Your goal of building lean muscle mass demands the right combination between strength training exercises and nutrition. When it comes to nutrition, experts suggest a protein-rich diet since protein is an anabolic substance. But before you start bingeing on lean meat, eggs and dairy, here are a few things that you must know about it.
Quantity of Protein
According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, muscle size increases by 0.2% daily during the first 20 days of a weight training program. The growth significantly exceeds the muscle-protein breakdown occurring simultaneously.
This is the reason why beginners who are either just starting out or returning from a rest period from weight training will require more protein than intermediate and advanced bodybuilders who have regularly trained. But since beginners are least likely to focus on their diet and focus more on their weights, they are most likely to consume lesser amounts of protein than required for effective muscle growth.
How much protein is required then for beginners? Experts suggest 0.73 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight per day. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should eat approximately 130 grams of protein per day.
Frequency of Consumption
The frequency of consumption is just as important as the quantity consumed when it comes to muscle-building nutrition particularly proteins. This is because protein synthesis comes into play – protein synthesis refers to the process of turning protein sources into muscle tissue.
To understand protein synthesis, think of it as a lamp that is either on or off. When you consume 20 to 25 grams of protein, the process is on. But when you eat more than 25 grams of protein, your body will not improve its response just as applying more force to turning on the light switch will not make it emit more light.
This is important since many beginners will backload on their daily protein intake – and you may even be guilty of it. Backloading means uneven distribution of protein across several meals, such as low-protein, high-carb breakfast; moderate protein, low-carb lunch; and high-protein dinner.
But studies have shown that even distribution of protein across several meals during the day is a more effective approach to muscle-building nutrition. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2014), subjects who ate 30 grams of protein in each of their three daily meals had 25% higher protein synthesis than subjects who ate 90 grams but ate most of it at dinner.
In another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, subjects who consumed at least 20 grams of protein 6 times a day decreased their body fat and increased their lean mass, even without exercises. The subjects, furthermore, were provided with a protein supplement an hour after waking up, at least 2 hours before bedtime, and every 3 hours during the day.
The bottom line: Every meal counts when it comes to protein consumption.
If you are engaged in strength training 3 to 4 times a week, you are in effect building new muscles every hour every day. But you are also breaking down muscle tissues at a higher rate half the time. You must then eat at least 3 protein-rich meals a day for best muscle-building results.
When to Take Protein
The matter of the best time to eat protein sources, usually from food sources and protein supplements, vary depending on the frequency of weight training sessions. For consistent bodybuilders who have been at it over a prolonged period, protein synthesis usually peaks approximately 4 hours after a workout and then return to baseline levels faster.
A protein-rich meal must be eaten 2-3 hours before the weight training session. Another protein-rich meal should also be eaten 1-2 hours after the training session has ended. The recommended pre- and post-workout meals are based on the window of opportunity – the time when the muscles have the highest receptive rate to protein intake – appears to be 4 to 6 hours.
But for people who work out in the morning before breakfast should adjust their protein intake. This is because protein synthesis slows down by 15 to 30% during sleep, thus, a post-workout, protein-rich meal should be eaten as soon as possible.
Tip: If you work out in a commercial gym like Fitness Connection, just bring your protein supplement so that you can almost immediately consume eat after your workout session.
But not all protein is great for muscle-building purposes. Experts suggest eating food with higher quantities of leucine, an amino acid essential in the creation of more muscle tissues.
An estimated 2-3 grams of leucine is necessary to enjoy maximum anabolic effect from every meal. The best sources of leucine include: (Each example equals roughly 2 grams)
- A single serving (i.e., the size of your palm)
- Three eggs
- Two glasses of milk
- Piece of fish
- Cup of yogurt
- A scoop of whey protein
- A cup of cottage cheese
- A cup of soybeans
- Two cups of beans or lentils
Start planning your protein intake and get the lean muscle mass you have always wanted!