I’ve already written about the enlightening results of a recent study on protein feeding schedules I came across recently. Let’s review the important points: Everyone in the study consumed 80 grams of whey protein across a 12-hour period. The participants were split into three groups with different schedules. The first group drank two 40 gram servings at six-hour intervals. The second group had three servings of 20 grams spaced three hours apart. The last group took 10 grams every hour and a half. According to the study, the middle group – taking 20 grams every three hours – had the best anabolic results.
I wasn’t too surprised by these results; I’ve seen plenty of other research that indicates 20 grams as the ideal dose for stimulating the synthesis of protein. But now I’m thinking that protein timing for big mass matters as well as dosage. The fact that the 40-gram group in the study didn’t show more of an anabolic response was surprising to me. According to the study’s authors, there was some kind of “desensitization” effect in response to high levels of amino acids in the blood. (There are other researchers who have theorized that there’s an upper limit to muscle tissues’ ability to continue synthesizing protein no matter how high amino acid levels are.) I’m currently on a diet that delivers more than 300 grams of protein every day. Each of my meals has more than 40 grams of protein. Should I be worried?
I was further enlightened on the desensitization issue by the work of a research group at Rutgers University. They had a lot of useful information regarding protein timing for big mass gains. They tracked the process of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) following meals. MPS peaked roughly 90 minutes after eating and values returned to pre-meal standards within 180 minutes. The sudden boost of available amino acids explains the acceleration of MPS, but what about the decline three hours later? According to the researchers, the factors for MPS initiation were still active and plasma leucine levels were still high, yet activity stopped at 180 minutes.
According to the data from Rutgers, cellular energy levels and a phenomenon known as “elongation” may be to blame. A full quarter of the body’s resting energy expenditure is devoted to full-body protein turnover. Building protein chains out of raw amino acids – elongation – accounts for 99% of that turnover process. It’s reasonable to assume that protein synthesis in the skeletal muscles is limited to ensure that there’s plenty of energy available for this turnover activity.
Besides revealing the underlying cause of the issue, the researchers at Rutgers helpfully provided a workable solution. Taking a between-meal solution that provides carbs and / or leucine helps to boost muscle cells’ energy levels and keep the protein synthesis process rolling past the 180-minute mark.
If you want to stay anabolic without giving up larger meals, you can easily make a supplement to help you. Just mix a drink that provides 15-30 grams of healthy carbohydrates like waxy maize and 5 grams of leucine. Drink this two hours after eating. For the best results, use BCAAs rather than raw leucine; protein synthesis often drives your BCAA levels down.