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Optimizing Your Protein Routine

A science-backed breakdown for optimizing your protein routine

You spend hours training for your next Iron Man race, track every macronutrient, and stay hydrated—all so you can optimize your performance. But what about your protein routine? Have you considered strategies to get the most out of your protein shakes or powder

We're breaking it down, from how much to consume, when to take it, and what impacts the effectiveness of your protein routine.



Protein, carbohydrates, and fat


Want more energy? Eat more protein, carbs, and fat. Yes, carbs. There's a neverending debate about eating carbs, but ultimately, we need them for energy. 

Our bodies digest and absorb all of these macronutrients in our food to give us the energy we need to function. But they're also responsible for a host of our bodily functions, like:

  • Protein synthesis
  • Body temperature regulation
  • Muscle function
  • Respiration
  • Metabolizing food sources for energy 

While protein and carbs provide equal energy, fats supply more than twice the energy per gram. Because protein is responsible for almost every cellular process in the body—repairs tissues, stores nutrients, drives reactions—it's the last macronutrient your body wants to use for energy. 

But your body stores reserves of carbs and fats as energy when you consume more than you need, making them a better option for delivering energy. Your body breaks carbs into glucose to give your cells energy, like the brain, heart, muscles, and central nervous system.

Aside from being a rich energy source, fats support cell growth and make up the outer layer of your cells—the cell membrane. They also aid in the formation of hormones, impacting everything from your metabolism and blood pressure to your sleep quality. Your body needs dietary fats to source the necessary building blocks for hormone synthesis, including hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Your body also needs carbs and protein. Carbs are an essential energy source for both exercise and everyday life, while protein provides the structural support necessary for cells to survive. It's also pivotal in muscle protein synthesis (MPS).



What is muscle protein synthesis?

A scientific journal from the National Library of Medicine defines MPS as "the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise and represents a widely adopted proxy for gauging chronic efficacy of acute interventions," like exercise and nutrition. Simply put: it's how your body builds and maintains muscle.

There are three drivers of MPS:

  1. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. While there are over 20 amino acids, one stands out as an MPS stimulator: leucine. It signals that amino acids are available, and, with signals from insulin about energy availability, they work together to stimulate MPS.

  2. Resistance training, like banded workouts, pushups, or cable training, can also jumpstart MPS and induce hypertrophy. It increases contractile proteins, which are a key factor of myofibrillar hypertrophy—an increased muscle cell size, resulting in more muscle mass and strength.

  3. Growth factors, like insulin, testosterone, and growth hormone, contribute to cellular growth by activating satellite cell activity. These satellite cells aid in skeletal muscle regeneration and growth. Want to increase growth hormone? Getting more sleep is your best bet.


Why does MPS matter?

Whether a casual runner or dedicated triathlete, MPS is vital for maintaining and building muscle mass, especially as you age and lose muscle. 

MPS supports enhanced athletic performance and overall health and repairs muscles after workouts and resistance training. Your muscles experience micro-tears when you work out—they need MPS to repair and rebuild them to literally grow your muscles and build strength.



What affects MPS?

The greatest benefit of muscle protein synthesis is its role in rebuilding muscles and increasing strength. But to reap those benefits, first understand the factors that can impact the effectiveness of MPS and address them. 


  • Your age. Once you reach your twenties, MPS begins to slow down—for both men and women. And by the time men reach 65, they experience 16% less MPS after consuming protein. Older women experience even more muscle loss.

  • The quality of your protein. Typically, higher-quality whey protein is packed with leucine, the MPS stimulator, and is easier to digest, which also fast-tracks MPS. When you have better protein, you get better results.

  • When you consume protein. For the best results, eat or drink your protein after your workout. More importantly, make sure you hit your daily protein goals and try to consume protein throughout the day.

  • Your dosage. Different goals require different doses. If you want to put on muscle mass and see serious strength gains, you'll need more protein than someone looking only to maintain their physique.
  • Resistance training is one of the more effective ways to kick in MPS, but other activities and workouts will help you get there, too. Lifting and other exercises (especially done until failure) create micro-tears in your muscles, which signals your body to undergo MPS. Endurance sports like the Spartan Sprint or Ironman Triathlon that exhaust your muscles do the same.


MPS & Sports 

And if you're looking for activities to activate MPS that aren't as intense, HIIT sessions are the way to go. No matter which workout you choose, get enough protein to optimize muscle adaptation and aid the MPS process.



How to optimize MPS

Like anything else, there are ways you can optimize muscle protein synthesis, like increasing your protein intake and consuming it at the right time.



Protein intake

If you're looking to maximize performance, you need to consume between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day. But if you want to increase muscle mass, that number jumps to between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein. It all comes down to your end goal: maintaining requires less, building needs more.

MPS relies on a variety of factors—sleep, total calories, your workouts—which makes protein that much more crucial when you're in a caloric deficit. Your body doesn't have the extra calories necessary to maintain MPS, so professionals suggest consuming more protein when dieting. It allows your body to maintain muscle mass without tapping into reserved protein stores.



Protein timing

For optimal results, you want to get your protein in post-workout. Not only does it support MPS, but it also helps you heal and rebuild the muscles you broke down faster. Can't grab a protein shake after the gym? Don't worry—it's more important you hit your protein goal every day than to stress about when to eat or drink it.

Your gastrointestinal system (GI) requires significant energy to process protein. So, when you eat protein before a workout, you may be lessening the quality of your workout. Here's why:

  • The energy and blood flow required to break down the protein gets sent to your GI system instead of your muscles
  • A compromised blood flow and energy transfer to the GI system can cause bloating, discomfort, and nausea—not ideal conditions for an intense HIIT session

Carbs and fats, though, take far less energy to process, and they're mostly what your body uses during a workout. There's no need (or benefit) to have protein before your workout.



Time to optimize

Lean meats, nuts, lentils, and vegetables are an excellent source of protein. But if you want—or need—more to meet your muscle mass and strength goals, start with a high-quality, third-party-tested supplement. That's what we do.

Jocko Fuel Protein. Get Some.