Don’t let your hard work in the gym go to waste! Get the optimal dose of protein and amino acids to gain muscle and strength. A new review in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism provides tips for sustaining muscle protein synthesis for optimal strength and size gains. Included are strategies for older trainees to get the best protein synthesis results post-workout.
Did you know that you can increase muscle protein synthesis by three to five times if you get extra protein after resistance training? It’s true. By taking a protein that is high in amino acids you can enhance muscle protein synthesis by as much as 150 percent, and because resistance exercise stimulates the body to build muscle for up to 48 hours, you can enhance that process by getting extra amino acids.
For example, one study showed that when training to failure, taking 15 grams of whey protein post-workout equally enhanced protein synthesis with both a light load of 30 percent of the 1RM and a heavy load of 90 percent of the 1RM. Taking protein to provide extra amino acids was more important than load in this case!
Another essential tip for speeding recovery and muscle building is to take protein before bedtime because the extra pool of amino acids will dramatically stimulate overnight protein synthesis, which would normally not occur to any significant degree. In fact, not providing the muscles with extra fuel in the evening will produce a catabolic environment by morning. This new finding showed that taking 40 grams of protein at 11:30 pm before subjects went to bed increased protein synthesis by 25 percent and it was sustained all night!
Whey protein provides the best protein source with the greatest array of amino acids for muscle building. It is the most rapidly digested protein, allowing the amino acids to hit the muscle very quickly post-workout making it preferable to casein, or plant-based proteins.
However, most important for maximal protein synthesis is to provide a large dose of the amino acid leucine in conjunction with the other essential amino acids. This is especially true for older individuals, who must take leucine in order to simulate a protein synthesis pathway called mTOR. With a post-workout whey shake that had 41 percent leucine, men over aged 50 were able to stimulate protein synthesis equally as 20-year-olds, whereas with only 26 percent leucine there was no increase in protein synthesis over baseline in the elderly.
Older trainees also need more total protein –studies show for young trainees 20 grams of whey may sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle building and a larger dose won’t have an effect. But in older trainees, at least 40 grams will provide a boost to protein synthesis and researchers suggest an even larger dose may be optimal.
Two additional strategies you may not be aware of are to take fish oil and that carbs are not needed for maximal muscle building. Studies show that taking at least 4 grams a day of omega-3 fish oil will increase protein synthesis in all ages . Researchers aren’t sure why fish oil does this, but it may be that it makes muscle cells more sensitive to insulin and amino acids.
In addition, recent evidence shows that as long as you get enough high-quality protein (25 grams of whey was used in the study in question), muscle protein synthesis is maximized to an equal degree as if the protein was taken with 50 grams of carbs post-workout. For best results, take your protein with fish oil to support insulin sensitivity of your cells and skip the carbs unless you have done a sufficient volume to require glycogen resynthesis.
Churchward, T., Burd, N., et al. Nutritional Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis with Resistance Exercise: Strategies to Enhance Anabolism. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.