Lean body mass is a critical component in determining overall fitness. Although exercise represents the cornerstone for increasing lean body mass – which is primarily muscle protein other factors play an important role.
Building muscle protein is a dynamic process. At any given moment, our metabolic machinery is involved in manufacturing and repairing new muscle protein while at the same time breaking down existing protein. Understanding this core principle enables you to implement some simple measures to increase lean body mass. Your overriding objective should be to exploit those periods during the day when muscle cells are building protein and minimize those times when your muscle cells are breaking it down.
Here are five simple rules that will help increase lean body mass faster.
1. Consume your protein later in the day.
Protein consumption helps build lean body mass. However, your diurnal rhythm controls in large part the efficiency in which consumed protein is converted into muscle mass. We are hardwired metabolically to expend most energy in daylight hours. Protein is simply an inefficient energy source. Consuming a high protein diet when your body is expending energy is self-defeating. You neither get increased muscle mass nor an efficient source of energy. However, consuming a high protein diet in the early evening when energy needs are lessened will result in greater stimulation of protein synthesis. You will also get an added benefit. Since protein diminishes appetite, you will be less inclined to consume empty calorie-containing snacks prior to going to bed.
2. Don’t skip your recovery beverage.
Although exercise increases lean body mass, it also increases release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that increases the breakdown of muscle protein. After high intensity exercise, cortisol levels are high, which results in increased muscle protein breakdown. The most effective way to minimize post-exercise protein breakdown is to consume a specially-formulated recovery beverage with 45 minutes post-exercise. During this 45 minute recovery window the enzyme systems responsible for repair and rebuilding of protein are in a state of high activation. Research has shown that a recovery drink that contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein is most effective in stimulating protein synthesis and reducing protein breakdown.
3. Drink a protein shake before bed.
The sleep interval is the longest period of fasting. To maintain metabolic function during the 6-8 hour sleep interval, your body draws on its stored energy. Cortisol facilitates this process. During this period of fasting, cortisol increases the breakdown of muscle protein for use as energy. That’s why cortisol levels are highest when you awake. One way to minimize cortisol increase is to consume a protein shake before bed which decreases the rise in cortisol. A combination of whey and casein protein is the ideal combination. An added benefit- protein helps you sleep better.
4. Consume protein during your workout.
Although carbohydrate is the primary energy source, during extended exercise (40 minutes or more) up to 20% of your muscles’ energy can be derived from protein breakdown. When you consume a sports drink that combines carbohydrate with protein your muscles utilize the protein in the sports drink rather than cannibalizing your body’s muscle protein. Studies have shown a carbohydrate protein sports drink significantly decrease markers of muscle damage.
5. Loss weight gradually.
Although dieting can help you get rid of unwanted fat, thereby increasing percent of lean body mass, extreme diets actually increase muscle protein breakdown. Effective dieting requires a decrease in food intake. Quite often this is taken to the extreme and the results are quite surprising. Decreasing daily intake 300-400 calories will help you lose weight gradually and result in about a 9% loss in lean body mass. However, when you reduce your caloric intake by 800-1, 000 calories per day, up to 45% of the weight lost is lean body mass. In other words, an extreme diet results in almost five times the loss of lean body mass as a more gradual approach to caloric reduction.
The bottom line-Implementing these five suggestions as part of your overall exercise and fitness program can pay big dividends in terms of increasing lean body mass.