The common belief is that if you want to build muscle, you need to eat lots of protein and carbohydrates because carbohydrates fuel your muscles. However, the evidence that has emerged over the past several years shows us it’s not that simple.
Amino acids and protein serve not just as building blocks for tissues and muscle. Certain amino acids can also signal genes in your muscle to grow and to build protein, and they do that even during times of food deprivation as long as these amino acids are circulating through your blood stream.
Moreover, scientists have found that the ratio between protein and carbohydrates is critically important, especially as you age. Research shows that high-carbohydrate diets fail to build muscle even in younger people. Again and again, it’s the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that proves the most effective both for muscle building and weight loss.
So, there are two primary factors involved in effective fitness nutrition:
- A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet
- A diet containing certain amino acids, the most notable of which is leucine
Leucine—A Powerful Muscle Builder
Leucine is part of a branched-chain amino acid found in certain foods. It serves multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the MTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism, which causes protein to be created and builds your muscle. However, you need far more than the recommended daily allowance of leucine in order to reap the optimal effect.
The highest concentrations of leucine and other branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are found in high quality whey protein.
In order to establish the right anabolic environment, you should try to increase leucine consumption beyond maintenance requirements.
But be aware that only food-based leucine can benefit your muscles.
So how much leucine in the form of whey protein do you need to consume to get results?
Based on nitrogen-balance measurements, the requirement for leucine to maintain body protein is 1-3 grams daily. And to optimize its anabolic pathway, it has been estimated that leucine intake should be about 8g – 16g daily.
This means that to get the minimum 8 gram leucine requirement for anabolic purposes, you would need to consume the following amount of food daily:
- a pound and a half of chicken
- three pounds of pork
- over a pound of almonds (over 3000 calories)
- over a pound and a half of raw eggs (16 eggs)
- half a pound of raw cheddar cheese
And remarkably, this amount of food is only equivalent to3oz of high-quality whey. In order to get the maximum of 16 grams per day, you need only 6 oz. of high quality whey.
As you can see, whey protein supplementation can effectively allow you to get the minimum or maximum leucine you need to build muscle without consuming excessive amounts of food and calories.
Written by John Lehner