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Make Your Workout Count | Muscle & Body Magazine

Build more muscle with postexercise protein and essential amino acids.

Throughout my career, I have trained elite professional athletes as well as everyday people. Even though they have vastly different goals, one area that crosses over to both populations is the need to add lean muscle growth. This is important for athletes wanting to build strength, speed and endurance, while many everyday clients are trying to lose weight and improve overall health. We are all looking to find the right combination of exercise, nutrition and supplements that help prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle gain.

A fascinating research paper presented at the September 2010 American College of Sports Medicine Integrative Physiology of Exercise Conference reported on this very topic and had interesting conclusions. The authors of the study, titled “Exercise, Amino Acids, and Aging in the Control of Human Muscle Protein Synthesis,” examined the effects of proteins and amino acids taken postexercise had on muscle breakdown and growth across differing age groups. The authors’ overall conclusion was that combining resistance exercise with essential amino acids “should be effective in improving muscle repair and growth in response to training in athletes but may also be a useful countermeasure to sarcopenia and other clinical conditions associated with muscle wasting.”

Building Muscle at Any Age

Let’s examine what this means in practical terms and how the authors arrived at this conclusion. The problem they looked at was essentially twofold. The first part of the equation was how younger people and athletes who are in training could be more effective in increasing muscle protein synthesis to build muscle mass. The other side of the equation looked at how older adults could stop sarcopenia, or the chronic loss of muscle associated with aging. Essentially, could both distinctly different populations equally benefit from the same principles of combining exercise with essential amino acids?

You are probably already aware of the younger, athletic side of the equation, and may even fit into that category. However, you may be less familiar with sarcopenia. This is a very real problem for society as a whole. Baby Boomers are now hitting retirement age, and older Americans are experiencing increased numbers of chronic illnesses and an overall loss of functionality. Many medical experts believe that the gradual loss of muscle mass is a significant contributor to the decline of overall health in the country.

The authors discuss the fact that, in general terms, muscle protein synthesis can start within the first hour after resistance and aerobic exercise and can last up to 48 hours. The avenue for increased strength and muscle mass is to have a higher rate of muscle protein synthesis compared to the rate of protein breakdown. Interestingly, they note that low-intensity resistance workouts yield “similar increases in muscle size and strength as traditional, high-intensity resistance exercises.”

The initial results cited that older populations did not seem to experience the same level of muscle protein synthesis response as younger demographics after exercise by itself. It was not until proteins (about 20 g) and essential amino acids containing leucine (about 6 g) were added within an hour of finishing resistance workouts that both younger and older groups seemed to have significant and comparable results. Leucine seems to be a key component, as this addition may significantly boost the entire process. This is important because both groups seemed to have a net-positive gain by adding the protein and amino acids immediately after a workout.

Take Advantage of the One-Hour Window

The takeaway from the study is this: Although research is ongoing, the results seem to indicate that ingesting protein and amino acids high in leucine within an hour of your workout may fire up the muscle-building process and give you a net gain in muscle mass, regardless of your age. Incorporating this knowledge can give you immediate results now while also helping to avoid muscle loss down the road as you age. As we are seeing, retaining vital muscle function can help to improve quality of life later on and may even help to avoid many of the chronic illnesses plaguing society.

via Make Your Workout Count | Muscle & Body Magazine.