Protein Pulsing for Muscle Growth

If you’ve been bodybuilding for a while now, you probably don’t need to be told that maximum anabolism is a requirement for maximum muscle growth and fast recovery. For decades now, bodybuilders have been constantly jamming their bodies with amino acids in the hope of encouraging optimal muscle growth, because the more efficient protein synthesis is, the more muscle you can build.

However, science has recently debunked the widely spread belief that by constantly taking in amino acids you will be able to keep protein synthesis elevated all throughout the day and build more muscle. A group of researchers from the University of Teas infused amino acids into a group of 30-year-old lifters for six hours and found that the rate of protein synthesis increased after half an hour and stayed elevated for two hours before drastically decreasing, even though the amino acid levels remained high for a lot longer.

The conclusion is clear – elevated blood amino acid levels don’t necessarily mean elevated protein synthesis, and this knowledge is of crucial importance for all guys out there who want to grow huge muscles. This means that instead of keeping amino acid intake high at all times, you’d get far better results from practices such as protein pulsing, or introducing a sudden burst of amino acids in your bloodstream at the right time. Read this article to learn more about how to manipulate your amino acid intake for superior gains.

What is protein pulsing

Protein pulse feeding is a technique involving the use of fast-digesting proteins and their ability to rapidly spike the levels of amino acids in the bloodstream, thereby stimulating anabolism. The only requirement is to avoid eating a meal within a few hours of attempting a protein pulse feeding because that will slow down digestion and reduce the effect of the amino acid influx. That being said, the best time for protein pulsing is immediately upon waking and immediately after a workout. During sleep, our bodies enter a catabolic state in which muscles are broken down to feed other cells in the body. By consuming a fast-digesting protein as soon as you wake up, you can reverse this process and provide your muscles with the amino acids needed to jump start anabolism.

However, similar anabolism-enhancing effects can also be achieved by pulsing amino acids between meals. One group of researchers from Galveston investigated whether protein pulse feeding between meals spurred more net protein synthesis, compared to the traditional approach of eating a few big, solid meals throughout the day. They alternated between giving participants whole food meals and an amino acid drink every 2.5 hours over the course of a 16-hour research period. At the end of the study, it was established that pulsing amino acids between meals caused increased protein synthesis without impairing the anabolic effects of the solid meals.

Why it works

Although some of us knew that protein pulsing is the best method for accelerating protein synthesis for quite a while, science has finally confirmed it. The reason why this practice is so powerful is in the way amino acids work in the body. The most crucial factor here is the anabolic density of the protein, or the amount of protein synthesis in a given time period. The more anabolic the protein in a short time window, the greater its anabolic density. In other words, there’s a time dependent ceiling on protein synthesis and if you don’t use it wisely, you can’t simply make up for it by eating a ton of protein later in the day. And that’s why eating high anabolic density meals at the right time, for example after a workout, can help maximize training results, while constantly stuffing your body with amino acids ultimately won’t make any difference. To become able to initiate maximum protein synthesis, your body needs a refractory period, i.e. a break from the constant influx of amino acids. Therefore, the benefit of the post-workout meal comes from pulsing the protein.

Some guys who practice intermittent fasting go long periods without eating anything and then consume huge amounts of protein. This approach is less than effective because as we mentioned, protein consumption taming is crucial for obtaining the gains from increased blood amino acid levels. So by simply eating protein a few hours later (even if you double the amount), you can’t make up for the missed protein synthesis opportunity and thereby you won’t be able to get the same anabolic effect as you would if you ate it earlier.

Another research from the University of Texas compared the effects of the traditional American pattern of eating which involves eating small amounts of protein at breakfast and lunch and boosting the protein intake at dinner, and a protein pulsing approach, i.e. spreading the same total amount of protein into smaller protein pulses throughout the day. The results showed that protein pulses led to a whopping 45% increase in protein synthesis, compared to the traditional protein spreading.

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