The diminishing rate with which protein is synthesized correlative to amount consumed in a given window.
When building anything of substantial size and strength a skilled builder knows it is imperative to have a strong foundation and a carefully designed infrastructure. This makes it possible to then follow on with strategically placed building blocks in order to create a structure of desired durability.
This is no different in relation to building muscle. Protein is to be thought of as the foundation of muscle building and amino acids are the building blocks necessary for the continual growth, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue.
There is much existing research regarding how much protein is the optimal amount the body can utilise in a given window and some confusion surrounds such a topic as there are many different denominations of thought and avenues of advice that circulate the body building world, however to dispel any myths in relation to such an important and poignant topic the information must be kept basic, factual and relevant.
To have a closer look at how one builds muscle we must examine what constitutes muscle itself. Muscles are made up of two different types of protein filaments called Actin and Myosin. These proteins are made up of amino acids which are linked together. In order to build muscle, timing the ingestion of these amino acids is paramount and therefore it is the post workout window which is of optimal advantage to the protein synthesis process.
This process of protein synthesis or MPS occurs when certain, specific components are present. The actual muscle must have been worked to induce micro injury, hormones which are produced by the pituitary have to be present and consumption of protein through ingestion must occur.
There is much existing research regarding how much protein is the optimal amount the body can utilize in a given window and perhaps surprisingly to some, more is not always the answer. Not all forms of consumable protein are used towards protein synthesis and given that one’s body has a sufficient intake of protein; the body will then oxidise any excess protein for energy or transaminated to form urea (excreted by the kidneys into the urine).
The basic fact still remains that if ones such caloric intake begins to exceed expenditure into a surplus realm then it is possible that fat deposits could result. It is to be understood that no matter what the nutrient, if one consumes more calories than the body requires, weight gain can occur…Yes, even with excess protein!
How does it all work?
MPS is the process of synthesising new muscle from amino acids in the blood stream. Within the protein synthesis process there are two main mechanisms occurring within the body throughout the day that govern the bodies ability to gain muscle. These two processes are protein synthesis and muscle protein break down.
For one to gain a maximum amount of muscle it is essential that one’s MPS is of a higher rate and exceeds the muscle protein break down. This can be achieved by feeding your body smaller intakes of approx. 25-35g protein in a single meal over 4 meals a day.
MPS at a younger age is influenced by the secretion of specific hormones and it is by far easier to build muscle mass at a younger age even despite consuming sub optimal amounts of the above mentioned macronutrient, protein per day. As one ages MPS becomes more monopolised by the amino acids that are carried throughout the blood, in particular L-Leucine. A suggested amount of 2-3g of L-Leucine per day will contribute in optimising MPS in older adults.
Let’s Look at the scientific facts
In a recent study conducted by Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2018, it was proposed that muscle protein synthesis (MPS) was maximised in young adults with an intake of ~20-25g of high quality, fast acting protein in a single meal and anything above this limit is believed to be oxidized for energy or dispelled to form urea and other organic acids.
The findings were indicative of daily protein intake for the goal of maximizing resistance training gains for muscle and strength is approx. 1.6g per kg. It was also concluded through this study that a target intake of 0.4g/kg/meal across a minimum of 4 meals would be an optimum guide to reach the 1.6g/kg/day if the primary goal of the individual is to build muscle. However, it is necessary to be mindful that this estimation is not to be “set in stone” as protein requirements must still be individualised through careful programming and one should remain open to exceeding this limit especially considering age, gender and physical abilities.
Eg. Some recent studies have been showing that 2.2g/kg/day to be efficient for young male body builders.
This recent research shows that the body can absorb most efficiently approx. 25-35g of protein in a single meal and any more could either be oxidized for energy or excreted.
The most favourable recipe for protein synthesis lies in a basic system of spreading out one’s daily intake into 4 meals per day, consuming a variety of fast acting and slower releasing proteins with one meal in the post workout window.
As with all things health and fitness, the optimal amount independent of the research presented is subjective and of relation to a considerable amount of variables regarding ones genetics, the micronutrients such meals are coupled with and the function of ones organs of influence to the secretion of particular hormones that improve the efficiency with which protein is synthesised.
The take home:
- Consume approx. 25-35g protein in one meal to optimise protein synthesis.
- Consume your daily protein allowance spread over 4 meals per day to allow for the most advantageous results.
- Train to your own goals and adhere to individualised protocols under the guidance of a suitable coach.