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Protein synthesis is reduced during an intense workout. To ensure muscle growth, you must minimize the catabolic effects of training and get back to an anabolic state as soon as possible. There are several things you can do to make this happen and prime your body for building muscle.
Anabolic muscles and cell volume go hand in hand. Studies show that cell swelling stimulates protein synthesis, while also preventing protein from breaking down. The enzyme mTOR controls protein synthesis, and is dependent on cell volume. Scientists recently discovered that glutamine activates mTOR, and is also essential for cell volumization. As such, high rates of protein synthesis cannot be maintained indefinitely without glutamine supplementation.
Pre-loading cells with glutamine before a workout is a process known as “glutamine loading.” Some benefits of glutamine loading can include:
Hydration is another factor that affects cell volume (and ultimately protein synthesis). If you want to experience muscle growth, you must ensure you are adequately hydrated before, during, and after your workout. Drinking water isn’t enough, as you also need electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, phosphate, and chloride. These substances work to draw water into the cells so that volumization and protein synthesis can then take place. Some sodium is also needed in order to promote the pump and ensure good glutamine uptake.
Insulin is by far the most anabolic hormone in the body, and is responsible for directly activating protein synthesis. Insulin also causes more glutamine to be present in muscle cells. Consuming pre and peri-workout carbs can help increase insulin levels. Fitness trainer Fred Duncan recommends around 30 to 50 grams of medium to high Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates approximately an hour or so before a meal. During the rest of the day, he recommends consuming foods that are high in protein and low in GI carbohydrates to ensure a good balance.
A strength training workout can increase lactate production and decrease the pH of your muscles. When this happens, your muscles may become fatigued, certain amino acid transporters may become inhibited, and the mTOR activation of protein synthesis can also become delayed. Beta-alanine acts as a buffer in this process, limiting the decrease in muscle pH and extending the anaerobic threshold. Its secondary function is to speed and maintain protein synthesis to ensure muscle growth takes place. Studies show that taking between 3 and 6 grams per day increases carnisone, a substance highly concentrated in working muscles.
As you can see, there are several things you can do to improve your odds of building muscle. If you are struggling with muscle growth, including one or more of the above items in your routine will have you leaner and stronger in no time.