Muscle Growth and Post-Workout Nutrition

In recent years, there has been huge interest in the topic of around workout nutrition for promoting optimal gains in strength and muscle size (prior to that, most interest had to to with recovery from exhaustive endurance exercise).  And, as is so often the case, as research has developed, many ideas, some good and some bad, have developed out of that.

Early research into post-workout nutrition focused almost exclusively on endurance athletes and, really, the only issue of importance was refilling muscle glycogen and re-hydrating the athlete.  For this reason the focus was on carbohydrates and fluids with little else considered.  At some point, I recall it being the mid-90’s some early work suggested that adding protein to post-workout carbohydrates was beneficial in terms of glycogen re-synthesis and a new dietary trend started to form.

Now, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that whether additional protein actually increases glycogen synthesis depends on a host of factors, primarily how much carbohydrate is provided.  Simply, if sufficient carbohydrate is given following training, adding protein has no further benefit in terms of promoting glycogen re-synthesis.

In situations where insufficient carbs are consumed (by choice or otherwise), extra protein helps.  Which isn’t to say that additional protein following training isn’t valuable for endurance athletes even if carbohydrate are sufficient but that’s not really the topic of today’s article.

While individuals involved in the strength sports and bodybuilding were quick to jump onto the post-workout carb/protein bandwagon, the research wasn’t really aimed at them.  As well, there has always been a bit of a disconnect in using work on endurance athletes (who may be doing hours of exhaustive work) and trying to apply it to individuals in the weight room.

Differences in volume of training, fuel use and goals make using data on one group inappropriate for application to the others.  It’s still common to see well-meaning nutritionists use the same guidelines for both strength/power athletes (including bodybuilders) and endurance athletes but that is simply silly.

In any case, work examining the impact of various combinations of post-workout nutrients in terms of promoting strength or hypertrophy would come later and, at this point, a huge amount of work has been done.  I’m not going to get into every detail (the issue is discussed in absurd detail, 35 pages worth, in The Protein Book) of post-workout nutrition and will focus the article simply on the issue of protein, carbohydrates and the combination of the two in terms of how they impact on post-workout recovery and muscle growth.

To understand what I’m going to say and why I think some current recommendations (especially the one saying that you only need protein post-workout) are not consistent with the research, I need to get into a few details regarding how training impacts on muscle growth and how nutrients impact on this.  Don’t worry about the dense text, there’s a pretty graphic below to help explain it all.  A pretty, pretty graphic.


How Does Muscle Grow?

Endlessly on the site, I’ve talked about how the primary stimulus for growth is progressive tension overload (with fatigue being a secondary factor) but, believe it or not, that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.  Rather, I want to get a bit deeper into the processes of muscle growth.  I’m not going to get full-blown molecular on you, just a bit more detail than I usually go into.

Now, the ultimate goal of getting bigger muscles is, well, getting bigger muscles.  But what does that actually mean?  Skeletal muscle is composed of a variety of different elements including protein (about 100-120 grams of actual protein per pound of muscle and yes I’m mixing grams and pounds), water (making up the majority), connective tissues, glycogen, minerals and a few other things.  I’m going to focus on the actual protein component of it since that’s the bit that actually generates force, etc.

Protein in your muscle is no different than the protein found in dietary protein, it’s a long-chain of amino acids that have been attached to one another in the structure that makes up skeletal muscle (the various fibers and such).  But how does this process work?

Simply, there are two competing processes that go into what ultimately happens to muscle mass which are protein synthesis and protein breakdown.  Protein synthesis is simply the act of attaching amino acids into one another and making them into muscle.  This is an energetically costly process and occurs through the actions of ribosomes (little cellular messengers that you learned about in 7th grade biology) acting under the instructions of mRNA (something else you forgot about from high school).  So training turns on genes which get translated into mRNA which tell the ribosomes what to build and how to do it.  That’s protein synthesis and you can think of it as ‘good’ when it comes to muscle growth.

The competing process is protein breakdown which is the opposite.  Various specialty enzymes work against you, cleaving off amino acids from the already built skeletal muscle. This happens under the influence of hormones and other factors.  Most tend to think of protein breakdown as ‘bad’ in the sense of muscle growth but it’s a touch more complicated than that.  The ability to break down and rebuild tissues in the body (a process which is ongoing constantly, even when you’re ‘at rest’), provides the human body with a lot of adaptations flexibility.  That is, it allows the body to adapt to changing demands and remodel itself based on the signal it gets from whatever is going on in your life.  In that sense, protein breakdown is not ‘bad’.

Now, what happens to your muscle mass ultimately depends on the balance between these two competing processes.  I’ve tried to illustrate this below with three possible scenarios.

  1. Protein synthesis > Protein breakdown = Muscle mass increases
  2. Protein synthesis = Protein breakdown = No change in muscle mass
  3. Protein synthesis < Protein breakdown = Muscle mass decreases

Assuming your goal is bigger muscles, clearly 1 is the goal.  But this also means that there are two primary ways that we can potentially impact on muscle growth.  We can either increase protein synthesis, decrease protein breakdown or do both at the same time.  And doing both at the same time would be expected to have the biggest impact.

There’s one more factoid you need to know which is this: heavy resistance training increases the rates of both protein synthesis AND breakdown.  That is, training doesn’t just turn on one or another, it turns on both.  This is probably a mechanism to help with the previously mentioned remodeling process.  But both happen following training.

And with that background, now let’s look at how nutrients interact with all of this.


Protein, Carbohydrates or Both, Oh My!

While athletes are rarely that interested in technical details and only want the practical applications, to understand everything I want to talk about I need to look at a bit more detail, specifically how protein and carbohydrates interact with the processes of protein synthesis and breakdown discussed above.  And it basically works out like this:

  1. Protein (amino acids) stimulate protein synthesis but have no impact on protein breakdown.
  2. Insulin (secondary to carb consumption) inhibits protein breakdown with no impact on protein synthesis.

It’s actually a touch more complex than this.  Protein can impact on protein breakdown under certain conditions and insulin can impact directly on protein synthesis (and there happens to be a big difference in terms of what happens at rest vs. after training).  But for the most part, following training, the above will hold true.

Which leads us towards an ideal of post-workout nutrition. First and foremost I should point out that if you train and don’t eat anything afterwards (and this assumes you haven’t eaten a few hours before), the body will actually remain in a net catabolic state.  That is, protein breakdown will be greater than protein synthesis.  That’s bad.  But only really applies if you’re training first thing in the morning after a fast (how many studies are done) and haven’t eaten anything.

But let’s assume that you eat something following training.  Should it be protein, carbs, both, or some other combination?  First let’s look at the single feeding studies.   That is, let’s say that you could only choose one or the other following training, which should you choose.  The answer there is clearly protein alone which will be vastly superior to carbohydrate alone.  Because while consuming carbohydrates will decrease protein breakdown, only protein will increase protein synthesis (and provide the building blocks for building new muscle).

And this is also where a rather silly idea has come from in the post-workout recommendations.  Folks will often state that “You only need protein post-workout because carbs don’t effect protein synthesis.”  This is true but ignores the impact of decreasing protein breakdown on net protein gain.

Certainly increasing protein synthesis appears to be relatively more important than decreasing protein breakdown but the simple fact is that you get the biggest overall effect if you target both at the same time.  Which means a combination of protein and carbohydrates.

I should probably mention dietary fat and the simple fact is that fat intake post-workout is woefully understudied.  One study found no difference in anything with a meal containing fat vs one not-containing fat (so you folks insanely obsessed with not slowing gastric emptying by consuming dietary fat can stop worrying) but beyond that there’s little research.  One study did find that full fat milk promoted protein synthesis better than skim milk following training but nobody is sure why.  It wasn’t because more calories were consumed because the researchers also tested enough skim milk to match the calories of the whole milk; whole milk was still superior.

In any case, that’s the overall conclusion that I draw from looking at the body of literature: while protein alone is superior to carbohydrates alone, the combination of the two will have the greatest impact on promoting muscle growth (as well as having other beneficial effects on muscle glycogen, etc).  How much of each?  Well that depends on a host of other factors that will have to wait for a later article (or see The Protein Book).

I’ve shown this schematically in the graphic below, showing how both training and nutrients impact on the processes discussed above.

Arrows are neat!
Arrows are neat!

So that’s that: protein is better than carbohydrate following training but protein plus carbohydrates is optimal. Good luck with your muscles.



44 thoughts on “Muscle Growth and Post-Workout Nutrition

  1. So what about pre-workout? I’ve heard Martin mention that just having
    a whey hake pretraining is fine, whereas Alan Aragon recommends
    protein and carbs.

    Second to this, if a preworkout meal with enough protein (and carbs?)
    is consumed, how long do you have before going catabolic? I mean, if I
    eat then workout, does it matter if eat eat 30 minutes postraining
    versus a few hours, or more?

    Does this change on steroids?

  2. Lyle,

    Nice article. Glad you addressed protein breakdown and how it does not receive the same attention/marketing that protein synthesis does.

    I was curious if you would get into timing in this article, re: PWO shakes vs. eating adequate protein meals 2-5 hours before training, and how if the latter was just as good then supplement marketers would need to rewrite some of their scripts.


  3. There is no greater protein synthesis OR lower protein breakdown at insulin levels above 30mU/L. A 30g whey drink reaches levels of 40-50mU/L… Maybe if you are very glycogen depleted, carbs can have a greater effect on protein breakdown, than protein alone.

    Unless you are an athlete, are training sometime for the next 16hours, or doing a refeed, i see no reason to comsume carbs after training. Istead you should remove all carbs after training (upto 24hours) to maximise fat oxidation, which would be very beneficial in a calorie deficiet. There is also evidence to suggest that carbs partly destroys the attunated increase in insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles from training. Last, but not least, there is also evidence to suggest that carbs (at least sucrose) lowers uptake of amino acids in skeletal muscles. Still love your carbs?

    Borge Fagerli’s (Blade in the forum) new advanced consept is based on this data. Translated article with references;—kosthold-%2F26%2F&sl=no&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8

  4. Moran: Read the title of the paper and read my comments. The paper was only looking at protein synthesis. And, as I stated clearly, protein synthesis and protein breakdown are different processes.

    LBSS: Arrows!

    Hi Lyle: Actually, I mis-titled this since I only meant to focus on post-workout nutrition. It gets more complicated when you start looking at a meal eating 3-4 hours out, any pre- or during-workout nutrition. As described in The Protein Book, I generally advocate splitting up the total around workout nutrition into pre, during and after for various reasons. At some point I’ll write a full article.

    Matt: Except for people training first thing in the morning, folks will alwys basically have eaten at some time point before workout. How long before depending on their meal schedule, life schedule, etc. Beyond that I’m not sure what you’re asking. Whether solid food is better than liquids depends on a host of factors including how close to workout you are and how well a given trainee does with food in their stomach.

    Frameless: That’s nice. But the improved insulin sensitivity is irrelevant, the whole point of it is to get increased nutrient uptake which means you have to actually consume nutrients. I’d mention that there is also data that avoiding carbs harms insulin sensitivity due to fatty acid mediated impairment. And Blade and I are good friends. I would disagree with him too about this and I bet his advanced concept is a bit more complex than you’re making it out. And insulin improves AA uptake if it does anything.

    Btw, here’s two studies for you. Because direct research > theoretical wanking where you pull isolated studies (that haven’t been examined in terms of their actual real-world impact on growth or anything) and try to put them together. Which is what you’re doing above. But clearly carbs + protein works better than either alone.

  5. Last sentence.

    Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 May;97(2):225-38. Epub 2006 Mar 24.
    Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men.

    Bird SP, Tarpenning KM, Marino FE.

    School of Human Movement Studies, Charles Sturt University, Allen House 2.13, Bathurst, NSW, Australia.

    Erratum in:

    * Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 May;97(2):239.

    This investigation examined chronic alteration of the acute hormonal response associated with liquid carbohydrate (CHO) and/or essential amino acid (EAA) ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training. Thirty-two untrained young men performed 12 weeks of resistance training twice a week, consuming ~675 ml of either, a 6% CHO solution, 6 g EAA mixture, combined CHO + EAA supplement or placebo (PLA). Blood samples were obtained pre- and post-exercise (week 0, 4, 8, and 12), for determination of glucose, insulin, and cortisol. 3-Methylhistidine excretion and muscle fibre cross-sectional area (fCSA) were determined pre- and post-training. Post-exercise cortisol increased (P<0.05) during each training phase for PLA. No change was displayed by EAA; CHO and CHO + EAA demonstrated post-exercise decreases (P<0.05). All groups displayed reduced pre-exercise cortisol at week 12 compared to week 0 (P<0.05). Post-exercise insulin concentrations showed no change for PLA; increases were observed for the treatment groups (P<0.05), which remained greater for CHO and CHO + EAA (P<0.001) than PLA. EAA and CHO ingestion attenuated 3-methylhistidine excretion 48 h following the exercise bout. CHO + EAA resulted in a 26% decrease (P<0.01), while PLA displayed a 52% increase (P<0.01). fCSA increased across groups for type I, IIa, and IIb fibres (P<0.05), with CHO + EAA displaying the greatest gains in fCSA relative to PLA (P<0.05). These data indicate that CHO + EAA ingestion enhances muscle anabolism following resistance training to a greater extent than either CHO or EAA consumed independently. The synergistic effect of

  6. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Mar;35(3):449-55.
    Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise.

    Miller SL, Tipton KD, Chinkes DL, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR.

    Dairy Management, Inc, Rosemont, IL, USA.

    PURPOSE: This study was designed to assess the independent and combined effects of a dose of amino acids (approximately 6 g) and/or carbohydrate (approximately 35 g) consumed at 1 and 2 h after resistance exercise on muscle protein metabolism. METHODS: Following initiation of a primed constant infusion of H -phenylalanine and N-urea, volunteers performed leg resistance exercise and then ingested one of three drinks (amino acids (AA), carbohydrate (CHO), or AA and CHO (MIX)) at 1- and 2-h postexercise.(5) RESULTS: Total net uptake of phenylalanine across the leg over 3 h was greatest in response to MIX and least in CHO. The individual values for CHO, MIX, and AA were 53 +/- 6, 114 +/- 38, and 71 +/- 13 mg x leg x 3h. Stimulation of net uptake in MIX was due to increased muscle protein synthesis. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that the combined effect on net muscle protein synthesis of carbohydrate and amino acids given together after resistance exercise is roughly equivalent to the sum of the independent effects of either given alone. The individual effects of carbohydrate and amino acids are likely dependent on the amount of each that is ingested. Further, prior intake of amino acids and carbohydrate does not diminish the metabolic response to a second comparable dose ingested 1h later.

  7. Lyle; Offcourse there’s more to Borge’s advanced concept than just the data i mentioned. And the reason for him
    recommending protein+fat meals after exercise is not because of the increased fat oxidation. If you take a look at
    this study, you see that hyperinsulinemia from the sucrose leads to a faster saturation of some of the AA-pools in muscles. But this probably leads to a lower protein net balance in muscles compared to when a protein+fat meal is consumed. This is because the AA-pools in the muscles gets a more steady flow of AA with P+F and less is left to be oxidized.
    “An interesting outcome of these model predictions was the determination of dietary N replenishment kinetics of free AA pools in the tissues.
    These pools can be considered as buffer areas capable of an immediate response to acute variations in N intake, whereas protein synthesis systems have limited capacities to deal with an AA excess.
    As a direct consequence, a rapid increase in the free AA pool leads to the saturation of synthesis capacity and exposes transiently stored AA to oxidation”

    This data probably also explains why slow protein is better than fast protein. The fast protein leads to a faster saturation of AA pools in the muscles with more being oxidized,
    while a slower protein leads to a more steady saturation of the AA pools, and the net effect is better protein balance with the slow protein.

    About the studies you are referring too, it may be that 6g of EAA does not produce enough insulin to maximize protein synthesis.
    As the first study said, the net protein balance was better with the mixed group because of the increased protein synthesis,
    not because of lower protein breakdown. In the study Moran Bentzur linked too, the net protein balance is higest in the protein only group. Strangely enough,
    protein synthesis is greater in the other groups compared to the protein only group, while protein breakdown is lowest in the protein only group.

  8. Lyle, I’ve gotta hand it to you, you’ve got a gift for not making the science [especialy molec bio/biochem, which I can say from personal experience can be ridiculously painful if someone’s bad at teaching it] sound excruciatingly dry. I wish my profs were as concise and clear as you.

  9. Lyle,

    Perhaps you’ll touch on this in future articles, but I wonder if there’s any differences in protein synthesis if the carb source is either starchy (i.e. rice) or fruit? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

  10. I’d also note that the SMP (sucrose + milkprotein) meal of the study i linked to, actually delivered AA much more slowly than FMP (milkfat + milkprotein) and MP (milkprotein). Still the SMP meal had poor delivery of AA to peripheral areas (musle tissue), probably because of the hyperinsulinemia interfering with AA delivery to muscles.

    So people chubbing down protein + sucrose with post-workout nutrition should think again, because protein + carbs makes no sense post workout.

    “Moreover, the presence of dietary sucrose induced acute hyperinsulinemia that was not observed after MP or FMP (25). Insulin has been reported to increase whole body protein synthesis in the concomitant presence of AA (12), but studies concerning regional AA metabolism have generally failed to demonstrate a stimulating effect of insulin on muscle tissue protein synthesis, a paradigm for the largest protein pool in the body (16, 17). Likewise, some studies in mice have failed to demonstrate a muscular anabolic effect of the ingestion of starch plus casein, despite the anabolic effect of this meal in the liver and gastrointestinal tract (33). Furthermore, the well-known peripheral hypoaminoacidemic effect of systemic hyperinsulinemia can be explained by the rapid primary action of this hormone in the splanchnic region (31, 40). Taken together, these and other data suggest that splanchnic tissue may be involved mainly in the increase in protein synthesis associated with insulin secretion (17), because any acute hormonal effect would have an earlier impact on fast- rather than on slow-turning over proteins (39). Thus the addition of CHO to a pure protein meal has been shown to enhance PROTEIN SYNTHESIS IN THE GUT, and this increase was found to be related to the postprandial insulin response (19).”

  11. Here is a study showing the same phenonomen with fast and slow protein. Nuff said.

    Am J Clin Nutr 90: 1011-1022, 2009

    Hydrolyzed dietary casein as compared with the intact protein reduces postprandial peripheral, but not whole-body, uptake of nitrogen in humans

    Amélie Deglaire, Claire Fromentin, Hélène Fouillet, Gheorghe Airinei, Claire Gaudichon, Claire Boutry, Robert Benamouzig, Paul J Moughan, Daniel Tomé and Cécile Bos
    From the INRA, CRNH-IdF, UMR914 Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France (AD, CF, HF, CG, C Boutry, RB, DT, and C Bos); AgroParisTech, CRNH-IdF, UMR914 Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France (AD, CF, HF, CG, C Boutry, RB, DT, and C Bos); Riddet Institute, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand (AD and PJM); and the Department of Gastroenterology, Avicenne Hospital, CRNH-IdF, Bobigny, France (GA and RB).

    Compared with slow proteins, fast proteins are more completely extracted in the splanchnic bed but contribute less to peripheral protein accretion; however, the independent influence of absorption kinetics and the amino acid (AA) pattern of dietary protein on AA anabolism in individual tissues remains unknown.

    Objective: We aimed to compare the postprandial regional utilization of proteins with similar AA profiles but different absorption kinetics by coupling clinical experiments with compartmental modeling.

    Design: Experimental data pertaining to the intestine, blood, and urine for dietary nitrogen kinetics after a 15N-labeled intact (IC) or hydrolyzed (HC) casein meal were obtained in parallel groups of healthy adults (n = 21) and were analyzed by using a 13-compartment model to predict the cascade of dietary nitrogen absorption and regional metabolism.

    Results: IC and HC elicited a similar whole-body postprandial retention of dietary nitrogen, but HC was associated with a faster rate of absorption than was IC, resulting in earlier and stronger hyperaminoacidemia and hyperinsulinemia. An enhancement of both catabolic (26%) and anabolic (37%) utilization of dietary nitrogen occurred in the splanchnic bed at the expense of its further peripheral availability, which reached 18% and 11% of ingested nitrogen 8 h after the IC and HC meals, respectively.

    Conclusions: The form of delivery of dietary AAs constituted an independent factor of modulation of their postprandial regional metabolism, with a fast supply favoring the splanchnic dietary nitrogen uptake over its peripheral anabolic use. These results question a possible effect of ingestion of protein hydrolysates on tissue nitrogen metabolism and accretion.

  12. Frameless,

    I think you missed the point of Lyle’s article. There is no disputing that AA stimulate Protein Synthesis, but training causes the breakdown of muscle tissue. Insulin is very well known to inhibit protein breakdown, hence why bodybuilders and athletes use it.

  13. Hey Frameless, I emailed Blade about this and he said

    “I’m pretty clear in my article that you should not avoid
    carbs in the post-workout period, just reduce it – so about 30-40g per meal.
    Just someone out to pick an argument, is my guess. I’m going to rewrite the
    post-workout part of the article because this one point has been taken out
    of context and misinterpreted quite a few times since I released i”

    So before you try citing something at me, perhaps you should understand what’s being said. You won’t look quite so foolish.

    Because I am in NO WAY suggesting MASSIVE amounts of carbs post-workout, in fact I didn’t even discuss values. The only time large amounts of carbs are required is if training volume is massive and then there’s a problem with training volume being too massive.

  14. Dustin, please read my posts again to get a clearer picture of what i am talking about. Supra physiological doses of insulin is a whole other story, than what can be achieved by food or extremely high doses of carbs for that matter. I doubt Lyle will claim there is any use in spiking insulin higher than 30mU/L for the sake of better protein synthesis or lower protein breakdown.

  15. Frameless,

    I know when one introduces drugs into the mix, it changes everything compared to the natural athlete. Supra-physiological levels of Insulin can do a variety of things to athletes that im sure you are well aware of, including but not limited to inhibiting protein breakdown (being a major one).

    As far as inhibiting protein breakdown though you don’t need large doses of insulin. Not sure if you read those old USSR studies on this, but I think they had their athletes on very minuscule amounts of insulin.

    One of the silly ideas that has been floating around lately, is this Carbless PWO protocol that some internet guy calling himself DatBeTrue. The studies he cites has absolutely no comparison to a Carbless PWO environment.

  16. Lyle; About what Blade have said or not said, i can tell you he had his clients on no carbs post workout (up to 30hours or so, just a few meals before the next workout), before releasing the concept. After releasing it, he recommended (and it says so in his article) to take in around 10g of carbs from fruit due to hunger issues if you don’t eat any. What he says now, is new to me.

    I’ve never said you recommended massive carbs. In the article you say that protein+carbs is better than either alone post workout. I question if there is any truth to that statement, because the data i presented clearly shows there is no benefit to net protein balance to include carbs with protein post workout. As i see it, inducing hyperinsulinemia after training will only hurt your effort to build muscles + burn fat. It’s possible an amount of about 30g carbs + protein post workout will not have such a bad effect like 100g carbs + protein in the study i referred to. But is there any reason to do so? If there is, you better spit it out.

  17. “One of the silly ideas that has been floating around lately, is this Carbless PWO protocol that some internet guy calling himself DatBeTrue. The studies he cites has absolutely no comparison to a Carbless PWO environment.”

    I don’t know of this DatBeTrue protocol, but i don’t think a carbless PWO protocol is silly. The fact of the matter is, there is no empirical data that shows us that carbs + protein is superior to protein only, for inducing a positive net protein balance (in muslce) post workout. But there is evidence to suggest that large doses of carbs lower muscle protein synthesis, and instead increases protein synthesis in the gut. Great, huh?

  18. For the record, his name is DatBTrue, my error in spelling. Well Lyle just gave you two empirical studies , but you just glossed over them. Where is the empirical data that shows us that Protein alone is superior to Carbs + Protein PWO?

  19. Look, Frameless, rather than keep digging your hole deeper, jsut admit that you screwed up. You misunderstood Blade’s article, you clearly don’t understand the research at all and arguing your clearly wrong point is just making you look completely idiotic. Man up, say you were wrong and move on with your life.

    Because a bunch of appeals to authority aren’t going to get you anywhere. Because two direct studies say you’re wrong. Because direct studies beat theory wanking. So just man up, say you were wrong in the first place and move on with your life.

  20. Lyle, could it be the that amount of protein makes a difference? The papers you cited in your comments use 6g of EAA. The paper I cited, which shows no increase in net protein balance used 0.3 g/kg which would be ~25 g of casein hydrolysate every 30 minutes. If a small insulin response is needed to maximize protein balance, maybe it can be achieved by either carbs or more protein.

  21. For an arrogant person, you sure make yourself look childish, Lyle. Not a single argument against any of the data i have mentioned, only bashing of words.
    Not only have you igonered me, you also ignored Moran Bentzur’s and the study he linked too, that did NOT just look at protein synthesis as you so swiftly concluded by reading the headline…

    I did not ignore your studies. As i said, 6g EAA is probably to little to elicit a big enough insulin response. Is that not a valid argument to why your studies have a flawed conclusion? The fact is that there are more substantial evidence contradicting the studies you are referring to. None of the two studies you are referring to use whole protein, only amino acids. This make your claim that carbs+protein is superior, even more questionable.

    First, look at the graphs in study Moran Bentzur posted (not just read the headline again) which uses whole protein;

    Then look at the graphs in this study;

  22. And to put the whole issue at rest, take a look at this great study;

    Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis
    René Koopman,1 Milou Beelen,1 Trent Stellingwerff,1 Bart Pennings,1 Wim H. M. Saris,2 Arie K. Kies,3 Harm Kuipers,1 and Luc J. C. van Loon1,2

    Departments of 1Movement Sciences and 2Human Biology, Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute Maastricht, Maastricht University, Maastricht; and 3DSM Food Specialties, R&D, Biochemistry and Nutrition Department, Delft, The Netherlands

    Submitted 28 February 2007 ; accepted in final form 1 July 2007

    The present study was designed to assess the impact of coingestion of various amounts of carbohydrate combined with an ample amount of protein intake on postexercise muscle protein synthesis rates. Ten healthy, fit men (20 ± 0.3 yr) were randomly assigned to three crossover experiments. After 60 min of resistance exercise, subjects consumed 0.3 g·kg–1·h–1 protein hydrolysate with 0, 0.15, or 0.6 g·kg–1·h–1 carbohydrate during a 6-h recovery period (PRO, PRO + LCHO, and PRO + HCHO, respectively). Primed, continuous infusions with L-[ring-13C6]phenylalanine, L-[ring-2H2]tyrosine, and [6,6-2H2]glucose were applied, and blood and muscle samples were collected to assess whole body protein turnover and glucose kinetics as well as protein fractional synthesis rate (FSR) in the vastus lateralis muscle over 6 h of postexercise recovery. Plasma insulin responses were significantly greater in PRO + HCHO compared with PRO + LCHO and PRO (18.4 ± 2.9 vs. 3.7 ± 0.5 and 1.5 ± 0.2 U·6 h–1·l–1, respectively, P < 0.001). Plasma glucose rate of appearance (Ra) and disappearance (Rd) increased over time in PRO + HCHO and PRO + LCHO, but not in PRO. Plasma glucose Ra and Rd were substantially greater in PRO + HCHO vs. both PRO and PRO + LCHO (P < 0.01). Whole body protein breakdown, synthesis, and oxidation rates, as well as whole body protein balance, did not differ between experiments. Mixed muscle protein FSR did not differ between treatments and averaged 0.10 ± 0.01, 0.10 ± 0.01, and 0.11 ± 0.01%/h in the PRO, PRO + LCHO, and PRO + HCHO experiments, respectively. In conclusion, coingestion of carbohydrate during recovery does not further stimulate postexercise muscle protein synthesis when ample protein is ingested.

    As you can see, there is either no difference between protein only vs. carb+protein, or the study favors protein only. Ergo, there is no empirical evidence of carb+protein being superior than protein alone. Your claim that carbs+protein is superior than either alone, holds no solid ground. Get over your stubborness and analyze the data from an objective perspective. It's okey, just do it and move on with your life. 🙂

    About me misunderstanding Blade's advanced concept, please elaborate. I can tell you that i know one of his clients and have been following everything he have said in his forum, but oh well.

  23. Moran,

    Remember the two important things that training does: Stimulate Protein Synthesis, and cause muscle degradation. They are two different things entirely.

    The reason why CHO + EAA is better post training than CHO alone is you now have protein synthesis going on, while at the same time reducing muscle degradation.

  24. Frameless: this will be my final comment. I gave you two direct studies on the topic and I don’t give a damn about your data beyond that. Bottom line is this: you’re acting all butt-hurt b/c I was a big meaniehead to you in the comments section of that other article you commented on. Just a typical anonymous internet dipshit so far as I’m concerned.

    So, just man up: admit you were wrong. You misread Blade’s thing completely and your theory wanking doesn’t amount to jack shit against two direct studies.

    Oh yeah, with regards to your accusation that I’m childish: I know you are but what am I? And I’m rubber and you’re glue and whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.

    Ha ha. I’m done.

  25. I understand that Dustin. Yet the paper I cited shows that if you get enough protein (0.3 g/kg every 30 min) adding more carbs does result in higher net (synthesis-degradation) protein balance. The two studies Lyle has cited in the comments here (I have no way to know if he has more) use a small amount of amino acids – 6g of EAA. The first study Lyle cited is not on post exercise nutrition as the intervention was given between sets during the exercise bout (nitpicking).

  26. of course I wanted to say that carbs do not increase the net balance in my last comment.
    Sadly I can’t get access to the full version of the second paper Lyle cited. If anyone has it and wants to share I’d love to read it.
    I do have access the the first one, which is not a post workout study and did not measure protein balance. from the paper:
    “Although net muscle protein balance was not determined in the current investigation, in theory the significant hypertrophy shown by the CHO + EAA group is the product of an ‘‘anti-catabolic effect’’, as suggested by Tarpenning et al.”

    Really not trying to pick a fight. Just discussing the science.

  27. “Bottom line is this: you’re acting all butt-hurt b/c I was a big meaniehead to you in the comments section of that other article you commented on.” What article? Meaniehead? 😛

    Lyle, your comments speaks for itself. Anyway, if you are not gonna amount to any constructive discussion, i guess im out. You should at least have the decency to comment on Moran Betzur’s posts, or have he also offended your god-complex?

  28. Moran,

    Why would we care about whole body protein breakdown in the study you linked too above? We need to be interested in the mixed muscle breakdown.

    These two things are not even the same.

    The authors wrote:

    Though we did not assess skeletal muscle protein breakdown rates, we observed lower plasma and muscle BCAA levels when carbohydrate was co-ingested. The latter may imply that either protein breakdown was reduced and/or that amino acid loss via transamination/oxidation was enhanced.

  29. The way I interpret the studies available to me is that insulin promotes a reduction in protein degradation (chow et al. 2006 PMID: 16705065). protein or AA promote an increase in protein synthesis. You need both effects to maximize the anabolic effect. Which is just what Lyle wrote in the article. The thing is that you can get that by consuming either a PRO+CHO or an ample amount of PRO alone which will act both as an insulin trigger and protein synthesis trigger.
    I would be happy to see If anyone has a study that used more than 6 gr of EAA and shows net protein balance increased with an addition of CHO.

  30. Are you saying with things being equal, that PRO alone will stimulate insulin greater than CHO + PRO? I would say with things being equal that the highest plasma insulin response would be CHO + PRO + Leu > CHO + PRO > CHO > PRO. But in any event, in the study that you linked above, how do we know the direct measurement of muscle protein synthesis rates? I could add more, but the bottom line was that study did not measure it. What we need is what I wrote above, and don’t forget net protein gains {synthesis – breakdown} is key.

    Also in addition to CHO elevating the plasma insulin response, it has many benefits than solely inhibiting muscle protein breakdown in athletes PWO.

  31. Frameless made a valid point when he cited to the study [i]Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis.[/i] René Koopman et al, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 293: E833-E842, 2007, which concluded that “coingestion of carbohydrate does not further augment muscle protein synthesis rates during recovery from resistance-type exercise under conditions where ample protein is ingested.

    It even included a nifty chart [IMG][/IMG]

    No differences were observed between treatments in whole body [b]protein breakdown[/b] (P = 0.68), synthesis (P = 0.74), oxidation (P = 0.69), whole body protein net balance (P = 0.53), and FSR in skeletal muscle tissue (P = 0.51).

    I see that Lyle specifically states, “Folks will often state that ‘You only need protein post-workout because carbs don’t effect protein synthesis.’ This is true but ignores the impact of decreasing protein breakdown on net protein gain.”

    So, Lyle, can you please explain to me what I am missing because when I look at the Koopman study the “breakdown” and “net balance” seem pretty darn close whether you have carbs or not when I look at the chart and the study.

    I do recognize that plasma insulin responses were significantly greater in the carb + PRO treatments when compared tothe PRO only treatment. But whole body protein breakdown, whole body protein balance, and mixed muscle protein FSR did not differ between treatments.

  32. That is not what I’m saying. I’m saying that everything is dose dependent. A large amount of protein can create an insulin response of such magnitude that is enough to elicit the full protein degradation decrease (~15-20 mU/L) . You will probably get a much higher insulin response using CHO, but you have to show that degradation is yet further decreased. It appears as though the effect does not have an unlimited dose response.
    The paper I cited did direct protein synthesis measurements (FSR). They did not do direct protein degradation. Please cite papers that did show this. The first paper Lyle cited did not. Who knows what the second one is, I can’t get it and the abstract is fuzzy. The paper I cite for the insulin response did measure protein degradation directly using exogenous insulin, so we can say that CHO are not needed for this effect other than their insulin response.

    Other roles of CHO should be considered (glycogen repletion) but are outside of the scope of this debate.

  33. The following paper shows the dose-response relationship for plasma insulin concentration and net forearm skeletal muscle amino acid balance. You can see that 25 mU/L is about as high as you need for very close to full protein degradation decrease. This is a level that can be achieved by PRO alone (as seen in Koopman et al. 2007 – The paper I cited in my very first comment).
    Take a look at figure 4:

  34. The argument isn’t that protein alone is superior to protein+carbs. The argument is that protein+carbs is not superior to protein alone.

    Look at this graph in the discussion part of the study, comparing 6g EAA to 6g EAA + 35g carbs from the same study Lyle is referring to.

    “In a recent study, Miller et al. (14) compared the independent and combined effects of a balanced mixture of amino acids (i.e., EAAs + NEAAs) and carbohydrate on muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Addition of 35 g of carbohydrate to 6 g of mixed AA did not cause a greater stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis than the AAs alone. The effect of adding carbohydrate to 6 g of EAA can be seen in Fig. 7, which compares the AUC for net phenylalanine uptake for the 1st h after intake of drink (i.e., 60-120 min) in the present study with the previously published response to 6 g of EAAs plus 35 g of carbohydrate (16). The additional carbohydrate provided no advantage to EAAs alone. From these results, it is clear that the stimulation of protein synthesis by EAAs is not a caloric effect, because ingestion of an additional 3 g of EAA (difference in EAA content between mixed AA and EAA groups) caused a much larger effect than addition of 35 g of carbohydrate to the amino acid mixture (Fig. 7), and 35 g of carbohydrate alone had a minimal effect (14). Although direct comparison with historical data may be problematic, the cited studies (14, 16) were performed in the same laboratory, approximately contemporaneously, and by use of the same general experimental protocol and techniques. ”

    Clearly there is little if any difference between ingesting protein alone vs. protein+carbs.
    So to say that protein+carbs is “superior” than protein alone, is false.

    Iv’e aslo showed you guys a study that shows hyperinsulinemia favoring protein synthesis in splanchnic tissue rather than peripheral areas (muscle);

    A smaller dose of carbs will probably not have the same effect, but this shows us that a large dose of carbs with protein, is probably not a good idea.

  35. Lyle, with all respect but there is no reason to act like such a wiseacre and to be demeaning against Frameless. He doesn’t need to admit he’s wrong, because you’re the one thats wrong. Also your reaction ‘I don’t give a damn about your data beyond that’ is plain arrogant and will look quite funny when you take a better look at your own data.

    Please give me a minute to explain why:

    I think we can all agree that 25mU/l is sufficient to inhibit MPB, right?
    Ok than let’s take a look at your own data Lyle and please let me explain why there is discrepancy between yours and others (ie Koopman et al.).
    In your data Lyle, the amino acids solution is not able to raise insuline levels to above 25mU/l, hence why CHO seems to inhibit MPB to a much bigger degree!
    Whereas in the paper of Koopman et al. they use 0,3gr/kg whey(h) which is sufficient to raise insulin above 25mU/l. So if you ingest ample protein (and heck which resistance trainee does not) there is NO need for CHO. Now you finally see the discrepancy Lyle? 🙂
    Another reason why it maybe not so smart to ingest much CHO (don’t say you said so, just in general) is this:

    “…Specifically, the study found that exercise enhanced insulin sensitivity, particularly when meals eaten after the exercise session contained relatively low carbohydrate content. Enhanced insulin sensitivity means that it is easier for the body to take up sugar from the blood stream into tissues like muscles, where it can be stored or used as fuel. Impaired insulin sensitivity (i.e., “insulin resistance”) is a hallmark of Type II diabetes, as well as being a major risk factor for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease.”

    The next time you write an article (and I really love this site!!) please take a look at the data in a paper and not just skimming the abstract. Also it might be wise to be open-minded and not just turn your head from data when you don’t like it.
    Please don’t get this post wrong. I truly love your research skills and your site but I justed wanted to get this straight.
    Hope to see a reaction from you,

  36. Moran

    Again what you are saying is a large leap to make. As has already been said whole body proteolysis is not always reflective of muscle proteolysis you do know that right? Unfortunately, Koopman et al. did not measure muscle protein breakdown or cortisol levels following the ingestion of the various supplements. However, they did provide indirect evidence (based off plasma and muscle BCAA levels) that muscle proteolysis was reduced when carbohydrates were taken along with the protein drink (vs. protein alone).

  37. Dustin,

    I think you’re looking at another study, please let me cite fig. 5 in Koopman et al (2007) paper:

    “Whole body protein breakdown, synthesis, and oxidation rates and net protein balance (expressed as µmol phenylalanine·kg–1·h–1; A) and fractional synthesis rate (FSR) of mixed muscle protein (B) in the PRO, PRO + LCHO, and PRO + HCHO treatments in healthy men (n = 10). Values represent means ± SE. Data were analyzed with ANOVA. No differences were observed between treatments in whole body protein breakdown (P = 0.68), synthesis (P = 0.74), oxidation (P = 0.69), whole body protein net balance (P = 0.53), and FSR in skeletal muscle tissue (P = 0.51).”

    The studies Lyle cited where done before Koopman’s, and if you take a better look at the data in these studies the discrepancy between the two is very easy to explain.

  38. The paper showing 25 mU/L insulin is sufficient to promote full protein degradation decrease relies on direct muscle measurements. Koopman et al. show (with direct measurements) that 0.3g/kg/30min of casein hydrolysate results in 30 mU/L insulin levels. Why is it such a large leap to connect these two?
    Dustin, on which papers are you basing your opinion that CHO is needed beyond what an ample dose of protein can achieve alone?
    On another note it seems like there is some inconsistency in the numbers reported by the Wolfe RR group. In the following paper (figure 7) they report the same net uptake of Phe for 6g EAA as for 6g EAA + 35g CHO.
    In the paper Lyle cited from the same group one year later There is a marked increase in the EAA + CHO group (as much as can be gleaned from the abstract). What gives? Maybe someone has the full text and can tell if they changed anything in the protocol.

  39. In the Koopman study everyone is looking at, did you notice the time frame over which the drinks were given?

    6 hours straight following the training. That is, a whole bunch of nutrients were given at short periods for 6 hours following the workout. He’s done this in every study he’s done (including the bullshit leucine studies) and it’s simply not relevant to what is being discussed or how people actually consume nutrients after training.

    Or to what I’m talking about in this article which is the immediate post-workout intake.

    Beyond that, you do realize that there are more processes to post-workout recovery than just growth, right? Like glycogen resynthesis. Which admittedly isn’t a huge issue given low to moderate volumes but is a consideration (given that depletion activates AMPk which inhibits mTOR).

    But, of course, you don’t need massive amounts of carbs which is where Frameless went wrong from the outset. That and mis-understanding what Blade was suggesting.

    And that said, I think every point that there is to make has been made in this thread so I’m going to close comments. I’ve got nothing more to say and it’s just going to go around in circles.

    I’ll finish by saying this: my opinion here is the same for every other article I write and it’s quite simple: if you disagree with my recommendations, more power to you.

    If you don’t want to consume carbs post-workout, that’s just skippy. I think it optimizes recovery and growth, I think that’s what the research (and decades of empirical practice) support. That’s my opinion and you’ll have to forgive me if I have little emotional investment in changing your mind.

    If you disagree with me, that’s just fantastic. You’re not paying me for my advice so I don’t really care if you agree with me or not.

    You can make what I think are bad choices in your post-workout nutrition if you want just like you don’t have to agree with anything else I suggest either.

    I’ll keep telling people what I think is optimal based on my interpretation of the research and if you disagree, go start your own site and spread the truth as you know it.

    Oh yeah, if you try to continue this discussion in other articles on the site, those comments will be deleted.

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