Skeletal muscles (the muscles we’re working out) are made of protein – amino acids of second chain. They’re connected to each other with such a structure that forms a skeletal muscle tissue. Proteins are actually a part of a muscle tissue that produces force, and those are the similar proteins that you’re getting from food. There are two processes that have the most impact on your muscle mass — Protein Synthesis & Protein Breakdown (Catabolism).
- Protein Synthesis is a process in which the amino acids bind to one another which results in muscle growth.
- Protein Breakdown is the opposite process in which certain enzymes tear down the amino acids from already existing muscle tissue under the influence of hormones.
The ability to break down and regenerate the muscle tissue is important so our body could function properly because these processes are enabling our body to adapt to different conditions. What happens with muscle mass depends on the balance of those two processes:
- Protein Synthesis > Protein Breakdown = Muscle mass is increasing
- Protein Synthesis = Protein Breakdown = Muscle mass stays the same
- Protein Synthesis < Protein Breakdown = Muscle mass is decreasing
If you want to increase your muscle mass, your body has to synthesize proteins more that it breaks them down. There are three ways to achieve this:
- Increase protein synthesis
- Lower protein breakdown
- Affect both processes
Of course, in the 3rd example you will achieve greater results. Working out stimulates protein synthesis and protein breakdown at the same time.
Post Workout Meal
How are proteins and carbohydrates connected with protein synthesis and breakdown processes?
- Proteins from food stimulate protein synthesis but they don’t have an influence on protein breakdown.
- Carb intake stimulates insulin secretion which prevents protein breakdown and doesn’t have an influence on their synthesis.
If you do a workout and don’t eat anything after or before, breakdown will be bigger than protein synthesis in your muscles. That’s something you should avoid. If you work out and have a meal afterwards, proteins are a better option than carbs because the proteins will bring a necessary material for building a muscle tissue while the carbs will only lower the protein breakdown.
There’s a big mistake in thinking that you only need proteins after a workout because carbs won’t stop the protein synthesis (muscle building), in fact, they prevent protein breakdown in our muscles (guarding the muscle). It’s more important to have higher protein synthesis than their breakdown, but you will have a better effect if you combine carbs and proteins in your post workout meal.
Protein is the most responsible
Nothing is more important than protein intake! It presents the foundation for muscle building, providing amino acids for our body to use in muscle recovery and muscle growth. The required intake amount is 2g per 1Kg of body weight daily. If you feel that your recovery time/muscle growth is weak, you can increase to 3g per 1kg.
Take carbohydrates for progress
In order to reach maximum growth, you’ll need carbs! They provide glucose for our body which serves as a temporary fuel for our muscles. Carbohydrates also increase our insulin levels, hormone that stores amino acids inside the muscle tissue.
Have more frequent meals
Split your meals and protein shakes into intervals of 2-3h, that way you can eat 6 times per day. This provides constant presence of building material for your muscles (possible constant muscle growth).
Pre-workout meals protect the muscles
Having a meal before your workout session helps to increase insulin levels that keeps your muscles from breaking down as a result of intense training. Insulin increase, in a combination with enough amino acids will prevent the breakdown effect.
Protein shake against muscle breakdown during workout
Protein shake made of around 20g Whey protein and 20-40g of fast absorbing carbs, such as Maltodextrin — If used during a workout can prevent muscle loss and create anti-catabolic environment.
Protein shake after a workout
30min after a workout, make a shake of 40-60g easy digestible Whey protein with carbohydrate drink or other fast carbs (40-100g of carbohydrates). Muscles are hungry after an intense workout and they use carbs and proteins so they could begin the growth process. This fast combination also prevents the production of cortisol (hormone that tears down muscle mass, it’s highly produced during a workout).