- Strength training for 10 weeks, combined with a moderate protein intake, can promote muscle development in middle-aged individuals previously leading sedentary lifestyles.
- Increasing protein intake beyond recommended levels does not necessarily contribute to extra muscle gains. It is suggested that the protein found in a regular diet is often sufficient for muscle maintenance and growth.
- The quality and type of protein consumed are important, with animal proteins containing all essential amino acids being more ideal for supporting muscle growth.
- The timing of the protein intake can significantly impact muscle growth. Incorporating a protein-rich meal post-workout can enhance muscle-protein synthesis.
- Variety in protein sources is beneficial for health. It’s recommended to diversify intake with foods like meat, fish, dairy, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
In a research performed, it was discovered that performing strength training for 10 weeks, combined with a moderate protein intake, was sufficient to develop muscle in middle-aged individuals previously leading a sedentary lifestyle. It was interesting to note that, increasing the protein intake did not contribute to additional benefits.
Understanding the role of Protein in Muscle Development
Colleen McKenna, a researcher and well-respected dietitian associated with the graduate program of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, expressed that contrary to popular belief, merely increasing protein intake won’t necessarily lead to extra muscle gains. In fact, the protein found in a regular American diet is often more than enough for muscle maintenance and growth.
As McKenna stated, “If you’re consuming sufficient high-quality protein in your dietary plan, then ‘enough’ is exactly that – enough.” Here, ‘high-quality’ is the keyword – lean meat should be preferred over other sources such as fast-food.
Different Types of Protein
McKenna further stressed that though plant proteins aid muscle growth, it’s animal proteins that should be the focus. They not only contain all essential amino acids, but are also more ideal for supporting muscle growth.
The timing of the protein intake can make a significant difference as well. For instance, consuming protein right after strength training or an hour or two before bed at night can enhance muscle-protein synthesis. Therefore, it may be a good idea to have your most protein-dense meal post-workout.
The findings of this research were recently published online in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. 50 middle-aged adults, aged between 40 and 64, participated in the study. All were overweight, yet healthy, and took part in the same 10-week strength-training program, which had them working out on weight machines and free weights thrice weekly.
Details about Protein Intake and Workout on Study Participants
The participants were divided randomly into a moderate-protein group and a high-protein group. A lean beef protein supplement was provided to both groups post-workout, with the moderate group consuming 3 ounces and the high-protein group consuming 6 ounces.
Besides, protein drinks were consumed every night, with the moderate group consuming half the quantity of the high-intake group. Even with this, individuals in the moderate-intake group were advised to maintain their overall dietary protein to match the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), which suggests 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight.
Findings of the Study
The high-protein group participants typically consumed double the RDA. This should have theoretically resulted in more muscles, however, similar muscle mass gains and strength were observed in both groups, after 10 weeks with no differences noticed in overall body composition.
Isabel Maples, a well-established dietitian based in Washington, D.C., stated that it’s a common misconception that protein loading is essential for strength training. She added, “The idea is that if some protein is beneficial, consuming it in larger quantities must be even better.”
However, if the body isn’t receiving sufficient calorie intake, protein will be utilized as fuel instead of being used for muscle building. But the fact is that most Americans consume more than the necessary calories and protein.
Advice for Better Health
Maples also emphasizes on the importance of Protein timing. Consuming Protein throughout the day, including after a workout, can be beneficial. She suggests variety in protein sources such as not only meat, but fish, dairy, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
“If you’re strength training with the aim to enhance your health, you should include nutrition within that plan.” Maples added.
Evaluating the Trial
The trial also aimed to evaluate the impact of the beef supplements on participants’ health. The results were positive, indicating no adverse effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, or kidney functions. McKenna emphasized this might be due to the participants’ consistent exercise schedule in combination with consumption of lean, minimally processed beef.
If you need more advice on protein intake, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics could offer valuable insights.