In order to support muscle protein synthesis for improved muscle recovery and increased muscle growth, athletes must consume enough protein in the right way.
Let’s take a look at what the research says is the best time to supplement protein, the best dose for your body weight, and the best amino acid for stimulating muscle growth, and recovery.
Getting the timing right
Repeated bouts of resistance training, combined with protein feeding, will help to condition, strengthen and repair skeletal muscle.
Interestingly, resistance exercise will prime skeletal muscles to be more responsive to the muscle-building effects of protein.
Therefore, for the best results, protein supplementation is recommended immediately following exercise.
Excessive protein intake before or during exercise could dull this effect.
What’s the best dose?
Research has shown that maximal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis will occur after a bout of exercise is followed by approximately 20-30g of protein.
To account for variability between individual athletes, researchers recommended a dose of 0.4g of protein for every kilogram of body weight (g/kg bw), which equates to 32g of protein for an 80kg individual.
NB: In Australia, it is recommended that protein should contribute to no more than 25% of total energy intake, and the recommended daily intake of protein for adult men and women is 0.84g/kg bw and 0.75g/kg bw respectively. Protein supplementation needs to be factored into these total daily intakes, and is designed to help achieve recommended daily intakes to support muscle growth and repair.
What about branched chain amino acids?
Leucine, valine and isoleucine are three essential amino acids known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are highly concentrated in muscle tissue and, when supplemented, are associated with muscle building effects.
Leucine is arguably the key regulator of muscle protein synthesis.
Increased concentration of leucine in circulation and within the muscles is believed to be one of the key drivers of increased muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery.
Despite popularity, little evidence supports the use of purified combinations of BCAAs for stimulating muscle growth.
The use of complete protein supplements that provide adequate amounts of leucine is recommended, with a 3g dose of leucine stimulating the maximal amount of muscle protein synthesis.
Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Nutritional interventions to augment resistance training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Front Physiol. 2015;6:245. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(6):376–84. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(10):4–9.