The focus for today is muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the addition of new muscle to muscle fibers, or building new muscle.
Adding more lean muscle can improve your overall metabolism, enhance your body composition, build muscle, and lead to the fit, athletic look that so many of us are working toward!
So how do you increase muscle protein synthesis? Let's get into it...
Muscle Protein Synthesis and Muscle Protein Breakdown
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is counterbalanced by muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Muscle protein breakdown simply means that the body is creating "micro-trauma" inside the muscle ... which typically occurs during training.
Hypertrophy is the increase of muscle mass, and occurs when muscle protein synthesis is happening at a faster rate than muscle protein breakdown. This is good.
When the opposite occurs, where MPB is faster than MPS, muscle mass decreases ... causing atrophy. This is bad.
There will be periods where MPS exceeds MPB and vice-versa. That said, only sustained patterns of either will cause a significant change in lean muscle mass.
In order to affect the balance between MPS and MPB, greater stress should be placed on MPS. MPB is generally very consistent, regardless of changes in exercise or nutrition.
Insulin is actually a big contributor to improving the balance between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. This hormone, which is naturally produced when we consume food, can decrease MPB significantly.
In addition, it doesn't take an exceedingly high amount of insulin, which I will talk more about later in this blog!
Muscle Protein Synthesis and Exercise
You might already know this, or have heard it before ... but exercise affects muscle protein synthesis. That's actually why we go to the gym, or catch a workout at home.
For instance, high-intensity resistance exercises have a great effect on muscle protein synthesis.
And with that, while exercising at lower intensities until "burnout" can have its benefits ... it doesn't have the same impact on MPS that high-intensity movements do.
Note: Contractile and myofibrillar muscles are built from resistance exercises that cause muscle protein breakdown. However, this amount of breakdown will not be larger than the increase caused by the stimulus of muscle protein synthesis.
How to Optimize Muscle Protein Synthesis With Exercise
If you're looking to build muscle or increase performance, muscle protein synthesis is crucial. While muscle protein synthesis requires that some specific conditions are met ... there are ways you can optimize muscle protein synthesis through exercise. Here are three things to prioritize if you're looking to maximize muscle protein synthesis...
1. Resistance Training
This is any form of training that utilizes resistance (free weights, bands, cables, machines, etc.) to create mechanical tension in the muscles. This tension activates muscle fibers, leading to micro-tears in the muscle tissue.
The body responds to these micro-tears by initiating the muscle repair process. This is an essential step to increasing muscle protein synthesis.
2. Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a fundamental principle that involves gradually increasing the volume of your workouts over time. In other words, it basically means you are increasing the difficulty of your workout over time. This constant challenge encourages the muscles to adapt and grow.
Progressive overload can be accomplished by adding more weight, increasing the number of repetitions, sets, workout intensity, or a combination of these things.
3. Compound Exercises
Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints working together. Even if you've never heard of compound exercises before ... I guarantee you've done them! That's because these are staple exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and more.
Compound exercises can be beneficial in two ways: they recruit a larger number of muscle fibers, and they trigger the release of growth-promoting hormones like testosterone.
Muscle Protein Synthesis and Nutrition
The best way to kick-start muscle protein synthesis is to consume a complete protein source.
The protein is digested, and then separated into amino acids.
Some amino acids are made by the body, others are not. Essential amino acids are those that must be consumed in the diet, or through supplementation.
Amino acids help build muscle and other tissues inside the body. However, the benefits of amino acids are limited by the least available amino acid.
In other words, the essential amino acids can only be used at the level of which all amino acids are available.
Because of that, our muscle protein synthesis depends heavily on an adequate intake of amino acids.
How to Increase Muscle Protein Synthesis With Nutrition
Nutrition is a crucial component to optimizing and stimulating muscle protein synthesis. You can work out all you want... If you aren't getting the nutrients your body needs to activate muscle protein synthesis, it won't take place!
Here's a quick rundown on exactly what I mean by this...
Protein Intake and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Like I said earlier, consuming enough protein is essential for muscle protein synthesis. That's because amino acids are the building blocks of muscles and proteins.
Now, the body does a good job of synthesizing most of the amino acid it needs. However, there are 9 that the body can't produce on it's own and these are called the essential amino acids.
By consuming complete protein sources like lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy and more... you can give your body the essential amino acids it needs to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
For people who are actively looking to build muscle, lose body fat, or achieve any body composition goal, we recommend between 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This will be a sufficient amount of protein to shoot for daily in order to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
On top of that, it's recommended to get at least 10 grams of essential amino acids or 25 grams of a complete protein source at once to maximally stimulate protein synthesis (1).
Carbohydrates and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Combining carbohydrates with post-workout protein can be another way to enhance muscle protein synthesis. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin release, which in turn promotes amino acid uptake by muscle cells.
This insulin response, when combined with protein intake, creates an optimal environment for muscle protein synthesis to occur. Including high-glycemic carbohydrates post-workout can be beneficial for this reason. It can be a great way to halt muscle protein breakdown, and with protein, re-stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
If your goal is to build muscle, it's also important to note that including complex carbohydrates throughout the day can be a great way to keep your energy and calories high... Which can both be helpful for building muscle.
Hydration and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Getting enough water is crucial for supporting your body’s metabolic processes, potentially including muscle protein synthesis (2).
Water is involved in many different cellular functions, and dehydration can prevent the muscle protein synthesis you’re looking for.
Make sure you're aiming to get a gallon of water a day or close to it.
Consistency and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Having success with virtually anything requires consistency. Well, the same can be said about muscle protein synthesis. If you want to maximize muscle protein synthesis and gain muscle, you have to be consistent with your exercise and nutrition.
Think about it like this: building muscle is all math and science. If you are looking to gain weight over time, you have to eat more calories than you are burning on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis! Let's say you get enough calories and protein, and you exercise consistently for 3 months in a row. If you do this, you can see some awesome progress!
But, let's say you want to gain more weight and muscle over the following 3 months. The problem is, this time you only hit your protein goal, calorie goal, and exercise goal 1 out of those 3 months. Are you going to gain more muscle and weight? No! But why is that?
Well, it's simply because your body only spent a third of that time in muscle protein synthesis. Plus, it wouldn't even be entirely accurate for me to say that either. Because, even when you're getting the exercise, calories, and protein your body needs ... that wouldn't necessarily mean that you're maintaining a state of muscle protein synthesis 24/7.
My point is, the goal is to maintain muscle protein synthesis as much as possible. That means you have to be consistent!
Should I Be Taking Any Protein Supplements?
You need to choose supplements that will help you meet your body's nutrient requirements.
These requirements can vary by body type, workout intensity, diet, the specific goal you're looking to accomplish, and more.
A well-balanced diet with high-quality whole-food protein sources can satisfy your protein needs.
However, we understand how busy life can be, and how much time it can take to prepare and cook every single meal and snack. That's where we come in.
At 1st Phorm, we offer a wide variety of products and solutions to help answer the demands of your hectic schedule.
With a range of protein supplements designed to provide your body with the nutrients it needs, you can effortlessly meet your protein needs even when life gets busy.
Whoever you are and whatever your lifestyle, at 1st Phorm, we've got you covered!
We even have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Fitness Nutrition Specialists who can help you for FREE! So whether you need help with your nutrition, workouts, supplements, or all of the above ... we've always got your back! Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!
Plus, if you need a resource for your workouts, nutrition, and accountability ... there's the 1st Phorm App! The app gives you every tool you need to be successful with your health and fitness goals.
If you're ready to start earning the results you've always wanted, just download the 1st Phorm App and get started today!
(1) Weinert DJ. Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2009 Aug;53(3):186-93. PMID: 19714233; PMCID: PMC2732256.
(2) Häussinger D, Roth E, Lang F, Gerok W. Cellular hydration state: an important determinant of protein catabolism in health and disease. Lancet. 1993 May 22;341(8856):1330-2. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(93)90828-5. PMID: 8098459.