Monday, 27 October 2014

Turbulence Training – Science Fact Check

Turbulence Training – Fact Check

We are forever bombarded with the latest miracle cure for losing fat and toning our bodies. TV and Internet adverts for the latest system are all over the place. I decided to chose one and take a closer look at the science used to back up the training system.

Turbulence Training is another ‘new’ scientifically proven way of losing body fat fast, or so it’s maker claims. What follows are (in blue) extracts from the Turbulence Training website and in black what I found when I checked the facts.

Caveat – I acknowledge that sport science is not perfect and can be ridiculous sometimes but, sports science is slowly but surely confirming what good coaches and trainers have known for years. Sports science is not black or white, but we should consider it when the science shows a trend towards something. By referencing sports science Turbulence Training has opened the door to this analysis so let’s hope it has done its homework.

French-Canadian Researchers Discover a Weird Trick to Boosting Your Fat Loss by 450%

You’ll also see exactly how the entire fitness industry – from personal trainers to gym owners to equipment manufacturers – have been lying to you about your weight and exactly what you can do about it.

So-called experts, including many overweight doctors have been telling you for years that you need to do up to an hour of cardio per day in order to lose weight.

In fact, research shows that treadmills, elliptical machines and stairmasters can actually train your body to STORE fat instead of burning it.

Other studies show that cardio not only makes you fatter, it also ages you faster.

Scientists have shown this unique system helps men and women of all ages to burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

There is no reference to the scientific study that showed a ‘weird trick’ to boosting fat loss by 450%, which is strange as this would only serve to back up the Turbulence Training’s claims. Yet if you Google key words from this you will get lots of hits from people quoting this 450% to back-up their ‘new’ training system. Fortunately, some of these sites do reference a study to back the 450% claim as:

Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women. KE Foster-Schubert, CM Alfano, CR Duggan

This study compared post-menopausal women who either, changed diet, exercised with no diet changes, added exercises and finally a control group that made no changes. I think I found where the 450% came from as it is not stated in the study itself:

“We observed an 8.5% weight loss among women participating in diet alone, 2.4% weight loss among those participating in exercise alone, and 10.8% weight loss among those in the combined diet + exercise interventions”.

If you compared the smallest weight loss of 2.4% with the biggest weight loss of 10.8% you find 10.8 is 450% bigger than 2.4%. A mathematical exploitation no less, but that was all I could find. However, if you read the quoted text this is no ‘trick,’ as all this shows is that women who exercised alone lost less weight than people who exercised and changed their diet. So it proves that if you exercise and have a bad diet you wont lose as much weight as someone who exercises and has a good diet. Not a ‘weird trick’ or anything out of the ordinary. If you compare the group that dieted alone to the group that exercised and dieted the difference is less 8.5% to 10.8% so exercise added just over 2% to the weight loss. What is more the type of exercise used in this study ‘consisted of treadmill walking, stationary bicycling, and use of other aerobic machines’. The exact equipment Turbulence Training is advertising against!

Also, I know of no Personal Trainers or Doctors who would recommend hours and hours of cardio for fat loss.  

Cardio Makes You Gain Fat Around
Your Belly, Thighs, Hips, and Legs

According to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology,
People who performed intense cardio suffered from decreased T3 hormone production.
(Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Jan; 88(4-5):480-4.)

At last a scientific study reference we can check. This was a study on rowers with 17 people taking part. Only 10 of the 17 (58%, just over half) were monitored as having decreased T3 hormone production and the study noted “The hormone changes observed in the (-) responder rowers were not significantly (P>0.05) correlated with changes in body composition” so this had little real world affect and certainly did not make these rowers “gain fat around their belly, thighs, hips and legs”. The study also reported that hormonal changes began to return to baseline over the course of the study. It is also important to note that rowing is an intense form of cardio when done correctly and uses the whole body. It is not the same as walking or jogging or using a cross trainer.

According to a 2011 study in the scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology,
Cardio increases the stress hormone cortisol.
(Skoluda, N., Dettenborn, L., et al. Elevated Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Endurance Athletes. Psychoneuroendocrinology. September 2011.)

This is a miss quote of the study, which takes the cortisol increase out of context. The relevant quote from the study is “This data suggests that repeated physical stress of intensive training and competitive races among endurance athletes is associated with elevated cortisol exposure over prolonged periods of time”. It makes sense that people who repeatedly compete and train to be the best they can be will be more stressed with people that don’t do this. Again, comparing competitive endurance athletes to people that use a treadmill to lose fat is not realistic or helpful.

A 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that:
After cardio exercise, the subjects end up eating 100 calories more than they just burned off.
(Sonneville, K.R., et al. (2008) International Journal of Obesity. 32, S19-S27.)

This study was:

To estimate total energy intake and the energy gap the daily imbalance between energy intake and expenditure associated with discretionary behaviors of adolescents, namely their leisure active behaviors (playing or participating in sports and heavy chores), leisure sedentary behaviors (television (TV) viewing and playing video and computer games), productive sedentary behaviors (reading or doing homework).”

The study compared what teenagers had eaten after exercising and they estimated what calories the teenagers would have used during that exercise, to compare the difference. They did find that teenagers ate 99 calories more than they burned. However, this was not just from doing cardio exercise as walking was not included, the study did include soccer, gymnastics, running/jogging, basketball, dancing and other sports and included “heavy chores”. The data was gathered by questionnaire so the scientist, nor we, can understand the intensity of the exercise nor categorise it all as ‘cardio’. The average BMI of all the participants increased during the study indicating that these teenagers were, in general, all over eating regardless. Interestingly this study showed the teenagers eat 102 calories more than they burned when watching TV! The study is not relevant in supporting the training style the science is supposed to back up although it is a good indicator that we eat too much while watching TV.

A 2006 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that runners who ran the same distance or slightly more each week had LARGER waistlines at the end of the 9 year study.

This study is “The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain” by PT Williams and PD Wood. It was designed “To determine prospectively whether physical activity can prevent age-related weight gain and whether changing levels of activity affect body weight’. So again we are looking at regular runners with most having BMIs less than 25 kg/m2 so slim(ish) to start with. Also, the average age of these runners was late 30-early 40s and sadly gaining weight as we age is something that often happens (hence why this study was done). The study also did not track calorie intake or diet, which could have easily accounted for the increase. Has your waistline increased in the last 9 years?

Cardio DAMAGES Your Heart, Joints, and Back

You see, cardio overworks your heart and can lead to death by massive heart attack, all because your body has not evolved to handle long, slow and boring cardio.

John Mandrola, a heart doctor, said “Studies have shown elevated levels of coronary plaque in serial marathoners – a problem that rigorous exercise theoretically could cause. Heart disease comes from inflammation and if you’re constantly, chronically inflaming yourself, never letting your body heal, why wouldn’t there be a relationship between over exercise and heart disease?”

Again we are looking at serious athletes here, not your average gym goer. It stands to reason that if you really push your body you can get injuries. However, millions of people end up in hospital every year from accidents in the home or at work. I recommend you read the two articles here regarding running/marathon safety:

Part of the article points to the study “Physical activity, all-cause mortality, and longevity of college alumni. Paffenbarger RS Jr, Hyde RT, Wing AL, Hsieh CC”. This study looked at all causes of death of college alumni an abstract follows:

We examined the physical activity and other life-style characteristics of 16,936 Harvard alumni, aged 35 to 74, for relations to rates of mortality from all causes and for influences on length of life. A total of 1413 alumni died during 12 to 16 years of follow-up (1962 to 1978). Exercise reported as walking, stair climbing, and sports play related inversely to total mortality, primarily to death due to cardiovascular or respiratory causes. Death rates declined steadily as energy expended on such activity increased from less than 500 to 3500 kcal per week, beyond which rates increased slightly. Rates were one quarter to one third lower among alumni expending 2000 or more kcal during exercise per week than among less active men. With or without consideration of hypertension, cigarette smoking, extremes or gains in body weight, or early parental death, alumni mortality rates were significantly lower among the physically active. Relative risks of death for individuals were highest among cigarette smokers and men with hypertension, and attributable risks in the community were highest among smokers and sedentary men. By the age of 80, the amount of additional life attributable to adequate exercise, as compared with sedentariness, was one to more than two years.

So in summary people who exercised lived longer.

Cardio Makes Your Entire Body Age Faster

A recent article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that:
Cardio causes immense oxidative damage and a flood of free radicals to the body.
(Cakir-Atabek, H., Demir, S., Pinarbassili, R., Bunduz, N. Effects of Different Resistance Training Intensity on Indices of Oxidative Stress. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2010. 24(9), 2491-2498.)

Another scientific quote taken out of context as this study is actually called “Effects of different resistance training intensity on indices of oxidative stress" so does not look at cardio at all, although I could only access an extract. The study was “Sixteen young men who did not have Resistance Exercise Training experience in the past were randomly divided in 2 groups. Hypertrophy-intensity group (n = 9) performed 3 sets of 12 repetitions at an intensity corresponding to 70% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM), whereas strength-intensity group (n = 7) performed 3 sets of 6 repetitions at an intensity corresponding to 85% of 1RM. Resistance exercise training involved 6 exercises, and it was performed 3 times a week on non-consecutive days for 6 weeks”. So high intensity weight training, not long slow cardio at all. The conclusion of the study was “Results suggest that chronic Resistance Exercise Training has protective (my underlining) effects against oxidative stress similar to (my underlining) aerobic exercises and that these effects seem to be independent of the training intensity. So no signs of this ‘immense oxidative damage’ and both resistance (weight training) and cardio protects against this stress!!

Not only do free radicals cause damage to all your organs…doing cardio also damages your skin and makes you look older.

It’s a Fact, Cardio Makes You Fat, Tired, Unhappy and OLD

There is nothing quoted so far that backs this up in the real world. Training to be competitive at endurance events does appear to have a negative affect on us, but there is nothing in any of the quoted studies to indicate this will affect average gym goers.


It is plain to see that the quoted science does not back up the bold claims against cardio training. I have a feeling that whoever wrote this did not even do their own research as I found multiple uses of these/similar quotes all over the internet with the same basic mistakes. Someone has been plagiarising bad information, which then spread, and this is sadly common on the Internet. I do not claim to be an expert at reading and understanding scientific studies but from what I have seen above it is obvious that the quotes are out of context or misleading and common sense alone should reveal this. If we go back to the first quoted study it is clearly showed that the largest component of weight loss was from dietary changes and ultimately this is key to fat loss. Exercise is important for health, but to lose weight you have to have a clean diet regardless.

Sadly, the majority of people do believe that cardio is the best way to lose weight yet when asked these people can not tell you why they believe this. If you look at the big sports companies like Nike it is all about running so perhaps marketing is the reason for the whole cardio for fat loss mentality as it is not Doctors or Personal Trainers.

Anyway, back to Turbulence Training is it radical? No. Is it a miracle? No. Does it offer anything you cannot do for yourself? No. Has it reinvented the wheel? Yes.

Is there a secret to fat loss? Not really, eat clean by monitoring your calories and macronutrient intake and varied exercise (weights, slow cardio, fast cardio) and importantly good sleep and relaxation each day/night.