If you’ve spent much time reading about nutrition, supplements, and training, chances are you’ve heard of Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). MPS is the biological process of building new proteins, specifically muscle tissue. Protein synthesis occurs in response to exercise and resistance training and utilizes amino acids to rebuild and repair muscle mass. We’re going to explain what muscle protein synthesis is and how to increase it using certain supplements and nutrition to maximize your muscle growth. This way you can get the hard-earned gains you’ve been working for.
What Is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
Muscle protein synthesis is the biological process of building new protein cells to rebuild and repair muscle tissue, via amino acids. This biological process is a result of intense physical stress, caused by micro-tears and mini trauma done to the muscle tissue during training. Studies suggest however that the intensity/workload is negligible on the rate of MPS. MPS is truly controlled by exercise in addition to nutrient intake.
Amino acids are small molecules, known as the ‘building blocks’ of protein. There are 20 total amino acids in the human body and nine which are classified as essential. Essential, meaning that you must obtain them from your food or through supplements. The food sources that contain all nine essential amino acids are protein sources, typically derived from meat, poultry, or dairy sources. The remaining eleven amino acids are nonessential, meaning your body produces them on its own in quantities that can be utilized at a rate without exhaustion.
Of the nine essential amino acids, three are classified as the branched-chain amino acids BCAAs, which are responsible for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine help rebuild and repair muscle mass, by inhibiting muscle protein breakdown (MPB) and enhancing muscle protein synthesis (MPS). In order to build muscle or be anabolic, your body must be in a net positive amino acid balance. If the rate of muscle protein breakdown is greater than the rate of muscle protein synthesis, your body becomes catabolic and breaks down muscle mass.
For example, high-intensity training modalities such as HIFT or HIIT can become catabolic, when your body does not have the necessary amounts of muscle fuel, a.k.a amino acids, to help maintain a positive amino acid balance. This is why people supplement with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). In order to maintain and build muscle mass, your body needs essential amino acids, intra, and post-workout, to optimize your gains and recovery.
In a fasted-state MPB exceeds MPS, meaning your body is in a catabolic state. This is why supplementation is crucial in times of fasting during your workout. In a fed state, MPS exceeds MPB, while during training MPS and MPB both incrementally increase.
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How To Increase Muscle Protein Synthesis
Supplement With Protein
It’s important to flood your muscle tissue with the fuel it needs to maximize performance. Drinking a protein shake before your workout will help elevate amino acids in your bloodstream at a much faster rate, than food alone. The short rush of amino acids is known as hyperaminoacidemia and stimulates greater amounts of muscle protein synthesis. Having a flood of amino acids post-workout is just as important, as it will help with the muscle-rebuilding process and optimize your post-workout recovery. Adding extra single amino acids, such as L-Glutamine to your post-workout shake can help even further optimize your recovery by reducing protein muscle breakdown and exercise-induced muscle soreness.
Drink BCAAs Intra Workout
High-intensity training modalities are catabolic. Muscle protein synthesis can be enhanced by increasing amino acid intake, specifically leucine. Studies suggest that the branched-chain amino acid, leucine, stimulates MPS the most, to help deliver the vital nutrients your muscles need to rebuild and recover. Training multiple times per day, or for prolonged periods can increase the rate of protein breakdown significantly. Thus, it's crucial to provide the amino acids you need during your training to fuel, hydrate, and recover.
Pair Protein And Carbohydrates Post Workout
Nutrient availability and post-workout nutrition is the determining factor between meeting your goals and having mediocre results. Protein paired with high-quality complex carbohydrates will maximize the rate of muscle protein synthesis. Exercise capacity, performance, and recovery from exercise can be enhanced by evidence-based nutritional interventions through the manipulation of different nutritional variables (i.e., nutrient composition, quantity, and timing of nutrient ingestion.) [R].
Numerous studies have demonstrated that protein supplementation or ingestion post-workout has a beneficial effect on acute anaerobic power, strength, and recovery [R]. However, including protein in your post-workout nutrition strategy really depends on how much protein you ate during the day. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for healthy individuals is 0.8 g/kg/day for an untrained conventional diet. However, in physically active individuals that are optimizing training performance protein intake of at least 1.4–1.6 g/kg/day is recommended [R].
For the best results post-workout, opt for a liquid form of protein like Whey Protein Isolate. Whole foods digest slowly and if whole meals aren’t practical after your workout, then toss back a post-workout nutrition shake, to get the nutrients you need quickly and efficiently.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Whey Protein Isolate (Chocolate or Vanilla, 30 Servings)
Glycogen is the major fuel source produced from glucose found in Carbohydrates. Glycogen plays a major role in supporting energy demands during pro-longed high-intensity training and moderate exercise. [R]. The depletion of glycogen stores is the main factor in the onset of fatigue during exercise [R]. For rapid recovery from prolonged exercise, it is important to replenish glycogen stores to initiate muscle repair and adaptation [R]. Carbohydrates can be utilized within your post-workout nutrition strategy to influence the restoration of endurance capacity during high-intensity training [R].
Numerous clinical studies have proven that prolonged exercise correlates with low glycogen muscle content [R]. Therefore, if you plan on enduring prolonged exercise bouts, or have multiple WODs in your workouts, it’s crucial to supplement with a clean, natural complex carbohydrate product to help replenish glycogen stores, for long-lasting energy and endurance. We recommend our product Clean Carbs, which contains sweet potatoes, yams, oats, and blueberries.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Clean Carbs (45 Servings)
Getting the proper and adequate amounts of essential amino acids from protein and glycogen from carbohydrates is crucial for post-workout nutrition, in order to replenish and initiate the repair process and enhance muscle protein synthesis to optimize your training.
Clinical studies have shown that including carbohydrates and protein together into your post-workout nutrition has the greatest benefits on performance optimization [R].
A study from the University of Birmingham examined the effects of whey protein supplementation on MPS response rates in men. Study participants were given 10, 20, or 40 grams of whey protein immediately following resistance training. According to the researchers:
- A 10-gram dose of whey protein had no effect on muscle protein synthesis.
- A 20-gram dose increased MPS by 49%.
- A 40-gram dose increased the MPS by 56% but also caused the excessive accumulation of urea.
Consuming 20 grams to 40 grams of whey protein post-workout also increased amino acid concentrations of phenylalanine, leucine, and threonine.
Muscle Protein Synthesis: Takeaway
Stimulating muscle protein synthesis is an automated response to exercise, yet with the right nutrition, supplementation, and nutrient timing, you can increase the rate of MPS to help build more muscle and strength to crush your performance goals.
Want to enhance muscle protein synthesis and build more muscle?
Swolverine's Whey Protein Isolate contains 26 grams of ultra-pure, cold-pressed, rich and creamy, micro-filtered protein per serving.* Sourced from the happiest grass-fed cows in America, free of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), Swolverine’s Whey Protein Isolate is loaded with the building blocks you need to build your athletic performance and strength.* Each scoop contains added digestive enzymes (Papain & Protease) to maximize the rate of absorption, which is key to optimizing muscle growth and post-workout recovery. We’ll turn your post-workout shake into the most exciting part of your workout!
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Atherton, P J, and K Smith. “Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise.” The Journal of physiology vol. 590,5 (2012): 1049-57. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.225003
Kumar, Vinod, et al. “Human Muscle Protein Synthesis and Breakdown during and after Exercise.” Journal of Applied Physiology, 1 June 2009, journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.91481.2008.
Tipton KD, Wolfe RR. Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001;11(1):109‐132. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.11.1.109