If you want to keep packing on lean muscle, and improving your strength and sport performance, there is no denying that nutrition, especially protein intake plays a central role.
For normal individuals, the recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8 g/Kg of bodyweight. On the contrary, in those who indulge in weight training – for improving their athletic abilities or to increase muscle size – a lot more protein is required. Numerous studies recommend a higher protein intake for athletes – somewhere between 1.2 and 2 g/Kg of bodyweight (Lemon, 1998; Lemon & Proctor, 1991; Campbell et al., 2007; Hoffman, Ratamess, Kang, Falvo, & Faigenbaum, 2006). This combined with eating 44-50 calories per Kg of bodyweight will ensure that you pack on lean muscle.
The repair and laying down of new muscle protein – to counter the damaged muscle fibres during exercise – requires protein and calories in excess of those required for maintaining bodyweight in sedentary people, hence the higher need for proteins and calories in athletes.
To further maximize results of weight training, in addition to bumping up your protein and calorie content, the type of protein you eat and the timing of its ingestion in relation to training also plays a crucial role.
Most Effective Proteins for Humans
• Casein and Whey
Milk proteins are the most-used proteins for improving strength and performance; they are the most researched as well. 80% of protein contained in milk is casein while the rest is whey (Stark, Lukaszuk, Prawitz, & Salacinski, 2012).
Milk-derived proteins are one of the best around for human digestion with a most complete ratio of essential amino acids (EAAs) for improving lean muscle mass. Furthermore, casein causes slow, sustained release of EAAs in the blood whereas whey ensures their quicker release. Thus, a combination of casein and whey – as in milk – is ideal for quicker onset as well as longer-lasting anabolic (muscle-building) phase and repair of training-induced muscle damage.
Superiority of milk proteins in improving lean mass and body composition (reducing body fat %) has been proved conclusively by Hartman et. al. (Hartman et al., 2007).
• Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Also known as BCAAs, branched-chain amino acids are one of the most used of supplements in athletic circles. Some believe that BCCAs alone may be as effective as whole protein in improving muscle strength, muscle size and not to mention – improvements in sport performance.
Leucine, isoleucine and valine constitute BCAAs. Research has it that leucine may be the most important of these. In fact, leucine itself may stimulate protein synthesis nearly as much as all the BCAAs put together (Byfield, Murray, & Backer, 2005; Nobukuni et al., 2005). For maximal muscle protein synthesis (MPS), a dose of 3-4g of leucine per serving is recommended (Paddon-Jones et al., 2004; Tipton, Ferrando, Phillips, Doyle, Jr., & Wolfe, 1999).
Timing of Protein-Intake
Consumption of EAAs – especially BCAAs (leucine) – pre-workout has been shown to be more effective than when taken after a resistance training session (Tipton et al., 2001). However, in light of recent findings that leucine exerts its action on muscle protein synthesis more effectively if combined with a simple sugar (fast-acting) like glucose, it is best to take BCAAs with a sugary drink.
Consumption of milk proteins – either as fat-free milk, a combination of casein and whey or whey alone – has been shown to increase lean body mass and reduce body fat (Hartman et al., 2007; Tipton et al., 2007). In contrast, if these are consumed before a resistance training session, you would fail to achieve the same kind of results.
Combination of creatine with EAAs and whey protein has also been shown to increase in muscle strength and size.
To conclude, although increasing your protein intake and timing it right is the key to increasing muscle strength and size, there is no denying that training plays an equally important role as well – compound resistance training exercises, preferably barbell ones will work. Thus, squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, bench press and Olympic lifting moves like snatch and clean and jerk will do the trick for you.
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