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Maximize your muscle-building potential

One of the buzz phrases in the nutrition world is "nutrient timing". Nutrient timing addresses the question, when is the optimal time to consume certain food and supplements?

Previous studies compared the effect on the body's protein balance when protein is consumed with or without carbohydrates and combined with a bout of intense exercise. A positive protein balance is desired because it helps build muscle and contributes to increases in lean body mass.

Protein/carb combination before and after a workout builds muscle faster

A protein-carbohydrate supplement containing 6g essential amino acids + 35g simple sugar consumed 1 or 3 hours after a bout of resistance exercise had a positive effect on protein synthesis and net protein balance.1 Six grams of essential amino acids is what is typically found in about 13g of whey protein.

 

If no supplement or food was provided after exercise, subjects went into a negative protein balance. That's not good for building muscle.

Interestingly, the same protein-carbohydrate supplement given immediately before exercise resulted in even greater increases in net muscle protein synthesis and protein balance for several hours after exercise,2 indicating the pre-exercise period is another critical time to consume protein. Importantly, the increases in protein synthesis in response to the protein-carbohydrate supplements, contributed to an overall better protein balance measured over an entire 24-hour period.3

Study shows what's better: 3 or 6 meals a day

When it comes to nutrient timing, another question that comes up all the time is whether you should eat frequently throughout the day (snacking between meals) or just stick to 3 regular meals?

In a recent study that addressed this question, skeletal muscle protein balance was measured ontwo occasions in healthy men.4 During one test, subjects consumed 3 regular mixed meals every 5 hours (8:30am, 1:30pm, and 6:30pm). During the other test, they consumed the same meals but also supplemented with 15g of essential amino acids + 30g carbohydrate between meals (11:00am, 4:00pm, and 9:00pm).

 

Two very important findings were noted 

First, the increase in protein synthesis following supplementation does not diminish the increase in protein synthesis after the subsequent meal. Second, supplementation between meals led to a significantly greater protein balance over the 16-hour testing period compared to 3 meals alone.

Collectively, these studies indicate that in order to create an optimal anabolic environment to help maintain and build lean body mass, small amounts of high-quality, rapidly digested protein with some carbohydrate are important before exercise, after exercise, and between meals.

Drinking a whey protein shake 3 times a day between meals made with 13-25g of protein combined with carbohydrates will provide you the same muscle-building potential shown in these studies. A high protein bar with carbohydrates is also a good alternative.

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