Allow me to introduce another new writer to the STF family, Jordan Higgins (BSc, MSc, SENr). Jordan holds a masters in Nutrition and I personally welcome him to the team. We all share the same aim and that is bringing you the best information that we can to help you with your training and nutrition goals. So lets get stuck into the article….
How much protein should an athlete consume following a work out?
This is an interesting question often put to sports nutritionists. The misconception is that more is better, which simply isn’t true. Manufacturers of sport supplement products often suggest that larger doses of protein will provoke a larger anabolic response; however the science behind this claim does not support this. Possible reasons for such a claim may be financially influenced, given that protein is an expensive supplement.
It is sensible to select a protein source following a workout that provokes the highest anabolic response. The typical characteristics of a protein that make it more anabolic are the digestion and absorption rates, with the fastest digesting proteins being the most anabolically effective, as well as those that carry the highest relative Leucine content. For this reason, whey protein is often considered the most efficient anabolic protein source, being high in Leucine and easily digested by the body.
Knowing this misconception, sensible timing of protein intake rather than focusing on the quantity, will allow the body to use more protein for muscle adaptation and is also a great strategy for getting the most out of your diet. The timing of nutrient delivery appears to be important, with immediate post-training (or pre/during training) protein intake leading to a positive net protein balance. It is assumed that this is achieved by the reduction of protein breakdown and by the increase of new muscle protein synthesis.
This leads on to the question of how much protein should an athlete consume following a work out? Research has shown that an athlete around 80-85kg, needs to consume between 20-25g of protein to optimally stimulated new protein synthesis.
Figure 1 shows percentage increases (from basal or 0 g) in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and leucine oxidation after resistance exercise in young men as a function of ingested protein and leucine dose. The ingested protein was isolated egg protein; data extracted from Moore et al (2009).
The study by Moore et al (2009) demonstrates that consuming large quantities of amino acids or protein in the belief that this will accelerate protein synthesis appears flawed. Ingesting 20g of high quality protein (0.25g protein/kg body mass/meal) will maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Consuming an additional 20g was shown to have no additional benefit. It is to be noted however, that the athletes in this study weighed approximately 87kg. It is suggested that smaller athletes may require less and larger athletes may require more. This is still unconfirmed in the literature but it is well established that protein dose does scale with body size, so it may be a reasonable suggestion that larger athletes may require slightly more protein. Intakes above 30g may be suggested in this instance but any more than 40g is not necessary.
These recommendations are post exercise protein intake suggestions but also apply to meal requirements to ensure optimum protein synthesis throughout the day. Each portion of food only needs 20-25g protein to efficiently increase protein synthesis; this is the equivalent of consuming 100g of chicken (half chicken breast) per meal. This is a fairly small amount, and reinforces the findings that more is not necessarily better, just more expensive!
For further information regarding daily protein requirements or any other nutritional support please contact Jordan. Thank you. Also if you missed Katrina making her self known click this link: http://www.sportland.org.uk/?p=212
Jordan Higgins (BSc, MSc, SENr)
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Moore D.R., M. J. Robinson, J. L. Fry, J. E. Tang, E. I. Glover, S. B. Wilkinson, T. Prior, M. A. Tarnopolsky, and S. M. Phillips (2009). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89: 161-168