When it comes to protein supplementation, the Golden Rule hasn't changed. Quality still beats quantity. However, in light of recent scientific investigation, it has become apparent that the Golden Rule should be amended as follows:
Even as you're reading this article, there's a massive transformation going on in our understanding of how and when the human body adds lean muscle mass in response to the combination of resistance training and targeted nutrition.
In essence, what scientists are coming to realize is this: "Fast" isn't nearly fast enough. After an intense workout ends, you have ninety minutes to two hours, at most, for real growth. During this brief period, you've got to get targeted nutrition, high-quality aminos and growth factors, into muscle tissue to support repair and growth.
The vast majority of protein formulas contain complex, long-chain aminos that are simply too slow in digesting to properly take advantage of this interval. As a result, athletes are left with unutilized aminos still churning in their guts hours after their workouts, and opportunities for growth are lost.
Fortunately, even as many existing protein formulas become outdated, revolutionary new rapid-action protein hydrolysate formulations are emerging as top choices among elite pro bodybuilders. In fact, one of the new ultra-hydrolyzed proteins has already demonstrated a capacity for triggering substantial strength increases in a product-specific independent clinical study.
But before we get to all that, we should answer a question. Why is rapid absorption of amino acids so important for muscle anabolism? Let's take a look at the science.
The Science Behind Ultra-Hydrolyzed Proteins
There has been an abundance of scientific evidence unearthed in recent years suggesting that quicker-uptake, faster-acting proteins are much more efficient at spurring post-workout anabolism. The most sophisticated study to date demonstrated that a 35-gram dose of rapidly absorbed protein hydrolysate containing mostly di- and tripeptides is about 30% more effective in stimulating muscle anabolism than intact protein when measured over a 6-hour period (Koopman et al. 2009).
Based on blood amino acid and insulin peaks, it can be speculated that the difference would have been much larger if the study period would have been 2 or 3 hours. Similarly, Tang and colleagues (2009) have suggested that ingestion of whey protein hydrolysate results in a larger increase in blood amino acids and muscle anabolism than soy protein or casein both at rest and after resistance exercise.
Also, Paddon-Jones and co-workers (2005) reported that a fast-acting supplement containing 30 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of essential amino acids induces a substantially greater anabolic effect than ingestion of a mixed meal containing a similar amount of essential amino acids.
Cribb and co-workers (2006) investigated the effects of supplementation with two protein supplements on muscle strength and body composition during a 10-week, supervised resistance training program.
In a double-blind protocol, recreational male bodybuilders supplemented their normal diet with either hydrolyzed whey protein or casein (1.5 grams/kilogram of body weight/day) for the duration of the program. The authors reported that the whey protein hydrolysate group achieved substantially greater gains in muscle strength and lean body mass compared to the casein group.
Finally, Buckley and colleagues (2009) examined whether hydrolyzed whey protein speeds recovery more effectively than intact whey protein, following eccentric exercise. The subjects performed 100 maximal eccentric contractions of their knee extensors and then consumed either 25 grams of hydrolyzed whey protein or intact whey protein.
Interestingly enough, peak isometric torque was recovered fully in 6 hours in the whey protein hydrolysate group, while it remained suppressed in the intact whey protein group. The importance of such accelerated recovery cannot be understated because it is well established that increased muscle recovery correlates with enhanced muscle growth.
But that's not all. Whey protein hydrolysate also enhances the effects of carbohydrate ingestion on post-exercise muscle glycogen resynthesis, as demonstrated by Morifuji and co-workers (2009). Glycogen is a storage form of carbohydrates in the body, and the primary fuel used to power high-intensity exercise.
Collectively, these studies clearly demonstrate that a high-quality whey protein hydrolysate is a greatly superior source of protein for muscle anabolism. The important bottom line is that rapid absorption of amino acids results in more effective delivery of amino acids into skeletal muscles, and in turn, this leads to more pronounced anabolic effects.
A solid and growing body of science suggests the notion that a rapidly absorbed and properly processed whey protein is one of the most effective nutritional tools available for promoting muscle growth. This highly specialized protein should be the cornerstone of a powerful muscle-building formulation.
Landmark Clinical Test Documents Remarkable 24% to 32% Strength Increases
The clinical testing summarized above makes a compelling case for the anabolic primacy of generic whey protein hydrolysates. However, one key piece of the puzzle was still missing - a product-specific independent clinical test that would produce real-world results equal to those that had been achieved under laboratory conditions.
This evidence was provided in spectacular fashion when an elite-class supplement manufacturer, sponsored an independent clinical test evaluating the effects of its whey protein hydrolysate formula on changes in muscle strength.
The results, as reported in a noteworthy peer-reviewed study conducted by medical and physiology researchers in Miami, Florida and presented at a high-profile conference of the prestigious American College of Sports Medicine, astounded the industry.1
The study utilized normal well-experienced weight lifters who underwent upper- and lower-body strength testing and body composition analysis, followed by a six-day-per-week split-body-part exercise routine.
Test measurements included muscular strength/endurance and key markers of special interest to athletics coaches. Within the test's time frame (one month), the whey protein hydrolysate formula-receiving subject group gains of 24% in strength/muscular endurance at the mid-study point and 32% at the end of the study.
This is remarkable especially when considering that the whey protein hydrolysate formula-drinking subjects also experienced gains in lean muscle and fat loss, too. Rarely, if ever, has a nutritional technology yielded such power to produce measurable increases in lean muscle in such a short time period.
This electrifying study result represents a clear validation of recent research that suggests that ultra-rapid-action protein hydrolysates are necessary in shutting down catabolism and bolstering muscle anabolism in the extremely short muscle-building time-window after intense workouts.
Ultra-Hydrolyzed Proteins Usher In An Era Of Phenomenal Lean Mass Growth Rates
Even as this whey protein hydrolysate study has become the talk of the American College of Sports Medicine's conference, other manufacturers have scrambled to introduce their own whey-protein-hydrolysate-based muscle-building formulations. As of this writing, none of these formulations has been the subject of a peer-reviewed, product-specific clinical test.
However, there can be little doubt that the speed and efficiency with which whey protein hydrolysates undergo absorption and spur anabolism have greatly altered scientists' notions about what is possible in terms of protein-supported strength gains, muscle recovery and growth.
Bodybuilders looking to improve body composition and resistance exercise performance would be well advised to seek out one of these ultra-rapid-action, highly efficient mass builders.
- From "An Open Label Clinical Trial Evaluating the Effects of MyoZene with Resistance Training on Changes in Body Muscle Strength." Lidia Lou, MS, Samantha Feldman MS, RD, William Chong BS, Douglas Kalman PhD, RD, FACN, Diane R. Krieger, MD. May 2008. Presented at the 2008 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN.