If you want to know how to get more muscle building potential from your whey protein shake, you want to read this article!
Anyone who's ever tried to build muscle knows just how difficult it can be. To build an impressive physique not only requires constant dedication in the gym, but also strict adherence to nutrition, rest, and recovery.
In other words, building muscle and increasing strength requires a helluva lot of hard work.
But sometimes, no matter how hard you train, or how dialed-in your nutrition is, you still struggle to add lean mass.
You’re doing everything right, but still not making as many gains as you know you can.
Well, unfortunately, a portion of your lack of results can be blamed on the fact that you lost the genetic lottery and got dealt a hand of crappy genes from your family. And, for the time being, there’s not much you can do to change your genes….yet.
But the good news, is that you can outwork your poor genetics and build muscle and strength. It’s just going to require even more work than your doing now, along with a few “tweaks” to your already sound nutrition plan
By the way, if you need help setting up a nutrition plan, click here to read our Lean Mass Guide, which lays out everything you need to get started on gaining quality lean muscle mass.
So, what do we need to do to make better gains and build even more muscle?
Optimize our training to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
Remember, building muscle ultimately breaks down to:
Muscle Protein Synthesis > Muscle Protein Breakdown
So, if you’re going to get bigger, better gains, and at the same time overcome your crappy genetics, you need to do everything in your power to maximally stimulate protein synthesis and limit protein breakdown.
Before we answer how to accomplish those two things, let’s first discuss what exactly muscle protein synthesis is.
What is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
Protein synthesis is the process of building new proteins, and it can occur throughout the body.
Muscle protein synthesis, as the name suggests, is the process of building new protein in skeletal muscle. As such, muscle protein breakdown would be when proteins in skeletal muscle are broken down into amino acids.
These two processes occur simultaneously during all hours of the day to one degree or another. For example, when you’re fasting, muscle protein breakdown rises, and if the rate of breakdown exceeds that of protein synthesis, you’re going to lose muscle...which is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
Now, thankfully, so long as you’re not embracing a low protein diet, eating at an extreme calorie deficit, or going for days on end without eating (i.e. dry fasting), muscle protein breakdown isn’t as much of a concern, as research shows that changes in muscle protein synthesis are significantly greater in response to feeding and exercise than changes in muscle protein breakdown in otherwise healthy individuals.[2,3]
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the ways to ramp up protein synthesis in the body...
How to Stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis?
#1 Lift Heavy Weights
This is nothing new.
For millennia, dating back to the ancient Athenians and Spartans, we’ve known as a species that in order to get bigger and stronger, we have to lift heavy things...repeatedly.
How else do you think King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors became the formidable fighting force that they were?
You see, when we lift weights, we damage the cells of our muscles fibers. This in turn sends a signal to our body that we need to ramp up protein synthesis rates to repair the damage.
The great thing about resistance training, especially compared to long, slow steady-state cardio (“endurance training”) is that the spike in protein synthesis is pretty sharp.
It also lasts an incredibly long time too -- anywhere from 24-72 hours post workout, depending on your training experience.
That means that up to 3 days following your workout, your body can still be in an elevated state of protein synthesis, which is exactly what we want for getting bigger, stronger, and faster.
Now, the more experienced you are with training, and the closer you are to your genetic potential, the length of time that protein synthesis stays elevated declines. This is part of the reason why you have to increase training volume or frequency over time in order to keep making gains.
However, it also must be stated that when you lift weights, there’s also a sharp increase in muscle protein breakdown, and following a workout, it’s considerably higher than the rate of protein synthesis.[5,8]
So, in other words, while strength training does increase muscle protein synthesis, it also increases breakdown. This is why the mere act of lifting weights isn’t all that’s needed to build muscle.
You also have to support all of that heavy lifting with proper nutrition, which brings us to our next point...
#2 Eat Protein
It’s no surprise that consuming protein is absolutely critical for increasing protein synthesis.
After all, your muscles are made of protein, so it stands to reason that in order for us to increase protein synthesis in the body, we have to consume protein in some form or another.
When you eat protein, whether it be in the form of a steak, whey protein shake, or essential amino acid supplement, protein synthesis rates rise. Once protein synthesis exceeds the rate of protein breakdown, muscle growth occurs.
Now, here’s where we get into the “optimization” part that we alluded to at the beginning of this article.
Depending on when you consume your protein can have a pretty big impact on how big of an increase in protein synthesis you get from it.
This of course brings up the much-debated topic of nutrient timing.
While most people these days will state that nutrient timing is irrelevant, and cite a few studies and reviews, the truth is, that statement is a gross-oversimplification of the data.
If you’re a natural lifter who is struggling to put on size, or a highly competitive athlete engaged in multiple practices / competitions per day, then nutrient timing can play a rather significant role in your performance and results.
There’s research to back this up too!
Studies show that consuming protein immediately post workout leads to a significantly greater increase in protein synthesis than consuming it two hours following training.
So, what that means, is that if you’re one of those lifters who says they’re struggling to put on mass, but routinely skip eating immediately post workout, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak.
To get the biggest bang for your buck from protein, you should consume it immediately post workout. Failure to do so limits that amount of increase you’ll get from your protein.
Now, the next question is...
What Kind of Protein?
Different protein sources affect the degree of stimulation of muscle protein synthesis that occurs. Another way of stating this, is that what type of protein you choose to consume will have a pretty big impact on how large (or small) the increase in protein synthesis that occurs.
The primary drivers that determine the magnitude of protein synthesis are:
Amino acid profile
Speed of digestion
Complete proteins (such as whey protein, beef, chicken, pork) contain all of the essential amino acids that the body needs to create and build proteins. As such, complete protein sources will be superior to incomplete protein sources (i.e. plant proteins) when it comes to maximizing the anabolic response.
Additionally, the amount of leucine (the king of amino acids) that a protein source contains also affects the degree to which protein synthesis is stimulated. Research notes that 2.5-3 grams of leucine is need to maximally stimulate protein synthesis. This is why whey protein is such a great protein source. Not only is it a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth, but it’s also very high in leucine.
The final factor affecting the magnitude of muscle protein synthesis, in regards to protein consumption, is how fast it digests.
This final point is best shown by a study that compared the effects on muscle protein synthesis of whey protein, casein, and hydrolyzed casein.
As most of you know, casein is an incredibly slow digesting protein, that can take up to 8 hours to digest. When it’s hydrolyzed, the speed of digestion is increased significantly, and research notes that it results in a higher rate of muscle protein synthesis than standard casein.
However, the muscle protein synthetic response of hydrolyzed casein was still found to be lower than that of whey protein. Although both hydrolyzed casein and whey protein are both rapidly digested, whey protein still exhibited a higher degree of muscle protein synthesis.
This is due to the fact that whey protein has a greater amount of essential amino acids compared to casein, leucine in particular.
Undoubtedly, when you take all three of these factors into account, whey protein isolate is one of the best sources of protein you can use, especially if you’re looking to build muscle and strength.
And let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re here, it’s because you’re looking to get even bigger, stronger, and faster than you already are.
How to Make Whey Protein Even More Anabolic
Ok, so we know that lifting weights and eating protein enhances muscle protein synthesis, but is there anything else we can do?
Well, it goes without saying that you should be getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, as research notes that lack of sleep decreases anabolic hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1, which play a rather large role in limiting protein breakdown and stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Sleep deprivation also hinders performance, strength, and recovery, which all affect muscle growth in some form or another.[13,14]
In other words, you need to be getting a solid night of sleep each and every night if you’re focused on building muscle and strength.
If you need help getting a better night's sleep, click here to learn more about EAA Sleep -- the nighttime recovery and muscle builder.
Now, the final piece of the puzzle comes when we combine the muscle protein synthesis stimulating properties of resistance training and protein consumption.
We know that each independently increases muscle protein synthesis, but when you consume protein immediately following training, you increase muscle protein synthesis even more than either done in isolation.
And to up the ante a bit more, by using a rapidly digesting protein, that’s rich in leucine, immediately post workout, you can ratchet up protein synthesis up to a whole new level!
This how you can maximize protein synthesis and it’s what makes whey protein isolate the only choice for post workout protein!
And, if you’re looking for the best whey protein isolate supplement on the market, there’s no choice but...
ISOLIT -- The King of Flavor
Delivering 25 grams of high quality whey protein isolate in each scoop, ISOLIT is a revelation to protein pundits and connoisseurs. After just one sip, you’ll soon realize that this is the best tasting protein powder of all time.
Whey protein supplements aren’t new to the fitness industry. They’ve been a mainstay of athletes for decades, but none have compared to the flavor and quality of Primeval Labs ISOLIT.
We don’t claim to have invented to the whey protein post workout shake, we just perfected it.
Weinert DJ. Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2009;53(3):186-193.
Phillips, S. M., Tipton, K. D., Aarsland, A., Wolf, S. E., & Wolfe, R. R. (1997). Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. The American Journal of Physiology, 273(1 Pt 1), E99-107. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1997.273.1.E99
Atherton PJ, Smith K. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590(Pt 5):1049-1057. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.225003.
Rasmussen, B. B., & Phillips, S. M. (2003). Contractile and nutritional regulation of human muscle growth. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 31(3), 127–131.
MacDougall, J. D., Gibala, M. J., Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDonald, J. R., Interisano, S. A., & Yarasheski, K. E. (1995). The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology = Revue Canadienne de Physiologie Appliquee, 20(4), 480–486.
Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(11), 1073–1082. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2016.1210197
Louard, R. J., Barrett, E. J., & Gelfand, R. A. (1995). Overnight branched-chain amino acid infusion causes sustained suppression of muscle proteolysis. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 44(4), 424–429.
Biolo, G., Tipton, K. D., Klein, S., & Wolfe, R. R. (1997). An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. The American Journal of Physiology, 273(1 Pt 1), E122-9.
van Vliet, S., Burd, N. A., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2015). The Skeletal Muscle Anabolic Response to Plant- versus Animal-Based Protein Consumption. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(9), 1981–1991. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.114.204305
Pennings, B., Boirie, Y., Senden, J. M. G., Gijsen, A. P., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2011). Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(5), 997–1005. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.008102
Dattilo, M., Antunes, H. K. M., Medeiros, A., Monico Neto, M., Souza, H. S., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M. T. (2011). Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 77(2), 220–222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017
Fullagar, H. H. K., Skorski, S., Duffield, R., Hammes, D., Coutts, A. J., & Meyer, T. (2015). Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 45(2), 161–186. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0
Reilly, T., & Piercy, M. (1994). The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics, 37(1), 107–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139408963628