Muscle Protein Breakdown
Before getting into Muscle Protein Synthesis, we need to explain Muscle Protein Breakdown. When we exercise, our muscle fibers are being broken down, causing inflammation and swelling in the muscle (1). This breakdown includes the physical separation of the fibers that comprise the muscle structure (4). As a result, we likely feel sore, immobile and relatively weak for the next few days. This soreness or weakness is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). And, is a minor muscle strain that occurs when we engage in a new or high-intensity activity (2). As many of us have experienced, DOMS can last up to 5 or 7 days (3) which has adverse effects on our training.
Although it seems like we should avoid tearing our muscle fibers, Muscle Protein Breakdown is not so bad! Muscle Protein Breakdown allows you to break down those damaged muscle proteins into amino acids and recycle most of them into new functional muscle proteins again (6). In other words, muscle protein breakdown is part of building muscle.
What Is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
What follows muscle breakdown is Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) – the process that affects the repair and muscle growth. Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is the process in which protein is produced to build up and grow the existing and previously damaged muscle fibers (4). Repairing muscle damaged by exercise is essential for exercise recovery and muscle building.
For MPS and muscle growth to occur, the muscle must have an exercise-induced micro-injury. And, there needs to be sufficient protein or, more specifically, amino acids, since they are the building blocks of protein (3).
Amino Acids and Muscle Protein Synthesis
Amino acid availability is an important regulator of muscle protein metabolism. Increased amino acid availability post-exercise maximizes the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and results in even greater muscle synthesis than when dietary amino acids are not present (7).
BCAAs, especially leucine, have become more popular in the athletic community. Research determined that leucine is responsible for initiating the muscle recovery process after training. Leucine provides the signal to switch from a catabolic state to an anabolic state. In other words, this is where the body stops breaking down muscle and starts to rebuild it. More recently, researchers have sought to determine if leucine is the only key amino acid needed for muscle repair and recovery, or whether all the BCAAs or even all of the EAAs should be present in the bloodstream for optimal repair and recovery.
A 2016 study by Moberg et al compared the impact of water, leucine, BCAAs, and all EAAs in resistance-trained men completing a training protocol. In short, the results found that BCAAs provided alone or in the full mix of EAAs stimulated repair and recovery better than water or leucine alone.
Although BCAAs are in some of the foods we eat, it can be difficult to make sure you get enough BCAAs regularly when you are following a hard training plan, working to maximize athletic performance or cutting calories. This is where BCAA supplementation can come in handy.
First, a great pre-workout supplement to try is Fast Charge. This product contains BCAAs, Arginine, Glutamine and B Vitamins to boost natural muscular energy and fight fatigue during your workout.
Secondly, drinking Action during your workout helps to increase stamina and performance while providing healthy hydration. This product contains BCAAs, Arginine, and Glutamine + electrolytes.
Finally, after your workout, Rapid Recovery accelerates muscle recovery and reduces next-day soreness. This product contains BCAAs, Arginine, Glutamine, complex carbs, and electrolytes.