Is it best to take a larger feeding of protein in one go, or for optimal results, should we take a small amount of protein (say a few grams) every 20-30 minutes?
Putting the practicality of such an approach aside, let’s look at the science on the subject.
After all, if it does yield superior results, it might be something you want to consider.
Sports scientists at McMaster University in Canada also wanted to find out .
They had 8 healthy male students train their legs and then administered proteins.
- 1 group was given 1 dose containing 25g whey [BOLUS].
- The other group was given a micro-shake of 2.5g of whey every 20 minutes [PULSE]. 10 doses were given over 3 hours (2.5g x 10 = 25g).
Amino acid levels in the students’ blood were measured, as well as muscle protein synthesis levels over the 3 hours.
BOLUS increased blood essential amino acid (EAA) concentrations above those of PULSE (162% compared with 53%) 60 minutes after exercise.
The PULSE group had a slower and more sustained increase over the 3 hours. The total EAA concentrations were roughly the same for both groups.
But what about muscle protein synthesis (MPS)?
MPS was elevated to a greater extent with BOLUS than with PULSE .
- 1-3 hrs: 95% [BOLUS] compared with 42% [PULSE] and,
- 3-5 hrs: 193% [BOLUS] compared with 121% [PULSE]
The researchers concluded:
“Rapid aminoacidemia [BOLUS] in the postexercise period enhances MPS and anabolic signaling to a greater extent than an identical amount of protein fed in small pulses that mimic a more slowly digested protein. A pronounced peak aminoacidemia after exercise enhances protein synthesis.”
Message: Stick to that large post-workout shake instead of the massively impractical plan of small feeds every 20 minutes.
You may also want to check out my other article How Much Protein Can The Body Absorb In 1 Sitting, to find out about even higher amounts of protein ingestion in 1 feeding.
Train With Intensity!
 Rapid aminoacidemia enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis and anabolic intramuscular signaling responses after resistance exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):795-803. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013722. Epub 2011 Jul 27.
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Do you think real food is better/the same/worse than powders?
It’s definitely cheaper, quicker and less calories than real food, but how about for effects on muscles?
Post-workout it’s better because of the quicker absorption. Read this https://musclehack.com/how-much-protein-can-the-body-absorb-in-one-sitting/
Apart from that, solid food is great.
Interesting… Wonder what the implications would be for those who are more focused on fat burning. Impact of bolus vs. micro doses on insulin?
Great to hear my hometown university conducted this research! I have always had my protein immediately after a workout and I’ll continue to do so. Love the science in muscle building
Great! It was always mystery for me, because both were suggested to me (BOLUS and PULSE) from different professionals But mystery solved now,
Thanks MARK you rock as always 🙂
@jman. Even when cutting insulin is not a dirty word. In fact, it helps with protein synthesis, especially in the post-workout period. A big dose of whey does just that and so BOLUS is the way to go even when on a cut.
@Allen @Shan. Thanks
hey mark i have a question about tspa 2, ive followed everything and a stall has occured in my fat loss is there an email address i could use to ask you this question? thanks man, you’re my hero.
What’s your opinion on the theory of taking a quart of whole full fat milk post workout. There is controversy on how the combination of both whey and casein may be superior post workout. And apparently whole milk showed more fat loss and muscle gain then low fat milk when both were taken post workout, although the researchers don’t know why. Dairy calcium can enhance fat loss in some peoplet but it can also stall it in others….so they say…..My logic has always been to stick with the fast absorbtion of whey protein, but these studies can be confusing. Well when in doubt, I follow your advice, you’ve always kept things simple to understand and follow. 🙂
Bolus is my middle name. I wait until 2 hours after workout for main meal, since study I read says MPS happens the most 3-5 hours after a workout. (takes an hour to get the whey and protein going).
BCAAs before and during (every 2 hours) workout, cuts down on calories count and preserves muscle.
Works for me.
ok so we now know a big hit of protein is good after a workout, but what about non workout days? same deal? get a big hit at once?
@Jesh. Ask it over at the facebook page
@Robert T. Just take whey for fast absorption
@James. You only need whey on non training days for convenience. Food will do the job. Whey is great post-workout because it’s going to absorb faster than anything else.