Over the weekend I got a good chance to finally sit down and listen to a great podcast by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld (Nutrient Timing Revisited). While these individuals may not be very popular in nature because most people do not buy Alan Aragon’s books, or subscribe to his AARR online. Alan has published his books Girth Control and The Lean Muscle Diet (which was just released on amazon.com). Both are fantastic reads that will break down nutrition, studies, and how you can utilize different foods and workout programs to build the body of your dreams.
Even if what you read goes against the stuff you will read in magazines regarding nutrient, protein, carbohydrate, and supplement timing, Brad is a best selling author with multiple fitness books, and is also a lifetime natural bodybuilder. He has been known very well for his writing on body composition training and is the lead of looksgreatnaked.com. Some of his famous books to be produced were “Sculpting Her Body Perfect”, “Look Good Naked” and “Women’s Home Workout Bible” which were an LA Times bestseller and one of the #1 books sold on Amazon.com on several occasions (Look Good Naked). Not only that he is a consultant to Rebook International and has taken part in the reebok one program. Not only that Brad is also an assistant professor at the Lehman College in Bronx, NY. He’s the director of the human performance laboratory, and previously a board member of the American Academy of Personal Training in New York City!
Common Concepts To Explore
Now that we know a bit about these individuals they gave a great presentation that had to deal with nutrient and protein timing that I wanted to break down. I also want to provide real life examples as to why and how this information gives us good insight on what we know, or what we may not know to utilize in the future. Most times when we do read magazines and online articles we get the impression that we should; eat every 2-3 hours, intake around 30g of protein per meal, and space meals out evenly. We also read things along the lines of “people should cut carbohydrate’s later in the day”. The question remains, are all of these things true? If not why, and what can we base our information off of to change these thoughts.
There has been a lot of talk about nutrient and protein timing in the past, especially with Martin Berkhan and his leangains website. If you ever got to venture there he has a fantastic write up called “The Top 10 Fasting Myths debunked” in which you will be amazed to see some of the research and information. He basically breaks down via pubmed research that you do not need to eat or supply the body with protein every several hours, or need to get at least 30g of protein per meal. Alan Aragon also wrote a very good article on the wannabebig forums about protein per meal and how he broke it down as to how much you intake makes a difference on how much you should eat in your next meal to help you reach your protein intake over the 24 hour period.
The Podcast Discussion
During the podcast they addressed tons of studies, referenced a lot of different subjects that were utilized in the studies, and the outcome on what we should know about nutrient and protein intake. When Alan first got to talk he first brought up protein amount and how much it will take to peak levels in the body. Layne Norton who I have a lot of respect for has done research on BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acid Supplements) and has shown us via his research back in 2008 that if you dose protein amounts spaced 4-6 hours apart with 3-4g of leucine between meals it is the most optimal method for Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). Was he right?
MPS and Protein Feeding
Right off the bat Alan supported that showing that if you eat around 45g of protein it will elevate protein levels for at least 2 hours to their highest peak. This is again what we saw in Layne Norton’s research with meals spaced 4-6 hours apart and peaking MPS to its highest degree, and then slowly falling back down to its refractory stages which is optimal to spike MPS to its highest degree (with the small leucine dosing between with BCAA or a bulk leucine supplement). The thing with Alan’s stance is that there was no support of carbohydrates aiding the effects of protein or the anabolic response even in the post-workout period.
Protein Post-Workout Studies Discussion
Even in subjects older in age (elderly) Alan showed that 30-40g may be more than enough to help maximize muscle protein synthesis in the post workout period. What we do know about the post-workout period is that this could be the most vital time to intake protein. There was a 2009 study done with Kumar which had shown that it would elevate muscle protein synthesis after breaking down muscle tissue from resistance training by a 2 fold increase. This is showing that this will be the most opportune time to intake protein or get valuable protein. Or maybe not?
As the podcast went on Alan continued to talk about how there was no difference in protein synthesis when given 1 hour post-workout compared to 3 hours post-workout which was referenced from a study in 2000. The major effect on post-workout protein was shown in those to be endurance athletes (cyclists) who in took a protein supplement immediately post-workout. Why? Probably due to the demand of resistance training and how much work capacity those cyclists do go through.
This brought up the Emark Study in 2001, which showed 13 untrained subjects given an oral protein and carbohydrate supplement post-workout, and 2 hours post workout, for 3 months. Over those 3 months these subjects performed resistance training for at least 3x per week during the trial. Even though the research did not show much on those 13 untrained subjects the only thing taken away was a future study of 28 elderly men still found no strength or hypertrophy benefits of nutrient timing in the post-workout period (2009). This is still assuming those individuals in the 24 hour period met their total calories and macronutrients for the day.
Brad and EAA Discussion
Brad went into a study where a 6 week training protocol was incorporated using an EAA supplement 1 and 2 hours post-workout instead of protein (as Alan showed). The only thing different was Brad’s outcome had 525 subjects over the span of 23 studies which made it a much more heavily studied subject compared to the dozen or so in Alan’s information. The result from this EAA study over the 6 weeks provided to show minimal increase in protein timing on hypertrophy. Literally the amount changed was .2%. That increase was the individuals who took the EAA product right away post-workout compared to those who took it 2 hours post-workout. Which in reality makes sense that after you train getting some protein in your body would be more optimal than waiting 2 hours.
The main takeaway was that the novice lifters out of the 525 subjects showed the most benefits compared to those who have been serious lifters for a prolonged period of time. This may have a small effect on the noob or new gains that may result from a new trainee and how much mass may come much quicker to those new to training. Brad’s major outcome from that major study was there is no real need to get protein right away and the amount of result in difference is very minimal (Assuming a pre-workout meal or an intra-workout BCAA/EAA beverage) is consumed.
The neat thing that these individuals broke down in a chart was the significance of protein and carbohydrates on training and when they are most needed. What we may have been told before may soon be disposed. The immediate need for protein right away dealt with those who trained in a fasted state upon waking ,or those who did not consume a meal for over 3-4 hours prior to resistance training. For those who eat a meal 60-90 minutes prior to training the food will still be overlapping into the post-workout period which may show why the small increases in the 525 trained subjects elicited a .2% increase in muscle hypertrophy in the post-workout EAA dosage.
Carbs are they much needed post-workout? After all we hear about all those simple sugars and high GI Studies that are so necessary post workout, but Brad soon put a hammer on that nail. Carbohydrates are most needed through their research if you are doing 2 a day training sessions on the same bodypart, or doing a high intensity leg workout (at least 90 minute) followed by a HIIT cardio session (high intensity interval training). For those who may train upward to 2-3+ hours in a single session (especially some power lifters and endurance athletes) this may be also a very opportune time to utilize an intra-workout carbohydrate beverage or supplement.
Now for most of us who train in a fed state the optimal need for protein and carbohydrates either immediately post-workout or intra-workout is of much lesser importance. If we are consuming a small meal or a mixed meal (meaning Protein and carb or protein and fat) within a 60-90 minute period prior to training we would be fine due to food overlap to consume a meal or protein supplement within 1-2 hours post-workout (the window of opportunity was just tossed out the window!). The same could be said with carbohydrates. If you are being fed 60-90 minutes prior to a workout and optimizing your carbs around your workout the need for intra-workout carbohydrates will not be necessary. Can they help? Sure they can help, but are they going to be 100% needed for those of us who train around 60-90 minutes? Probably not as least as far as science shows.
Analyzing The Discussion
With all the research Alan and Brad have shown us in this podcast it is safe to say that we may have overlooked protein and nutrient intake to a far degree especially from what we have been told growing up. The things we read on multiple online articles and in magazines on a day-to-day basis may be stretching what science is truly showing. That window of opportunity everyone always believes by slamming a protein shake, or needing to speed home from the gym to eat a meal right away, is a far stretch depending on the situation. Especially if you are not in a vastly fasted state or have not eaten for a long time prior to training.
The main take away point on protein is that if you have a protein rich meal (at least 30-45g protein depending on elderly or younger) prior to training, then do not stress about slamming that protein shake after your last working set. Drive home and have a meal, or go home and blend up a big protein shake/smoothie of your desire. In that 4-6 hour window we have been talking about with mixed meals it would be wise to breakdown to at least .4-.5g/kg of LBM for protein in those meals. So if you were 200 pounds and needed .4-.5g of protein that would be around 80g and broken down to about 40g in each meal (pre/post) which again goes right back to the research showing 30-45g maximizing Muscle Protein Synthesis.
Last but not least the overall carb debate and needing to slam pixie sticks, dextrose, or other high GI Carbs is again a far cry and does not meaningfully increase anabolism unless doing a 2 a day workout session involving the same muscle groups or following a heavy leg day with HIIT Cardio. If you can consume your carbohydrate allowance in the 24 hour period there is no need to stress the timing. I would still make sure you are being smart with your carbohydrate intake and placing the main focus around your workout for optimal performance.