My Unexpected Journey into PubMed

2013 June 10
by Alan Aragon

pubmed

This is Not a Tutorial

Just to be clear, this isn’t a tutorial on how to get published in the annals of the Ivory Tower. This is my personal case study, and you should know that I never intended to make it into the peer-reviewed literature. No such goals or aspirations were on my career bucket list. I was happy to be able to read others’ work and report on it; this is just something I really enjoy. For me, writing & teaching was the natural progression after having been in the training & counseling trenches with live human clients full-time from 1992 to 2010. As fate would have it, I ended up being one of the folks that get cited by others who conduct and review scientific research. Let’s take a walk through the steps that led me to stumble into PubMed.

It Began by “Keeping Science Honest” 

While trolling the message boards, I caught wind of the buzz surrounding a paper by Brad Schoenfeld challenging the practice of fasted cardio [1]. So, I decided to brashly email him and ask for the paper. I also asked him if it was okay for me to critique it in my monthly research review. To my surprise and delight, he responded by saying, “Have at it, Alan. Critical analysis is what keeps science honest.”  This impressed the fricking hell out of me. Seriously, have at it? People are generally afraid of getting their material picked apart, especially since glowing, spotless reviews are a popular marketing tactic. What I found out about Brad is that he doesn’t give the slightest damn about always being right. He cares about finding the truth, and has come to grips with the fact that this process involves being wrong at times. If the weight of the evidence indicates it, Brad will gladly admit error, and adjust his views accordingly. This is a huge part of the scientific mindset. Unfortunately, this is a rare quality among the self-absorbed characters that predominate the fitness industry and academia alike.

Brad’s Response 

After I critiqued Brad’s article (in the March 2011 issue), he responded by addressing each of my points, via email. His response was so thorough that I ran it in the following month’s issue. Furthermore, he saw that I was one of the most obsessive-compulsive & detail-oriented nutcakes on the planet, so he asked me if I’d co-author a scientific review of the post-exercise ‘anabolic window’ concept. I jumped at the chance without hesitation. I was highly motivated since I felt that there was a huge amount of dogma surrounding this topic that needed to be straightened out. I was also driven to do this after becoming familiar with the top-tier quality of work Brad puts out (here are a few of his peer-reviewed publications). Now, here’s the important point: not once did Brad get pissed-off or resentful at my dissection of his work. In fact, what most people would have turned into a massive ego defense, Brad turned into an opportunity to gain more knowledge.

The Birth of a Monster

Bird's eye view of PENT paper

The carnage above is a screenshot of the paper in the midst of revision. Brad’s approach to putting this together was extremely engaging and effective. He specifically asked me to play the devil’s advocate and provide uncompromising counterpoints to the sections he wrote. He literally challenged me to “tear them up.” What resulted was a paper that was maximally objective since this method minimized each of our pre-existing biases. The next step after completing the paper was getting it published, and this began with targeting the right journal.

JISSN in the Crosshairs

My top preferences for publication were the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN), International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism (IJSNEM), and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR). These journals best matched the content of our paper, but it was clear that our paper “going viral” was only possible with an open-access journal, so JISSN was the ticket. IJSNEM makes it very difficult to access their studies even with university library accounts. JSCR is a journal that Brad has published in multiple times before, so landing a spot in JISSN would serve to broaden his reach. One distinct advantage of JISSN is that the ISSN is perched at the top of the food chain of authoritative sports nutrition organizations. JISSN has therefore had a relatively rapid rise into prominence [2].

Peer-review was challenging and rewarding. We duked it out a couple of rounds with the reviewers, and eventually got the nod [3]. Most importantly, we ended up with a vastly better paper after fielding the criticisms and implementing the suggestions of the reviewers.

WINNING!!!

JISSN rank

The screenshot above makes me smile because I never dreamed of getting published in the peer-reviewed literature – let alone co-authoring the number-one most viewed article in the history of JISSN. The goal of the article reaching a massive audience was achieved, and now we have quantitative evidence of this. This is such sweet vindication of the lost sleep, lapses in sanity, and countless internet arguments I’ve experienced over the years.

So, what’s next? Now that I have one foot in the door of the Ivory Tower, I might as well muscle my way in even further (that’s what bros do). I have more research in the works with Brad, and the next project involves a wizard named James Krieger. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I hope this story gives hope to those seeking to get ‘immortalized’ in The Pubmedz. If it can happen to me by accident, it can certainly happen to you on purpose.

December 2013 update: a meta-analysis on protein timing I co-authored with Brad Schoenfeld & James Krieger was just published, here it is

 

References

  1. Schoenfeld BJ. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength Cond J 2011. Aug;33(1):23-5. [NSCA-SCJ]
  2. Kreider RB. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: a new era begins. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Jul 13;4:1. [PubMed] [JISSN]
  3. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Jan 29;10(1):5. [PubMed] [JISSN]

 

[GO HERE TO COMMENT]

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Microsoft Word - AARR wide banner 1.doc

 

 

39 Responses leave one →
  1. June 10, 2013

    Really is refreshing to have folks like you and Brad in the industry.

    Look forward to future publications! :)

  2. JLB permalink
    June 10, 2013

    Alan being in Pubmed means that Middle Earth still stands a chances against Sauron’s dark forces of broscience.

  3. June 10, 2013

    I’m sure this is just the start Alan. Nice job – the #1 spot has gotta feel good.

  4. June 10, 2013

    Appreciate the comments, guys. And yes, the #1 spot definitely feels awesome!

  5. June 10, 2013

    Congrats Alan! You deserve those dreams to come true buddy. Your a work horse and one hell of an inspiration to us!

  6. Jordan Syatt permalink
    June 11, 2013

    Congrats, Alan! You continue to be an inspiration to us all.

    -J

  7. June 11, 2013

    You didn’t just set the record dude, you destroyed it. That’s nuts, though not as surprising given the quality of that paper. It’s hard to find a review that covers so much information in such a critical manner. Congrats.

    Frankly, most of the articles you’ve written for AARR are probably journal worthy. Have you thought about tweaking some of them and submitting them for publication?

    Can’t wait to see what you write next :)

    – Armi

  8. June 11, 2013

    FANFRICKINTASTIC! Congrats, Alan. Totally inspiring. Headed to download the paper now ;)

  9. J Carter permalink
    June 11, 2013

    Such awesomeness, Alan. I can’t wait to see what you, Brad, and James put together. By the way this nutrient timing article is probably the best review on this topic ever done. Everyone seems to miss the important points in the whole nutrient timing saga, but you and Brad really got to the the heart of things. Keep up the excellent work, the fitness industry is so much better for having guys like Brad and yourself around.

  10. Brent permalink
    June 11, 2013

    Not sure if i missed the link, but is there a way I can access this paper, I have always been fascinated with macronutrient timing and metabolic/protein synthesis optimization

  11. June 11, 2013

    Great job Alan, and a well-deserved reward!

    Keep up the great work. *Attempting to read the paper now. Key word: attempting.

    Jake

  12. Christine permalink
    June 11, 2013

    Alan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your success and learning experience. It’s humbling and inspiring to hear about them. All the best!

  13. Alan Aragon permalink*
    June 12, 2013

    Armi — I’ve thought of it, yes. The thing is finding the time to get it done, especially with the current research projects I’m involved with. There are definitely topics that I feel need to be gutted out in the academic domain.

    All — Thanks very much for sharing in the fruits of victory :)

  14. Stephan Connor permalink
    June 13, 2013

    Hey Alan, great writeup, I enjoyed it a lot. I frankly was surprised to learn that this was your first peer-reviewed article. Based on the articles I’ve read of yours, it seems like you would have racked up a dozen or so. I agree with Armi that you can take most any one of your articles and turn them into journal material with very little changes.

  15. June 13, 2013

    Great article–you deserve to be in PubMed. I follow Brad’s work, too, and I’m not surprised at how professional he was in his approach.

  16. Craig permalink
    June 14, 2013

    Hey Alan, any plans to lecture in NY? The East Coast needs some broscience destruction. I don’t think Brad can do it all by himself.

  17. June 16, 2013

    Craig — Next year. Nothing set in stone yet, but I’ve been invited & I like & trust the company who invited me.

    Kevin — Brad is a fricking machine. He’s published at least a half-dozen papers within the past year.

    Stephan — It just never occurred to me to jump through the necessary hoops to get published journals, but I now see that it would just be a matter of time & effort (the toughest resource is time).

  18. June 19, 2013

    Really excellent nutrient timing paper, Alan. Thanks to you and Brad’s hard work, I can get better grades in my nutrition courses :)

  19. July 5, 2013

    Hi Alan,

    I love your work and you fully deserve the success you’ve had so far. The best is yet to come!

    I very much respect your approach and your appreciation and recognition of what makes a good scientist (as Brad Schoenfeld clearly demonstated by example, kudos to him too).

    As a physicist though, I want to say something about the “rarity” of scientists who abide by good principles. I understand that the fitness industry (which historically has not been dominated by those with a scientific leaning) is lagging in this respect. Also, that the broader scientific community is (and always has been) prey to ego, self interest and at times, petty rivalries.
    But for all that, and for all those that fall into that category, there are many more in the scientific community driven by the same sense of their own integrity and purpose as you saw in Brad Schoenfeld and indeed, which you demonstrate yourself.

    The ones who concern me most in the fitness industry (or on the periphery of it) are those that rant ad nauseum about broscience and how they take a scientific approach and yet are more driven by ego and self interest and frankly, can often be found wanting in their knowledge and understanding of the very topics they claim as their special area of expertise.

    I’m so glad you are not one of those. Far from it. Much respect from one scientist to another, who appreciates your knowledge, the way in which you conduct your research and yourself, and the way in which you help to educate those of us who follow your work.

    Thank you and wishing you ever greater triumphs in future.

  20. Benjamin permalink
    July 13, 2013

    I’ve been a fan of yours for years (since purchasing Girth Control in my late teens – which did me a lot of favors in college). This is great to see you published. Also, and selfishly, FREE FULL TEXT! I am wooting beyond wooting.

    And now for my personal pipe dream. Perhaps alongside your wizard Krieger, you can convince mage McDonald to come along for a journey too…

  21. July 21, 2013

    Congrats, it’s great to see your writing getting the respect it deserve. Looking forward to more of the same.

  22. July 24, 2013

    Wow. Congratulations. It’s fantastic news. Thanks for sharing. You deserve it more than any one else. Wishing you a ton of success in every endeavor of yours.

  23. August 22, 2013

    Congrats, Alan! And whoa! Your article with the Editor’s comments look like an over-highlighted college student’s study guide!

  24. September 7, 2013

    Wow, Congratulations, Alan and Brad! Your hard work really paid off..I totally agree with Ms. Vivian Buzzi, this industry needs more people like you; people who really make an effort to broaden the knowledge in nutrition and fitness through scientific research. Keep it up, man!
    Looking for more of your work…more power!

    http://turbulencetrainingjournal.com/

  25. Kallis Sharad permalink
    September 10, 2013

    Alan you work hard and get its better result. Exercise and proper diet are very important to improve fitness. Healthy and clean food like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, are good for health. Exercise at least 45 minutes in a day boost energy, build stamina, make strong bones and improve fitness.
    Tacoma Fitness classes

  26. September 11, 2013

    Ah that’s awesome! Congratulations!
    Sounds like a pretty badass way to put together an objective paper.

    I like the idea of having a devil’s advocate when it comes to this stuff. I think I’m going to try bringing that into my own business’ writing :)

  27. October 8, 2013

    Amazing and congratulations! Goes to show that hard work pays off man. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Brandon R permalink
    October 12, 2013

    Awesome paper and article! You guys need to publish more!!

  29. November 1, 2013

    Congratulations and great paper. I’m glad you addressed this subject as I like to hear contradicting information so I actually think about it rather than taking everything I hear as fact.

  30. Mike permalink
    November 9, 2013

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the great review.
    Couple of things, after reading it throughly:

    1. Reference 73 [Verdijk] examines 26 people not 28 as you suggested in your review.

    2. References 50, 51, 54-59 show that there is “anabolic window” in terms of protein consumption after a workout, but then you dismiss these references with 2 other references that claim no other research was done on that area, which contradicts your other 2-3 sentences about this issue.

    3.

  31. November 11, 2013

    Hello Mike, it was mentioned in our paper that 28 subjects were randomly assigned – which technically is true. 2 subjects dropped out during the course of the study, but indeed they did undergo random allocation at the start. Small technicality, but I see how it could have been put differently. As for the existence of an ‘anabolic window’ per the references you listed, that body of work included acute studies, and the bigger point of our paper was questioning whether or not this acute effect reliably bears out in the long-term. When our meta-analysis gets published, you’ll see much more clearly what I mean.

    All — Thanks for reading this post. I’m not always around to respond, but I appreciate the views & feedback nevertheless.

  32. Ted permalink
    November 29, 2013

    Dear Alan,

    Congratulations on further advancing your professional career.

    I am writing to you to ask whether you could please list a few trustworthy German authors who specialized in nutrition and/or sports science.

    I am pursuing the plan of becoming a nutritionist myself (and perhaps a performance coach). My studies at university begin later next year, and I want to gather as much knowledge in advance as possible.

    For my knowledge at this point is highly limited, it is hard for me to make a considered decision on whose work to trust. Therefore, I figured it might make sense to ask someone like yourself. I found out about you last year after having Googled Biotest supplement reviews. And your work, the comparison with chocolate milk, was the one I appreciated the most.

    If you find the time to reply and make a few suggestions, I would be very grateful.
    Thank you very much. God bless!

    All the best,
    Ted

    P.S. Sorry for the mistakes, I know English as a second language only.

  33. November 30, 2013

    High quality nutrient timing paper. Congratulations!

  34. Irena permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Congratulations, Alan, welcome to the club (of published and highly accessed authors)! :) Awesomeness. We have a great life. :)

  35. Thomas D permalink
    January 31, 2014

    Alan can I ask you a question? How does one decide what their macros should be? I have followed the Precision Nutrition protocol and done very well using nutrient timing and separating my P+C meals and P+F meals. However, as someone who is naturally logical and makes their living in a science (Automotive R&D) I find the evidence you present causing me to question my strategy and curious if there is actually a better way.
    You seem to think research points to something like IIFYM. So how do we know what our macros should be for maintenance, fat loss, hypertrophy? I’m really very sincere and curious.

  36. February 8, 2014

    It is super refreshing to see that Brad was cool with you picking his paper apart. It’s this kind of free thinking mentality that is not threatened by curiosity that will lead to further developments in the science of fitness.

  37. September 10, 2014

    I fucking love this Alan. You are a star.

  38. September 17, 2014

    Fantastic job Alan, you’re an inspiration!

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