We know that when it comes to building muscle, consuming high quantities of protein is a must. There is another rule among bodybuilders, that says that you have to eat smaller protein meals every two to three hours if you want to keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance. But did you ever wonder if there is a better way to consume your protein?
The most difficult part of every bodybuilder’s life is probably not the workout itself, but the diet. Constantly carrying food with yourself, eating meals every two or three hours and feeling bloated all the time is definitely a tough task to be constant at. What if there was a better way to consume meals and improve protein synthesis?
Do you need 6 meals a day to build muscle ?
A study was made by a French researcher by the name of Marie-Agnès Arnal on protein loss and improvement of protein anabolism in elderly people. A method called “Pulse Feeding” was tested, to see weather an uneven protein feeding pattern was more beneficial in improving 24-hour protein anabolism.
15 elderly women were fed for 14 days either a pulse diet (meaning that they were taking 80% of the daily protein in one big meal), or a regular spread diet (where they would eat 3-4 meals throughout the day).
The results showed that nitrogen balance was more positive with the pulse than with the spread diet (54 ± 7 compared with 27 ± 6 mg N/kg FFM/day). Protein turnover rates were also higher with the pulse than with the spread diet (5.58 ± 0.22 compared with 4.98 ± 0.17 g protein/kg FFM/day). And this was mainly because of higher protein synthesis in the pulse group.
The study was conducted with young subjects also. Pulse feeding had a very small effect in these young subjects. However there was another effect observed during this study.
Protein turnover modifications persisted at least 1 day after returning to normal feeding patterns, or in other words, they were more anabolically responsive to protein after the pulse feeding pattern.
This effect shows that eating protein every two to three hours, or eating 80% of your daily protein in one sitting, does not make a difference in nitrogen retention in young people.
Many athletes will disagree with this theory, but if you think about it, the theory does make some sense. Our bodies have evolved into a perfect survival machine. If you eat low protein, your body conserves it. If you eat protein all the time your body breaks it down, oxidizes it and flushes it out.
Seeing how this effect works on the human body, we can say that it’s probably better to consume small doses of protein throughout the day and then eat the majority of protein after the intense workout.