As a fitness enthusiast, you must have heard of terms such as Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and Muscle growth. No, they are not the same. To increase your muscle protein synthesis in such a way that it builds up your muscle mass, it helps to understand what these terms really mean and what steps you can take to achieve this.
What is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
At any given moment, amino acids in the human body are constantly fusing together to form proteins or breaking apart back into amino acids. When amino acids combine together to form muscle tissue, this process of “anabolism” is called “muscle protein synthesis”. This includes the synthesis of actin, myosin and other myofibrillar proteins. Actin filaments are thin while myosin filaments are thicker. The sliding of these filaments over each other is what allows the muscles to contract and relax.
When amino acids in muscle tissues break apart, muscle protein breakdown (catabolism) occurs. Interestingly, both protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown occur simultaneously in the body, but at different rates. When protein breakdown overtakes protein synthesis rates, muscle loss occurs due to the negative protein balance. When the rate of protein synthesis is more than the breakdown rate, the resulting positive protein balance leads to muscle growth.
Our bodies normally swing between these two states. No major changes are seen in the mass muscle of the body on a day-to-day basis as both these processes take place at similar rates, maintaining a balanced cycle of cellular regeneration. Any rise in muscle protein synthesis is followed by a similar rise muscle breakdown, so the net impact on muscle mass is almost muted. So how do we ensure that muscle protein synthesis results in muscle growth?
Hyperaminoacidemia for Increased Protein Synthesis Rates
A high protein diet provides the body with all the raw material it needs to build muscle and increase the rate of protein synthesis. This also reduces the rate of muscle breakdown as the dietary deficiency of specific amino acids can lead to muscle breakdown. Immediately after consuming protein, for a short time period, the number of amino acids in the blood are elevated. Known as hyperaminoacidemia, this stimulates higher rates of protein synthesis than at a resting state.
Training hard has a catabolic effect as this inflicts damage on your targeted muscles and breaks them down. But once the training stops, the body becomes anabolic as the body starts healing the muscles. A high protein post workout meal can help kick-start this process by flooding the body with amino acids, to stimulate increased protein synthesis rates, as mentioned earlier. The amino acid leucine plays an important role here, so make sure to include plenty of leucine-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and pistachio nuts.
Protein Synthesis and Muscle Growth
When protein synthesis rates remain consistently positive over a period of time, muscle growth occurs. In other words, your muscles gain mass and become stronger when, for an extended period of time, your body synthesizes more muscle protein as compared to breaking it down.
But this is easier said than done. To maintain a net positive protein synthesis rate on a consistent basis requires a high level of dedication as well as commitment. Now you know why successful bodybuilders put in so much effort to make sure that more muscle is synthesized. They perform intense exercises, have surplus calories, eat proteins and carbs, eat even more protein before sleeping and again after waking up, before their workout and after their workout, use supplements if needed, and so much more.
Lean Muscle Vs Bulk Muscle
So will eating a high protein diet and being physically active give you big strong bulging muscle? Have you noticed that despite doing plenty of intense physical activities that lead to increased levels of muscle protein synthesis, professional athletes do not have bulging muscles?
When people with less body fat build muscle, their muscles look lean and toned. When even more muscle is built, the muscles start looking bulkier.
A personal body fat percentage also plays a role in how bulky these muscles look. Bodybuilders focus their diet and workouts for building strength and bigger muscles, so they are able to achieve bulkier looking muscles. Athletes mostly plan their diet and workouts for energy and endurance, so their muscle mass tends to be leaner. An athlete will have to up his protein intake and do more resistance exercises, rather than cardio if he wishes to create more muscle mass.
Lifting weights and guzzling down protein shakes do not guarantee strong, beautiful muscles. You do see so many people doing exactly that and not reaching anywhere. There are so many additional factors involved – such as ensuring that all essential acids are being consumed in adequate quantities, sufficient carbs for energy, fats for testosterone production, fiber for improved digestion, additional vitamins and minerals, adequate sleep for recovery, and so on.
Understanding the basic mechanism of how protein synthesis leads to muscle growth will help you reach your bodybuilding goals faster. If you are looking for a magic formula to pop out those muscles, then you will have by now understood that a high protein diet is a key ingredient to achieving your goal. Missing out on any of the essential amino acids can negatively impact muscle growth. So make sure that your diet includes complete proteins such as eggs, meat, and fish.
Vegans can opt for soy or pea protein along with a mix of other high protein foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. Pea protein powder and other vegan protein powders can easily be made at home, without the unhealthy preservatives or additives that commercial protein powders tend to have. With the right diet, smart and intense strength training and adequate sleep, your muscle protein synthesis will definitely result in muscle growth. Just be consistent and disciplined in your muscle building efforts.
With a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition, Tilottama has carved a niche for herself in the Health Writing Industry. She is passionate about helping her readers make informed decisions about the food they eat. She believes in the healing power of food and in food as medicine. Tilottama is an editor and writer at Fitnesshacks.org.