View Full Version : Waves of protein!

02-25-2004, 05:07 AM
I though I would share this article I found off another site. I think is worth a read if you are into pre & post protein shakes.


The Latest on Post-Workout Nutrition: Using Waves to Cause a Flood

While post workout nutrition may be old hat to most VM readers, about a month ago new research on protein synthesis was revealed that surprised the supplement world. This new scientific evidence may allow us to take advantage of our post workout nutrient window better than previously thought!

The Beginning ~ Post Workout Protein Synthesis Research

One of the first papers to examine the effect of post workout nutrition on protein synthesis used meals one and three hours following exercise (6). In this study, one group consumed a post workout meal one hour following resistance training (the scientific term for busting your ass with weights) and a placebo at three hours following the workout, while another group consumed a placebo at one-hour post and a real meal three hours post-workout. These meals were nothing spectacular: a liquid meal consisting of 35g sucrose and six grams essential amino acids. Despite the limited quantity of nutrients (by the typical bodybuilder-standards), there were large increases in protein synthesis following either real meal, but not after consuming the placebo. While the increase in protein synthesis may not be surprising, the extent of it was; protein synthesis was equal between both groups even though one meal wasn't consumed until three hours following the exercise! These fascinating results could be interpreted two ways:

1) Due to the time lag between the exercise and the meals, even the drink consumed one hour following exercise missed the critical window of opportunity for maximum protein synthesis. In other words, the protein synthesis rates were equal between groups because they both missed the earlier critical nutrient window, which would have allowed even greater protein synthesis.

2) A second interpretation (which seems to be gaining support) is that the window of opportunity for post workout nutrition to greatly increase protein synthesis is much larger than previously thought!

Based on the current research, the second theory seems to be true, but that doesn't preclude the possibility that the first theory is valid. While we can tailor our meals to the second interpretation, we can also include a provision for the first theory (i.e. still consume our meals shortly after our workouts). More on this below.

Throw Open The Windows

One of the studies that helped devise the post workout nutrition window concept was based on resistance training with the elderly (3). ~74-year-old men were resistance trained three times a week for 12 weeks, and given a post workout drink either immediately or two hours following the exercise. The results indicated that overall hypertrophy was greater after several weeks of training when post workout meals were consumed immediately after exercise, rather than two hours after training.

These data were theoretically applied to everyone, so it was assumed that the earlier that one consumed the meal following exercise the better for protein synthesis and hypertrophy. Unfortunately, there are some large differences between the elderly and the average MD reader, so the results of this study do not necessarily apply to us. While I certainly advocate consuming the post workout meal as soon as you mentally recover from your last set, research in adults does not seem to indicate that post workout meal-induced protein synthesis is much different from immediately following the workout to at least three hours after. In fact, one study shows that protein synthesis levels are elevated for at least four hours following training when drinks were consumed immediately and 1 hour after the resistance exercise (7)!

The Latest Research ~ Shiny and New

An exciting abstract presented at the latest American College of Sports Medicine changed the way we'll look at post workout nutrition. In this study by Bøersheim et al.(1), the subjects ingested a mere 0.087g / kg body mass of essential amino acids both one hour and two hours following resistance training. This regimen resulted in equal increases in protein synthesis for both meals! This indicates that multiple post workout meals may be beneficial for getting multiple spikes in protein synthesis! The other major finding of the study is that the subjects were only given essential amino acids without carbs, and still had increases in protein synthesis! But don't throw out your post-workout carb intake just yet. Those carbs do a lot for recovery. In fact, it's very likely that there is an interaction between insulin (stimulated via carb ingestion), resistance exercise, and essential amino acids (6) to stimulate protein synthesis, so the effect of multiple post workout meals may be amplified when carbs are taken with your protein! But if you're dieting away and want to minimize muscle protein degradation while maximizing body fat loss, a few grams of essential amino acids may help.

Putting it all together

Based on the above research, we may generate several theories as to how to maximize protein anabolism in the time surrounding our workouts. First, whether or not there is indeed a window of super accelerated protein synthesis immediately following resistance exercise (as opposed to one to four hours later), the first post workout meal should be consumed ASAP when finished. It's a good idea to get the meal in quickly so it has time to be absorbed, and you can have subsequent meals sooner i.e. get more nutrients in to take advantage of the post workout window.

Some people believe that it is best to take advantage of the potential increased nutrient delivery associated with consuming meals while the muscles are still pumped, while others believe that waiting half an hour is best. This latter opinion stems from a study showing that immediately following a treadmill workout with rats, the actual molecular machinery controlling protein synthesis is shut down (4).

In reality it's probably not going to be a huge deal if you drink five minutes after you put down the last weight or wait another 10 minutes once you're done showering (for those of you who actually shower J) so don't make yourself puke by rushing it. The important point is that the next meal should come as little as 40 minutes following the first! The reasoning for this is that in the Bøersheim study, protein net balance (synthesis minus breakdown) returned to normal within 40 minutes of the meal ingestion, which was likely induced by the start of the decline of the amino acid levels in the blood (more on this later).

It's important to remember that the study in question used essential amino acids, not whole protein. This may actually change the way the body responds to the meal. Presumably consuming whole protein, especially in large quantities or using a lower quality (e.g. soy, casein, whey concentrate etc.), will delay entrance into and clearance time of amino acids in the bloodstream, so it may take longer in practice than in the study. Also, we need to consider carbohydrates when thinking of amino acid clearance times being delayed.

Personally, I used to always consume 40g of whey isolate, 80g glucose, and 20g sucrose following my workouts (the sucrose simply reduced the potential for a blood sugar crash later on). After this drink I would be hungry about 60 to 75 minutes later, but based on the current evidence you can see that I was missing a HUGE opportunity for additional amino acid uptake during that time. Now I've eliminated the sucrose all together and only take 40g of glucose with 20g whey isolate, in order to allow myself to have another meal of the same kind 45 minutes after the first. Following a third post workout meal of the same nature, I have a large solid food meal that gets me back on the normal eating track. Now if you've really been paying attention you may have figured out that even with a four-hour post workout nutrient window, you could still get in seven post workout drinks (including the drink at hour four) if you do one every 40 minutes from the end of your workout. This would be great for protein synthesis in an ideal world, but unfortunately this application of the theory is fraught with potential problems.

>>>>part 2 on next thread

02-25-2004, 05:10 AM
Problems and solutions

1) Taking in several high quality protein meals in only a few hours tends to get expensive. Of course if we could get such high protein synthesis rates for several repeated post workout meals, it would be worth the cost to do so! Unfortunately, we just don't know how many meals we can tolerate and maintain the high levels of protein synthesis, so only do as many as you can afford. Alternatively, you could reduce the amount of protein consumed per meal to save money. An unpublished study (see 6) supports this practice of reduced protein intake: in untrained subjects, consuming 40g of whey protein following resistance exercise resulted in elevated urea levels, indicating that there was too much protein for protein synthesis, so whatever wasn't used "spilled over" to a waste product. Based on this, I now use 20-30g whey isolate for each meal, because it roughly matches the essential amino acid profile used in the Bøersheim study that we're trying to replicate (ie 0.087g / kg body mass). [NOTE: Non-essential amino acids are useless for post workout protein synthesis (8)! Mainly pay attention to essential amino acid profile when choosing your protein, but keep in mind that non-essential amino acids may play other roles in the body not pertaining to protein synthesis.]

2) Calories may be a problem if you're consuming high quantities of carbs with each meal. If you're going to do multiple post workout drinks, reduce the carb intake for each one so that you meet pre-determined total. For example, say you'd want to consume 350g of carbs in the three hours following your workout, and will be consuming one drink every half hour in that time. This would lead to elevated insulin levels while still meeting your optimal glycogen replenishment.

3) Another potential problem with consuming frequent meals is that they may result in glucose intolerance if one is consuming several consecutive insulin spiking meals for a long period of time. Of course the post workout insulin spike is necessary if we are to obtain maximum benefit from creatine supplementation, but what about when we're not using creatine during subsequent meals? The answer is simple: use glucose for the first meal with your creatine, then switch to lower GI carbs for the rest of your meals. Now the carb choice needs to reflect the fact that we should be able to eat again within 50 minutes of consuming each meal, so the carb quantity could be reduced to accommodate this (see point 2). Alternatively, based on what we see with the study of interest (1), one doesn't even need carbs to get the increases in protein synthesis. Now before you throw away your post workout carbs, keep in mind that one needs them to replenish glycogen stores following exercise, and that protein synthesis levels will likely be higher when carb-induced insulin levels are higher (6).

The biggest potential problem with a solution- A final problem with the theory of unlimited post workout meals lies in the possibility that protein synthesis / amino transport / absorption may not stay at optimal levels for several consecutive meals. We all know that when something is tonically (constantly) active in our bodies, our physiological response to it tends to decrease. Testosterone is a classic example: when we have elevated testosterone levels for too long our body shuts down endogenous production (negative feedback). Alternatively, as in the case of anabolic steroids, our bodies reduce the sensitivity to the hormone's effects. This reduced physiological response may also be the case with elevated amino acid levels in the blood. One study infused amino acids directly into the bloodstream of resting subjects for six hours, and although there was an initial increase in protein synthesis, the levels soon returned to normal despite the continued infusion of amino acids (2).

Based on the differences between this and the Bøersheim study, we may speculate that either the exercise may allow for elevated protein synthesis despite tonically elevated amino acid levels, OR that elevated amino acid levels only stimulates protein synthesis for some period of time before protein synthesis will return to normal levels. Using what we know about the human body, combined with the results of the Børsheim study, I believe that the latter situation is the case. In fact, according to Dr Børsheim, it may be that it is the changes in serum amino acid levels, rather than the absolute levels, that elicit changes in protein synthesis (E. Børsheim, personal communication). This is why we need to allow amino acid levels in the blood to drop a little, so we can get another burst of protein synthesis from our next meal. In other words, get the wave of amino acids in, and then allow it to recede, allowing another flood of protein synthesis to take effect. I guess this gives the term "wave loading" a whole new meaning. This can help explain why we don't keep getting huge increases in protein synthesis after we've resumed normal eating. Once we have that steady stream of amino acids coming into our bodies from solid food, we have what's like a negative feedback for protein synthesis, similar to the amino acid infusion study. For this reason, liquid meals with high quality protein are used for their easy digestion and quick absorption, thereby allowing us to rapidly increase serum amino acid levels and get them back to pre-meal levels quickly enough so that protein synthesis won't reach the point of a negative feedback-like effect. Besides, liquid meals also work better with the analogy of ingesting amino acids in waves.

The ideal world- We know that protein synthesis is elevated for at least 48 hours following a bout of resistance exercise (5). Now imagine that we could get increases in protein synthesis as high as we do with post workout meals for the entire duration of that huge window. In fact we don't actually know how long the post workout window lasts, but by taking advantage of this we could literally be throwing on a pound of lean mass each week! It would be like getting all the benefits from months of workouts all rolled into one post workout session. Now I'm not going to maintain that this is an absolute certainty, BUT some brand new research suggests that the effect of post workout meals on protein synthesis actually lasts 24 hours (more on that at a later date)! Besides, I also like the thought that there is someone out there crazy enough to actually try this.

Summary of Recommendations

Of course, the quantities are based on my own body (100kg, 15%BF), so be sure to tailor these recommendations to your needs!

1) Consume pre-workout meal as usual (I'm pretty open to pre workout meal content, as long as it has protein and simple sugars in a liquid form. For example: 20g whey isolate and 35g sucrose)

2) Within half an hour of working out consume: creatine, ~40g glucose, and 20-30g whey isolate

3) 40-50minutes later repeat step 2 without creatine but with 20-30g sucrose or no carbs.

4) Repeat 3 until you resume normal eating

Despite the inconvenience of multiple post workout meals, you'll definitely be doing your body a favour by doing them. If you find these additional meals too difficult to do, then you're probably reading the wrong magazine (may I suggest "Home and Garden"?). If you've already been sacrificing for your body, the way most lifters do, you probably won't find this to be overly difficult, and the results will definitely be worth it!

<<references are on the orginal web posting >>

Original Poster
02-25-2004, 06:10 AM

Nice find. Some good info in there IMO.

It's a bit extream and overkill IMO to do these multiple PW shakes......but I cannot really argue with the theory, except for people on lower carb diets and especially cutting on one.

In those cases I would still opt for a single PW shake, one not overdone both carb or protein wise, as to interfere minimally with both fatloss and ketosis (if one is in ketosis).

From alot of what I have read in the past, the immediate PW window for increased protein synthesis is more significant than this article may have one believe.

There can be a significant difference on protein synthesis between rats and humans, not to mention be it following just a lifting sesssion or following cardio. Once cardio is injected into the equasion, some things can change on how the body is going to respond. This is why, I believe it is better to split up cardio and lifting, especially if not cutting. But of course the real world and our own time constraints do not always allow for this. Also some of the studies are on very elderly groups......which will skew certain parts of the data a certain way. But of course results are still very important to that age group involved.

Marek, Nice find.

-- Chi