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Supplementing Between Meals Is Anabolic

Should you eat frequently throughout the day to stimulate muscle growth or just 3 regular meals? A recent study provides clear evidence for protein supplementation between meals to maximize anabolism. Skeletal muscle nitrogen balance was measured on two occasions in healthy men. During one test, subjects consumed 3 regular mixed meals every 5 hours (8:30, 1:30, and 6:30) and during the other test they consumed the same meals but also supplemented with 15 g of essential amino acids + 30 g carbohydrate between meals (11:00, 4:00, and 9:00). Two very important findings were noted. First, the increase in protein synthesis following supplementation does not diminish the increase in protein synthesis after the subsequent meal. Second, supplementation between meals led to a significantly greater nitrogen balance over the 16 hour testing period compared to 3 meals alone. This is a critically important study that shows the anabolic effects of ingesting small amounts of high-quality, rapidly digested protein between meals. If you eat 3 meals/day like most people, you should consider adding a protein shake between meals to optimize nitrogen balance and muscle growth.

Koopman R, Wagenmakers AJM, Manders RJF, Zorenc AHG, Senden JMG, Gorselink M, Keizer HA, van Loon LJC. The combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases post-exercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab (November 23, 2004). doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00413.2004.