September 2010: Interview with Dr. Jeff Stout

by on September 24, 2010

JOHN: It is my pleasure to have Jeffrey Stout as our interview for this month’s installment. Jeff is one of the most respected nutritional and training experts in the country, and I can’ tell you how excited I am to have him share his knowledge with us.

Jeff, first of all, can you tell us a little about yourself, and what it is you are passionate about?

JEFF STOUT: Currently I am a Professor and Director of the Metabolic and Body Composition Laboratories in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma. Also, I am the Vice President of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Over the past 15 years I have published over 100 research studies, 7 books and 7 book chapters that focus on nutrition, exercise performance, muscle function and body composition. I am passionate about how nutrition can help accelerate the benefits of exercise in people of all ages, gender and race.

JOHN: Since you are passionate about nutrition, let’s start there. What do you think are some of the most common dietary mistakes people make when trying to reduce bodyfat while maintain lean muscle mass?

JEFF STOUT: Not eating. One of the most frustrating things I hear people doing is eating one meal a day for weight loss and for some reason they are not losing body fat. That’s because the metabolic rate drops very low to compensate for the lack of food. Evolution my dear Watson. The body goes into starvation mode and preserves fat at the expense of muscle. However, if a person was to eat 6 meals a day (300 to 500kcals), 40% protein, 40% Low Glycemic carbs, 20% healthy fats, but still be at a total caloric deficit, then the body would not go into starvation mode and would preferentially burn fat over muscle.

JOHN: Agreed – so let’s take that one step further. How about someone who is say 8% bodyfat trying to temporarily get down to 5% such as a bodybuilder, eating 6 meals, and they just seem be in a rut or plateau. What are your thoughts on keeping people like this on track in terms of getting really really lean?

JEFF STOUT: This is very tough but can be done. In this case the bodybuilder needs to change the composition of their low-cal diet to 60% Protein, 20% carbs, 20% fat. I would still recommend that they eat six times per day. I wouldn’t recommend they do this form more than 3 to 4 weeks. Also, we have to consider other factors that may be causing a plateau like training, sleep, hydration and what supplements they are taking.

JOHN: Interesting that you mention hydration – can you talk about that in more detail and how that can affect metabolism?

JEFF STOUT: Being slightly dehydrated (1-2%) will adversely affect strength, power, and endurance. In addition, when dehydrated, you have a decreased ability to utilize fat as fuel for energy. So when you combine sub-optimal workouts, due to loss of muscle function, and inability to use fat as fuel because of being chronically dehydrated, then being fully hydrated should be a priority.

JOHN: Great info Jeff. So what can all my readers use a guideline to stay hydrated during training? What would you recommend?

JEFF STOUT: I would recommend hyperhydrating. What I mean is drink lots of fluids prior to training especially in hot humid environments. It is really hard to prevent dehydration while training, but you can slow down the process. If you know you will be working out in a really hot environment, then I would suggest diluting your favorite hydration drink with water. A 50/50 mixture should do it.

JOHN: Do you have any thoughts on cortisol levels, specifically how to manage them, and if excess cortisol can severely retard bodyfat loss?

JEFF STOUT: Having chronically high cortisol levels will suppress your immune system (you will get sick), breakdown skeletal muscle and may retard body fat loss. Cortisol is released by stress like exercise, job, lack of sleep, and/or poor nutrition. So, to prevent cortisol from being constantly elevated there are two things we can do to. 1. SLEEP. We must get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Research shows that when we are sleep deprived cortisol is elevated and exercise performance decline and we are at much higher risk of getting sick. Our body rejuvenates itself if given enough time to sleep. 2. Proper post exercise nutrition. Intense exercise can dramatically elevate cortisol levels and if there is no nutritional intervention immediately afterwards, then that cortisol can lead to more harm than good. However, research shows that you can significantly decrease cortisol levels with a good post-workout drink containing 30 to 50 grams of carbs and 20 to 30 grams of protein.

JOHN: Also, can you share your expertise on raising protein or healthy fat consumption, and lowering carb consumption in order to achieve this?

JEFF STOUT: We have essential fat and we have essential protein which means we must consume these in our diet or we will become ill. However, there is no such thing as essential carbohydrates. We can survive without them; however, we may be a little grumpy. It is mainly carbohydrates that regulate insulin which controls whether our bodies utilize fat for energy or stores it. So, cutting carbs from your diet makes sense from a physiological standpoint and is supported with several research studies. However, I don’t believe you should eliminate carbs all together because it does serve as our primary source of energy when working out.

JOHN: Do you think through adaptation to diet, someone can become more of a fat burner as opposed to a sugar burner, and take advantage of the extra ATP from fat to supply energy?

JEFF STOUT: This is a great question and has actually been studied. Very low carbohydrate diets(less than 20g per day) have demonstrated an enhanced ability to utilize fat for energy. In fact, bodybuilders have been doing this for decades to get extremely lean in a very short time. However, it takes the body a while to convert body fat to ATP thus making it a low octane fuel that is only used for walking or jogging very slow. If you want to run, lift weights to produce results, or ride a bike at a fairly intense level, then you are going to need carbohydrates.

JOHN: So this is the great debate – should my readers trying to lose bodyfat and preserve muscle do more low-intentisty cardio that is longer in duration, or shorter sessions with much more intensity…given nutrition is on point?

JEFF STOUT: Wow, you are right, this is a great debate. I prefer the high intensity interval training [HIIT] with a high protein (1g per lb) low (50 to 100g) carb diet. HIIT works fast and will continue to burn calories for up to 24 hours after training while low-intensity will continue to burn calories for up to 2 hours after training. So with the high protein and low carb diet, HIIT will rapidly burn fat and maintain muscle (maybe lose a little). If your readers wanted to drop fat fast then this is what I would do. However, if they wanted to gain muscle, then this diet will not work.

JOHN: When you talk about the intensity part…how hard is hard? Can you give me an example of one high-intensity cardio workout? I typically have people go balls out on a machine (say elliptical) for 10 seconds then go moderate for 50 seconds for a total of 15-35 minutes depending on their condition. Is there a minimum duration to see the 24 effect you noted?

JEFF STOUT: Yes, I like your interval workouts. That is exactly what I am talking about. For your endurance athlete it would be 2 min on at 70 to 80 percent of their max heart rate (220 – age = Max HR), with one min slow or rest. Do this for about 5 to 6 intervals. As they get into shape then you need to increase speed of treadmill to get your HR up to 80%R. If you train for 20 min with your protocol or mine you still will see the 24 hour effect. I like these kinds of workouts because while intensity is high, volume is low, and that means an entire workout can be done in 30 min or less. BTW, to see the kinds of performance changes in cardiovascular fitness that we see with HIIT using traditional endurance training would take 4 to 6 more weeks! HIIT is so efficient with your time, and provides the biggest bang for your buck!!

JOHN: Also, what do you think are the most common major nutritional roadblocks to those trying to gain lean tissue without accompanying bodyfat?

JEFF STOUT: Not following a good Nutrient Timing protocol and eating high glycemic carbohydrates at night before going to bed. The only time anyone should have high Glycemic carbs (sugar, bread, juices etc.) should be 1 hour before, during or right after training. The diet must be clean of foods that spike your insulin unless it’s around the time of your training. Do this and you can put on muscle and not gain fat. In some cases, people gain muscle and lose body fat.

JOHN: How about the protein aspect of this. Many of the studies I have seen advocated a blend of whey isolate and casein post-workout.

JEFF STOUT: Actually there is research supporting the use of Whey + Casein over Whey alone. That combination of protein is called milk. No, seriously the combination provides a quick anabolic response and a sustained anticatabolic response. However, head to head Whey is more anabolic than casein. In addition, there is a difference among the whey proteins on the market. Recent studies have demonstrated that Whey Hydrolysates are more anabolic than whey isolates which is more anabolic than Whey Protein Concentrates. Can be confusing, but what I usually recommend to my athletes is to add 20g of a really good whey hydrolysate to milk post exercise.

JOHN: Yes, I saw an awesome study on that a while back…it was extremely well done, and I think won some kind of award. I have had success with using hydrolysates also, although they are a bit more expensive!

What do you think of spiking insulin without the use of carbs, say with Leucine?

JEFF STOUT: Well, the purpose of spiking insulin is increasing amino acid and glucose uptake into the muscle. Insulin also activates enzymes responsible for glycogen resynthesis (Glucose needed for this). There is data that whey with high levels of leucine (like hydrolysates) or fortified has been shown to stimulate insulin release. However, when you combine Leucine with Carbs, the insulin response is much greater and the anabolic response is huge. So, I do think adding leucine to your recovery shake would help accelerate recovery.

JOHN: Ok, if you don’t mind switching gears, there is no way I can ignore your experience in the metabolic and body composition lab. Can you share with my readers maybe 3-4 of the things you have seen in the last year that you think could really benefit an advanced athlete? Could be supplements, the style in which you train, etc.

JEFF STOUT: Yes I can. We have published many studies and are in the process of publishing more soon. This is what I have learned and would recommend.

  • Creatine continues to show a tremendous ability to enhance the effects of (ALL) training methods on speed, endurance, strength, power, and body composition. In fact I would consider this like I would a multivitamin. I take 3g every day and my kids who compete at a very high level in Judo and gymnastics take 1.5 grams per day.
  • Beta-Alanine – Seems to delay fatigue which ultimately enhances performance in every kind of athlete we have worked with so far. Must use controlled release tabs for it to work. Unfortunately, most people do not take beta-alanine correctly. 1.5 g twice per day (3.0g) using the patented controlled release.
  • Post workout recovery drink. 30 to 50g high Glycemic carbs and 20 to 30 grams of proteins (WPH)

JOHN: I believe it was Jose Antonio that told me this about Beta-Alanine as well. I go a little crazy with it though…6 grams at once pre-training…lol…I think I’ll try it your way. I do very high volume workouts, as do many of our readers and it does seem to help big time.

In terms of supplements, I am going to throw some out at you, and I want you to tell me what comes to mind immediately:

1. Waxy Maize starch

Not enough research to form an opinion. So far I haven’t seen any data to suggest this starch is better than other sugars for maintaining blood glucose during workout, or for recovery. We did a study at OU on Elite Cyclist and I wasn’t impressed with the results. But who knows, seems to be popular right now.

2. COQ10

Not a huge fan in terms of athletic performance. Take vitamin E. Most data shows no positive effect in highly trained athletes

3. NAC

Has potential. Athletes may benefit from NAC supplementation by its ability to maintain and increase is deficient glutathione in the muscle. Very powerful anti-oxident and helps to delay fatigue. JOHN: Ahh yes, this is one of my favorite supplements.

4. Best supp for joints?

1500mg Glucosamine Sulfate

5. Best supp for liver health?

Don’t drink too much alcohol or take drugs. 🙂 Actually, unless your liver health is compromised there is nothing you can take to make it work better than it already does.

6. D-Aspartic Acid (for increasing test levels)

In a recent study (2009) about 3.2 grams of D-Aspartic Acid was given every morning for 12 days and the scientist demonstrated a significant 42% increase in Testosterone in men. Unfortunately there was only one study so it is hard to say if chronic supplementation would maintain the elevated testosterone levels and enhance the effects of training.


JOHN: On to resistance training volume, there is another great debate – low vs. high volume. My personal opinion is they can both work, but the bottom line is generating enough intensity with either approach. We would love to hear your thoughts on resistance training volume for advanced athletes.

JEFF STOUT: The key here is adaptation to training. Your body will adapt fast and the gains you saw initially will be slow to nil after a few weeks. So, I agree with you, both high volume and high intensity resistance training work and both need to be incorporated into your overall program. I always recommend, to avoid adaptation to your training, that you need to change your workout every 3 to 4 weeks. I have found that advanced athletes respond better.

Let’s talk more about cardio – High intensity Interval Training – we have published many studies on this method of training. In as little as 2 to 3 weeks, HIIT training can significantly improve aerobic power and anaerobic working capacity and in some cases we have seen improve body composition. A HIIT program is usually something like 2 min of Exercising intensely and 1 min rest, on a bike, treadmill, rowing machine or pool. The intervals can change to a 1:2 or 1:1 or 3:1. Whatever you want. Of course as the exercise time goes down the intensity must go up and vice versa.

JOHN: Do you think that there is a way to target stubborn bodyfat, say the hips in women, or the love handles in men?

JEFF STOUT: Spot reducing Liposuction…Just kidding. I haven’t seen any convincing data supporting spot reduction with a particular exercise. Actually, when men lose weight the last place they lose it is in the belly. For women, the last place they lose body fat is in the hips / thighs. So, until you get down to 10% fat for men and 18 to 20 % fat for women, you really don’t affect those troubled areas. At 10% body fat men start to see their ab. At 8% the abs look really defined. So the key to getting rid of fat in the waist or hip is reducing total body fat.

JOHN: now let’s try it with foods..what comes to mind immediately:

1. Grass-fed beef liver

Yuck. Sorry I just don’t like liver. LOL!

2. Virgin Coconut Oil

Great addition to fun in the bedroom. 🙂

3. Dark chocolate

Great source of anti-oxidents and energy.

4. Diet sodas

I hate them.

5. Fruit

good in moderation.

6. Dairy products

A must for kids 1 to 18. Provides the most powerful proteins on the market (whey and casein).

JOHN: Jeff, from myself and all my readers, I can’t say thank you enough. We appreciate your time, and you lending your expertise to our site. I wish you much success!

JEFF STOUT: Great talking with you John, and best of luck with the new site!