How Many Meals A Day To Increase Protein Synthesis

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How to increase protein synthesis to build muscle faster

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m talking about how many meals per day to build muscle, as well as the best muscle building foods to increase protein synthesis.

So you want to build muscle do you?

Good.

How Many Meals A Day To Increase Protein Synthesis

The three major aspects of building muscle fast are:

  1. You need to be following a properly structured workout program. To ensure you’re following the best program, go take our quick Live Lean Body quiz here.
  2. You need to be in a calorie surplus. Click here to calculate how many calories you need to build muscle.
  3. Protein is the most important nutrient for building muscle and strength.

And that’s what I want to focus on in this episode.

Muscle Protein synthesis.

This topic came from a question from one of our Live Lean group coaching clients.

How Many Meals A Day To Increase Protein Synthesis

Kayla asked: 

“I heard that it’s important to eat every 2.5 to 3 hours to keep up with protein synthesis. I used to be pretty good at this, but with my new job, it will be hard to sneak food every 3 hours haha. If I only eat three meals a day (but still the right amount of Kcal), will I be at a significant disadvantage if my goal is to build a solid amount of muscle?”

So lets first talk about what muscle protein synthesis means.

What is muscle protein synthesis?

If you’re looking to build muscle and get stronger, it’s important to increase protein synthesis.

Muscle protein synthesis is simply a fancy word for the process of repairing and building new muscle tissue.

You increase protein synthesis by the foods you eat throughout the day.

Is a post workout meal important for building muscle?

Increasing protein synthesis after your workout is especially important for building muscle, as lifting weights breaks your muscles down, also known as muscle protein breakdown.

To build muscle:

  • The rate of muscle protein synthesis needs to be higher than muscle protein breakdown.

You lose muscle when:

  • The rate of muscle protein breakdown is greater than muscle protein synthesis.

You maintain muscle when:

  • The rate of muscle protein breakdown is equal to muscle protein synthesis.

How much protein do you need to increase protein synthesis?

When it comes to muscle protein synthesis, eating more protein is not always better.

Typically it only takes 20-30g of a high quality protein to increase protein synthesis.

Studies have shown that eating a meal with 30g of protein, increased protein synthesis the same amount, as a meal with 60g of protein.

So regardless, if you ate a 8 oz steak vs a 4 oz steak, you’d increase protein synthesis by the same amount.

But this isn’t to say your body won’t absorb and use the protein from the 8 oz steak for other healthy bodily functions.

In fact, the body can store the amino acids in the muscle tissue, and use them as reserves, when you go for longer periods of time between meals.

Plus, it will also help you hit your overall daily protein intake goals.

However again, it just won’t increase protein synthesis anymore than a 4 oz steak would for that meal.

Based on this, if muscle building is your goal, it’s recommend that your meals include at least 20-30g of protein to properly increase protein synthesis.

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How often should I eat to increase protein synthesis?

Every 3 hours is optimal for increasing protein synthesis throughout the day.

But don’t freak out.

I talk more about this, including if this is right for you, at the end of the video.

Best muscle building foods to increase protein synthesis

Aim to have one of these best muscle building foods with each meal to increase protein synthesis throughout the day:

A high quality whey protein isolate powder is the best muscle building protein powder, as it contains a superior amino acid profile that is especially high in leucine.

What is Leucine?

Leucine is one of the three essential amino acids found in branched chained amino acids i.e. BCAAs, and is considered the most important, as it is known to be the sole stimulator of muscle protein synthesis.

The other two branched chained amino acids are isoleucine and valine.

Supplementing with leucine may help build muscle if your diet is low in protein, or for older people who are not as efficient in increasing muscle protein synthesis from their diet alone.

An increase in protein is especially important for older people as the ability to build muscle can be reduced after the age of 35.

How to supplement with Leucine

Typical doses of Leucine to help increase protein synthesis range from 2-5g, however it needs to be taken with sufficient levels of amino acids to work properly.

In most cases, 3-4g of leucine is required to maximize protein synthesis, which is especially ideal after your workout.

If you’re using a high quality whey protein isolate powder, it should contain the necessary 3g of leucine to increase protein synthesis.

If not, to maximize protein synthesis, consider supplementing the difference with a leucine supplement.

Recently I’ve been testing:

  • 5g of leucine before my workout (or 2.5g before and 2.5g during)
  • 5g of leucine after my workout

Again, if you are taking a high quality whey protein powder and eating enough of the best muscle building foods mentioned earlier, this may not be necessary.

Especially if your goal is to just look good naked.

Bottom line:

You only need approximately 20-30g of protein per meal to increase protein synthesis at a given time.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have more, it just means it’s all you ideally need, during that meal, to increase protein synthesis.

Also aim for these muscle building goals:

But remember:

These recommendation are for optimal results.

If you’re not a professional athlete or bodybuilder, eating 20-30g of protein every 3 hours is not a make or break situation for your muscle building goals.

Further to this, here was my response to our client Kayla:

“The most important thing is hitting your total calories and protein requirements at the end of the day. Yes, for muscle building, every 3-4 hours is optimal for protein synthesis, but for Living Lean, 3 meals a day also works.”

Jessica also responded with:

“Yeah every 3-4 hours is a good goal in an ideal world, but in the real world, where we all have jobs and obligations, we have to do the best we can. A smart tactic is to have meals planned so you can fill up on healthy food, before and after work, so you don’t have to stress about how long between.”

How Many Meals A Day To Increase Protein Synthesis

If you’re not a professional athlete or bodybuilder:

But you just want to look better naked, and feel stronger in everyday life, you can still build muscle even if you don’t eat every 3 hours.

Overall protein intake is more important for you than the timing and frequency of protein intake.

Leave those complex details to the professional athletes.

Just do the best you can to be more aware of the breakdown of the meals and snacks when you are eating.

Living Lean is about progress, not perfection.

Join our Team at Team Live Lean

Seriously, if you’re completely overwhelmed, and just need some guidance, I highly recommend you join our team of like minded group coaching clients at TeamLiveLean.com.

Not only do you get access to our weekly meal plans, cooking video recipes, grocery lists, and workout programs, you also get access to both Jessica and I, and hundreds of other like minded people, in our private Facebook Accountability Group.

I’ll put a clickable link in the video description below.

Thanks for watching, and keep Living Lean.


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Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.

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