance of Exercise When Confronting a Cancer Diagnosis

Amid all the tests and the treatments that cancer patients undergo, many people overlook the benefits of including an exercise regimen in their life during this experience. Whether a person has just received a mesothelioma diagnosis, begun chemotherapy or discovered that he or she is in remission, physical exercise is an important element in dealing effectively with illness and recovery. The reasons for this are both physical and emotional and positive results are factual.

Misconceptions about Exercise and Illness

In the past, people mistakenly thought that bed rest was a part of the cure for almost any illness. Medical professionals understand now that physical well-being is greatly dependent on the strength acquired from regular exercise. Even a serious diagnosis such as cancer signifies that the patient needs to develop a plan for continuing to include exercise in his or her daily life. Exercise can help a patient battle cancer and recover from it more quickly in a number of different ways.

Exercise Relieves Stress

Physical exercise actually provides great psychological assistance to cancer patients just as it does to people who are in good health. Using your body to perform tasks temporarily diverts your attention from the big questions provoked by cancer and allows your mind some time to rest. As your stress levels decrease, your quality of life increases.

Energy Levels

Lack of energy is a complaint of many patients undergoing treatment of any sort for cancer. Regular exercise increases energy levels and causes a person to feel better prepared to confront the challenges of every day. There is a synergy involved with this rise in energy levels. Feeling more energy increases relief from stress, which helps you continue to exercise and increase your energy in return.

Handling Side Effects

Treatment for cancer is often debilitating. Doctors inject toxic chemicals into your bloodstream, expose portions of your body to radiation and attack your body in other fashions. As with anything else, a stronger body will withstand these attacks better than a weaker body. It is important to be more than simply strong. Good diet and the right kind of exercise can prepare your body to deal with the various ways in which cancer treatment can afflict your body.

Dealing with Pain

In addition to debilitation, some treatments for cancer cause pain. A resilient body is better equipped to deal with pain and reduce its strength. By maintaining an exercise regimen, cancer patients can withstand the levels of pain they experience and focus on surviving this ordeal.

Patients should not engage in any exercise without consulting their doctor about what is recommended for their specific conditions. Some exercises will be too demanding. However, no matter how advanced the diagnosis is or how demanding the treatment will be, there will always be room for some form of exercise.

The best thing about exercise is that it allows people diagnosed with cancer to have some direct control over how they respond to their diagnosis. While doctors prepare complex and scientific attempts to eradicate this disease, patients can confront their illness in their own fashion. For more information about cancer and fitness, see the following link.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

It's been a while, hasn't it?

It occurred to me the other day that this is Sexual Assault Awareness month. I wrote an essay in the fall for my ethics class that details an important issue in society today; I thought I'd post it here if anyone is interested (I got an A on the paper!)

Rape: A Moral and Legal Dilemma

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines justice to be the highest virtue, “more admirable than the morning and evening star,” which I believe is also true for present day society (Nichomachean Ethics, 114). Today, justice is seen as primarily rectificatory, with the law providing the foundation for justice in every day life, especially protection and correction for crimes. In society, sexual assault is arguably one of the most demeaning and morally atrocious crimes that can be committed against another human being. Like the opening of television program Law and Order: SVU states, “sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.” However, sexual assault is one of the most grossly underreported and under prosecuted crimes. Justice for victims who have been violated in the most intimate nature is lacking in American society, and one of the reasons for this lack of justice is the legal system is confined and defined by terms that are far too narrow. From an Aristotelian perspective, the current ‘rape culture’ that plagues America creates a moral dilemma in which the highest and most fundamental virtue in society gets trapped in the confines of its own system, a legal system that was created to maintain law and order in society, but that ultimately fails in providing justice for sexual assault victims.

Aristotle’s definitions of various types of actions a person can perform are vital in understanding the present-day legal definitions for rape and sexual assault. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes three types of actions: voluntary, which is performed with willing participation; involuntary, which he defines as is “an act done under constraint when the initiative or source of motion comes from without … in which the … person acted upon contributes nothing,” (Nicomachean Ethics, 52); and non-voluntary, which is takes into account an act done in ignorance. In addition to these three separate classifications, Aristotle describes ‘mixed’ actions, in which the type classification of action is not inherently apparent. In his book, Aristotle uses the example of a boat that is about to run ashore. The sailors, faced with the dilemma of discarding their possessions, throw everything overboard in order to lighten the load of the ship. Aristotle explains that this action in itself is voluntary, because the men are moving their own bodies to throw their belongings overboard, but the essence is involuntary, because one would never do such a thing voluntarily unless absolutely necessary. Similarly, Aristotle links these definitions closely with the definitions of justice. He explains that justice deals with one’s relation with others, and is either distributive or rectificatory. According to Aristotle, rectificatory justice deals with involuntary occurrences in society, such as theft or assault, and works to remedy the losses obtained by the victim.

Although written from a far earlier perspective, I believe that Aristotle’s theory of justice is analogous to the modern day U.S. justice system, especially regarding the definitions of the various criminal actions. It is precisely these definitions that confine sex crimes into a hardly prosecutable box, leaving victims completely devoid of justice.

In the American justice system, rape is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a woman by a man forcibly and unlawfully against her will” (“Rape”). In Aristotelian terms, this would be the epitome of an involuntary action. Because consensual sex is defined as voluntary participation, the opposite of this, involuntary, must be defined as forceful. Many states currently define rape as something vicious and forceful, and that evidence of physical force must be present in order to have any chance of seeing a courtroom (“Rape”). This legal definition implies that the victim must be wholly helpless, fully over powered, and contribute nothing to the situation, which completely parallels Aristotle’s definition of involuntary action. This provides a stereotypical view that rape is perpetrated by a dark hooded stranger, on a small helpless female, in a dark alley late at night.

However, the majority of sexual assaults, 73%, are committed by a non-stranger in a familiar setting (“The Offenders,” RAINN). One particularly upsetting implication of this definition has created a term to define sexual assault that falls outside of these parameters, namely “gray rape.” This term nearly mirrors Aristotle’s definition of mixed actions, and is illustrated in various ‘types’ of rape: date-rape; rape involving intoxication of the victim and/or the perp; spousal/partner rape, which until recently was not legally considered rape (because consent is implied in the marital contract). Per Aristotle’s definition, many of these situations are seen as mixed, yet would be viewed outwardly as ‘voluntary,’ because much of the time extreme violence was not used, which implies that the victims partook in the action in some way.

In my research for this essay, I discovered the following stories on a survivor’s message board : (note: due to the sake of anonymity, I have not cited the actual message board, nor the survivor’s names)

When I was raped in 2007, I went to the hospital and the SANE nurses did a rape kit. One of the women said, "Oh this is great! I found a hair that is not yours! They collected samples and submitted them to the state lab. The police didn't believe me. They said, "Maybe you were just drunk." I called repeatedly to follow up. Finally a detective (female) sat down with me and made it pretty clear that no one cared and "even if they could find the guy, all they could prove was that I had sex with him." I had to sit there and cry at her desk until she believed me. The lab said they had "inconclusive" results. They never received the hair. The cops closed the case and gave up.

Another survivor says something similar:

"I had a horrendous experience all the way through. The police officer actually told me it was my fault. I should have gotten away. And my case is still pending, no one will respond to me. I reported the officer. It has been a nightmare."

Cases like these -- and especially sexual assaults that occur when one or both parties are under the influence of alcohol or drugs -- are sadly far too common. . When consent, i.e. "voluntary action," is not completely clear, involuntary action is difficult to prove, and the police seemingly do not want to waste time on cases that demonstrate the epitome of Aristotle's definition of mixed actions. This brings up another Aristotelian term that is critical in the moral dilemma associated with sexual assault, and that is cases that involve actions done in ignorance.

Aristotle uses a chilling example to illustrate this principle: “When a man is drunk or in a rage, he is not thought to act through ignorance, but through intoxication or rage, and yet not knowingly, but in ignorance” (Nicomachean Ethics, 55). A person may be ignorant of what he is doing, and his actions may be excusable, even if the act committed is atrocious (Aristotle uses the example of mistaking one’s own son for an enemy and killing him). This definition further illustrates the moral dilemma associated with defining sexual assault, especially in cases of ‘gray’ rape, where perhaps alcohol and drugs are present. If a man is seen to be intoxicated, it makes the rape accusations less believable in the eyes of the law. Aristotle goes even further and says that a man who acts in ignorance can be seen as acting involuntarily … even in the case of sexual assault. This tactic is extremely easy to use in situations where alcohol was involved, because it is much easier to confuse non-consent with consent, which, in turn, can make a rapists actions seem legitimately innocent., Another survivor illustrates this unfortunate situation:

"The cops were called. I had been incredibly drunk, and high. They told me I wasn’t drunk enough to not consent, that I must’ve consented. Even though I had tried to tell him to stop. I also told one of my really good friends shortly after, and he said that maybe I shouldn’t label this guy something so terrible when he could’ve been just as drunk as I was. It was a nightmare. I was sick every night with the stress and the confusion. So I decided to bury it and just pretend it never happened."

Cases such as this example illustrate the dichotomy between protecting the victim and protecting the rapist. The U.S. legal system, at least viewed historically, seems all too eager to protect a man who, in the eyes of the law, was most likely acting in ignorance, and therefor does not deserve to be labeled a rapist. It is tragic illustration of the ethical problem associated with rape: the legal system ostensibly strives to seek justice for victims of crimes, yet at the same time rape is one of the only crimes so scrutinized by law enforcement officials, and one of the only offenses in which the victim can be, and is often, blamed, especially in situations like the preceding examples.

All of these examples illustrate a critical moral dilemma that is coming to the forefront of public opinion and debate, as seen in Joe Biden’s presentation to the University of New Hampshire this past April, where he summed the issue up quite succinctly: “Look folks – rape is rape is rape” (Grant, Elaine, “A New Era in Handling Campus Rape”). The problem present here can be assessed from Aristotle’s approach to justice from an ethical perspective. Aristotle describes one part of justice as rectificatory; namely, righting the wrongs thrust upon people in society. He deems justice to be the highest virtue. Yet for rape victims, true justice is perhaps hardly ever seen. Rape and sexual assault victims are pushed to the brinks of the system, due to the out-dated and poorly defined definition of rape, and the critical examination of the behavior of the victim. In essence, justice for rape victims is limited by the very system that was created to protect human beings, Aristotle makes it evident that the law, which is rooted in justice, seeks to promote the highest good for the people. For rape victims, the law does usually does not achieve this standard. The law easily throws out cases that cannot easily be proved beyond a reasonable, leaving victims stuck in a terrible limbo, and going against the very virtue that drives our society, especially because the victim’s behavior prior to the assault is usually scrutinized and criticized; sexual assault is one of the only crimes in which this type of denigration occurs. Biden illustrates this criticism, recounting the story of Jenny, a college student who had been sexually assaulted: “ …When she sought justice through the school, she was asked what she was wearing, how she was dancing, and whether she was sober. ‘The student judicial panel said they didn’t find Jenny credible because she had been drinking. They decided her rapist was a nice kid and didn’t deserve the punishment under the circumstances,’ Biden said” (Grant, Elaine, “A New Era in Handling Campus Rape”).

Today, there is a movement called “Rape is Rape,” in which victims' activists are working to convince the FBI to change the legal definition of rape. Currently, rape is defined as a violent sexual act, consisting of extreme force. Activists today are working to obtain a definition that defines rape as a lack of consent, instead of the use of force. The slight change of semantics would provide a much broader spectrum for what is considered sexual assault, in the hopes that more victims will come forward and obtain the justice they deserve. But until then, the ethical dilemma will still remain. 60% of rapes go unreported; out of all the ones that are reported, and factoring in those that are not, only 6% of rapists will spend time in jail; 15 out of 16 will walk free.

On a recent episode of Law and Order: SVU, character Olivia Benson consoles a victim whose case was thrown out due to alcohol, mixed action, and a desire to protect the man: “Sending him to prison isn’t gonna heal you. Healing begins when someone bears witness” (SVU, “True Believers”) . Yet for the majority of rape and sexual assault victims, there will always be a part of themselves missing, a part taken away by force, coercion, or mixed signals and shame. But for all these victims, that piece is still missing, no matter how the assault occurred. And it is because of the ethical dichotomy I've presented above that justice may very well never reach these victims. However, the future looks promising in re-defining rape. By improving the legal terminology, Aristotle’s highest virtue of justice will be more achievable for victims that deserve the rectification, and Olivia Benson’s consoling words will only be an echo of an old, unjust law that has turned in to a law that can help make victims whole again.