Ever since the first time you held a dumbbell in your hand, you’ve been hearing people talk about protein and amino acids as the most important material out of which the body builds more muscle tissue. While protein is important, it is not bricks and mortar, which means it has a way more complex effect on the body. However, you need to understand the effects of protein and amino acids in order to utilize them to the fullest, and that is what we are going to look at in this article.
People call protein “building blocks” of muscles, but that is only partially correct. The amino acids that you consume have plenty of roles but one of the most important roles is giving the body biochemical signals that it needs to start building more muscle and recover right after a big challenge. Here’s what you need to do to make protein work for you.
1. Make Sure That You Spend More Time in the Anabolic Than in the Catabolic Phase!
Your body has two main processes when it comes to muscles – catabolism, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy, and anabolism, which is the synthesis of muscle tissue from amino acids. Both of these phases occur naturally in your body, so don’t be afraid of catabolism – it will happen whether you like it or not.
In the long run though, it’s crucial to keep your body in the anabolic phase more than in the catabolic one. This is called a “net protein balance/synthesis” and if you’re doing it right, it’s positive instead of negative. When you take a protein supplement, your blood has far more amino acids than normal, which is called hyperaminoacidemia and prompts your body to make even more muscle mass, while bolstering your anabolism. Another thing that raises your amino acid levels is a hard workout, which gives you a boost, especially when you eat more protein before and/or after working out. So what makes protein special, anyway? Well, since protein is composed out of a lot of stuff, that’s difficult to pinpoint, but it seems obvious that it’s the amino acid called leucine.
2. Leucine is the Key!
Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid found in protein, and it’s the most powerful out of all the amino acids. It’s a signaling molecule which makes your muscles grow by activating the mTOR pathway, a powerful anabolic process. Whey protein contains leucine, and it supports your blood insulin and promotes hyperinsulinemia. These effects make your anabolic stage even stronger and reduce the rate of your catabolism. Both of these processes are going on in the same time all around your body, but when leucine steps in, it tips the scales in favor of anabolism.
The leucine content in any specific protein has been determined to be the key factor in the experienced muscle synthesis when consumed. So with all this in mind, we should know that whey protein has the highest amounts of leucine, which makes it the ideal post-workout protein. To get the right amount of whey in your body, buy products that give you at least 25 grams of protein for every serving.
3. Take Your Protein to the Next Level!
There are a lot of scientific studies that show that whey protein has a marked effect on anabolism, muscle growth, increased strength and fat loss, but it might even have positive effects on stuff such as immunity and gut health, and in a better way than other protein sources. This is based on the assumption that your body can metabolize protein with maximum efficiency, but if it doesn’t, don’t worry – digestive enzymes are the latest advance in protein technology. Proteolytic enzymes combine with whey isolate and create a hydrolyzed protein, which is basically semi-digested. It has a lot of positive effects, such as:
- It absorbs faster than complete milk proteins in the small intestine.
- It stimulates plasma insulin twice as much as complete milk proteins, which may cause a lessened muscle breakdown process and increased ferrying of nutrients in tired muscle tissue, which boosts recovery.
- It puts the most amino acids at your body’s disposal for anywhere up to three hours after you ingest them. It goes so far that it has a measured 37% increase in amino acids with hydrolyzed protein than complete milk protein supplements.
Research studies have been conducted to find out how the enzymes affect the absorption kinetics of whey protein, and they are conclusive – the whey protein, when combined with digestive enzymes, elicits a positive absorption response from the amino acids anywhere from 8 to 10 grams per hour. If you eat 20-30 grams right after a workout, your body will be receiving a steady stream of amino acids for 2-3 hours afterwards.
4. What About Bigger Periods of Time?
If you want to put protein in your muscles as fast as possible, go with whey. But, what happens when you have a longer period of time to worry about, such as when you go to bed. There is an answer for this as well – high quality micellar casein, which provides a steady delivery of amino acids to your muscles for far longer than any other protein. There is a reason that bodybuilders typically drink a pre-bedtime shake with casein in it. Micellar casein is the purest of protein, and unlike inferior calcium caseinates, it is very pH sensitive and it thickens the acidic environment in the stomach. Proteins have an extraordinary ability to form a gel in your stomach which slows down the digestion rate of your whole proteins, which gives you a steady stream of beneficial amino acids in your blood.
This unique trait lets casein protein be the protein of choice when it comes to long periods throughout the day when you can’t ingest protein. If you take just 30 grams of micellar casein you will be able to deliver a seven hour steady plateau of amino acids in your blood, which will reduce your catabolism by up to a third of its usual amount, but it will also raise anabolism by 31 percent for the seven hours after consumption. Take whey during daytime and casein at nighttime and you will be on your way to even more muscle growth. This combination has a ton of research behind it, as well as anecdotal evidence like no other supplement, so make sure to take this combination when you want to boost your muscle growth. There is no need to come up with something new for something that has already been tried and tested a million times.