A Surprising Lesson about Caloric Intake from a Classic Study

Our entire training staff read an article published in the Journal of Nutrition that chronicled and provided historical context for the famed “Minnesota Starvation Experiment.”  This study commenced in 1944 toward the end of WWII.  Ancel Keys, a physiologist at the University of Minnesota conducted the most exhaustive study in human history on the topic of human starvation.  The aim of the study was to learn what happens to humans when they are systematically starved.  Equally as important, Keys (and the War Department) wanted to identify a prudent way to re-feed or re-fuel the massive populations of starved POW’s as the war seceded.  The end result was a 1385-page text titled “The Biology of Human Starvation.”

Our Favorite Area of Research

One of the most important discoveries in the field of exercise over the last 10-15 years is that resistance training is far more beneficial for our health and the prevention of chronic disease than we ever would have imagined. Traditionally, we assumed resistance training outcomes centered around increases in muscle strength, muscle size, improved athletic ability, and increased bone mineral density. We relegated health improvements to aerobic exercise. A considerable body of research has shifted our understanding and all but deconstructed this false dichotomy that resistance training is for strength and aerobic exercise is for "health." But why is strength training so beneficial for our health? Emerging science tells us that the answer is, in short, "myokines." Myokines are proteins that are created when our muscles contract. These myokines influence the "crosstalk" between different organs in an autocrine, endocrine, or paracrine fashion. Through these channels, it appears that myokines may have a profound positive effect on metabolic disorders, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and a number of cardiovascular disease risk factors. 20 years ago we knew that resistance training made you stronger. 10 years ago we realized that it makes you healthier. We now are starting to understand that myokines are the probable physiological mechanism for the myriad of health benefits we see from resistance training (benefits that most exercisers, researchers, and health care professionals are still unaware of). The next time someone asks you why you strength-train, your answer should be, "To produce myokines, Bro."

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