3 April 2013
When it comes to muscle recovery the timing of your protein intake and the type of protein are just as important as the total amount eaten.
In a recent study, a group of Canadian and Australian researchers found that four 20g doses of protein evenly spaced through the day is optimal for muscle building (1). Twenty four men took a total of 80g of whey protein over 12 hours starting immediately after training. One group took eight 10g doses every 1.5 hours. The second group took four 20g doses every 3 hours; the third group took two 40g doses, with one post-workout and the second after 6 hours.
The results showed two things. First, the 20g dose taken every 3 hours produced a better balance between protein breakdown and synthesis after the workout. Second, there’s no advantage to be gained by consuming more than 20g per meal – taking 40g did not result in greater muscle synthesis.
But what about the type of protein you consume? If you’re looking to maximise muscle repair and growth, opt for high quality proteins that contain all essential amino acids, say researchers at McMaster University in a review of studies(2). Milk, whey, casein (the latter two are derived from milk), egg, and meat have produced best results in studies. All essential aminos are important for muscle synthesis but leucine is perhaps the most potent. It acts as a signal for protein synthesis in the muscles, triggering key metabolic pathways. Fortunately, its found in abundance in dairy, egg and meat so there’s no need to take separate supplements provided you’re getting your 20g protein dose (studies with leucine-enriched whey found no benefit compared with ordinary whey).
So, here’s what 20g of high quality protein looks like:
- 3 eggs
- 600ml milk (or flavoured milk)
- 27g whey protein powder
- 85g Cheddar cheese
- 85g meat or poultry
- 450g plain yoghurt
- 250g Greek yoghurt
- 100g fish e.g. salmon, plaice
- Daniel R Moore et al (2012) ‘ Daytime pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body protein turnover in resistance-trained males’Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:91 http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/91
- Tyler A Churchward-Venne et al (2012)‘Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: strategies to enhance anabolism’ Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:40 http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/40