Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

To build muscle, it’s not what you eat, but when

Good to know — to build (and maintain) your muscles, eat protein throughout the day rather than all at once.  From the Globe and Mail, Dec 22, 2013:

Want to build muscle? It’s not what you eat, but when


Study­ing the hu­man body isn’t rocket sci­ence – in some cases, it’s much harder.

“I tell my grad stu­dents that we can put a man on the moon, but we still can’t come to a con­sen­sus on how much pro­tein to give him here on earth,” says Dr. Ra­javel Elango, a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia’s School of Pop­u­la­tion and Public Health.

Elango and his col­leagues are us­ing a new mea­sure­ment tech­nique to re­write as­sump­tions about how much pro­tein you need at dif­fer­ent stages of life. But just get­ting the right amount isn’t enough: There’s a limit to how much pro­tein your body can use at once, so to max­i­mize mus­cle-build­ing you need to spread your in­take through­out the day – and for most Cana­di­ans, that means ramp­ing up the pro­tein con­tent at break­fast and lunch.

Your mus­cles are con­stantly be­ing bro­ken down and re­built at a rate of about 1 to 2 per cent per day, which means that you get a com­pletely new set of mus­cles ev­ery two or three months. The pro­tein you eat pro­vides the ba­sic build­ing blocks – amino acids – needed to keep up with this con­stant re­build­ing.

To fig­ure out how much you need, sci­en­tists have tra­di­tion­ally tracked pro­tein’s ni­tro­gen con­tent as it’s in­gested and ex­creted by vol­un­teers – a cum­ber­some process prone to er­rors, Elango says.

In­stead, he and col­leagues in Toronto, Ed­mon­ton and else­where have de­vel­oped an al­ter­nate method that in­volves tag­ging amino acids with a spe­cial car­bon iso­tope tracer whose progress through the body can be pre­cisely mon­i­tored. Their re­sults sug­gest that cur­rent pro­tein guide­lines for healthy adults are un­der­es­ti­mated by about 30 per cent.

Since the new test is faster and less in­va­sive than the old one, it can also be used to check re­quire­ments in vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions like chil­dren, preg­nant women and older adults. In each of these ex­am­ples, the new re­sults sug­gest that cur­rent guide­lines are too low, by as much as 70 per cent in the case of chil­dren be­tween the ages of 6 and 10.

In Canada, the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple eas­ily con­sume enough pro­tein dur­ing the day – the prob­lem is how it’s dis­trib­uted. When­ever you eat pro­tein, your body re­sponds by fir­ing up its an­abolic (mus­cle-build­ing) pro­cesses. The more pro­tein you eat, the more mus­cle pro­tein you syn­the­size – up to a point. Re­search by McMaster Univer­sity’s Dr. Stu­art Phillips and oth­ers has found that if you eat more than 20 to 30 grams of pro­tein at a time, you don’t get any fur­ther an­abolic boost. Any ex­tra pro­tein is sim­ply burned for en­ergy; un­like car­bo­hy­drate or fat, you can’t save it for later.

Un­for­tu­nately, typ­i­cal Cana­dian di­etary pat­terns in­volve food choices and meal sizes that pro­vide rel­a­tively small doses of 10 to 15 grams of pro­tein at break­fast and lunch, and then a mam­moth 65-gram wal­lop of pro­tein at din­ner. The daily to­tal of 90 grams is great, but since more than half of the din­ner pro­tein goes to waste, the us­able amount of pro­tein is ac­tu­ally be­low the op­ti­mal amount for mus­cle main­te­nance.

“You can over­con­sume pro­tein to your heart’s con­tent, but un­less you dis­trib­ute it ap­pro­pri­ately, you can still fall well be­low the body’s needs,” says Dr. Dou­glas Pad­don-Jones, a pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion and me­tab­o­lism at the Univer­sity of Texas. In­stead, Pad­don-Jones rec­om­mends dis­tribut­ing pro­tein more equally through­out the day, aim­ing for three meals each with 30 grams of pro­tein – by in­clud­ing eggs and high-pro­tein dairy op­tions like Greek yo­gurt at break­fast, for ex­am­ple.

Ath­letes who are try­ing to build mus­cle (or sim­ply help their mus­cles re­cover from ar­du­ous work­outs) can push that ap­proach even fur­ther. Phillips and his col­leagues re­cently tested three dif­fer­ent ways of tak­ing in 80 grams of pro­tein in one day: eight equally spaced doses of 10 grams; four doses of 20 grams; or two doses of 40 grams. The in­ter­me­di­ate op­tion pro­duced the great­est over­all mus­cle pro­tein boost, so Phillips sug­gests that ath­letes should aim for four daily meals each with at least 20 grams of pro­tein. And there’s one fi­nal op­tion to boost pro­tein syn­the­sis at the end of the day.

“When you couldn’t sleep, what did your grand­mother tell you?” Phillips asks. “Drink a warm glass of milk.”

In­deed, a study pub­lished last year by re­searchers in the Nether­lands showed that a dose of pro­tein im­me­di­ately be­fore bed kept the body in an an­abolic state overnight, boost­ing over­all pro­tein syn­the­sis rates by 22 per cent.

Of course, you don’t build mus­cle just by eat­ing. The an­abolic ef­fects of eat­ing pro­tein are dou­bled if com­bined with ex­er­cise, which is one of the rea­sons ath­letes are en­cour­aged to re­fuel im­me­di­ately af­ter work­ing out. But if you fol­low the ad­vice to spread out your pro­tein in­take, then you don’t need to worry about the pre­cise tim­ing, ac­cord­ing to Pad­don-Jones.

“You don’t want to be the tea-and-toast break­fast eater who ex­er­cises and then doesn’t get any pro­tein un­til the af­ter­noon,” he says. “But if you dis­trib­ute pro­tein through­out the day, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter when you ex­er­cise.”

December 27, 2013 - Posted by | diet, health |

1 Comment »

  1. […] Read the rest here: To build muscle, it's not what you eat, but when « Pragma Synesi … […]

    Pingback by To build muscle, it's not what you eat, but when « Pragma Synesi … | Know What You Eat | December 28, 2013 | Reply

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