Muscle protein synthesis has often been connected directly to muscle growth. The higher the level of synthesis we have, the more muscle we will build. And while it is important, there are other factors that come into play most notably muscle protein breakdown.
Both muscle protein synthesis and breakdown are initiated by exercise. In order for muscle protein synthesis to be greater, it needs the building blocks to repair and building new muscle. These come from the amino acids found in protein.
Today’s discussion is based on an article by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Where they look at the current study’s and discuss if there are there any advantages to timing your protein intake around your workout to kickstart muscle protein synthesis.
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They also give their thoughts on, how much protein we need to achieve maximum results? Does the anabolic window differ between experienced and new lifters? And do we need to do anything different as an older lifter?
One of the things I found interesting is that the whole theory of the anabolic window, which is that time period right after training where we can use nutrition to optimize our muscle growth. Was originally based on training in a fasted state. This is important because when you start looking at some of these contradictory studies you find not all of them where done in a fasted state.
If you were to train fasted and didn’t eat afterwards it would take between 3 and 3 and a half hours before your muscles would reach a catabolic state where muscle protein breakdown became greater than muscle protein synthesis.
So if you train fasted it makes sense to eat something protein-based as soon as you can after training to get the most out of protein synthesis.
For the rest of us who don’t train in a fasted state, they have done studies that have shown it doesn’t make any difference whether or not a meal is eaten pre or post-workout, muscle protein synthesis is the same, but we don’t have to eat right before our workout to get the benefits. The anabolic effect of a meal can last 5 to 6 hours. Although there are some studies that have found increased muscle protein synthesis from a meal only lasting for about 3 hours after eating. So we might want to keep our pre-workout meal within those 3 hours. The recommendation in this article was to keep your pre and post-workout meals within 3 or 4 hours of each other, and stated that a case could be made for those meals being even farther apart more like 5 to 6 hours. Which allows us even more flexibility.
I workout right after dinner so that is my pre-workout meal then afterwards I have my final meal which is usually Greek yogurt and some fruit. Typically a banana and an Apple.
Most of the studies have been done on untrained people, but to get a full picture more studies need to be done on trained individuals but based on the information available so far. They’ve found that meal timing mattered less for people new to training and it didn’t make any difference if the next meal was consumed right after the workout or 6 hours later. It did benefit the more experienced lifter with their findings supporting having a post-workout meal right after training.
They concluded this was because in untrained men peak muscle protein synthesis doesn’t happen immediately after training and lasts longer. Whereas in trained men peak protein synthesis occurs shortly after training and doesn’t last as long. So training experience is a consideration when deciding how you want to plan your meals.
It’s not the only consideration either, age also makes a difference in younger men they have found the maximum dose of protein to fully stimulate muscle synthesis to be about 20g but in older men, they have found it to be 40g this is due to the anabolic resistance that we develop as we age.