Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Latest Research Update: Protein Intake After Training. By Veeraj Vic Goyaram

Nutrition Research Update

What's the Best Way to Have Protein After Training? 
By Veeraj. V. Goyaram
As bodybuilders we have a lot of questions about protein intake, largely we want to get the most anabolic bang for our protein buck. We have all question at one point about protein intake after training: How much, what type, what frequency etc. Isn't it beautiful when science addresses and sheds light on some of these questions?

Recently, a group of scientists (Areta et al., 2013) put their minds together and studied the effect of protein intake during a 12-hour window after training. This is indeed nice because most research studies has focused on the early post-exercise recovery time frame (approx. 5hrs) and little is known about what happens after that because clearly recovery extends way beyond a 5hr time frame. This research was carried out by an impressive team of exercise nutrition masterminds some of whom I've had the chance to meet in England last year and were former students of my research unit at the University of Cape Town (Prof. John Hawley and Louise Burke). Their research is 100% trustworthy.

What was studied?
The researchers studied what the effect of consuming 80g of protein in the 12-hour time period following a workout would have on muscle protein synthesis. They compared three different ways in which this 80g of protein, given as whey protein, was taken:

1. PULSE: 8x 10 g doses (one dose every 1.5 hours)
2. INTERMEDIATE: 4 x 20 g doses (one dose every 3 hours)
3. BOLUS: 2x 40 g doses (one dose every 6 hours)

So basically, what they did was to give whey protein drink in the ways listed above and then take blood and muscle samples at several time points. Blood samples were taken to measure blood amino acid levels and insulin levels while the muscles were used to analyse various proteins involved in muscle protein synthesis. 

The major findings and their meaning to us bodybuilders

A. Feeding every 3 hours is best!
A very interesting finding is that Myofibrillar FSR, a measure of Muscle Protein Synthesis, was highest over the 12 hour period in subjects that received 4 x 20g whey protein doses every 3 hours. This means that it is advisable to spread your protein intake (smaller amounts over 3 hour time intervals) rather than a) consuming all at once or skipping meals and then double it up at the next sitting. This study adds further scientific evidence to the bodybuilding practice of eating every three hours and that you don't need excessive amount of protein at one sitting because it doesn't give a greater response. Furthermore, eating excessive protein at one sitting leads to oxidation of the amino acids (an expensive thing, considering the price of protein). The study authors state that 20g of high quality protein does the job every 3 hours to maximise the recovery response.
Figure 1: Myofibrillar Fractional Synthetic rate (a measure of muscle protein synthesis) was kept elevated in the "intermediate group" to a greater extent than in other groups
B. Whey protein triggers an insulin response
Remember that whey is insulinogenic, meaning it triggers insulin release after ingestion. In this study, the researchers did see a major insulin response each time a 40g bolus of of whey protein was ingested. Interestingly, the insulin response on the second bolus was smaller that the first one. The magnitude of insulin release is quite significant and this is why whey protein is not advised during the final weeks of dieting leading to a bodybuilding contest. During that phase it is essential to keep insulin levels low in order to promote fat burning, because insulin is a potent regulator of enzymes that burn/ store fat. 
Figure 2: Whey protein ingestion triggers an insulin response. This response
was highest in the bolus group. 
Some points to consider

The research used Whey protein. How about whole food? 
This study has used whey protein feeding. The authors of this study state that another protein like casein or a mixed protein meal would not give the same response. This is because the effect of whey protein in this study was highly dependent on the rise in blood amino acids elicited by whey protein.

Further research is needed on whether nutrition strategies using whole foods can also give a favourable response. But for now I hope that you have learned two valuable lessons in bodybuilding protein nutrition:

1. Time your intake such that you ingest protein every 3 hours

2. You do not go overboard on protein at one sitting. Don't skip protein and then try to make for it afterwards by consuming excessive protein at the next sitting.


Areta JL, Burke LM, Ross ML, Camera DM, West DW, Broad EM, Jeacocke NA, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Phillips SM, Hawley JA and Coffey VG. Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. J Physiol 591: 2319-2331, 2013.

©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
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