The 52 participants were divided into three groups: a control group that did not do strength training or take nutritional supplements; an exercise group that did strength training but did not take nutritional supplements; an exercise group that did strength training and also took nutritional supplements.
Data from our nine-month study examining the effects of resistance exercise on muscle, bone, fat and blood pressure reveal that resistance exercise with accompanying shakes and daily calcium/vitamin D supplements appear to be an effective means for developing a stronger musculoskeletal system, thereby reducing the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis.
The 52 participants were divided into three groups:
A control group that did not do strength training or take nutritional supplements.
An exercise group that did strength training but did not take nutritional supplements.
An exercise group that did strength training and also took nutritional supplements.
The strength-only group performed Nautilus machine exercises, two or three days a week for 36 weeks.
The strength-plus-nutrition group performed the same resistance exercises and drank a protein and carbohydrate shake during each exercise session. The shake provided about 24 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbohydrates. They also took a daily vitamin complex that contained 500 milligrams of calcium and 1200 international units of vitamin D throughout the course of the study.
At the beginning and end of the nine-month research program, all of the study participants were assessed for body composition (muscle and fat) and blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) at a fitness-testing center at Quincy College in Massachusetts.
Over the 36 weeks, there were significant changes in each of the groups. The group that did not do strength training or take supplements increased body fat and lost lean (muscle) weight. The other groups both decreased body fat and added lean weight. However, only the strength training and nutritional supplement group experienced a statistically significant increase in muscle mass.
The control group increased both resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure. the strength-only group experienced a decrease in resting systolic blood pressure and an increase in resting diastolic blood pressure. The strength-plus-nutrition group significantly reduced both resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The results of the study confirmed what previous research has revealed regarding sedentary lifestyles:
The inactive adults in our control group experienced several undesirable physical changes, including increased body fat, decreased lean (muscle) weight and increased resting blood pressures.
The program participants who performed regular resistance exercise experienced a decrease in body fat, an increase lean (muscle) weight and a reduced resting systolic blood pressure.
Participants who supplemented strength training with specific nutrients attained even greater muscle gains and greater blood pressure reductions.
As we discovered in a previous study, ingesting a protein and carbohydrate shake during the workout enhanced muscle development more than strength training alone.
Based on our research results, my recommendation for building stronger muscles and bones is as follows, assuming approval of your personal physician:
One set each of 12 basic resistance exercises that cumulatively address all of the major muscle groups.
Workout accompanying protein/carbohydrate shake, a yogurt smoothie or a large glass of low-fat milk.
Daily calcium supplement (at least 500 milligrams) and daily vitamin D supplement (at least 1200 international units).
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., teaches exercise science and directs fitness research at Quincy College in Massachusetts and consults for the South Shore YMCA.