When it comes to gaining muscle, there is a lot of competing information out there. Whether we’re trying to put on muscle mass for performance, for aesthetics or simply to be healthier, it’s important to know when and what we need to eat if we want to get the most out of our effort.
Essential Amino Acids Fuel Muscle Protein Synthesis
Muscle protein synthesis, the process by which muscle mass increases after resistance training, is fueled by three branched-chain amino acids: isoleucine, valine and leucine. Of these three, some studies indicate that leucine is the most important for protein synthesis. An article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that supplementing with leucine alone can produce desirable results. However, the studies also show that the lack of availability of the other EAA’s can limit the effectiveness of leucine supplementation. In other words, although leucine supplementation has the greatest effect on muscle protein synthesis, this synthesis will only occur in the sufficient presence of the other EAAs.
This indicated that a high protein diet will benefit considerably by supplementing BCAAs. A low protein diet should focus on supplementing protein in order to satisfy daily needs. A study found that supplementing with 50 milligrams of BCAA per kilogram of body weight in combination with 1.26 grams per kilogram of body weight of protein appears to mitigate the loss of leucine levels that we usually see in athletes and power lifters. Your best sources for proteins rich in EAAs are animal derived, including lean beef, lean chicken, salmon and dairy.
How Important is Timing?
Although one article claims that “the effectiveness of protein timing in chronic training studies has been decidedly mixed,” some studies suggest that consuming BCAAs, a third of which are comprised of leucine, before your workout helps you to retain the muscle that can degrade during intense workout sessions. When you’re trying to build muscle mass, this can make the difference between continuing to see progress and hitting a plateau. Although the jury is still out regarding the benefits of timing your supplemental BCAA intake around your workout sessions, doing so certainly can’t hurt!
The best course of action seems to be to space out your 1.26 grams of protein per kilogram body weight over the course of several meals a day, while supplementing with BCAAs right before or during workouts to prevent muscular degradation. According to Dr. Jacob Wilson, breakfast should consist of a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal. According to Wilson, this will program your metabolism to feed on fat throughout the day.
Learning to eat in a way that helps us to meet out fitness goals can be a challenge. for those of us who aren’t scientists and want to spend our energy training, excellent sites like FitnessMuscleMeals can help us to plan our meals in a way that supports our training. It’s an exciting time for all fitness-minded people to see the convergence of scientific knowledge with practical experience. More than any previous generation, we can benefit from this information to meet our potential like never before.