The latest facts about health, fitness and nutrition based on science
by Dr Matthew Chircop
Studies have shown that novice body builders require 1.6-1.7g of protein per kg body mass at most to support muscle growth (which corresponds to approximately 1.8-1.9 g/kg lean body mass). Below this “dose”, increasing the protein intake leads to corresponding increases in muscle protein synthesis. However, increasing protein intake beyond the dose indicated above does not increase muscle protein synthesis. That is, once you are eating enough protein, eating more protein has no effect on muscle growth and development. Another interesting observation was that protein requirements increase with age, and decrease with resistance training experience. Overall, most people probably only need 80-120g of protein per day to maximise protein synthesis (the amount varies depending on age, training experience and lean body mass). Given the significant protein content of the Western diet, slight adjustment to the diet is all that is required for most people to obtain that level of protein intake.
With respect to meal timing and frequency, several notable observations have been made. Following the ingestion of a high-protein meal, it takes approximately 2 hours for blood amino acid levels to peak, and the anabolic effects of a protein-rich meal last for 5-6 hours. Over the course of a day, protein synthesis was demonstrated to be greatest when protein “doses” were relatively evenly distributed throughout the day. Of the studies that demonstrated a small improvement in muscle protein synthesis with post-training protein supplementation, the overall daily protein intake was well-below the protein dose ceiling of 1.6-1.7g/kg. Therefore, the most effective protein dosage regimen is to evenly space out equal doses of protein at intervals no longer than 5-6 waking hours. Also, given that peak blood amino acid levels occur within 2 hours of a meal, it is probably best to train within 1-2 hours after your last meal containing protein.
From this information, it can be easily inferred that, to maximise muscle protein synthesis, there is no need to schedule a protein-rich meal immediately after resistance training if you are consuming adequate amounts of protein throughout the day.
For more information about nutrient timing and protein requirements of resistance trainees, see Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy by Schoenfeld.
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