|Image 1: Milk (proteins) are not just leucine or EAA - try doing that with half the amount of free-form aminos in water - the results will certainly be "suboptimal", I can vouch for that ;-)|
You won't get a-whey without 20g+ of whey!
To elucidate whether the increasingly popular practice of pimping whole proteins with amino acids does make any sense in terms of being able to get away with less total protein, yet identical increases in post-workout protein synthesis Churchward-Venne et al. recruited 24 recreationally active, young adult male volunteers (22±0.6 years; 1.80±0.02m; 76.4±2.0 kg; BMI 24.3kg/m²), who had to perform a standardized 4x4 unilateral leg-workout with 3 min rest between sets consisting of
- 4x 10-12 reps of seated knee-extension and
- 4x 10-12 reps of leg-press
Note: The reason Churchward-Venne et al. decided to use a unilateral exercise protocol was that this allowed them to take biopsies from both the exercised and non-exercised leg and thus determine the individual influence of exercise and supplementation.
You better make sure you get your protein, not just EAAs or leucine
|Figure 1: Amino acid compositions of the test drinks (Churchward-Venne. 2012)|
- whey protein - 25 g whey protein isolate (total leucine: 3g)
- whey + leucine: 6.25 g whey protein isolate supplemented with free-form leucine (total leucine: 3g)
- whey + EAA: 6.25 g whey protein isolate supplemented with free-form EAAs (total leucine: 0.75g)
|Figure 2: Relative expression of p-mTOR (left) and p70S6K (right) compared to baseline (Churchward-Venne. 2012)|
|Figure 3: Pseudo (=simply weighed by the timespan) area under the curve (a.u) for mTOR and p70S6K, AUC for leucine (a.u.) and fractional protein synthesis in the exercised leg 3-5h after the workout (based on Churchward-Venne. 2012)|
A protein pump without protein is useless
Based on the data we have, it is difficult to say whether it is the lack of an individual, a certain combination or the total amount of (non-)essential amino acids that is responsible for this affect. If you take a look at the amino acid composition of the test solutions in figure 1, it does yet appear likely to assume that it is the absence of non-essential amino acids...what? Glutamin? No, I thought so as well, but when you come to think about it, glutamine, of which we have recently seen that it does play a hitherto under-appreciated role in protein synthesis, is unlikely to exert this effect on its own. After all, Chiu et al. based their conclusions with respect to the necessity of glutamine to maximize protein synthesis on increases in mTOR expression (cf. "A New Role for Glutamine in Protein Synthesis?"). 3-5h after the workout the initially increased mTOR levels in the whey protein group had yet returned to baseline and the the leucine, BCAA and EAA levels in the blood of the subjects were identical in all groups (data not shown); and still, the influx of protein into the exercised leg musculature of the whey group was ~80% higher than that in the EAA group.
|Image 2 (dormtainment.com): Subjects from the EAA, the leucine and the whey group (from left to right) after ingestion of the respective fluids - just kiddin' *rofl*|
- 20-25g of whey protein are still the go to post-workout protein source
- building a better post workout protein from free form EAAs is not feasible
- the importance of the non-essential amino acids in "real" protein is probably under-appreciated
- the importance or I should say potency of leucine is probably much over-estimated
- muscle protein synthesis and thus skeletal muscle hypertrophy is not a 2h post workout game
- Chiu M, Tardito S, Barilli A, Bianchi MG, Dall'asta V, Bussolati O. Glutamine stimulates mTORC1 independent of the cell content of essential amino acids. Amino Acids. 2012 May 8. [Epub ahead of print]
- Churchward-Venne TA, Burd NA, Mitchell CJ, West DW, Philp A, Marcotte GR, Baker SK, Baar K, Phillips SM. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol. 2012 Mar 25.
- Loenneke JP, Wilson JM, Manninen AH, Wray ME, Barnes JT, Pujol TJ. Quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jan 27;9(1):5.
- Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, Tang JE, Glover EI, Wilkinson SB, Prior T, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):161-8.