Becoming a Protein Intake Pro!
Part 2: Timing it right!
By Mike Brennan – BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Sciences
In part 1 we looked at the research and current recommendations into daily protein intake values.
The prevailing theme was that for the most part, the majority of people who weight train consume more protein than they actually need. Nevertheless, the research still shows that an increase in protein intake is beneficial for people who lift weights. Following on from this, we will now turn our attention away from daily quantities and look at the current research on WHEN we should consume our protein and if protein timing yields any additional benefits.
When adequate quantities of protein are consumed in combination with exercise muscle protein synthesis is increased (Moore et al., 2009). Ultimately the positive net protein balance facilitated by protein feeding and exercise leads to new muscle growth. Therefore, the frequency of your protein feedings could help prolong this anabolic response.
Research has shown that after weight training if protein is ingested in a 20g dose at regular intervals (every 3 hours) throughout the day, protein synthesis is stimulated more frequently. In addition, it showed that when larger doses (40g) are ingested less frequently (2x/day), there is a less frequent stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. It’s also worth noting that protein doses below 20g do not maximally stimulate protein synthesis (Areta et al., 2013).
Therefore, ingesting protein in a 20g dose at regular intervals, spaced evenly throughout the day (every 3 hours) is most effective at consistently stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Post Workout Nutrition
The post workout “anabolic window” is a topic that has been heavily debated. Many believe that post workout protein intake should be immediate and some even go further saying that your training efforts are wasted if you do not take advantage of this “anabolic window.” However, research appears to paint a somewhat different picture.
A study showed that when participants consumed an essential amino acids and carbohydrate drink at either 1 hour or 3 hours post weight training, their muscle protein synthesis was actually very similar at both time points (Rasmussen et al., 2000).
In addition, research has also shown that the changes seen in muscle protein synthesis induced through training and protein feeding are sustained for up to 48 HOURS post training (Phillips et al., 1997).
These studies suggest that post training protein intake is a good idea to promote a positive net protein balance BUT due to the prolonged nature (up to 48 hours) of the anabolic response the so called post workout “anabolic window” is actually far longer than what is commonly thought.
Therefore, consuming protein post workout is a good idea but there is NO RUSH to get that post-training protein meal in. The focus should be on consistent and regular protein feedings throughout the day.
Timing it right: Key Points
- Consume several protein-rich meals (ideally 20-25g doses) spaced evenly throughout the day to optimise muscle protein synthesis.
- A post workout protein feeding is beneficial, but it does not have to be immediate!
- Consistent and regular protein ingestion every few hours will facilitate muscle hypertrophy.
Areta, J.L., Burke, L.M., Ross, M.L., Camera, D.M., West, D.W., Broad, E.M., Jeacocke, N.A., Moore, D.R., Stellingwerff, T., Phillips, S.M. and Hawley, J.A., 2013. Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology, 591(9), pp.2319-2331.
Moore, D.R., Robinson, M.J., Fry, J.L., Tang, J.E., Glover, E.I., Wilkinson, S.B., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M.A. and Phillips, S.M., 2009. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), pp.161-168.
Phillips, S.M., Tipton, K.D., Aarsland, A.S.L.E., Wolf, S.E. and Wolfe, R.R., 1997. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. American journal of physiology-endocrinology and metabolism, 273(1), pp.E99-E107.
Rasmussen, B.B., Tipton, K.D., Miller, S.L., Wolf, S.E. and Wolfe, R.R., 2000. An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88(2), pp.386-392.