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Resistance training paired with peanut protein affects muscle health in older adults

Evidence-based and cost-effective lifestyle interventions, such as resistance training (RT) and ensuring optimal dietary protein intake, aim to increase muscle mass in older individuals, and support healthy aging and longevity.

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Declines in muscle mass and strength can begin in early adulthood, unnoticeable at first, and eventually progress until functionality, endurance, and general health may be compromised. Evidence-based and cost-effective lifestyle interventions, such as resistance training (RT) and ensuring optimal dietary protein intake, aim to increase muscle mass in older individuals, and support healthy aging and longevity.

Now, as the popularity and consumer demand for plant-based protein to support exercise training grows, the full array of essential and non-essential amino acids and high protein digestibility of defatted peanut protein powder (PP) makes it an exceptional plant-based protein option. Yet, no studies to date have examined if PP combined with RT can enhance training adaptations and measures of muscle mass, function and strength, especially in an older population. For the first time, a randomized controlled clinical trial from researchers at Auburn University published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition demonstrates that in combination with RT, intake of PP positively affects select markers of muscle growth and strength among untrained, older adults.

“Many of the previous studies in this space have looked at how animal-based or soy protein-based supplements enhance the response to resistance training,” says Dr. Roberts, PhD, a co-principal investigator on the study from Auburn University in the School of Kinesiology. “This study suggests that pairing resistance training with supplemental peanut powder may be an effective plant-based protein solution to meet protein needs and perhaps slow or prevent age-related loss of muscle in older adults.”

Thirty-nine older, untrained individuals completed a six-week or ten-week supervised RT program, where full-body training was implemented twice weekly. Participants were also randomly assigned to consume either a PP supplement mixed with 16 fl. oz. of water once per day (75 total grams of powder providing 30 grams protein, >9.2 grams of essential amino acids, ~315 calories) or be a “wait-list” control who did not receive any supplement (CTL). On workout days, PP supplements were provided immediately following exercise and compliance was monitored by trained study personnel. Skeletal muscle biopsies and other markers of muscle quality, body composition and strength, as well as three-day self-reported habitual food intake, were collected.

PP supplementation significantly increased knee flexion peak torque – a marker of muscle strength – in the ten-week cohort relative to the CTL group. In looking at the combined data from both the six- and ten-week groups, PP participants experienced significant increases in vastus lateralis (VL) thickness – a measure of muscle growth – compared to CTL participants. Notably, the consumption of protein and fiber significantly increased during the study in the PP group compared to CTL. This is attributed to the ~15 grams per day of fiber and 30 grams per day of protein received from the nutritional supplement. Surprisingly, PP supplementation after one bout of resistance exercise did not enhance muscle protein synthesis rates within a 24-hour period following the first training bout. Body composition was not different between the PP and CTL groups.

“There is strong evidence to suggest protein needs, specifically, the intake of more essential amino acids, increase with age due to many factors,” added co-principal investigator, Drew Frugé, PhD, RD, with the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management at Auburn University. “The protein isolated from peanuts contains a full complement of essential amino acids, including the important muscle growth ‘switch’ leucine, that can be delivered in a nutrient-dense package with the functional benefit of being simply incorporated into many easy to consume and tasty food or beverage preparations that meet the dietary needs of older adults.”

This study followed a rigorous methodology by using a randomized design in a laboratory setting and supervising participant training, as well as PP supplement compliance. However, the researchers noted a few limitations, mainly the duration of the intervention of the second cohort. As the original intent was to recruit two separate ten-week cohorts, due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the researchers voluntarily decided to end the second cohort after only six weeks of training to maintain the health and safety of the participants. The decision to compare PP supplementation to no supplementation was made to establish more “real world” relevance (i.e., people supplement their diets with protein powder, or nothing at all).

Despite such limitations, the researchers concluded that “…peanut protein powder supplementation with 6-10 weeks of resistance training enhance certain aspects of muscle hypertrophy and strength in older adults, compared to a resistance training program alone in the elderly population.” Future studies that are longer in duration are needed to definitively determine if PP supplementation can enhance hypertrophic adaptations with resistance training.

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The article, “The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals”, is published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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Fitness

Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

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Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.

This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.

Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.

Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”

“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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Fitness

Stair climbing offers significant cardiovascular, muscular benefits for heart patients

While it is widely known that exercise and lifestyle changes reduce the risk of secondary cardiovascular disease, statistics suggest less than a quarter of all cardiac patients adhere to fitness programs.

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A team of McMaster University researchers who studied heart patients found that stair-climbing routines, whether vigorous or moderate, provide significant cardiovascular and muscular benefits.

The findings, published in closely related studies in the journals Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and Frontiers, address the most frequently cited barriers to exercise: time, equipment and access to gym facilities.

“Brief, vigorous stair-climbing and traditional moderate intensity exercise both changed fitness, which is a key predictor of mortality after a cardiac event,” says Maureen MacDonald, one of the lead researchers on both studies and a professor in McMaster’s Department of Kinesiology.

“We’ve shown stair-climbing is a safe, efficient and feasible option for cardiac rehabilitation, which is particularly relevant during the pandemic when many people don’t have the option to exercise in a gym,” she says.

While it is widely known that exercise and lifestyle changes reduce the risk of secondary cardiovascular disease, statistics suggest less than a quarter of all cardiac patients adhere to fitness programs.

Researchers worked closely with the Cardiac Health and Rehabilitation Centre at the Hamilton General Hospital to develop an exercise protocol that did not require specialized equipment or monitoring and could be easily performed outside a laboratory.

Participants with coronary artery disease who had undergone a cardiac procedure were randomly assigned either to traditional moderate-intensity exercise or vigorous stair climbing: three rounds of six flights of 12 stairs, separated by recovery periods of walking, with participants selecting their own stepping pace.

Researchers compared the results and found that individuals who had done traditional exercise and those who had done stair-climbing both increased their cardiorespiratory fitness after four weeks of supervised training and maintained those levels for an additional eight weeks of unsupervised training.

They also reported substantial muscular improvement.

“These patients who had undergone a coronary bypass or stent procedure had muscle that was compromised, compared to age-matched healthy controls,” explained Stuart Phillips, a co-author of the studies and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster who oversaw the analysis of muscle tissue taken during the study.

Previously, there had been very few studies of the impact of exercise on cardiac patients’ muscle specifically. This analysis shows heart patients can still repair and build lost muscle.

“Even in just a short period, whether it was moderate intensity, continuous training or high-intensity stair climbing, there were beneficial adaptations in muscles after a cardiac procedure,” Phillips says. “The improvements were clear.”

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Fitness

Returning to sports or exercise after recovering from COVID-19

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As COVID-19 affects everyone differently and the long-term effects are hard to predict, returning to exercise once recovered should be undertaken with great care, especially in the case of moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, says an expert from a top American hospital, Cleveland Clinic.

Sports medicine physician Marie Schaefer, MD, says: “The truth is, the disease can affect everyone differently. Anyone, including young athletes, could experience a severe case or have long-term damage, which is why it is so important to take this seriously.”

While experts know that in some people the virus can lead to damage of the heart, brain, lungs and kidneys, she says there is no way to pinpoint or predict who exactly these individuals will be. Some might also experience lingering symptoms, including shortness of breath, muscle aches, loss of stamina and exhaustion.

For many athletes and active people, Dr. Schaefer says, returning to activity will likely be a slow process and will require patience. Individuals should work with a physician to make sure they are progressing appropriately and to monitor their symptoms.

Timelines determined by severity of COVID-19

When an athlete or active individual is sick with COVID-19, they should not engage in any physical activity. During this time, they should focus on rest, good hydration, proper nutrition and following the advice of their physician or healthcare provider.

After this, the timeline of return to exercise or sport will be determined by how mild, moderate or severe the case was.

If an active individual or athlete only has a mild illness or tests positive without experiencing any symptoms, he or she can consider returning to activity after a 10-day isolation period. Once that window has passed, the athlete may consider a gradual return to physical activity, but must not have symptoms.

If an active individual or athlete had a moderate or a severe illness, or had to be hospitalized, he or she should be evaluated by a physician prior to restarting any type of exercise. Dr. Schaefer says these people may need to have additional tests, including ECGs, heart imaging or blood work before they are cleared to start a progression back into activity.

Myocarditis in athletes and active people

Dr. Schaefer points to the possibility of myocarditis, which is an inflammatory response of the heart due to a viral infection, such as COVID-19. It can cause swelling in the heart muscle making rigorous activity more difficult and sometimes, even deadly.

“Myocarditis is more likely to be found in people who had a moderate or severe case of the virus, but it can happen to anyone who was infected,” says Dr. Schaefer.

Given this increased potential risk for myocarditis, athletes or active people returning after COVID-19 infections need to be cleared by a healthcare provider who will determine if any additional testing is needed. Because of the risk of myocarditis, athletes and anyone who exercises should follow a graduated return to physical activity over the course of a week to monitor for signs and symptoms of this serious complication.

Advice for easing back into fitness

While serious athletes should follow a Return to Play (RTP) schedule supervised by a professional trainer or physician, Dr. Schaefer has three pieces of advice for anyone planning to reintroduce exercise into their routine.

1. Listen to your body. If someone is experiencing symptoms like chest pain or heart palpitations, they should stop exercising immediately and consult with a doctor. Exercise and movement are important for overall health, but for COVID-19, things can change overnight as we learn more about the virus, she says. People should keep monitoring themselves and if something feels more serious than just a consequence of being out of shape, they need to stop exercising and talk to a physician.

If individuals experience any of the follow red flag symptoms, they stop exercising immediately:

  • chest pain or heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • headache
  • high heart rate not proportional to exertion level or prolonged heart rate recovery.
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • shortness of breath, difficulty catching breath or abnormal, rapid breathing
  • excessive level of fatigue
  • swelling in the extremities
  • syncope (passing out)
  • experiencing tunnel vision or loss of vision.

2. Take it easy. Recovered patients should not try to “power through” as they did in the past. Athletes of all ages should follow a gradual progression to get back into exercise. They will need to build up the time and intensity of their workouts. Dr. Schaefer advises starting with a slow walk and if that feels alright, trying a brisk walk the next day. They will need to gradually increase the time they spend walking, building this up for about one to two weeks before returning to HIIT training or CrossFit, for example.

3. Be patient. Dr. Schaefer points out that even if someone the recovered patients were training for a marathon prior to becoming infected, they will likely discover that their body has changed a bit, which warrants extra caution. “Do not push too hard on a body that is still trying to recover,” she concludes.

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