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Posted by on Feb 18, 2014 in Nutrition, Chewing It Over | 0 comments

Protein and Muscle Recovery

Protein and Muscle Recovery

The human body is in a constant metabolic state to maintain life: building some tissues up (anabolism) and tearing others down (catabolism). A rigorous weightlifting session should cause enough tissue damage to elicit the anabolic recovery process of repair and rebuild using carbs, protein and fluids. Therefore, the protein needs of a weightlifter are higher than the average person and most essential for recovery.

If you are an athlete trying to increase muscle mass, you were probably told to maintain a steady supply of amino acids, from complete proteins, every 3-4 hours; since the body can only use 30 (give or take) grams of protein at any time. This IS a common knowledge established by various studies that found maximal muscle protein stimulation and anabolic response with ingestion of 20-30 gr of protein [1]. It is assumed that the extra protein is lost in defecation or turned into fat.

huntBut, could we have existed today, if our ancestors, whom after a period of starvation, finally hunted a beast, and only made use of the meat the size of the palm of their hand?!

As reputable as these studies maybe, the following objections are valid:

  1.  Anabolic responses cannot be used to extrapolate absorbency rates of digestion. Meaning, if 30 grams of protein is used to build new muscle, it doesn’t mean 30 grams of protein was absorbed from the stomach.
  2. Acute responses do not represent the body’s adaptations over an extended period of time, same way a snapshot does not describe the entire movie. 
  3. Most research looking at postprandial (occuring after a meal) muscle reconstruction, did not analyze the body’s declining catabolic state and the possibility of it’s progression even after  muscle recovery. Meaning, not only protein is needed for anabolism and building new muscles, but more might be needed to stop muscle’s breakdown and catabolism.

Cool beans so far?
Protein needs depend on age, gender, body size, physical condition, duration of exercise with absolute values open to criticism from the evolutionary standpoint. Then again, our ancestors didn’t obsess about their muskles either.

The fitness and bodybuilding community prefers to play it SAFE and follow the spread feeding pattern (eating protein every 4 hrs) as opposed to pulse (3 big meals a day), even though some studies found no difference among the two [2] for muscle retention.


But, here is a question for ya: how is insulin resistance induced?

” Chronic levels of glucose”

Would continuous supply of amino acids cause resistance or reduced sensitivity to amino acids?

“……. possibly”

This is certainly is a theory that flies in the face of convention. Eating too often may have the potential to slow down muscle growth by “desensitizing” tissue to further stimulation by amino acids. So, spacing meals apart and allowing the blood amino acid levels to oscillate, rather than maintained continuously, may have the potential to “re-sensitize” muscle cells to their anabolic effect.

Fascinating notion indeed, but hasn’t been put through rigorous scientific testing, yet.

[1] Ingested protein dose response of muscle
[2] Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention

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