We are all in the fitness game to encourage different results, however there is one underlying goal that we all share consciously or not so, that being, muscular development.
Whether the focus is strength or size, the rules are all the same: lift weights, and eat protein. It is the way or variation in which you perform these, that will determine the direction you are headed. But why?
This all comes down to a response in our body called Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). Pretty self-explanatory ey? Essentially it is the rate at which your body makes up muscle protein.
As stated in the Journal of Physiology (J Physiol. 2012 Mar 1; 590(Pt 5): 1049–1057), “Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise and represents a widely adopted proxy for gauging chronic efficacy of acute interventions, (i.e. exercise/nutrition).“
In simple terms, MPS is a response to exercise and nutrition, and can be used as a measure of how efficient the body/ your body is at responding to the aforementioned stimuli.
You may ask: How do we best optimise this response based on our goals? How do we make all the gains!?
According to research, if we were to manipulate our nutrition alone, just by increasing our protein intake, we would have an acute increase in MPS, lasting between ~ 1-1.5h, switching off after this ‘muscle-full set-point’, despite there being protein/amino acids still available and ‘intramuscular anabolic signalling’ (increased response in signalling adaption/growth).
Not really good enough is it? But, when partnered with some resistance training, this muscle-full set-point is delayed/ our anabolic potential is increased and has been noted to continue up to ~24h after a single bout of exercise.
Great news! Although, this raises a couple questions…
“Is there a ‘best’ way of training to maximise my MPS response?”
“Does nutrient timing come into play / is there an anabolic window in which I should ingest more protein? i.e. smash a protein shake straight after training…”
In short…. not really and no.
Studies manipulating exercise intensity/workload have shown that increases in MPS are negligible when resistance exercise is at 20–40% of our 1 rep max, but maximal at 70–90% when workload is matched i.e. sets and reps, meaning that the heavier we lift for repetitions, the higher the response in MPS. However, low-intensity exercise performed to failure have been tested and seen to match this response.
So in truth, anytime we train using resistance to a point of muscular exhaustion, will be enough to stimulate a higher response in MPS. Resistance training modalities are more designed to target different muscular fibres/movement abilities/varying productions of force, rather than just different rates for muscle growth. This is more determined by the intensity and frequency of our training in combination with our diets.
Now, there are many theories surrounding nutrient timing when it comes to MPS. However, you have it on my authority that you can disregard most of them. Based on the scientific principles aforementioned, and my own personal experience and practice as a fitness professional this is essentially how it works…
As mentioned before, nutrition alone can increase MPS within a 2 hour time window and when coupled with resistance training, up to a whole 24 hours. So as long as we are training daily/every other day and maintaining a steady influx of protein per meal, in theory, we will be anabolic, MPS stimulating machines!
How much protein do we need?
Similar to training, where the intensity will dictate the rate of response for MPS, the amount of protein and calories you ingest will dictate the rate of your muscular development. The amount of protein needed, is dependant on the individual. As a rule of thumb, we recommend a daily minimum of 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight for females and 2g per kg for males, to be spread in equal portions throughout the days meals.
a male weighing 75kg would need to consume around 140-150g of protein, spread across 3-4 meals would equate to 40-50g of protein per meal.
So now we know that…
- High intensity resistance training + protein + maintenance calories = maintained body composition OR slightly improved, depending on how well trained the individual.
- High intensity resistance training + protein + calorie surplus = more muscles and strength, probable higher body fat%
- High intensity resistance training + protein + calorie deficit = improved body composition (higher muscle to fat ratio)
There you have it. All you need to understand about how to best optimise your protein for muscular development. Now, go forth, LIFT and smash your protein!