A recent review in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism provides workout nutrition tips for optimal strength and size gains. Included are strategies for both younger and older trainees to get the best protein synthesis results post-workout.
#1: Whey protein is a superior protein source.
Whey protein provides the best protein source with the greatest array of amino acids for muscle building. It is the most rapidly digested protein, allowing the amino acids to hit the muscle very quickly post-workout making it preferable to casein, or plant-based proteins.
#2: One specific amino acid is paramount for older trainees.
Most important for maximal protein synthesis is to provide a large dose of the amino acid leucine in conjunction with the other essential amino acids. This is especially true for older individuals, who must take leucine in order to simulate a protein synthesis pathway called mTOR. With a post-workout whey shake that had 41 percent leucine, men over aged 50 were able to stimulate protein synthesis equally as 20-year-olds, whereas with only 26 percent leucine there was no increase in protein synthesis over baseline in the elderly.
Older trainees also need more total protein. Studies show for young trainees 20 grams of whey may be sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle building and a larger dose won’t have an effect. But in older trainees, at least 40 grams will provide a boost to protein synthesis and researchers suggest an even larger dose may be optimal.
#3: Increase protein synthesis by taking protein every 3 hours during recovery.
Did you know that you can increase muscle protein synthesis by three to five times if you get extra protein after resistance training?
It’s true. By taking a protein that is high in amino acids you can enhance muscle protein synthesis by as much as 150 percent, and because resistance exercise stimulates the body to build muscle for up to 48 hours, you can enhance that process by continually eating the optimal protein dose.
Try getting 20 grams of protein immediately after training and then every 3 hours thereafter.
#4: Get protein before bedtime to sustain protein synthesis overnight.
Taking protein before bedtime provides extra pool of amino acids that will dramatically stimulate overnight protein synthesis, which would normally not occur to any significant degree. In fact, not providing the muscles with extra fuel in the evening will produce a catabolic environment by morning.
This new finding showed that taking 40 grams of protein at 11:30 pm before subjects went to bed increased protein synthesis by 25 percent and it was sustained all night.
#5: Carbs are not necessary for protein synthesis.
As long as you get enough high-quality protein (25 grams of whey was used in the study in question), muscle protein synthesis is maximized to an equal degree as if the protein was taken with 50 grams of carbs post-workout. If your goal is fat loss, take protein alone and skip the carbs unless you have done a sufficient volume to require glycogen resynthesis.
Churchward, T., Burd, N., et al. Nutritional Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis with Resistance Exercise: Strategies to Enhance Anabolism. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.