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The Fitness News #1: Electro Suits, Desk Bound Fat Burning, Probiotic Supplements & Long Covid!

Updated: Jan 18, 2023


Electrostimulation Suits

Professional rower, Lebby Eyres donned a full body electrostimulation suit. According to the latest news, there are a growing number of gyms allowing members to try these electrostimulation suits (not that we've seen).

Phil Horton, UK director of one of the largest manufacturers of EMS body suits said 'we can trigger the muscle in a smarter and more efficient way compared to the way the brain would tell the muscle to move'.

When rower Lebby Eyres donned the suit she said 'trainers sprayed me with water and strapped these things around my arms, legs and glutes buttocks. I thought to myself, am I really going to be able to exercise wearing these?'

Man performing activity using a medicine ball whilst wearing an electrostimulation suit
The use of a full body electrostimulation suit promises to trigger the muscle in a smarter and more efficient way

The next day Lebby woke up feeling as sore as if she'd been training for a few hours, yet she only trained for 20 minutes. Our argument is that this is a brand-new stimulus so it makes sense she is more sore than usual.

The entire point of electrostimulation is to help muscles contract. So some people believe that whenever my muscles contract, they are doing the work for me. However, whole body electrical stimulation is extremely difficult to dose properly. An underdose of electrical stimulation will have no effects, but an overdose may cause muscle damage.

Whether or not electrostimulation actually works, from the data we've seen it appears the effect is statistically insignificant in both muscle growth and strength. [1][2][3][4] There is no progressive overload and there is no range of motion, two things often associated with building muscle.

A rehab setting could be an application for these full body electrostimulation suits and similar devices. If you're bed bound, If you're extremely sedentary, If you've had some kind of illness or some kind of accident.

In that case, we're trying to combat muscle atrophy as much as possible since you've pretty much lost the movement of your muscles. We do need something that can do the work for us and even if it's something extremely small, it's better than nothing.

Desk Bound Fat Burning

Mark Hamilton, professor of human performance has discovered the soleus pushup a new fat burning exercise you can do from your desk. An exercise that offers optimal activation of the muscle and effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours, even while sitting. [5]

It sounds quite simple and the news will have you think it's essentially a fat burning heel raise, however you require specialist tech to do this movement, tech that is NOT available to the general public.

What's happening is that the muscle is simultaneously shortening while the motor neurons are activating intensely, basically opposite to what happens when you go walking. This is what causes the 'fat burning at your desk' capabilities. Will we see this in every office in the further? Who knows but for now the soleus pushup will not allow for desk bound fat burning.

Professor Mark Hamilton testing fat burning capabilities of the soleus pushup in the lab
Using specialist equipment Professor Mark Hamilton observes the impressive fat burning capabilities of the soleus pushup

Probiotic Supplements

Will taking a probiotic supplement improve your performance in both aerobic and resistance-based exercises? Well, a recently published scientific paper, a systematic review, looked at 17 studies on probiotic supplementation. [6]

This review found that most papers reported no effect when taking probiotic supplements. The ones that showed an increase in performance were found to have a high level of bias meaning the data was fragile at best.

Some of the researchers hypothesised that the benefits when performing aerobic activity could have been down to the probiotic supplements' effect on the gut. This could have offered relief from symptoms of distress often associated with long aerobic bouts.

This would only make sense for an individual with a current gut issue such as IBS. Those without any existing gut issues would find probiotic supplementation offers no/minimal aid. However, this is still a new field of research, so dismissing it entirely would be naive. For the time being don't spend your money on probiotic supplements hoping to gain gym performance. We'd recommend speaking to a qualified dietician if you're concerned about your gut health.

Activia probiotic yogurt increases performance
While some evidence suggests probiotics such as Activia could increase performance, overall we are not convinced in widespread usage.

Long Covid

When it comes to gym performance after COVID everyone seems to react differently irrespective of current age or weight (obesity). Anecdotally we know many who have reported a drop in performance for an extended period after COVID and we now have some data to potentially back this up. Use of Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing to Evaluate Long COVID-19 Symptoms in Adults. [7]

While this piece of evidence on the issue of long covid would be considered 'poor' it still offers some points worth discussing. The data did show evidence of deconditioning meaning loss of fitness after Covid. This is a common occurrence after most illnesses.

herefore, irrespective of long covid, or if you have suffered another illness resulting in inactivity you would be best served to return gradually and expect some loss in fitness. It appears however, long covid is causing these symptoms of deconditioning even without loss of activity.

Woman suffering from long Covid fatigue
The data is showing that Covid is deconditioning individuals in the period after illness

The paper concluded that

'in this meta-analysis and systematic review, we found evidence that exercise capacity is reduced after SARS-CoV-2 infection among individuals who have symptoms consistent with LC, with a low confidence in the effect size. Further research should include longitudinal assessments to understand the trajectory of exercise capacity. Interventional trials of potential therapies are urgently needed, including studies of rehabilitation to address deconditioning, as well as further mechanistic investigation into dysfunctional breathing, autonomic dysfunction, chronotropic incompetence, impaired oxygen uptake or utilization, and preload failure to identify treatments for LC.'

While it feels like it's been around for quite some time, COVID is still new. Therefore, there is still a lot to know so we must be cautious with any findings. This does perhaps offer answers to why many are suddenly feeling 'less fit' even having no symptoms of actual COVID and no drop in activity while having it.

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