Research Roundup #28: Weight-Loss Maintenance, Powerlifting Risk, and Weightlifting While Pregnant

What’s the “secret” to weight-loss maintenance? Is powerlifting risky? Is doing HIIT while pregnant healthy? The post Research Roundup #28: Weight-Loss Maintenance, Powerlifting Risk, and Weightlifting While Pregnant appeared first on Legion Athletics.

Research Roundup #28: Weight-Loss Maintenance, Powerlifting Risk, and Weightlifting While Pregnant

It’s estimated that there are over 2+ million scientific papers published each year, and this firehose only seems to intensify.

Even if you narrow your focus to fitness research, it would take several lifetimes to unravel the hairball of studies on nutrition, training, supplementation, and related fields.

This is why my team and I spend thousands of hours each year dissecting and describing scientific studies in articles, podcasts, and books and using the results to formulate our 100% all-natural sports supplements and inform our coaching services. 

And while the principles of proper eating and exercising are simple and somewhat immutable, reviewing new research can reinforce or reshape how we eat, train, and live for the better. 

Thus, each week, I’m going to share three scientific studies on diet, exercise, supplementation, mindset, and lifestyle that will help you gain muscle and strength, lose fat, perform and feel better, live longer, and get and stay healthier. 

This week, you’ll learn the “secret” to keeping weight off when you finish dieting, how risky powerlifting is, and if doing HIIT while pregnant is healthy.

And the “secret” to weight-loss maintenance is . . .

Source: “Successful weight loss maintenance: A systematic review of weight control registries” published on February 12, 2020 in Obesity Reviews.

Losing weight is tough.

But as anyone who perennially maintains a trim physique will tell you, the real challenge isn’t losing weight but keeping it off.

That’s why most people regain any weight they lose when they finish dieting.

This problem is so prevalent that for the past few decades, scientists at several universities have been gathering information from successful dieters about what helped them lose weight and keep it off.

Recently, scientists at the University of Lisbon pooled and analyzed these weight-loss “registries” to see if they could spot trends that might help others maintain weight loss.

Their results showed that the best strategies for keeping weight off are:

Among the least frequently reported strategies were following a “special diet,” consuming weight-loss supplements, and, interestingly, receiving professional help from a hypnotist, weight-loss group, or personal trainer.

The results also showed that maintaining weight loss becomes gradually easier, perhaps because the behaviors that ensure successful weight-loss maintenance become habits that demand less conscious effort.

At a time when silver bullets such as fad diets and weight-loss supplements are as popular as ever, these results are a valuable reminder that those who successfully lose weight and keep it off avoid these distractions and focus on what works: following a protein- and fiber-rich diet that’s mainly composed of minimally processed, nutritious foods and regularly exercising.

The only two surprises were the results regarding breakfast and professional help.

Most research shows that breakfast eaters are about as likely to lose weight and keep it off as breakfast skippers, which is why I still think you should eat or skip breakfast based on your preferences.

Likewise, a mountain of evidence shows that seeking diet advice from a qualified professional aids weight loss and maintenance. While the dieters in this study tended not to seek professional help, there’s nothing to suggest it wouldn’t have made their weight-loss journey easier.

For instance, the dieters also identified “emotional eating” (eating to soothe negative emotions) as one of the biggest barriers to enduring weight loss. An effective way to deal with emotional eating is to have contingency plans when emotions strike. 

Fathoming these plans alone can be challenging, but they become more manageable with guidance from an experienced coach.

That’s why I think getting help, whether from trusted online sources, podcasts, books, or coaches, is an indispensable tool for ensuring long-lasting weight loss for some people.

(And if you’d like an expert to give you everything you need to build your best body ever, including custom diet and training plans, exercise technique coaching, emotional encouragement, accountability, and more, contact Legion’s VIP one-on-one coaching service to set up a free consultation. Click here to check it out.)

TL;DR: The best ways to ensure long-term weight loss are following a protein- and fiber-rich diet that’s mainly composed of minimally processed, nutritious foods and exercising regularly.

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Powerlifting isn’t dangerous.

Source: “Safety of powerlifting: A literature review” published on January 19, 2021 in Science and Sports.

Many people think the “Big 3” are dangerous.

That is, they think squatting thrashes your knees, deadlifting is detrimental to your lower back, and benching banjaxes your shoulders.

You can find plenty of videos of powerlifters injuring themselves, too, but how common is this really? 

Are these incidents the exception or the rule? 

That’s what scientists at the University of Murcia wanted to puzzle out by reviewing the data from 11 studies involving 763 powerlifters—athletes who spend the vast majority of their training time practicing the squat, deadlift, and bench press

The results showed that, on average, powerlifters suffer 1-to-4.4 injuries per 1000 hours spent training. The most common injuries in non-disabled athletes were to the shoulders, lower back, hips, and knees, and the shoulders, pectorals, and elbows in paralympic athletes (though this is because the bench press is the sole lift performed in paralympic powerlifting).

To put these figures into perspective, injury rates in soccer (15 per 1000 hours), running, and CrossFit (both ~10 per 1000 hours) are all significantly higher, making powerlifting a relatively safe sport. 

How do these numbers relate to the average weightlifter?

Most gym-goers don’t follow programs that are as rigorous as powerlifting programs. For example, my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger programs for men and women include exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench press, but these aren’t the sole focus. 

This is significant because limiting the time you spend doing these exercises reduces your risk of them causing repetitive strain injuries.

What’s more, programs like Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger don’t involve training as close to your one-rep max as most powerlifting programs, which means they don’t beat up your joints and connective tissues as much, further reducing your risk of injury.

As such, most recreational weightlifters probably have a similar injury rate to bodybuilders, which according to this study, is about 1 injury per ~4000 hours of training.

Even then, you can take steps to reduce your risk further. 

If you’re prone to low-back problems, switching to the sumo or trap-bar deadlift instead of the conventional deadlift may help since both variations place less stress on your spine.

Or, if back squatting irritates your knees, try the more knee-friendly front squat. You could also lower yourself slower during the squat. This gives you more control and prevents you from “falling” into positions that stress your knees.

And if your shoulders cry uncle while bench pressing, do the following:

  • Tuck your shoulder blades down and squeeze them together for your entire set.
  • Use a 1.5 times shoulder-width grip or narrower.
  • Keep your elbows at a 30-to-60-degree angle relative to your torso.
  • Touch the bar on your chest at nipple height.
  • Only do 3-to-6 weekly sets of the flat barbell bench press (this doesn’t mean you can’t do other pressing exercises like the incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, dip, and so forth).

TL;DR: Powerlifters can expect 1-to-4.4 injuries per 1000 hours they spend training, which makes powerlifting significantly safer than soccer, running, and CrossFit.

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Doing HIIT while you’re pregnant improves blood flow to your baby.

Source: “Acute fetal response to high-intensity interval training in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy” published on August 25, 2021 in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

For many women, pregnancy is not the time for exercise.

Instead, it’s a time for resting, nesting, and prepping for when their baby arrives, all of which, they believe, leaves little time to train.

However, research shows that exercising during pregnancy confers many physical and mental health benefits to both mother and child, before, during, and after birth. That’s why scientists are keen to find ways to make exercising during pregnancy as time-efficient and accessible as possible.

Some believe the answer is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

HIIT involves repeated bouts of almost all-out exercise interspersed with periods of low-intensity recovery. One of the main benefits of HIIT workouts is that they’re typically short, which should make them easier to schedule for expectant mothers. 

The only problem is that while research shows that HIIT workouts don’t harm an unborn baby (provided you stay below 90% of your maximum heart rate), we know little about how HIIT affects a fetus.

To help clarify this blindspot, scientists at Queen’s University had 14 active pregnant women in their third trimester do 3 rounds of a HIIT-style weightlifting circuit involving the kettlebell swing, banded chest press, goblet squat, dumbbell row, lunge, and Pallof press.

The women did each exercise at near maximum intensity (about an 8 on the RPE scale) for 20 seconds, then took 1 minute of active rest between exercises, during which time they marched in place. Once they’d finished a full circuit, they took 2 minutes of complete rest. The entire workout took 25 minutes and included just 6 minutes of intense exercise.

The results showed that HIIT-style weightlifting had no adverse effects on fetal heart rate or umbilical blood flood. The training also significantly improved blood flow through the umbilical artery, sending more blood and oxygen to the developing baby.

While we’ve known for some time that exercising during pregnancy is healthful, this is the first study to show that HIIT-style weightlifting offers significant benefits to an unborn child. You don’t need to train for long, use specialized equipment, or have much space to get these benefits either, which will hopefully encourage more women to stay active during pregnancy.

Of course, not everyone can train when they’re expecting, so be sure to clear any training program you undertake while pregnant with your doctor. However, if you’re medically cleared to train during pregnancy, and you want a simple program to keep you and your baby healthy, do the following program on 3 non-consecutive days per week:

Full-Body Pregnancy Workout

TL;DR: HIIT-style weightlifting during pregnancy is safe for mother and child and improves blood flow and oxygen supply to the developing baby.

The post Research Roundup #28: Weight-Loss Maintenance, Powerlifting Risk, and Weightlifting While Pregnant appeared first on Legion Athletics.