As many of you know, protein is a vital nutrient for improving and increasing skeletal muscle mass, especially after exercise. And eating too little of it on a day to day basis can accelerate the normal rate of muscle loss. What you may not know however is how important the particular amino acid leucine is for repairing and building muscle.
Dr. Stuart Phillips is a top-notch nutrition and exercise research scientist at McMaster University in Canada who in 2014 penned a paper titled A Brief Review of Critical Processes in Exercise-Induced Muscular Hypertrophy. In it he points out the importance of leucine for muscle protein synthesis/repair/growth:
“Dietary protein appears to be most effective when consumed after exercise, to take advantage of the ‘receptive state’ of the muscle, for mounting a robust MPS response. This would appear to be a guideline that athletes engaging in resistance and endurance training should follow to allow the synthesis of new proteins specific to their activity, and also to promote adaptive remodeling and repair of any cellular damage. The dose of protein that appears most effective following resistance exercise, and possibly endurance exercise, is approximately 0.25–0.30 g protein/kg BM/meal, at least when consuming isolated proteins. Leucine is a key amino acid in stimulating MPS and its content in, for example, whey protein is probably a primary reason why whey protein is so effective at stimulating MPS as opposed to isolated soy and casein proteins.”
To understand how much protein you should eat on a daily basis, I like to keep it simple. Eat/drink about 20-30 grams of protein directly after your workout and per meal. If you’re lean, try to ingest 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight by the end of the evening.
If you are over fat, think about what you should weigh when lean and eat for that weight. As an example, if you weigh 200 pounds but should weigh 150, try to get about 150 grams of protein per day especially if you are strength training (which you should be).
Animal based proteins are a superior choice over plant proteins to get your leucine. Take a look at this chart:
Whey protein offers a whopping amount of leucine per calorie gram! The chart below supports this.
So, if you want to maximize your recovery and strength/muscle/endurance gains, consider drinking a whey shake mixed with coconut milk or water after your strength workout or endurance workouts (if you bother with endurance workouts that is). You might also want to buy some leucine powder and add this to your shake. My co-authors of The SlowBurn Fitness Revolution Dr. Mike and MaryDan Eades discusses how to concoct a muscle building, fat melting cocktail shake in their book The 6 Week Cure for the Middle Aged Middle. It’s a very good book to read if you’re struggling with age-related fat gain and muscle loss. The Eades’ are super smart physicians.
A good, pure source of whey is David Aspery’s product. (I do not make a dime endorsing his product by the by.)
Enjoy! And as always, comments are welcomed.