Tips to limit muscle loss and hang onto your gym #gainz

We all know how important a post-workout protein shake is to build muscle, but we can also boost our results when we take steps to limit muscle loss during and after training.

As research into recovery has advanced, new supplement, nutritional and recovery approaches have emerged in this regard.

Feed muscles before and during training

Sipping on an intelligently-formulated supplement before and during training provides a steady supply of amino acids, which research shows can deliver significant muscle-sparing benefits by limiting damage, optimising tissue repair and enhancing recovery.

As a result, the pre- and intra-workout supplement market has grown significantly in recent years, with numerous products now on offer that provide a range of essential amino acids (EAAs), branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and various protein sources.

READ MORE | Prime Your Body For Performance With Pre-Workout Supplements

Easier digestion, faster absorption

Before you buy a product, carefully consider its protein source. An effective pre- or intra-workout product should contain a highly bioavailable protein, like hydrolysed whey, which is partially pre-digested during the manufacturing process.

It is also worth considering your digestive health and any allergies or intolerances. Lactose intolerance, IBS and other common digestive conditions can impact protein absorption and can lead to serious discomfort during training. In some instances, a plant-based protein source might be better.

For these reasons, amino acids – either EAAs, BCAAs or a combination – are often preferred over complete proteins in pre- and intra-workout supplements due to their limited impact on digestion during intense exercise.

This benefit is derived from lower mechanical digestion demands, which requires sufficient blood flow to your gut. However, when you’re knocking out heavy reps or grinding out sled sprints, the muscles tend to monopolise your blood supply. That means there is less blood available to support digestion.

Attempting to meet heightened demands from both systems could result in digestive distress or could affect workout performance by diverting blood volume away from working muscles.

EAAs and BCAAs, which require less digestion and are rapidly absorbed, limit the potential for gastrointestinal issues and get into the blood quickly to support working muscles, which is why they are often preferred over complete proteins.

READ MORE | 3 Rules To Successful, Sustainable Weight Loss

Spare muscle & limit damage

There are numerous studies that support these benefits. One such study, conducted by researchers from the School of Life Sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle and the School of Sport Health and Applied Science at St Mary’s University College in the UK, found that BCAAs taken before and after damaging weight training reduced muscle damage and accelerated recovery.

The research findings, which were published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, also found significant reductions in muscle soreness and an increase in maximum muscle power output.

There is also a strong scientific support for including carbs in intra-workouts to amplify these benefits. According to a study by Australian researchers at the School of Human Movement Studies at Charles Sturt University, ingesting carbs during your workout can boost the anabolic response and may also blunt the natural exercise-induced cortisol response, which can help to limit muscle loss or even potentially reduce fat storage.

READ MORE | Why The Protein Blend Is On Trend

Limiting loss between workouts

When you leave the gym, a suitable protein shake will boost your recovery, but a whey shake might not be the most effective option in this regard, depending on your diet. For those who drink a whey shake only after training, a protein blend that contains whey, casein and soy may have a better muscle-sparing effect.

A clinical study titled “Effect of Protein Blend vs. Whey Protein Ingestion on Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Resistance Exercise”, which was presented by Dr. Blake Rasmussen and colleagues at the 2012 Experimental Biology conference, showed an increase in anabolism when consumed during the important post-workout anabolic window.

Whey’s rapid release makes it ideal to stimulate the anabolic response, which is supported by its high leucine content, while the soy and the casein offered the ideal combination to provide a sustained release of amino acids for up to five hours after consumption, which helps to limit muscle loss between meals. If, however, you eat a protein-rich meal or drink multiple whey shakes a day, then this might not be necessary.

For similar reasons, a casein supplement is often ideal for use at night as it is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey. The resultant steady amino acid trickle over a prolonged period during the night can have a significant muscle-sparing effect.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *