Is there enough protein for muscle growth?

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Did you come across publications that claim that taking a protein does not lead to muscle growth? You are not alone. I will tell you what a mistake such research is and how to take out of them lessons that will really be useful!

A couple of years ago I was looking through publications on the Internet and got acquainted with the results of the latest research, which is always in abundance. Suddenly my eyes stumbled upon a shocking headline: "The intake of whey protein before and during strength training does not affect the muscle mass and strength of untrained young people."

From these words my heart clenched into a ball. Whey protein, the elixir of the gods of powerlifting, does not affect muscle mass and strength? Is it possible?

With further study of the review article, it became clear that this is impossible. But this does not mean that I have not brought anything of value from this scientific work – or from an infinite number of other experiments, with the principles, methodology and conclusions of which I categorically disagree.

For you, this particular study can also become an invaluable lesson in how to take whey protein, and how to use the results of scientific papers.

I propose to go beyond the heading and go deeper into the details.

Main characteristics of the study

The scientific work was carried out at the University of Regina in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It involved 29 people (of which 12 was eliminated during the experiment), who had not previously engaged in power training. Participants were randomly divided into two groups. One group received 25 g of whey protein, the control group was given a placebo-containing carbohydrate drink.

Half of the cocktail subjects drank just before the start of the training session. They were engaged 4 times a week on a program designed to work out all the muscle groups in each workout. The second half of the cocktail participants sipped after the completion of approaches. Through 8 weeks in any group there was no growth in muscle mass, but in each group by several kilograms increased indices in bench press.

At first glance, the title is all right. Whey protein did not help beginners in strength training to become muscular or much stronger. In short, with the same success you can replace whey protein with beer. To your health!

But let's not rush to conclusions. During my career, I have seen so many scientific studies that they could fill the Olympic pool, and some details of this work immediately caught my eye.

The first red flag. The experiment involved completely unprepared people, newcomers in power training. When you begin to exercise with weights, neurological adaptation occurs, which makes your body stronger due to positive changes in the motor stereotype. This explains the growth of power indicators without a significant increase in muscle mass.

However, this leads us to the second red flag. No growth in musculature was recorded in any group. Based on this, we could come to the conclusion that taking whey protein does not increase muscle mass, but many experiments have proven otherwise. By analogy, we could conclude that strength training also does not increase muscle mass, but we know, even from our own experience, that this is not so. And the available results of scientific work prove our correctness.

To find out why the subjects did not gain weight, I had to study all the details of the study.

One whey protein is not enough

Having studied the information on the diet of the participants in the experiment, I received an answer to the question that interests me. During the experiment, the energy value of the diet of participants on average decreased by 200 calories (up to 2000 calories per day) in both groups.

By the end of the study, subjects from the protein group consumed less food per meal per 20 gram of protein than at the beginning of the experiment. And this despite taking additional 25 grams a day four times a week.

How can you reduce the daily caloric intake of the diet by 200 calories per day and at the same time sincerely hope to become muscular? It no longer matters that a person drinks during a workout.

A set of muscle mass requires the formation of an anabolic environment, and if an 23-year-old boy weighing 85 kg feeds like an eighth-grade student, there is no question of any set of mass.

If someone – and this is true – trains all muscle groups four times a week, his energy needs are at least at the level of 2 500 calories per day. And this figure does not include the extra calories that are required for muscle mass gain.

In other words, in this study, whey protein was doomed to failure. This is not the first time that an experiment is planned in this way, and not the last one. But does this mean that there is nothing to learn, and this study is the place in the nearest trash can? Definitely not.

I made two conclusions from this story. The first and main conclusion is that taking the protein before and during training alone does not solve the problem. Whey protein – or any other protein of your choice – is just one of the components of a diet for mass gain. To build muscle, you need to get more calories than your body spends daily.

The second conclusion is that experiments with nutrition and training have become a hot topic for mass media for speculation. The results of the latest scientific works with an enviable regularity appear on the pages of websites and glossy magazines, as if each new study gives the final answers to all the controversial issues. In most cases this is not the case.

Specific example: five days before the publication of the study "against whey protein", the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an analysis of 22 clinical trials on the effect of protein supplements on muscle growth. The total number of participants reached 680, not 17. And you know what? This analysis proved that protein intake enhances the anabolic effect of strength training and leads to a set of dry body weight, increased strength and increased muscle fiber size.

Do not throw away protein shakes! This is the right and effective way to stimulate the synthesis of muscle protein and give the body key nutrients in those moments when it most needs them. Regarding the timing, I strongly recommend taking the protein not before and during training, as did the participants in this experiment. Although such a strategy can also produce results, it is better to drink protein after training, when a sharp rise in the level of amino acids in the blood on the background of a cocktail reception coincides in time with an increase in the synthesis of muscle protein after the training load. This, along with a competent training program and balanced nutrition, will be the key to muscle growth.

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