Why you need more protein on the days you don't train

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Exciting new research from Houston shows that protein supplements can reduce the muscle loss brought on by space travel, prolonged bed confinement or immobility. The study shows just how important it is to maintain a high protein intake, even if you’re taking a few days off training.

To study space travel’s effect on muscles, Dr. Robert Wolfe of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston enlisted healthy subjects to stay in bed 28 days during a National Space Biomedical Research Institute study. “One cause of muscle atrophy in space is lack of muscular activity. That’s why bed rest is a good model because it minimizes activity, and like astronauts, you lose muscle mass primarily in the legs,” said co-investigator Dr. Arny Ferrando, a professor of surgery at UTMB and Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston.

Participants received the supplements three times a day, and researchers compared muscle mass before and after the bed-rest study. This data was compared to results from a control group that received a placebo drink instead of the supplements. Subjects given the amino acid supplements lost less muscle, despite the fact they did no exercise.

These findings show just how important it is for you to maintain a high-protein intake (a minimum of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight), even if you’re taking a few days off training. One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re getting all the protein you need to prevent muscle loss is to use 2-3 servings of whey protein (such as Promax) each day.

Ferrando AA, Paddon-Jones D, Wolfe RR. (2002). Alterations in protein metabolism during space flight and inactivity. Nutrition, 18, 837-841

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