Eating a high-protein diet is an extremely effective way to build muscle mass in conjunction with strength training. In addition, the right dose of protein at the right time can help you lose fat for the best-looking body.
Recent research shows there is no need to bulk up and then cut up if you train, eat, and supplement right. This article will give you eight tips for using protein to achieve that hard sought after optimal body composition.
#1: Get Upwards of 2 g/kg Daily of Protein To Build Muscle
Protein synthesis and muscle growth can double when you take the right dose of protein after training. A new review found that a dose of protein of at least 2.38 g/kg of body weight a day reliably produced muscular and strength gains in trainees. In studies that compared low and high doses of protein, a higher daily protein intake wasÂ alwaysÂ more effective for muscle building.
For example, in a study that compared the effect of taking 3.3 g/kg/bw/day of whey protein with a 1.2 g/kg/bw/day control group showed that the higher protein intake resulted in muscle gains of 2.3 kg as well as greater 1RM strength development, while the control group gained less than a kilo of muscle and no strength.
#2: How To Use Protein To Lose Fat While Building Muscle
The benefit of a higher daily protein dose extends to the loss of fat as well. An example is a study that compared a 2.3 g/kg/d protein intake with 1.45 g/kg/d in strength athletes. The higher protein group had 5 percent less body fat by the end of the 10-week study, despite the fact that they consumed 400 more calories a day than the lower protein group.
Be aware of two points in relation to fat loss and protein intake: The amount of calories required by the body to process amino acids is significantly greaterâ€”increasing protein intake by 20 percent can lead to as much as a 15 percent elevation in calorie burn a day.
Second, protein availability affects muscle building and body weight because it helps sustain protein synthesis. Eating every 2 to 3 hours and getting a minimal 10-gram dose of essential amino acids (EAAs) at each meal, will continually trigger muscle building and tissue repair.
#3: Avoid Carb Supplementation If The Goal Is Fat Loss
If your goal is fat loss, do not supplement with carbs before or after training. Also, consider restricting your total carb intake. Low-carb diets are scientifically shown to be highly effective for fat loss, and if you get the threshold protein dose and train, you can avoid a drop in muscle.
Note that training in a glycogen-depleted state was shown NOT to compromise protein synthesis or impede recovery in a study of strength-trained males doing moderately heavy strength training (80 percent of the 1RM load for 8 sets of 5 leg presses). The key is to provide adequate amino acids to the body at regular time points before and after training.
#4: Carbs/Protein Drinks Can Enhance Muscle Building If You Are Lean
If you are lean and highly insulin sensitive, taking quality carbs with protein post-workout can enhance protein synthesis due to a greater release of insulin and a lower cortisol response. A high-quality carb and protein supplement has a synergistic effect after training, enhancing muscle and strength gains.
#5:Â Whey Is The Best Protein Source For Post-Workout Recovery.
Whey protein is your best option when trying to lose fat and build muscle for a few reasons. First, whey is the highest quality of protein in the that it provides a larger array of amino acids in higher concentrations than other protein sources, so your body has more to work with. It triggers muscle building to a greater degree than both casein and soy.
Second, as convenient as protein powders are, if the goal is fat loss, only use whey protein after training and eat high-protein foods (meat!) for all meals. A whole food meal can increase energy expenditure by as much as 50 percent more than a processed meal, while moderating insulin and blood sugar favorably.
If you are already lean and your goal is to pack on muscle mass, you may want to try dosing with at least 20 grams of whey every 3 hours on training days because this has been shown to optimally rebuild muscle tissue after training.
Third, whey supports immune function because it raises your levels of the most important antioxidant, called glutathione. Surveys show that a stronger immune system is associated with greater gains in muscle.
Finally, whey withstands practical tests: a study that compared having trainees take either 3 g/kg/bw/day of whey protein, the same dose of soy protein, or a smaller dose of 1.7 g/kg/bw/day of whey showed the following:
The large whey group gained 2.5 kg of muscle
- The soy group gained 1.7 kg of muscle
- The small whey group gained 0.3 kg
The one drawback to whey protein is that a lot of people are intolerant to it, or they become intolerant over time, meaning they need to rotate their amino acid source. Research shows the protein hierarchy places essential amino acid capsules (EAAs) as the next best source for raising and sustaining protein synthesis post workout, without the many negative side effects that some people experience from casein protein. Avoid soy because it may alter hormone levels due to the phytoestrogens it contains.
#6:Â Â Get Extra Leucine, Especially If You’re Older
Getting extra leucine in addition to weight training can equalize the muscle building response to training between old and young trainees. This is critically important because you experience a significant decrease in muscle building as you age. A recent study found that in people over 50, a large pool EAAs, of which 41 percent were leucine, were necessary to produce muscle gains.
Leucine triggers a muscle-building pathway called mTOR. Of interest, in older individuals, this pathway isÂ onlytriggered if a large amount of leucine is present in the body. Although extra leucine is not needed to trigger mTOR in young trainees, protein synthesis will be sustained forÂ longerÂ if there is abundant leucine. Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) capsules are naturally high in leucine, and the evidence suggest BCAAs can enhance fat burning while improving your work capacity.
#7: Eat Protein Frequently For Sustained Muscle Development
There’s a myth in the protein supplement world that people should only take a certain dose of protein for muscle building because supposedly, the body can’t process more than that. This is not true.
It is true that there appears to be a threshold dose that needs to be reached (around 25 grams of whey, supplying at least 10 grams of EAAs) to significantly enhance muscle building. Beyond that dose, increases in muscle building may not reach statistical significance, but that doesn’t mean that the body can’t use the protein or that you won’t experience an even greater increase in metabolic rate as the body digests the amino acids.
It’s well established that the greatest body composition changes will be achieved by eating 5 or 6 moderately sized regular meals of intact protein in the form of meat (in the range of 4 oz.) rather than fewer large meals (such as a 12 oz. steak).
#8:Â Periodize Your Protein Dose and Rotate Dietary Protein Source
Perhaps the most interesting new research on muscle building and protein is the ‘protein change’ theory that shows that the most strength and muscle is gained when participants increase protein by more than 50 percent over what they normally consumed. It’s just like the effect of overload in weight raining on muscle development a big change or overload in protein intake leads to the most impressive muscle size gains, whereas small variations like increasing protein intake by 6 percent has little benefit.
Of course, you can’t just keep continually increasing your protein intake indefinitely! And, the protein change theory is based off the fact that baseline protein intake was fairly low (below 1.5 g/kg/d), but this finding hints at the value of ‘periodizing’ your protein intake with your training goals and protein intake. Rotate your whole food protein source as much as possible and eat a wide variety of meatsâ€”read the Meat & Nuts Breakfast for a guide as to how to do this.