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Advanced Strength and Power Grow Time!

For those trying to gain weight, a nighttime protein drink does the anticatabolic trick.

Timing is everything, from landing the perfect job to meeting that special someone. That holds true for our eating patterns. Recent evidence shows that there may be optimal times to take your protein to maximize your gains.

How much protein? Did you know that there's an optimal amount of protein, as well as an optimal time to take it? Peter Lemon, Ph.D., an authority on the protein requirements of strength-trained athletes, has reviewed that topic many times. He recommends protein intakes no greater than 1.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. I usually recommend that my athletes take one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. That makes it easy for them to estimate their protein needs. It's more than the research says you need for building muscle, but it's convenient because athletes usually know their bodyweight. Current studies indicate that while extra protein may not build muscle faster, it may help to reduce bodyfat and appetite. I've used protein in the 25-to-40-percent range of calories to reduce bodyfat and control hunger. Once again, that's more than a person needs for building muscle, but it's about right for inhibiting appetite and increasing bodyfat burn.

Which proteins are best? Howard Stern loves Met-Rx. Next Nutrition says that Designer Protein rules. EAS has the protein powder to give you massive muscle growth. New and improved proteins are coming out all the time. The veterans among us remember when everything tasted terrible and mixed up like paste or didn't mix at all. Most of today's protein powders taste great and mix easily compared to those of yesteryear. In general, the latest protein powders are all good quality. The fact is, as long as it's a high-quality protein, it doesn't matter which brand you choose.

Different types of proteins have unique properties, however. When whey and casein were compared to see how they affected protein synthesis in people, some interesting things were discovered. Casein was digested slowly and released amino acids into the blood gradually, with levels elevated as long as three hours later. The researchers found that casein did not affect protein synthesis much, but it dramatically decreased protein breakdown.

When researchers looked at whey, they discovered some big differences. First, the rate at which amino acids were released into the blood was much faster. That resulted in a significant increase in protein synthesis. Unfortunately, the increase ended in about an hour. The sudden increase also caused protein catabolism to increase. Keep in mind that the body is in a dynamic state. At the same time proteins are being created, or synthesized, other proteins are being broken down, or catabolized.

Of course, our goal is to emphasize protein synthesis over protein catabolism. I have dealt with that dilemma by adding certain amino acids to the mix so that we could maximize protein synthesis.

The right place at the right time. Knowing that casein can inhibit protein breakdown for up to three hours is important. The latest evidence indicates that eating protein immediately before a workout is much better than immediately after. By incorporating some of those research findings with the results from other studies, I developed a system of protein timing that has yielded very impressive results in my clients. I have them take a mixture of whey protein isolate, leucine, taurine and glutamine immediately before training. As they begin their weight workout, amino acids enter their bloodstreams. Each muscle contraction stimulates amino acid uptake. With that timely combo of whey and amino acids, my clients' hardworking muscles have the aminos they need to synthesize protein and perhaps decrease protein catabolism.

Immediately after training, I have them take the same mixture, plus about double the amount of carbohydrates. You can add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil and some fruit too.

For guys trying to gain weight, I recommend a nighttime protein drink, a sustained-release whey or a casein-based protein powder with extra taurine, leucine and glutamine.

What and how? A mixture of whey, milk and additional amino acids may be your best bet. You get a variety of essential amino acids with extra quantities of key aminos that will stimulate protein synthesis and other effects. A scoop of whey protein blended with two cups of skim milk, leucine, taurine, glutamine, a banana and some ice will meet the requirements for a nighttime shake and taste pretty good as well. For those who crave a sweeter and thicker shake, try mixing in some instant sugar-free banana pudding. About one tablespoon thickens the shake and really enhances the flavor. There are plenty of options for making healthful shakes quickly and easily. Stick with the basic formula of one scoop of whey and two cups of skim milk. Since most of my clients don't eat as much fruit and vegetables as they should, we use the shakes to 'sneak' them in. Strawberry whey protein and fresh or frozen strawberries are an excellent combination.

Some people say they want to maximize their insulin after a workout, so they use fruit juice instead of whole fruits. Spiking insulin levels makes sense, but I think it should be done in a way that will also benefit your health and not rob you of vital nutrients. Try to stick with whole fruits over fruit juices in most of your daily shakes.

Sample Protein-timing Schedule

Preworkout Drink
Whey protein, 20 to 40 grams
Leucine, 1 teaspoon
Taurine, 1 teaspoon
Glutamine, 1 teaspoon

Postworkout Drink
Whey protein, 20 to 40 grams
Carbs, 40 to 80 grams
Leucine, 1 teaspoon
Taurine, 1 teaspoon
Glutamine, 1 teaspoon
Creatine, 1 teaspoon

[Note: Muscle-Link's RecoverX is a postworkout powder with the proper fast-protein-to-fast-carbs ratio. See the Muscle-Link website for more info.]

Nighttime shake
Meal-replacement powder with 30 to 40 grams protein (casein-based or timed-release whey)
Leucine, 1 teaspoon
Taurine, 1 teaspoon
Glutamine, 1 teaspoon

[Note: Muscle-Link's Muscle Meals is a micellar-casein-and-whey meal replacement with balanced minerals. See the Muscle-Link website for more info.]

Editor's note: Tom Incledon, Ph.D., currently works with some of the world's top athletes at Athletes' Performance, a world-class training facility for the serious competitive athlete. Many exciting research projects are under way. You can contact him at IM

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