• Joshua Li

Protein Synthesis, Muscle Growth And Training Frequency


Why Protein Synthesis and how it ties with Muscle Growth?

Protein synthesis is often overlooked and dismissed as it could be deemed unimportant, however this topic fully aligns with the science of how training more frequently can improve our muscle gains and why to not knock off full body workouts as they may yield more potential growth .

Research indicates that when we train a certain muscle group, protein synthesis remains elevated within the 48 hour window of training it but generally doesn't’ exceed over 36 hours in most scenarios, then eventually returning back to baseline level. Furthermore if you were to adapt an body part split you’ll only be repairing for up to 2 days and will be giving that muscle group approx 5 days of recover post training. This method alone will build muscle but the rate may not be as optimal as you will not be opening that window of protein synthesis as often as compared to a higher frequency split.

Training combined with nutrient intake are significant activators of protein synthesis, training may induce more results as nutrient increases are often short term and not elevated as much as working out.

Another misconception regarding this matter is the more soreness you accumulate from a workout the more growth it contributes. However you can hammer a particular muscle group to oblivion but it will still not extend the protein synthesis window, hence the level of soreness you acquire does not correlate to maximum muscle growth. The soreness has more relation to connective tissue inflammation which is the tissue that binds muscle fibers together, so DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is not a direct indicator of muscle tissue damage so the concept of ‘pain is gain’ isn't absolute.

In order to grow we have to optimise protein synthesis to its fullest capacity, while making sure this outweighs the process of muscle protein breakdown. So all in all it would make sense to keep muscle protein synthesis at a heightened level as often as possible.

The Optimal Training Frequency

In terms of optimal training frequency, we should opt for training each muscle group 2-3x per week with moderate volume so you can illicit that protein synthesis window to an extended period. This approach will be more suited to the natural lifter as compared to training one muscle group per day with insane volume which will again only open up that window for 2 days give or take. So by hitting a muscle group more times during the week; the window of protein synthesis will be activated more frequently and as a result more gains!

To conclude, if you are a natural lifter who’s primary goal is to build as much muscle as possible, a full body or an upper/lower split will keep protein synthesis levels at a higher rate, in turn result in better progress.

How Frequently Should You Train?

Again if your main priority is to build muscle as fast as possible then try converting to a full body split as you will be targeting each muscle group 2 - 3 times per week which will keep protein synthesis present for a longer duration, hence more optimal gains.

As an intermediate lifter who has had a few years under his belt of training and has a foundation of strength built, adhering to a upper and lower split may be a more sustainable approach as continuously lifting heavy weight can hinder recovery and put your joints in vulnerable situations where it my be prone to injury. Taking those extra few days rest may be beneficial as to training 5 - 6 days straight on a body part split.

On the contrary, ease into a full body workout and try minimise the volume as compared to a one body part split which generally contains aggressive amount of sets and reps. Frequency training is a complete different ball game since the subjective is not to do every possible exercise for the prescribed muscle group but to evenly distribute that volume throughout the week into 2 - 3 sessions; moderate volume but more frequency.

A pitfall people fall into is unconsciously rushing in without decreasing the amount of workload, which end up burning themselves out without adequate recovery to aid the volume. The general rule, start with lower volume then gradually add more sets if you feel it’s necessary.

I recommend 3 to 5 sets per day for larger muscle groups, and a max of 6 to 9 weekly sets for smaller muscle groups.

Honestly, some of you will not enjoy the transition to full body work. If this is the case then stick to what you enjoy and you feel works more. Everyone responds differently and enjoying your training by far outweighs the type you hate, so do you!

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