You’ve done your weekly shop and now your fridge and cupboards are fully stocked ready to start building some serious muscle. Now you need to plan your meals for the week and to do this it’s important to know about the 3 T’s for protein to get the most out of your nutrition preparation.
Total – how much protein?
Type – what protein source?
Time – when should you eat it?
Calculating your total daily protein requirements is a must to ensure that protein synthesis exceeds protein breakdown to create new muscle. Current evidence suggests a dietary protein intake of 1.8-2.5g per kg of body mass to be sufficient for ‘gainers’ to effectively increase muscle mass. Some may even recommend intakes as high as 3g/kg, and although proven perfectly safe with no impact on renal health, it is important to ensure such high levels of dietary protein do not negatively influence performance by replacing carbohydrate and fat intakes that are vital for energy. Each meal should contain at least 20g of protein which is sufficient to maximally stimulate protein synthesis. This amount is dependent on how many times you ideally eat in a day and your total protein requirements.
Body weight – 80kg
Protein intake – 2.5g/kg (80 x 2.5) = 200g
Number of meals per day = 4 200g / 4 = 50g per serving
Another factor that highly influences protein synthesis is age. As you get older the body becomes less sensitive to low protein intakes and requires a greater dose in each meal to stimulate protein synthesis, with 40g being a more suitable dose.
Research recommends consuming a high protein diet that is rich in whey, egg and milk based proteins to maximally stimulate protein synthesis. All of the above are considered complete protein sources as they contain all essential amino acids (EAAs), and are attributable to hypertrophy because non-EAA (synthesised by the body) do not stimulate protein synthesis.
In comparison to slow release casein protein and plant based proteins like soy and pea, whey protein results in a greater anabolic stimulus when ingested at rest and following resistance exercise, likely due to its rapid digestion kinetics.
Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that plays a vital role in triggering muscle protein synthesis. Following resistance exercise it is prudent to consume a rapidly digestible, EAA and leucine-rich protein sources. This can be found in specially designed whey protein supplements like Big Whey and Ultimate, but is also naturally sourced in many protein foods like meat (beef, chicken, turkey), fish (salmon, tuna, cod), dairy (milk, cheese) and eggs.
Although milk is composed of 20% whey and 80% casein, a similar protein synthetic response is observed when ingested post-exercise in comparison to whey protein.
It is important to ensure sufficient protein (≥20g) is consumed before (less than 2 hours) and after (within 20-30 mins) each workout to protect against unwanted muscle protein breakdown. This should be incorporated into a relative distribution of protein throughout the day with consideration for meals, training and overnight feedings.
Research suggests that regular doses of 20-30g of protein is more effective for protein synthesis when fed every 3 hours, in comparison to matched total protein that is fed in larger bolus doses every 6 hours. Therefore consuming protein in relative doses across 5-6 meals throughout the day may be better than 4 or less meals. Furthermore, a large intake (20-40g) of slow-release casein protein before bed may maintain a positive net protein balance to further enhance protein synthesis during the night. A pint of milk or serving of Hypnos (or both) can meet this requirement.
Consuming a diet that has relative doses of protein every 3-4 hours that is rich in EAAs, particularly leucine, and an ample dose of slow-release casein protein before bed that, in total, provides roughly 2-2.5g per kg of body mass of protein is recommended to maximally stimulate protein synthesis. This should obviously be part of an energy sufficient diet that provides a surplus of approx. 300-500 kcal to effectively increase muscle mass.
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