After years of intensive research and experimentation, I've finally figured out what the "secret" is: There's a muscle-building equation that you've got to satisfy in order to get bigger, and most protein supplements are addressing only half of it. At best, they're only giving you 50% of the muscle gains you're capable of achieving. Many fare even worse (or not at all)!
You see, in order to get bigger muscles, you've got to reduce the breakdown ("catabolism") of the muscle you already have, and increase the building ("anabolism") of new muscle. When anabolism exceeds catabolism, the result is a net gain in muscle mass. You need a protein that works BOTH sides of the muscle-building equation, to slam the brakes on muscle protein catabolism as it hits the gas pedal on muscle protein anabolism.
I've used just about all the top protein products, from MuscleTech to MET-Rx and now I'm experimenting with Lean Protein with Pepti-Lean. This is a new SportPharma protein and it includes a specific blend of clinically researched peptides shown to help you strip off body fat and it includes a correct anabolic and anti-catabolic protein blend. [Jeff Everson's Note: I am also experimenting with this new product.]
Anabolism And Anti-Catabolism
Short of using dangerous, expensive and illegal steroids, in general, the best way to reduce the catabolism of your hard-earned muscle (in particular, muscle protein) is to eat (and NOT to over-train). The protein in the food you eat signals your body to reduce the catabolism of its muscle protein. In fact, suppression of protein catabolism is the central means by which your body maintains protein balance in the face of fluctuations in dietary protein intake over the course of a day. As I said earlier, however, slowing down muscle protein catabolism is one half of the muscle-building equation. To increase the size of your muscles, you've got to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, as well. In fact, stimulating the synthesis of new muscle protein is the more important half of the muscle-building equation.
You can stimulate muscle protein synthesis by performing the right kind of exercise (e.g., pumping iron), and it can also be stimulated by certain anabolic drugs - testosterone and related steroid drugs (e.g., nandrolone), growth hormone, etc. Post maturity, for most people, no matter how intelligently you exercise and eat, your muscles grow only very slowly. There's a reason for this.
As you emerge from childhood your muscles lose much of their ability to respond to the food you eat with an increase in protein synthesis. The growth signals that normally allow this to occur when you're a youngster severely weaken in intensity as you enter adulthood. It's as if Mother Nature has locked away your muscles' protein-synthesizing "machinery," allowing you to build muscle only to a very limited extent as an adult. Pretty crummy huh?
Protein, whether from your own tissues (e.g., muscle) or from food, consists of amino acids linked together in chains. Amino acids are the principle means by which we humans get nitrogen, for growth. Building muscle is about protein balance. If you make more muscle protein than you break down (positive muscle protein balance), your muscles will increase in size and strength (slowly, but with time). Conversely, if you make less muscle protein than you break down (negative protein balance), your muscles will tend to get weaker and smaller. Thus, a positive protein balance indicates an anabolic state. Since protein contains nitrogen, we can estimate your protein balance by measuring your nitrogen balance. Technically speaking, however, the two should not be considered equal.
In any case, a positive nitrogen balance is generally taken as a sign of an anabolic state with an overall gain (retention) of nitrogen for the day, whereas a negative nitrogen balance indicates a catabolic state.
Another way to estimate your protein balance is by measuring your body's balance of a particular amino acid, leucine. A positive leucine balance indicates protein anabolism ("building"). Or, at least, a positive leucine balance reflects a state (i.e., increased availability of leucine inside your muscle cells) that promotes protein anabolism. Conversely, a negative leucine balance indicates protein catabolism ("breaking down").
Muscle Growth Quality & Quantity
You don't eat all the time; there are fluctuations in your protein intake, such as between meals and while you sleep. Your body preserves its protein balance and keeps the total amount of protein in your body from shrinking in the face of fluctuating intakes of dietary protein by increasing or decreasing tissue protein breakdown according to how much protein you feed it. [For review, see Garlick et al., 1999].
Generally speaking, between meals you lose tissue (e.g., muscle) protein, but after a protein-containing meal, you recoup what was lost through a decrease in protein breakdown. The production, or synthesis, of tissue protein typically doesn't change too much after a protein-containing meal [Melville et al., 1989; Price et al., 1994; Garlick et al., 1999]; yet, because protein breakdown is reduced, the result is a net increase (gain) in protein such that balance is achieved.
Stimulation of muscle protein synthesis is the means by which resistance training (lifting weights) makes muscles grow [Barr and Esser, 1999], and it's also how some of the most powerful muscle-building hormones used by athletes operate (e.g., testosterone, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1). PLANET MUSCLE has taken the lead in highlighting protein blends that do slow muscle protein catabolism and increase muscle protein synthesis.
The oft-quoted Boirie study showed that your body needs a protein source where the amino acids are both slowly trickled into your blood and one where proteins enter your bloodstream very quickly following its consumption.
Another issue is that your proteins should contain a lot of the BCAA leucine. Leucine is perhaps the most potent amino acid in terms of its ability to stimulate protein synthesis [Shigemitsu et al., 1999].
Most "experts" argue that faster isn't necessarily better when it comes to protein absorption and building muscle. They claim that the faster a protein is digested and absorbed into your body, the more likely it is to be wasted. And they're right: The faster the protein you eat becomes digested and absorbed (as amino acids) into your bloodstream, the greater the likelihood that its amino acids will be wasted. That is, more amino acids will tend to be "burned", or oxidized, for fuel. Thus it may not be advisable to consume a protein supplement that is all whey unless it is combined with other foods to slow digestion / absorption.
Both protein quality and quantity determine a net anabolic effect on muscle tissue. Animal and human studies indicate that the higher the protein contents of the diet, the greater the suppression of muscle myofibrillar protein breakdown [Nagasawa et al., 1998].
As I said, I am now using SportPharma's Lean Protein. This new product contains some of the highest quality proteins available (milk isolates, whey isolate, micellar casein, milk protein peptides, egg albumin, whey peptides and additional glutamine). Each serving (32 grams) dials in 25 grams of protein, with around 1 gram of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Unlike to many other protein supplements, this proprietary mixture of proteins is specifically formulated to help you stimulate muscle protein synthesis, not merely reduce protein breakdown. Stimulation of muscle protein synthesis is by far the most important half of the muscle-building equation. But both sides of the equation must be addressed in order for you to see results.
Lean Protein also contains Pepti-Lean. This clinically researched combination of fat-burning peptides suppresses body fat gain by blocking fat absorption and digestion, and by getting into your bloodstream and seeking and destroying fat already inside your body. Pepti-Lean's multi-pronged approach to body fat removal should allow you to see results much more quickly and without the side effects sometimes found with other fat-loss aids.
About Rob Thoburn
Rob has an Honors Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and bio-physics. Bodybuilding for over 16 years, he has developed an expertise for translating biological and medical research into radical training and nutritional concepts that build muscle and burn fat quickly.
Working with a long list of sports nutrition firms, Rob has acquired several years of combined experience in clinical science, research and development, brand and marketing management, and marketing communications writing.
Rob has been a scientific researcher and marketing communications consultant to the sports nutrition industry for more than seven years.
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