When it comes to maximising the anabolic response from training, our protein intake is key to amplifying our gains. This is primarily driven through triggering muscle protein synthesis, i.e. the process of building muscle.
To determine what’s best, Areta et al (2013) produced a landmark study covering the matter which later opened up a tonne of questions surrounding optimal protein requirements.
In short, they recruited 24 trained fellas, made them train first thing in the morning then put them into one of three conditions. All conditions had them consume exactly the same amount of whey protein (80g in total), but had different distribution and timings over a 12 hour period…
𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 𝟏 (𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐬𝐞𝐝) = 𝟖 𝐱 𝟏𝟎𝐠 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬.
𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 𝟐 (𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞) = 𝟒 𝐱 𝟐𝟎𝐠 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬.
𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 𝟑 (𝐁𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐬) = 𝟐 𝐱 𝟒𝟎𝐠 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬.
After their morning weight training session, muscle protein synthesis began to increase (expected), but the ‘intermediate’ group had further elevations in this muscle building process, suggesting that 4x20g servings of protein per day would be most optimal.
This is super fascinating as this was the first study to change our thinking of ‘just focus on total daily protein intake’ to ‘perhaps timing and distribution is actually a very important factor’ when it comes to packing on muscle.
As with every study, there are some limitations:
1) These guys’ only consumed whey protein all day #WheyTooMuch…last time we checked we mostly ate food.
2) The anabolic response to whey protein is maximised ~20g and returns to baseline within a few hours. Where, the anabolic response to food can be upwards of 5 hours…
3) Optimal amounts of protein per day range between 1.6-2.2g/kg/bw…i.e. 128-176g for an 80kg male. Therefore, providing 80g only highly likely isn’t optimal for long term gains.
4) I would assume that if they tested 4 x servings at 40g, results probably would have been superior as they would fall in line with the 0.4-0.55g/kg/bw recommendations per meal.
Either way, this was the first study to show that the timing and distribution is something that we probably need to think about if we’re looking to pack on muscle and maximise gains. Long are the days where we only need to think about total daily intake.
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