Protein is the single most important food for increasing muscle size and building strength. For example, recent studies show that taking at least 20 grams of whey protein every three hours will maximally stimulate protein synthesis to produce muscle gains in conjunction with resistance training.
Scientists are now exploring the type and quantity of meat that will have the greatest impact on protein synthesis with training. A Canadian study tested the effect of the following four doses of 15 percent fat ground beef on protein synthesis after a unilateral leg extension workout performed to failure:
Two oz. of beef providing 12 grams of protein
Four oz. of beef providing 24 grams of protein
Six oz. of beef providing 36 grams of protein
The untrained leg allowed researchers to consider how exercise influenced muscle building.
Results showed that muscle protein synthesis was greatest with the ingestion of the largest 6 oz. meal of beef. The effect was seen in both legs, and the trained leg experienced an additional anabolic effect.
A 6 oz. dose is double what is recommended by dietary guidelines in the U.S., and the robust effect on protein synthesis was nearly two-fold, highlighting the need for unique recommendations to build muscle.
The larger meal of beef, and a greater overall protein intake, is especially important for anyone over 35 years old because your ability to build muscle is dramatically reduced as you age. Twenty-year olds may be able to get by with mini protein meals, but be ready to increase your protein intake as you enter middle age if you want to stay lean, muscular, and strong.
So, how should you eat and supplement to gain strength and size with training?
First, eat a 4 to 6 oz. meal of high-quality protein after training, preferably beef, bison, or other meat. Opt for pastured and organic meat whenever possible.
Second, take at least 20 grams of whey protein immediately after training. If you are lean and your main goal is putting on muscle, consider dosing every three hours with whey for the greatest anabolic effect.
Third, get extra fiber from vegetables and eat probiotic foods to enhance optimal gut health. Eating plenty of vegetables and friendly bacteria will help reduce inflammation in the gut for better digestion and assimilation of nutrients.