Human muscles are made almost exclusively of protein. Those who wish to build their muscle mass or seek to develop a body composition with prevalence of muscle and minimum fat (this applies to almost all athletes, both women and men, who want to have an ideal figure) must pay very close attention to the right protein intake.
In this passage I will try to summarize the most recent research in this area in lay-people’s language.
A lot of valuable information unknown to most athletes and trainers has been acquired in recent years. Let’s have a closer look.
- Is food alone anabolic?
Yes, it is. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is elevated after each meal, which means that muscle growth occurs. With protein intake the muscle synthesis is substantially higher than it is from intake of carbohydrates and fats (in this instance the body has to produce proteins through biosynthesis).
The stimulation of muscle building from protein intake lasts for about 1.5 hours. The stimulus then fades away and that happens even if there is enough protein available for the body.
- What are the effects of training on muscle protein synthesis?
Resistance training stimulates muscle mass building for quite a long time. It is not quite clear for how long but for up to a minimum of 24 hours.
If the body has enough protein from food, it builds muscle for at least 24 hours post-exercise.
- Does consuminga protein drink right after the training make sense?
In the past the recommendation was making use of the elevated post-training protein synthesis, making sure that the body gets the maximum protein supply within one hour following training.That was because in the older research studies the stimulation of MPS was measured right after the training. This is why scientists were unable to guarantee how long the stimulation lasted. Newer studies have shown that MPS is elevated for at least 24 hours following the training and this is why it makes more sense to gradually consume the daily protein amount needed to meet your training goals.
- What is the ideal pre-training and post-training food or nutrition supplement?
The training itself is catabolic. It does stimulate muscle formation long term but increased energy need is the immediate effect of the training. The body makes use of all available energy, taking carbohydrates (sugars) first and once they have been used up. proteins are taken (from the muscles unless there is another source of protein). For that reason it is smart to give the body a reasonable supply of both carbohydrates and proteins before, during and immediately after training.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) have proved to be useful just before training since they are an instant supply of building blocks for the devastated muscle mass. The supply of carbohydrate is crucial as well.
- How many grams of proteins per kilo of one’s body weight should an athlete consume per day?
The general rule is the more proteins, the more substantial the building of muscle mass will be. In the long run, researchers and physicians recommend smaller amounts of protein than those generally consumed by athletes, especially bodybuilders.
At times it is a matter of individual experience: you keep increasing the protein supply to the point when you find out that your body is unable to process any more of it. There are athletes who tend to overdo it and run a risk, but human body is very unlikely to process more than 3 grams of protein per one kilo of bodyweight per day.
Most bodybuilders consume 2 to 3 grams of proteins per kilo of their bodyweight per day. If you only take fitness trainings, the amount is about 1 to 1.5 gram/1 kilo.
Anabolic steroids and certain nutrition supplements are yet another factor: without taking account of their side effects, they certainly allow processing larger amounts of protein (research studies have not taken consideration of those substances).
Ultimately, your genetic makeup plays a significant role. Each one of us has a different capacity to digest proteins and to use them to build muscle. As long as there are no relevant genetic tests, the only way to find out is through trial and error.
- Are all proteins equal?
No, they are not. In choosing proteins bear in mind several factors:
-Does the protein include all amino-acids?
-Has it been processed in a safe way and is it easy to digest?
-Is my body used to that kind of protein (this is an issue for a separate passage since when we do not generally consume certain kinds of food, our body may stop producing enzymes to digest that food)?
-Do I have the genetic makeup for digesting certain foods? Just like above, the thing is whether your body produces enzymes that will break down the specific protein.
When the body is unable to digest a certain kind of protein, the person suffers from digestion difficulties, excessive gas and fatigue. When the wrong protein is consumed, the person may get sick or even vomit.
There also are people who suffer from food intolerance, allergies or reduced capacity to digest proteins in general.
The more common situation is that athletes consume far too much protein and often at the incorrect ratio to carbohydrates and fats. This may produce similar difficulties or even ketoacidosis in extreme cases.
- Does exercising influence the capability of the body to use proteins?
Yes, it does. There is evidence that resistance training not only stimulates muscle protein synthesis but it also increases the effectiveness of protein processing from food by the body.In other words, when we exercise, our bodies are capable of making use of more protein from our food. For that very reason there are certain researchers who cast doubt about a higher need for protein in the nutrition of bodybuilders. It has to be said, though, that (as far as I understand) those researchers were just sport theoreticians.J