Determining Optimal Protein Frequency…

Protein is muscles best friend. That’s what we’re led to believe. We need protein in order to grow. Those are accepted givens in the bodybuilding community but are they truth or dogma? I’m going to investigate the “whys” concerning protein intake and help you determine the optimal amount of meal frequency to reach your goals.

There’s two issues at hand

When to consume protein.

How much protein to consume.

Norton et al has shown that the anabolic properties of a meal peak at 90 minutes post meal and return to normal about 3 hours after the meal is consumed. The important thing that Norton noted in an online article is that blood amino acid levels, specifically the branch chained amino acid leucine was still elevated at that 3rd hour.

So that might dispel the idea that we need to eat every 2-3 hours. Research by Bohe et al has shown that, with infusion of protein, protein synthesis (the process of building muscle) still peaked at 2 hours!

So amino acids were still high but protein synthesis had dropped. So will eating another meal help?

Right now we’re left guessing. If amino acid concentrations were still high after protein synthesis dropped, what can we do to increase our protein synthesis if our body isn’t responding to a traditional meal?

Paddon-Jones et al took two groups and gave them both 3 meals, 5 hours apart. One group got a amino acid drink in-between meals and one group did not. The group that got the amino acids had a greater anabolic response then the non amino acid group.

So what does this all mean?

I’ve said for a long time now how I feel that eating too frequently can damage your fat loss as much as eating too much. It’s my thought that our body begins to rely on the frequent feedings and kickstarts hunger signals when it’s programmed too.

We’ve also seen a ton of research discussing branch chain amino acids and there benefit to muscle protein synthesis. At this time the common idea of consuming 4-8 grams of BCAA’s between meals seems to the best that we have for encouraging muscle growth and fat loss.

So until further articles, stick with 4-8 grams of a BCAA drink in between meals on training days.

References

Norton LE, Layman DK, Garlick PJ, Brana DV, Anthony TG, Zhao L, Devkota S, and Walker DA. Translational controls of muscle protein synthesis are delayed and prolonged associated with ingestion of a complete meal. FASEB J, 2007 21: 694.6

Bohe J, Low JF, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol, 2001 Apr 15; 532(Pt 2):575-9.

Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Exogenous amino acids stimulate human muscle anabolism without interfering with the response to mixed meal ingestion. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2005 Apr; 288(4):E761-7. Epub 2004 Nov 30.

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