We are always looking for ways to add more lean muscle to our bodies. It makes us look good, we move around easier and it helps us to burn off excess fat. Muscle is very active and it burns a lot of calories.
We essentially get to burn more calories by just hanging out and chilling. Sweet!!!
The main method our bodies use to build more muscle is to take amino acids from the protein we eat and go through what is called muscle protein synthesis.
The more we can increase muscle protein synthesis the more muscle we can build.
It sounds pretty easy doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, there is a catch to the easy method, but we also have a solution.
We already mentioned the main method of building muscle which is eating protein so that we can take the amino acids from the protein to trigger protein synthesis. The other method is weight training.
There are many ways to weight train and we are all pretty familiar with this method so I am not going to go into detail on that. Just know that it is one of the key methods to building new muscle.
What I am going to talk about is the eating method.
When we consume protein it has 2 purposes. It provides the building blocks for new muscle and it also turns on muscle protein synthesis that I mentioned earlier. We have to try and optimize both of these methods to build the maximal amount of muscle.
Eating complete proteins such as meat, dairy, eggs and protein supplements are ideal to make sure you have all the raw materials for building muscle from food.
Activating Those Raw Materials
We need to assemble the amino acids from those protein foods to kickstart the muscle building process.
Ideally we want the muscle building process running as often and as long as possible to create more muscle.
You may or may not know, but our bodies are constantly building up and tearing down muscle tissue. The turnover of these proteins can be up to 25% of our resting energy expenditure. So, it takes a lot of energy(calories) to keep this repair process humming along.
This is where the concept of eating multiple times per day came from…
While there is some truth to that there is also a catch.
In an experiment conducted by researcher Bohe et al. they used an IV of protein to keep blood levels elevated for many hours. The assumption was that the protein synthesis would stay elevated as well and continue to build muscle.
What they found was that after 3-4 hours despite the higher amino acid level in the blood the muscle protein synthesis dropped.
So, the theory of continuing to feed yourself protein and you will always build muscle isn’t exactly accurate. It has been shown that protein synthesis will stay elevated for only about 2 hours and then drops off.
How do we achieve prolonged protein synthesis???
In a new study by Wilson, GJ et al they tested a dose the branched chain amino acid leucine, carbohydrates and a combination of leucine and carbohydrates after eating a standard protein meal.
The objective was to see what happened after the 2 hour mark.
What they found was that those given leucine, carbohydrates or a combination of both did see muscle protein synthesis duration increase.
This was huge because they found a way to prolong protein synthesis and the muscle building process.
They also measured insulin because high levels of insulin can force the body to move away from burning fat and instead use carbohydrates. We don’t want to keep our insulin levels elevated all day because it affects our fat burning.
The consumption of leucine only was the best at prolonging muscle protein synthesis and keeping insulin levels lower which facilitated fat burning as well.
There was one other issue with the results of this study. They found that when just leucine was consumed 2 other important amino acids dropped. Isoleucine and valine were reduced by 50-150%. Since all 3 of these branched chain amino acids are key to muscle building it was concluded that consuming all 3 of these BCAAs around 2 hours after a meal will keep the muscle building process running strong.
An exact human dosage has not been determined, but a great start is consuming 5-10 grams of BCAAs two hours after a protein containing meal.
This is an advanced muscle building tip that most people have no clue about. The best way to optimize this process is by consuming about 20-40 grams of protein at each meal and add approximately 5 -10 grams of BCAAs about 2 hours after a meal to keep the muscle protein synthesis process running strong.
Bohe J, JF Low, RR Wolfe, MJ Rennie. Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol. 2001; 532(Pt 2):575-9.
Wilson GJ, DK Layman, CJ Moulton, et al. Leucine or carbohydrate supplementation reduces AMPK and eEF2 phosphorylation and extends postprandial muscle protein synthesis in rats. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011.