It’s estimated that there are over 2+ million scientific papers published each year, and this firehose only seems to intensify.

Even if you narrow your focus to fitness research, it would take several lifetimes to unravel the hairball of studies on nutrition, training, supplementation, and related fields.

This is why my team and I spend thousands of hours each year dissecting and describing scientific studies in articles, podcasts, and books and using the results to formulate our 100% all-natural sports supplements and inform our coaching services. 

And while the principles of proper eating and exercising are simple and somewhat immutable, reviewing new research can reinforce or reshape how we eat, train, and live for the better. 

Thus, each week, I’m going to share three scientific studies on diet, exercise, supplementation, mindset, and lifestyle that will help you gain muscle and strength, lose fat, perform and feel better, live longer, and get and stay healthier. 

This week, you’ll learn how much steroids help you gain muscle and strength, which foods you should eat before drinking alcohol to stay sober, and whether coaches or technology are better at teaching you weightlifting technique.

Steroids are insanely good at building muscle and strength.

Source: “The Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Muscle Size and Strength in Normal Men” published on July 4, 1996 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Many steroid users lie about what drugs they take, how they take them, and why they take them. 

Many deny ever having taken them

Others downplay the amount they use.

And still others claim they only use them to improve the mental health of depressed young people (definitely not to make millions shilling supplements, heavens no!). 

Another tack some juicers take is to downplay the effectiveness of steroids. Some tout this as evidence they aren’t on steroids (“Why would I take them if they only help a little?”), and others use this ploy to minimize the role steroids played in building their physique (“Yeah I take them, but most of my progress is from #dedication). 

This is bullshit. 

Research shows that steroids have a massive impact on your ability to gain muscle and strength, recover from your training, and stay lean while eating large amounts of food. 

Proof of this comes from a study conducted by scientists at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, in which researchers split 40 experienced weightlifters into 4 groups:

  1. Group 1 consumed a placebo and didn’t lift weights.
  2. Group 2 took 600 milligrams of testosterone weekly and didn’t lift weights.
  3. Group 3 consumed a placebo and lifted weights.
  4. Group 5 took 600 milligrams of testosterone weekly and lifted weights.

Everyone also ate ~17 calories and 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day and consumed 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

After 10 weeks, the results showed that the sedentary guys in group 1 didn’t gain any muscle and added just 7 pounds to their squat and nothing to their bench press.

The “natty” weightlifters in group 3 fared significantly better, gaining about 4.5 pounds of muscle and adding about 77 pounds to their squat and bench press, which is fantastic for 10 weeks of training.

How did the juiced weightlifters compare?

The men in group 2 who took steroids and sat on their butts for 10 weeks gained 7 pounds of muscle and added 70 pounds to their squat and bench press. And the men in group 4 who took steroids and lifted weights gained a mind-boggling 13.5 pounds of muscle. In 10 freaking weeks.

Yes, that’s 1.3 pounds of muscle per week and about the same amount a guy with above-average genetics could expect to gain in six months weightlifting and maintaining a calorie surplus.

The saucy weightlifters also increased their squat and bench press total by a whopping 132 pounds. They gained 8 times more size in their triceps and twice as much size in their quads as the natural weightlifters, too.

And let’s not forget this study only looked at the effects of taking 600 mg of testosterone weekly. Many steroid users take higher doses of “T” than this and further magnify its effects by mixing it with other anabolics, such as trenbolone, Winstrol, Dianabol, nandrolone, and more.

So next time a steroid user tells you steroids “only help a little,” you now have proof they’re talking out of their needle-pricked keister. 

TL;DR: Even a relatively small dose of testosterone can more than double your ability to build muscle, even if you don’t lift weights.

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Eating protein and fiber before boozing helps you stay sober.

Source: “Effect of a Snack Bar Optimized to Reduce Alcohol Bioavailability: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial in Healthy Individuals” published on April 8, 2020 in Journal of Medicinal Food.

Most of us gain a little weight over the holidays.

This is usually because we relax our diets between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and overindulge in calorie-laden festive fare.

However, it’s also because many of us accompany our feasting with alcohol. And while alcohol isn’t intrinsically fattening, it indirectly contributes to fat gain in multiple ways.

One way it does this is by lowering our inhibitions and impairing our decision-making, thus making us prone to rampant overeating.

If you’ve fallen into this trap before and want to avoid it this year, research conducted by scientists at Zeno Functional Foods might be of interest.

They had 21 people complete four separate tests. During each, the participants drank a cocktail containing vodka and zero-calorie tonic water. Five minutes before consuming the cocktail, the drinkers either ate . . .

  • Nothing
  • A protein bar containing 20 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 210 calories
  • A savory snack containing ~3 grams of protein, ~1 gram of fiber, and 210 calories
  • A mixed meal containing 22 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fiber, and 635 calories.

Blood test results showed that eating any food before drinking reduced the amount of alcohol that made it to the drinkers’ blood. Eating the large mixed meal caused blood alcohol levels to rise the least and the most slowly, followed by the protein bar and then the savory snack.

This isn’t surprising—we’ve known for decades that eating before boozing slows the absorption of alcohol, with large meals slowing absorption more than small meals.

However, a more striking finding was that per calorie, the protein bar was considerably more effective at reducing alcohol absorption than the other foods. Every 100 calories of protein bar the drinkers ate reduced alcohol absorption by ~21%. In contrast, every 100 calories of the mixed meal and savory snack the drinkers ate only reduced alcohol absorption by ~11%.

How can you gain from this nugget come Christmas?

Suppose you’re going to a festive get-together where high-calorie foods and alcohol will be thrust upon you. You don’t want to get too merry and make bad food choices, and you don’t want to eat a huge meal to keep inebriation at bay.

In this scenario, eating a high-protein, high-fiber snack beforehand is sensible. It’ll limit alcohol’s intoxicating effects, making you less likely to partake in uninhibited gluttony, and it’ll “cost” far fewer calories than a large meal. 

This snack doesn’t have to be a protein bar—a few hundred grams of Skyr with raspberries would work equally well. That said, grabbing a protein bar is probably more convenient at this hectic time of year.

And if you want a protein bar that contains 20 grams of high-quality protein and 9 grams of prebiotic fiber per serving, check out Legion’s 100% natural protein bars.

(Or if you aren’t sure if Legion’s protein bars are right for you or if another supplement might be a better fit for your budget, circumstances, and goals, then take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz! In less than a minute, it’ll tell you exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

A final rider to be aware of is that this study was funded by a health food company, who, on the back of these results, developed a protein bar that helps prevent drunkenness.

In many cases, this would be a “red flag”—it’s hard to trust a study conducted by scientists who have a financial interest in the results. 

However, I don’t think there’s reason to doubt these findings, primarily because we know eating food lessens alcohol absorption by slowing gastric emptying (the process of moving food from the stomach through the digestive system) and that protein and fiber are particularly effective in this regard.

As such, it makes sense that eating a high-protein, high-fiber snack before tippling would stop you from getting sloshed.

TL;DR: Eating high-protein, high-fiber foods before drinking alcohol limits the amount of alcohol that reaches your blood.

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Coaches are better than technology at teaching technique.

Source: “The effects of technological and traditional feedback on back squat performance in untrained women” published on September 2, 2022 in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Many new weightlifters worry about their form.

They fear that they perform technical exercises like the squat and deadlift badly, hindering their performance, limiting their progress, and increasing their risk of injury.

As such, technology companies are always trying to develop widgets that allow you to monitor and correct your weightlifting technique without needing a coach.

In a recent study conducted by scientists at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, researchers wanted to see how effective one of these gadgets was. They split 19 women with no recent weightlifting experience into 2 groups: a “traditional” group, which received weightlifting cues from a coach, and a “technology” group, which used a laser-guided contraption to guide their form (more on this in a moment).

Both groups completed a pre-experimental session where they tested their squat strength with different loads and their maximum mid-thigh pull (an exercise similar to the rack pull) strength.

The women then did 2 weekly workouts for 5 weeks consisting of 3 sets of 10 reps of the squat. The participants selected how much weight they wanted to lift in each set, though the researchers encouraged them to choose a weight that allowed them to finish each set with 2 reps in reserve (RIR) and increase the weight as they became stronger. 

A coach also supervised every workout. During the traditional training, the coach was allowed to give the weightlifters cues to improve their technique, such as:

  • Try to push equally hard with both feet 
  • Strive to press using the whole foot
  • Remember to engage the core muscles 
  • Maintain a slight outward knee rotation

The technology group used a device attached to the barbell that shone lasers onto a board marked with lines in front of the squat rack. If the women tilted forward or pressed unevenly through their feet, the lasers would become misaligned with the markings, allowing the women to correct themselves. The coach was also allowed to give the following cues relating to the device:

  • Keep the dots horizontally aligned
  • Try to keep the dots within the vertical lines

At the end of the study, the women retested their strength. The results showed that both groups gained about the same amount of strength on the squat:

Change in Squat Strength

However, the traditional training group gained significantly more strength on the mid-thigh pull:

Change in Mid-Thigh Pull

The coaches also reported that the traditional group’s form improved during the study, whereas the technology group’s didn’t.

In other words, taking tips from a coach helped the women gain more strength and improve their technique more than women who relied on technology to teach them how to squat.

Previous research shows that weightlifting cues are a boon for learning proper weightlifting technique. Furthermore, getting verbal feedback from a coach boosts your performance and motivation to train, while feedback from technology seems less effective at this. 

Thus, if you’re struggling to learn proper form for an exercise, taking the tech route probably isn’t optimal (at least not yet, anyway). If you want pointers on performing exercises correctly, the help of a good coach is preferable.

And if you’d like expert guidance on everything you need to build your best body ever, including exercise technique coaching, custom diet and training plans, emotional encouragement, accountability, and more, contact Legion’s VIP one-on-one coaching service to set up a free consultation. (Click here to check it out.)

TL;DR: Getting feedback from a coach helps you gain more strength and improve your weightlifting form more than getting feedback from technology.

+ Scientific References