To get a handle on the topic, let’s see what research says on the topic.
There is some evidence showing superior increases in muscle protein synthesis when amino acids are ingested in close proximity to the conclusion of exercise as opposed to delaying consumption. One such study found significantly greater acute protein accretion when beagle dogs consumed amino acids immediately following 150 minutes of treadmill running compared to two hours post-exercise.9 Although intriguing, we need to take these findings with a large grain of salt; an animal trial using aerobic training is not exactly indicative of the anabolic response of hard training lifters.
Another study carried out in human subjects by Levenhagen et al.7 showed that lower body and whole-body protein synthesis was increased significantly more when protein was ingested immediately versus three hours after exercise. Problem is, the training involved moderate intensity, long-duration aerobic exercise. This raises the distinct possibility that results were attributed to greater mitochondrial and/or sarcoplasmic protein fractions as opposed to synthesis of contractile elements. Let’s face it, long-duration aerobic exercise is not much of a muscle-building activity. Conversely, Rasmussen et al.10 investigated the acute impact of protein timing after resistance training – without question, a better indicator of synthesis of muscle contractile elements. In this study, no significant differences were seen in the protein synthetic response after consuming nutrients one versus three hours post-exercise. It should be noted that measures of acute muscle protein synthesis do not necessarily correlate with muscular gains achieved from consistent lifting8, so results from these studies need to be interpreted with caution. Ideally, the effects of protein timing can best be determined by long-term training studies that measure actual muscle growth.
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