Current Dietary Recommendations in Strength Training

Efforts to expand the limits of human strength and endurance have kept the scientist and the athlete occupied for centuries. The quest for another pound of muscle, or to lift next couple of kilos has been relentlessly pursued in the gym and the laboratory alike. As the questions and conquests became more challenging, the answers have become more elusive and complicated. Few concepts and conclusions have withstood the test of time in exercise physiology. Even as we tackle the metabolic and genetic basis of skeletal muscle response to strength training, there are only some things that we know for sure.

Strength is the cumulative expression of the innumerable myofibrils orderly arranged to form the muscle. Strength training attempts to boost these protein motors and the biological machinery that supports them. Resistance exercises create a biochemical environment in the body wherein the turnover of proteins is optimized and the protein synthetic machinery is primed for growth. All that is needed to trigger a spurt of growth is a protein rich meal. This response occurs in all age groups, although it is less efficient in the elderly. According to Philips SM, Tipton KD and others, in young individuals, the muscle is receptive to protein and amino acids for 48 hours after a workout. The only limiting factor for the hypertrophy of skeletal muscles during this period is the availability of high quality proteins.

A few tricks can amplify the growth response to strength training. The synthetic machinery has a ceiling. It can only handle a certain amount of amino acids at a time (specifically, six grams of protein). However, as the response lasts for two days, Bohe` J., in a dose-response study published in Journal of Physiology, 2003, recommended that repeated supplementation with three to six grams of high quality protein during the 48 hours after a workout can optimize the protein synthetic response without topping out the protein synthetic enzyme systems. Combining protein supplements with adequate carbohydrate (35g of sucrose with every 6g of protein) is also helpful. The carbohydrate acts as fuel for the muscle fibers sparing the protein for growth.

Research into the response of untrained strength athletes has come up with surprising results. The demand for proteins increases in both the trained and the untrained states. However, the relative protein requirement of an untrained athlete per kg per day often exceeds the trained counterpart. The initial phase of resistance training is exemplified by rapid growth and hypertrophy of skeletal muscles, before it hits the plateau. Another factor is the relative inefficiency of the protein synthetic machinery in the untrained state. Well-formulated protein supplements are thus necessary to sustain even the early phases of resistance training.

By Haadi