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Timing of Post-Exercise Protein Intake Important

Reference: Esmarck B, Andersen JL, Olsen S, Richter MM. Timing of post-exercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. Journal of Physiology. 535:301-311, 2001

In a study at the Sports Medicine Research Unit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Birgitte Esmarck led a team of researchers who wanted to determine if taking protein supplements at different times after hypertrophic resistance training would somehow effect the outcome in elderly people. This study takes a close look at the ageing population, an increasingly important demographic to study when it comes to health and wellness.

Many professionals appreciate the benefits of prevention of health problems as opposed to their subsequent treatment, and sustaining an active lifestyle is essential to this process. Discovering how the elderly population reacts to and benefits from exercise and fitness supplements is a branch of study that can help professionals better serve this group of people. It is already known that as humans age, bone density reduces, as does skeletal muscle mass. This shrinkage and weakening is a natural part of ageing, however, physical activity can slow and even counteract this process if done correctly. Resistance training, in particular, is responsible for increasing muscle mass, known as hypertrophy.

With resistance training, the muscles are challenged, causing a net synthesis of proteins in the muscles. With the use of supplements, this synthesis of proteins is made more quickly and is easier on the body. However, previous studies had not determined at what point after working out was optimal for the most effective recuperation and regeneration phase. Thirteen participants, all about 74 years of age, were entered into a resistance-training program lasting 12 weeks. Split into two groups, they were given a protein-rich beverage either immediately post-workout or two hours post-workout.

The results were then measured at the end of the program through a series of tests, including biopsy, isokinetic and dynamic strength measurements, an MRI, and DEXA. The results of the two groups were compiled and compared, showing a clear increase in muscle size, mass and strength in those who supplemented immediately. The delayed group showed no size alterations and only a very slight increase in strength.

The practical usability of this study is clear; there is a strong benefit to the ageing population in using a protein supplement immediately after training, for both strength and muscle gain, after resistance training.

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