In an April 2010 issue of Ironman, written by Jacob Wilson, M.S., C.S.C.S, and Gabriel Wilson, M.S., C.S.C.S., I read some interesting information regarding the optimum way to eat protein for the best muscle mass results. In the article a discussion of specific amino acid and protein content per meal, rather than throughout a 24 hour period was elaborated on. I found this information to be valuable based on the fact that for years, as a health food store owner and bodybuilding advocate, we always advocated a specific DAILY amount of protein. However current research has shown that a measured amount of protein per meal renders more effective results when trying to gain muscle mass.
Regarding meal portions, the most recent research out of the University of Illinois has displayed strong evidence that an amino acid called leucine is the key to triggering a stimulative effect on muscle protein synthesis. So the question becomes, how much leucine should you consume at each meal? The answer is that three to four grams of leucine per meal seems to maximize protein synthesis. That means that your total protein each meal should be based upon the quantity of leucine content in the protein you’ll be eating.
Generally speaking, the leucine in any milk-based products can range from 10% (milk isolate, casein) to 12% (whey). Products based in the meat and egg categories contain approximately 8 to 9 percent leucine, along with proteins derived from wheat and soy that weigh in around 6 to 7 percent leucine. If whey is a product you prefer to eat, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll only need 27 grams of protein to optimize your muscle growth. You’d need twice that amount if you were getting the protein from wheat.
Well Timed Meal Planning
So now you know how to maximize your protein synthesis for each meal, but how often should you eat? Typically bodybuilders eat 6 to 10 complete meals containing fat, carb, protein and fiber daily. The question is, how optimal is that? The research shows that amino acids are still elevated five hours later after a complete meal. However, protein synthesis is only elevated for the first 3 hours of that time.
This finding is consistent with research that demonstrates that a constant influx of amino acids over 6 hours will only elevate protein synthesis for two hours. It appears the body will shut down protein synthesis even if the amino acid concentration stays constant over a period of hours. Consistent of these findings, it is suggested by the amino “stat” theory to keep amino acids in the blood via small frequent meals throughout the day. However, if the protein synthesis becomes desensitized and turns off anyway, what’s a bodybuilder’s recourse?
The Best Aminos For The Job
Branched-chain amino acids to the rescue! Consisting of leucine, isoleucine and valine, or a whey protein isolate on it’s own, these are known for increasing extra cellular amino acid concentration much more than eating a complete meal, and this can possibly reinitiate the protein synthesis process. So spacing out meals every 4-6 hours and including a easily digested BCAA (branched chain amino acids), containing 3 grams of leucine and one gram each of valine and isoleucine for coverage between meals, can prove to be very beneficial for bodybuilding.
I found this to be compelling information based on more intricate ways to improve and optimize muscle mass, and hopefully it can help any bodybuilder achieve their goal of bigger, better, muscle gains!
Eat well, live well, train hard!!
April 2010 issue of Ironman