The process of building muscle captivates everyone – exercise enthusiasts and gym-rats alike. Beyond the aesthetic, muscle moves us, burns fat and stores carbohydrate. Gaining muscle seems straightforward – break it down by training, build it up by eating protein, do this repeatedly – but what does the science in the area show?

The balance between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (“building”) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB) determines skeletal muscle. Comparatively, MPS is more influenced by external stimulus, like eating and exercise, than MPB making it more important in the pursuit of gaining muscle. For most, spending time in the gym is not an issue – half of us should probably be paying the gym rent instead of a membership – however, the science and application of protein ingestion isn’t as straightforward.

Variables concerning protein intake – such as total, dose, timing, quality, and co-ingestion with carbohydrates, can influence muscle hypertrophy several ways. But, how important are these variables?

1) Total intake

After resistance training, optimal protein intake maximize muscle gain. However, participants benefit most from an increased daily protein intake, in the range of 1.8 – 2.7 g/kg per day.

Pro-tip: If you cannot hit optimal protein target through whole food sources, supplemental protein, like Diesel, can help.

2) Dose

To maximize MPS, consume protein at a dose of 0.4 g/kg at each feeding. Beyond this dose, no further stimulation to MPS occurs.

Pro-tip: Calculate your required total and spread the effective dose through 4-5 feedings per day. Remember, total daily protein influences muscle gain the most, but spreading it out over the course of the day will help once you’ve mastered totals.

3) Timing

Exercise stimulates MPS for an extended period of time (~up to 48 hours), making protein consumption in this period important. However, daily protein intake, not timing, predicts muscle hypertrophy. Even so, protein in sufficient doses (0.4 g/kg/meal) both after resistance training and spread throughout the day is smart, even if the extent is negligible.

Pro-tip: Without hitting a daily total, protein timing doesn’t matter too much – similarly, if you were hoping to save money and reduced spending during the week, but blew it all on the weekend, would you save? No, consistent totals over days and weeks trump small windows of time. Also, if you plan on exercising fasted, branched chain amino acid (BCAA) products like Biocell, help prevent extended muscle breakdown.

4) Quality

Isolated protein sources have different physiological effects – whey and soy digest quickly causing a large rise in MPS. Casein digests slowly, supressing MPB.

Pro-tip: Since whey digests fast, products like APP Premium Proteins are ideal and convenient around your workout.

5) Co-ingestion with carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrates with protein stimulates insulin, an anabolic hormone influencing MPS, more so than protein alone. However, the level of insulin produced by protein and carbohydrate is beyond what is required to maximize MPS, meaning only protein is needed to capitalize on muscular hypertrophy.

Pro-tip: Just because it’s not essential for muscle gain, doesn’t mean it doesn’t help – depending on your body composition goals and carbohydrate requirements, consume upwards 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate around your workout.

Scientists recommend different ways to optimize muscle gain. To cover your bases, consume a diet with an optimal daily protein total, including an adequate dose for maximum MPS throughout the day, ensures nutritional needs are met for muscle gain.