Monday, August 15, 2011

Guest Interview - Alwyn Cosgrove and Dr Chris Mohr

Alwyn Cosgrove- I’m really excited to be back with Dr. Chris Mohr today. We’ve got him cornered in the the hot seat to talk about the always popular topic of supplements.

AC: Thanks for taking the time for our readers today. Let’s get right to it -- are there any supplements everyone should be taking?

Dr. C: High quality fish oil and vitamin D. A recent study showed that omega 3 deficiency is responsible for 96,000 deaths ... the 8th leading cause of preventable death in the US! And the more I read about Vitamin D, the more I realize how beneficial it is and how common deficiency is. I was recently talking with one of the world’s leading Vitamin D experts, Dr. Bob Heaney, as part of the monthly audio series for Dietary Supplement U ... he quoted studies showing around 60-90% of teenage girls were deficient.

AC: That’s crazy. I’ll get back to fish oil in a minute, but have you seen that’s also true for people like me, living in Southern CA who are fortunate to have a good amount of sun?

Dr. C: It’s interesting. Dr. Heaney (and others) have shown that if you live north of Atlanta, you don’t make sufficient D from the sunshine. And even if you are out in the sun, all summer long, research shows that by the winter your stores will be depleted again once the sun isn’t quite as strong and you may not be exposed to as much. Remember, too, most of us aren’t sitting poolside day in and day out, where most of our bodies are exposed. We’re covered by clothing and the rest of our bodies are covered in SPF, which doesn’t allow sufficient D to be made. The other problem -- it’s a really difficult one to get through the diet. Sardines and anchovies aren’t really at the top of most people’s “what’s for dinner” lists. But they’re great sources of D.

AC: Good stuff. What is the best type of omega-3 to take -- fish oil, krill oil, flax oil, etc?

Dr. C: Most of the science -- over 7,000 research studies -- use fish oil. Here’s the deal. There are three omega-3‘s. EPA, DHA and ALA. Fish oil is high in EPA and DHA. Non fish options of omega-3‘s are high in ALA. All are healthy, but they’re not equal. So flax seed or oil is NOT a replacement for fish oil. As for krill oil...there aren’t many data out there right now. High quality fish oil has more EPA and DHA. It’s more concentrated than krill oil. The “krill people” suggest krill is more potent. But I can’t say it better than omega-3 expert, Dr. Bill Harris, who is the August ‘issue’ of the Dietary Supplement University monthly audio series: “Considering the much higher price for krill oil (vs. fish oil), the potentially small increase in bioavailability may not be worth it. Until we have data comparing fish oil to krill oil on intermediate markers of risk (triglyceride levels, vascular function, etc) and actual disease endpoints (CHD death, heart attacks) we won't be able to say one is better than the other.”

AC: How much fish oil should I take?

Dr. C: From all the data I’ve read and heard, I think 1 gram of EPA/DHA per day is safe and effective. If you have heart disease, high triglycerides, etc than a higher dose is certainly warranted. Our 2 year old daughter even takes it and has practically since she’s been born.

AC: I’m excited to hear that interview. Let’s shift away from “general” supplements for a second and talk performance. At Perform Better when you presented on Dietary Supplements, you had one slide on creatine and said “it works.” Pretty funny. But what was shocking to me is that you were then bombarded with questions about creatine. Is there new information.

Dr. C: I stand by my original statement -- creatine works. It’s one of the few performance supplements that has stood the test of time. It’s safe and it’s effective for strength based athletes ... maybe even endurance athletes according to some research. But strength based sports for sure. No new information. As much as companies tried to come out with “bigger and better” creating products, basic creatine monohydrate has stood the test of time.

AC: Any other performance supplements on the horizon that show promise?

Dr. C: Beta alanine is an interesting one. The data seem to be mounting for this fairly new supplement. And most show promise. It’s most commonly used for delaying fatigue and reducing time to exhaustion. The data are pretty consistent in terms of positive findings; it seems to enhance muscle buffering (imagine easing the burning feeling in your quads if you did 200 rapid body weight squats, for example). More practically, if you are a sprinter, cyclist or other high intensity, short duration type of athlete -- maybe you can mask this “pain” -- which could increase your performance. We did an interview with Dr. Abbie Smith who is an Assistant Professor at UNC Chapel Hill and has pioneered a lot of the beta alanine research. I learned a ton myself since it’s a pretty new area.

AC: You didn’t mention branched chain amino acids, but I know a lot of my clients ask me ... anything there?

Dr. C: I have to be honest, I’m not that impressed with the science. Most of the data suggests it may be effective in reducing muscle soreness, but not necessarily improving athletic performance. Theoretically, it’s great to have less muscle soreness. But at the end of the day, what does that mean? Particularly for the “average” client who is simply training to get in better shape or maintain their already great shape. I’d personally rather have someone use a whey protein supplement, naturally rich in BCAA’s and get more bang for their buck.

AC: Brings up a good question -- whey, casein, egg, soy, etc. What’s the BEST?

Dr. C: I side with whey. It’s absorbed quickly (great post workout). It It seems to be “better” for helping with protein synthesis (building protein). might help you feel more full, so you take in less calories. Not bad, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight. Again, whey is also naturally rich in BCAA’s. We do talk more in depth about each of these -- including BCAA’s and essential amino acids -- in Dietary Supplement University.

AC: I have to say, I’ve never seen any supplement resource as complete as Dietary Supplement University. The monthly audio updates are awesome too, so you get to learn from so many experts. It’s an absolutely MUST have for anyone who works with clients -- trainers, coaches, strength coaches, etc. You did a nice job boiling all the research and complicated science into easy to ‘digest’ info. I don’t want to even know how long it took you to put together.

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