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Tip 546: Eat Frequent Meals & Take Protein Post-Workout For Peak Muscle Gains

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:51 AM

Eat frequent meals and take whey protein or amino acids post-workout to build muscle and strength. Research shows it is essential to eat frequently so as to achieve a steady availability of nutrients for optimal muscle and performance gains. 

In a review presented in October, 2012, at the International Conference of Strength Training in Norway, researchers describe how nutrient availability serves as a potent trigger for muscle building after both resistance and endurance training. Ingesting protein will rapidly enhance protein synthesis pathways in muscle and increase gene signaling. 

For example, researchers compared the effect of a calorie-restricted diet with a regular diet using frequent meals on muscle protein synthesis for 10 days. Participants were recreationally active men and both the calorie-restricted and regular diets provided a daily dose of 1.5 grams/kg/bodyweight of protein. 

Results showed that the group on the calorie-restricted diet experienced a 20 percent decrease in muscle protein synthesis and significantly lower gene signaling in muscle compared to the energy balance group. The calorie-restricted group lost about 1 kg of muscle mass. 

Clearly, for athletic performance and muscle building, calorie restriction, even in the presence of a moderately high protein dose, is not the best choice. Researchers suggest that a higher daily protein intake with regular 2 to 3 hour feedings providing at least 10 grams of essential amino acids at each meal could provide better fat los results without compromising muscle building. Carbs should be restricted as well.

Note that training in a glycogen depleted state was shown NOT to compromise protein synthesis or impede recovery in a study of strength-trained males doing moderately heavy strength training (80 percent of the 1RM load for 8 sets of 5 leg presses). The key is to provide adequate amino acids to the body at regular time points before and after training.

This outcome highlights that carbs are not an essential part of post-workout nutrition if your goal is dual fat loss and muscle building, and training in a glycogen-depleted state (glycogen is how carbs are stored in the body) will not compromise muscle development. If you are lean and highly insulin sensitive, taking quality carbs with protein post-workout may enhance protein synthesis due to a greater release of insulin. That said, it is not advised to go carb crazy at meals other than post-workout because this may cause persistently high insulin levels, putting you at risk of diabetes down the road. 

The take away is that with frequent meals that are high in protein, whole food-based (except post-workout when liquid is ideal) and low-carb, the twin goals of fat loss and muscle development can be achieved. With the systematic manipulation of training protocols and optimal nutrient availability you can build muscle, enhance physical capacity, and optimize body composition. 

These studies further validate why the faddish intermittent fasting is not the way to go for optimal physical performance.


Hawley, John. Optimizing Muscle Mass Through Exercise and Nutrient Availability. International Conference on Strength Training. October 2012. Oslo: Norway.

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