Has anybody else seen this study?
Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle
soreness J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr 7
Here's a link:
So, they take a group of 41 guys who already lift weights, and put them on a 2 week workout program. Each monday they work chest, doing 16 sets, the first and last 4 being barbell bench press. All the bench press sets use the same weight. They are each given citrulline malate and a placebo, but randomly on either the first or second Monday. Results show that when the subjects were using the citrulline malate were able to perform more reps in the later sets, and also had less reported muscle soreness.
Here's the problem I see. If you give someone a brand new workout, and then have them perform it once, and then again a week later, I would expect them to perform significantly better the second time around, and also have less muscle soreness. I read through the whole article, I see no control for this "learning effect." They don't actually show the data at all. What if, by "coincidence" 2/3 of the subjects who got the citrulline malate got it on the second workout of the week instead of the first. It seems like it would be a really important variable to control for. Either make sure you split it 50/50, which I don't see that they did, since they say it's a double blind, or control for it when you interpret the results, which I also don't see that they did.
Doesn't surprise me to see some bunk study touting the benefits of some new supplement, but it seems like a relatively well-respected journal, so I feel like I might just not get it.
I am I just missing something?
Nicholas, this is just the process that needs to be used when you decide whether something works or not; It's refreshing to see a study done on 'trained' subjects, more often than not these studies are done using those in a non-trained state because it's much easier to standardise.
Also bear in mind that soreness is extremely subjective; someone who squats every day to maximum will have a different perception of soreness than someone who does fifteen minutes of machine weights twice a week.
You're not missing anything.
Most studies have flaws like this.
The best way to find if something works is if there's a general concensus about it (e.g. creatine, BCAAs, whey, etc all show fairly consistent beneficial results) or try it yourself.
Thanks for the feedback. If you look at table 2 at the end of the article, it doesn't show who worked out when, but it shows some of the data. If you notice, on the 8th set, it says that 100% of the test subjects were "responders," which I assume means they performed better with the citrulline than without it. I find that really hard to believe, especially if half of the subjects that took citrulline on the first workout instead of a week later. Who knows though. By the way, sorry for putting this in the wrong section, it obviously belongs in the supplements section.
As a scientist, I found that there is no such thing as an iron clad study. Even really good studies leave questions - this is why there is research and not 'search', because every experiment produces leads, questions, and sometimes useful answers that we try to verify through repetition. So it (science) is all actually just an ongoing venture. Really it all just points in further directions. There are always some other variables to consider, especially with people, and especially with fitness programs - which is like arguing religion and politics.
The study looks 'okay', I think it is at least strong enough to go with the conclusion that CM is possibly a supplement to enhance performance and recovery. I also would not assume the biochemical roles they attribute to certain compounds, e.g. CM, is entirely correct or fully defined.
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