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Protein Vitamins & Muscle Recovery

Protein & Muscle Recovery

Protein is crucial to muscle growth. However, latest research has focused specifically on the types of protein and their effects on muscle recovery and adaptations. A common area of research is whether whole intact proteins or single amino acids are able to augment a greatest response in the rate of muscle protein synthesis. Rennie (2005)1 was able to show that supplementation with leucine alone was able to produce a high degree of muscle protein synthesis. Supplementation with essential amino acids including leucine was able to further increase the amount of muscle protein synthesis by an extra 37%. However, in a recent 2009 study by Tipton et al2, he showed that supplementation with whey protein with added leucine was not able to statistically increase the anabolic response in muscles than with whey alone.

So what does all this mean? It is important to note that there have been very few studies focusing on the effects of single amino acids vs whole proteins on protein synthesis and muscle growth. Therefore no final conclusions can be made regarding this area. However, it is well documented that leucine itself can significantly increase muscle protein synthesis over placebos. As there is no real harm involved in extra leucine supplementation, it may be beneficial to add some additional leucine into your post-workout supplementation regime for possible further gains.

There has also been research conducted into the effectiveness of animal proteins vs. vegetarian diets and whey vs. soy proteins on muscle protein synthesis. It is well documented that animal protein is more bioavailable and richer in all proteins when compared to vegetarian sources. Campbell et al (1999)3 also showed animal proteins are superior in promoting improvements in strength and body composition than proteins coming from a vegetarian diet. A study by Phillips et al (2005)4 showed that cow milk proteins are better than soy proteins. In summary, protein is protein and one should always be consuming protein as a way to maximise gains and promote muscle recovery. It may be beneficial to supplement with leucine to promote further muscle protein synthesis and fat loss. Animal protein sources are superior than vegetarian sources of proteins for muscular improvements and cow milk proteins are better than soy proteins for supporting an anabolic environment.

Vitamins & Recovery

Our everyday diet should provide us with the vitamins needed to promote healthy body function. Deficiencies in vitamins have drastic consequences. Vitamins are extremely important in regulating our body functions. The following list is a way in which vitamins may affect our ability to synthesis muscle and to promote an anabolic environment.5

  • Vitamin A - Important for immune function and is involved in the production of human growth hormone - an important anabolic hormone.
  • B Vitamins - Most are important for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins or fats. Some are involved in the oxidative phosphorylation process and affect the mitochondria, both of which are important in providing energy for the body.
  • Vitamin C - Important antioxidant able to neutralise excess free-radical damage to organs. Also able to boost immune function.
  • Vitamin D - Immune function booster.
  • Vitamin E - Also an antioxidant.

While only vitamin A is able to affect our ability to synthesise muscle directly through its effect on human growth hormone, all the vitamins mentioned above will help with recovery. After a bout of intense exercise, our immune system is depressed leaving us prone to infections and sickness which can slow down our ability to put on muscle. By boosting our immune function and decreasing the amount of free-radical damage to our cells, we reduce the risk dramatically of getting sick and in effect promote better recovery. In summary, while we are able to acquire all vitamins from the foods we eat, our diet may not provide us with adequate amounts. It may be beneficial therefore to supplement with a specific vitamin or a multivitamin to ensure adequacy and to help promote better body function and better muscle recovery.

Supplement Timing For Muscle Recovery

The intake of extra nutrition is important in promoting muscle growth and recovery, especially carbohydrates and protein. But recent studies have looked at another factor - when should we be taking our supplements? While our overall intake of nutrients such as protein is crucial to maintaining an anabolic, nitrogen rich environment, for our muscles to grow there may be further gains to be had with proper timing of supplementation. Cribbs and Haye (2006)6 showed that lean body mass increased and fat mass and body fat percentage decreased with ingestion of protein before and after workouts than with ingestion of protein in the morning and evening.They also showed that ingestion of protein before and after workouts were able to increase your strength as measured by the 1RM (repetition max) of certain exercises.

Similarly Tipton (2007)7 showed that consuming whey protein before and after workouts was able to promote a greater anabolic response. Ingestion of protein prior to and after a workout has been thought to help with amino acid uptake in the muscles due to increased amino acid delivery. More uptake leads to increase muscle protein synthesis. Ingestion of carbohydrates prior to a workout helps to provide a source of fuel for the workout in the form of blood glucose sparing muscle glycogen, which may be used in recovery. Having carbohydrates directly after a workout will help to replace glycogen into the muscles. The more glycogen in your muscles, the greater your muscles ability to workout in the next session.

In summary, there are no set in stone recommendations, however recommendations for carbohydrate intake for bodybuilders as suggested by Lambert et al (2004)8 is 1.2g/kg/hr of high GI carbohydrates every 30 mins for 4 hours post workout. Recommendations for carbohydrate intake before workouts as extrapolated from Tipton et al (2007)7 is at least 35g. Addition of protein to these carbohydrates at 0.15-0.25g/kg has also been shown to boost muscle protein synthesis9. Recommendations for pre- and post workout protein consumption as extrapolated from Tipton et al (2007)7 is either 6g of Essential Amino Acids or 20 g of whey protein within 3 hours post-workout with possibly greater effect if consumed earlier.

Bodybuilders Can Improve Recovery With Supplements

Nutritional intervention will greatly limit muscle damage, enhancing muscle training adaptations and limiting recovery time between intense training sessions. Assuming that a multivitamin, protein supplement and essential fatty acids are already part of your dietary regime, these other nutritional interventions can help you achieve faster recovery and therefore faster and more visible results:

  • Consume carbohydrates with protein to help reduce the catabolic hormone cortisol and increase the anabolic hormone insulin. This also helps recover glycogen faster.
  • If possible, have animal proteins in your diet over vegetarian sources for better bioavailability and biological value. Have cow milk protein (whey/casein) over soy for a superior muscular adaptations.
  • Additional Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), especially leucine, my help with the promotion of further muscle growth. It can also stimulate insulin promoting an anabolic environment for your muscles.
  • Time your supplement intake. Have your supplements pre and post workout for maximum gains.

1 Rennie MJ. 'Body maintenance and repair: how food and exercise keep the musculoskeletal system in good shape.' Exp Physiol 200590:427-436.
Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Ferrando AA, Aarsland AA, Wolfe RR. 'Stimulation of muscle anabolism by resistance exercise and ingestion of leucine plus protein'.
Campbell WW, Barton ML Jr, Cyr-Campbell D, Davey SL, Beard JL, Parise G, Evans WJ. 'Effects of an omnivorous diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian diet on resistance-training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle in older men.' Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Dec;70(6):1032-9.
Phillips SM, Hartman JW, Wilkinson SB. 'Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men.' J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Apr;24(2):134S-139S.
Essentials of Human Nutrition 3rd Ed. Mann J & Stewart Truswell A. Oxford University Press 2007 p. 163-221 
Cribb PJ, Hayes A. 'Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy'. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Nov 2006;38(11):1918 – 1925.
Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. Jan 2007;292(1):E71 – 76.
Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ. 'Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding.' Sports Med. 2004;34(5):317-27.

9 Kreider RB et al. 'ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations.' Journ. of the Inter. Soc. of Sports Nutr. 2010 Feb 7:7 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-7


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