Eat For Muscle! Timing Is Everything
(by Dr Eric
Serrano, M.D. and Jeff Stout)
Eric Serrano M.D. Recommendations
It is a widely held belief that breakfast is the most
important meal of the day. My response is perhaps, but not likely
for our population. At the very least, while this may be true for
sedentary individuals, it is not so for most active
As a matter of fact, the feeding following your workout and
the respective meal prior to exercise, I rank numbers one and two,
respectively, as our most important meals. For a variety of reasons,
these feedings should have the greatest impact on fat loss, muscle
growth, recovery and physical performance, not only just for the
next time you train, but for all your future workouts.
Research and experimentation with my clients has led me down
a new trail surrounded by some controversy. But then again, I do not
believe the maximum standards in the quest for muscle progress have
been determined and thus, not approached, as all the factors for fat
loss, performance, and muscle increase have not been assessed
accurately, at least in my view. I intend to try and do so
Hormonal Mileau & Muscle Protein
There are very precise and special metabolic conditions
created by the type, duration and intensity of exercise. This fact
makes the post workout meal an opportunity to provide metabolically
activated muscle and endocrine organs with special signals and
nutrients needed to augment natural processes for tissue remodeling,
growth, substrate restoration and tissue/fiber repair.
A specific and altered hormonal environment exists at this
time and you can manipulate powerful hormones (which may already be
changed from exercise), with directed nutritional
The goal must be, to always create the highest level of an
anabolic state. The anabolic environment is the state required for
repair and growth of muscle, as well as for enhanced fat and sugar
utilization. In essence, catabolism is the opposite
You realize of course, that exercise can create perpetual
catabolism if you fail to address the changes (and opportunities)
created by intense training. For example, if you trained hard and
then did not eat or sleep for several hours and then trained hard
again and again did not eat or sleep, and then tried to train again,
you probably could not.
In fact, under such a self-limiting scenario, very quickly
every system of your body would rapidly begin to fail, starting
first with your brain thinking, language and memory processes. Then
your immune system would rapidly fail, followed by rapid muscle
atrophy and soon enough, failure of every organ system in your
Needless to day, muscle is metabolically and
thermodynamically hungry following a workout, and of course, food
fuel must be provided (as must sleep), for your system to recover
and replenish energy reserves while enabling fiber
But - did you know that in theory, you can possibly over load
'the system' by providing nutrients that may actually compete in
some ways. Of course, a simple form of overload is excess caloric
energy, even though you are exercising. You want muscle accretion,
not fat baggage. Another area that has not been explored properly is
optimal absorption in the post workout environment. I believe the
so-called 'window of opportunity does exist and that the timing of
nutrient delivery is critical.
Before The Storm
Consider the meal before the workout somewhat the quiet
before the storm. This meal should provide a prolonged release of
specific nutrients to stimulate the release of specific hormones
that best augment workout performance. Foods that are absorbed well
and quickly, such as whey protein and sports drinks are best taken
after your workout, not before. Forget the Gatorade here.
Foods that convert to glucose quickly and sugary-based sports
drinks, certainly elevate insulin. Insulin is a powerful storage
hormone in the presence of fats and carbohydrates that are easily
stored, especially at the wrong time. All of which can potentiate
the storage of fat.
Insulin itself may be beneficial at this time, but the key is
to raise the hormone level without doing so in the face of available
energy that is easy to deposit as body fat. You don't want energy
levels to likely to crash because of the dramatic effect of insulin
on blood sugar levels just prior to the workout. Post workout is of
course a different story. What is needed then
Anabolic Protein Mix
I believe that an anabolic protein mix 1.5 -- 3 hours before
the workout will prevent muscle break down during the workout
(assuming a 45-60 minute hard session) and provide muscle 'fuel'
needed for progress in every sense of the term. A strategically
designed protein mix should also boost anabolic hormones that help
with all aspects of performance and subsequent growth.
I also believe one should 'trick' your system into making
muscle repair and growth a first priority. Despite popular belief,
the body prioritizes survival over looking good every day of the
week and along those lines you must trick the system into doing what
you want it to do.
The complex human machine seeks to protect its self by
breaking down components of muscle fibers for fuel during intense
exercise such as weight training or sporting activity. This
procedure naturally results in an increased blood level of free
fatty acids, which is a homeostatic regulating signal the brain to
stop breaking down muscle.
Now, when taken before training high doses of the branched
chain family along with some very specific other amino acids, plays
an elaborate trick by flooding the blood with free fatty acids to
prevent muscle break down long before it is supposed to begin. As a
result an alternative fuel source is available for use (FFA) and
muscle fibers you have worked hard to earn are spared that
We do know that glutamine is heavily leached from muscle
during exercise. It may be likely that FFA's preexisting within the
muscles beforehand will be readily used to stimulate growth and
repair, slow that process and put you a big step ahead of the game
by thwarting muscle break down and further stimulating
Both branched chain amino acids and glutamine are proven
to reduce muscle breakdown during training by stimulating an
anabolic state throughout the workout. Once more, BCAA's can even
raise insulin to that acceptable level I talked about earlier in the
absence of easily stored energy. The BCAA group can act in
cooperation with glutamine as a surprisingly efficient intrinsic
muscular fuel source.
So, a state of anabolism and elevated protein synthesis
(muscle growth) can be promoted by the right combination of the BCAA
group and glutamine (I use the PRD product GlutaCene and NitroMine
in my research) when taken before a workout. Such usage can be timed
perfectly to arrive at the functioning cell just as the workout
winds down and ends. This alternative super fuel is used by muscles
and can spare valuable stored energy in the form of glycogen. Now
that 'spared' glycogen can be used down the stretch of your
competition or even your workout if it is unusually long and hard,
when you need it most.
Post Workout Exactly
A hefty post workout dose of the correct proteins can also
flood the blood stream with FFAs, and tricks the hormonal system
into believing that too much muscle has been broken down by
accident! Can you imagine what should happen next?
The hormonal system unleashes its most powerful tools in an
effort to prioritize muscle growth and repair to correct what is
perceived as a mistake! Compare this to histamine, anti-inflammatory
reaction following a bee sting.
Besides delivering the powerful protein to build degraded
muscle quickly after the workout, the right nutrients must provide
the specific raw materials, the correct ratio of all and be able to
be rapidly absorbed with or through a specialized delivery system to
accomplish all of this.
Once accomplished, you should experience progress like you
never thought possible by making the powerful mechanisms of the
hormonal system work for you naturally, rather like a steroid result
without the steroid.
Muscles are begging for additional nutrients following the
workout, but there is an exact time and place for everything
according your goals. The call for nutrients can be answered. How? By completing a specific process which I call
the supplement primer phase, the fast acting food phase and the
The Digestion Factor
Human digestion is a complicated issue, but for the purposes
of this article we must address the topic so you understand why
timing is so important. During the first window of opportunity
immediately following the workout you must have specific aminos to
trick the system into prioritizing the anabolic state and of course,
to provide raw materials to start the processes of overgrowth,
substrate restoration and repair.
At the same time you can get insulin boosted to promote
anabolism and opens the doors for beneficial absorption of these
nutrients without injecting it or dumping 70 -- 90 grams of
dextrose-loaded creatine into your system! Ingesting some 90 grams
of sugar is never admirable.
The next step is to provide more raw material in the form of
fast acting foods such as whey protein and glucose. This is the
prime time that good whey proteins superceded a multi species
protein, immediately post workout.
These nutrients activate/require digestive mechanisms and as
a result will temporarily 'distract' the body from taking full
advantage of the amino pool.
What do I mean by this? Digestion requires some blood
diversion to the intestine to help process the food as opposed to
having more of your blood available to post-exercised starving
Understanding What To Do - Serrano Style
Yes, I told you it was somewhat controversial didn't
What I am saying is this: If you take certain quality
nutrients like the BCAA group and glutamine at the same time you
take quick acting drinks and whey, you create an unwanted battle for
digestion and absorption, potentially limiting your
Take BCAA and glutamine prior to the workout to get your free
fatty acids levels up and to prevent glutamine from being scavenged.
Then take quality whey after!
Of course, numerous studies show that insulin rapidly
promotes an anabolic state. Carbohydrate is a proven (and best)
stimulator of insulin, but the right type of carbs, timing, amount
and added supplements consumed has been widely debated.
Here is the real great news: Recent research reveals that
large increases in insulin result from a large dose of BCAA,
specifically the L-Leucine component and a small amount of
carbohydrate in the form of glucose. The other good news ---
carbohydrate dosages past a certain point did not provide any
additional benefit, but the added BCAA did prove to be extremely
valuable for the elevation of insulin!
The Specific Ratios Of BCAA Are Replicated In
Insulin for all of its glory is a double-edged sword
especially for those who are focused on fat loss or remaining lean.
The powerful storage capabilities of insulin can and will push
excess nutrients (specifically carbohydrate) into fat storage at a
rapid pace, however this can not take place if only a limited amount
of carbohydrate is available for storage.
Previous post workout standards have lead many to believe
that high carbohydrate drinks were needed to promote ample amounts
of insulin, but as mentioned before BCAA's, in combination with a
small amount of glucose, will do the trick. Additional carbs can be
used for glycogen replenishment for those who are focused on
increasing size and endurance performance, but the specific timing
of glycogen replenishment is crucial!
Timing is everything and in the case of glycogen
replenishment, what and when you consume will determine the success
of your efforts. The wrong timing will interfere with the initial
stages of recovery because of increased competition for nutrient
Actual work performed during the workout or exercise bout
will determine how much glycogen is burned, and as a result what
needs to be replaced to refill storage requirements.
Unfortunately there is no exact equation for determining how
much glycogen is used because of the multitude of factors involved
in usage. However the optimal nutrients and the times they are to be
consumed can be established. Guess what? Recent research proves that
less glycogen (stored glucose energy) is required during exercise
than has been previously believed. High volume weight workouts may
utilize about 300-calories worth of glycogen. Humans have capacity
to store anywhere from 400 -- 2400 calories worth of stored glycogen
depending on the size of the individual! Glycogen is replenished
quite readily, and of course, once again, excess energy becomes
Strategy: Supplement Primer, Fast Acting Food &
There are many supplements fast acting foods and meals but
very, very few balanced good ones. This is a pre/post workout
nutrition system based on a 180-lb. male that I have consistently
found beneficial in my medical and obesity research.
If Your Goal Is Fat Loss:
* Minimize glycogen storage so that stored fat is
constantly used as fuel instead!
* Before workout with water: 10-g of GlutaCene and 5-10
* 35-50 minute workout.
* Right at end of workout, with water: 20-g GlutaCene and 20
* No longer than 30 minutes post workout: Whey serving to
provide 20-30-g of protein. Combine with 10-g to 15-g of complex
carbohydrates. A large bowl of oatmeal for example.
* 2 hours after workout: Balanced real food meal
If Your Goal Is Muscle Size:
* Replenish glycogen, but do not over load on carbohydrate to
avoid fat storage!
* Before workout with water: 15-g GlutaCene, 10
* 50 minute workout.
* Right at end of workout, sport drink providing about 15
grams of simple sugar with 20-g GlutaCene and 10-15
* No longer than 30 minutes post workout, high protein whey
drink: 30-50-g of protein.
* Note: Shake or drink should provide 20-30 grams of
* 2 hours post workout: Balanced, but high
protein, real food meal.
Dr. Serrano On Glutacene & NitroMine?
Over the last six years, I have reviewed clinically, and
through the medical and other literature, the benefits of several
major nutrients, including of course, glutamine, the branched chain
amino acid group (valine, leucine and isoleucine) and all the
essential amino acids.
Further, I have studied extensively, using cadaver, case
study, blind and double blind and radio-isotope tracing techniques,
analyzing the results from their ingestion under differing metabolic
conditions, how bodybuilders should theoretically use and benefit
from these nutrients. I have addressed these subjects herein and
though past articles.
It must be clear that we always search for the best
situation, with the best intentions and let the results be heard.
That is the way medical knowledge and treatment
I am familiar with this industry. I know there are many good,
branched chain amino acid supplements around and, as well, several
good single supplements of glutamine. If you may be using one or
both of these supplements now and you are obtaining observable
results, by all means continue, whatever the brand is, that you may
be benefiting from.
I do recommend both of these PRD (Premier Research &
Development) supplements for the logical reason that I either
formulated them in their entirety or assisted in their nutrient
particulars and delivery system. I have fully tested them to
repeatable and verifiable standards under numerous sets of
My recommendations are strongly towards a very specific
purpose with a fully deliverable method of intent.
We have seen literally astounding results in the clinic, when
the use of NitroMine and GlutaCene is as prescribed and combined as
we recommend them. The results are much more than would be just
predicted by an energy balance assessment, or from measurable
nitrogen retention predicted by repetitive ingestion of high-quality
I know how NitroMine was created, with a precise and exacting
formulation of essential amino acids, to mimic the expression of
human muscle tissue. Besides the exacting ratios and amounts of the
BCAA group, glutamine and essential amino acids, I have fortified
the latest derivations of NitroMine with taurine, arginine and
GlutaCene was an initial primary medical formula and was
developed by my colleague, Dr. Joseph Rossi. He success was
Now GlutaCene is the preeminent BCAA and glutamine creation
and the dosage and quality are not equaled anywhere, by anyone, even
in our medical communities where it began.
Of course, glutamine is thought of as a theoretical 'sink' of
several functions in muscle and for our immune systems, all of which
become enhanced or challenged during and from exercise, in stress
and under certain metabolic conditions, many precipitated by
illness. GlutaCene is 500-700% higher in glutamine/serving than
My main point to you though, whatever BCAA and glutamine you
may come to use, the timing of their ingestion relative to exercise,
as discussed in this article, is of preeminent
Recommendations By Nutricia's Jeff Stout
The timing of a protein-based meal can rather be like the
issue of the first kiss. Move to plant that all-important first kiss
too soon and you just might get the proverbial backhand to the
cheek. Wait too long, and maybe there will be a sayonara baby
(although this is less likely). But, if you kiss at just the right
moment, well, then you're likely to be singing and dancing in the
glorious rain of impending love just like Gene Kelley!
Romance novels aside, the right time to consume a
protein-based meal is just as important. Wait too long, and the
benefits are negated. Do it at the right moment, and you're well on
your way to physical perfection.
Further, what you consume immediately before training can
have a dramatic effect on whether you put on quality muscle or mire
in the miasma of physical mediocrity and what you eat immediately
after training is nearly as important. But, for our sake, we need to
cover all of our respective bases faster than Ichiro Suzuki does (he
is a baseball player, not a motorcycle racer).
My Formula For Mass
Consume an essential amino acid cocktail right before
training; and, immediately after training; replenish your fluids, by
consuming a high-glycemic carb, a quality fast-acting protein (e.g.,
whey), a bunch of essential amino acids, and some
Well, just so you know I don't make this stuff up, here's the
scientific data upon which I base my suggestions. Now, unlike the
5,659% increases in lean body mass (as one very popular, 6-page ad
claims), since we don't live on Pluto, I believe in realistic
Look -- if you increase lean body mass by 100%, as a 200 lb
guy, say with 15% body fat (and therefore 170 lbs of lean body
mass), you would end up weighing 370 lbs.
That's a 170-lb gain "in just 3 weeks of taking Plutonian
Mass Gainer." Don't expect it to happen.
Before training - what should you do?
The essential amino acids (EAAs) are those amino acids that
are NOT made by your body. And we're fast re-learning that taking
amino acid supplements with all the essentials packed in, before and
during training, is right on the mark too. (Everson note: Dr.
Stout's belief corresponds strongly with Dr. Serrano, in this
In a study at the University of Texas, volunteers performed a
training bout consisting of: 10 sets x 8 reps of leg presses at 80%
of their maximum and 8 sets x 8 reps of leg-press extensions at 80%
of their maximum. The entire leg workout took about 50 minutes and
the sets included all warm-ups.
Those volunteers who swallowed some EAA cocktail (6 grams,
or 6000 mg. of essential amino acids plus 35 grams of sucrose),
significantly increased blood levels of their amino acids. The
increased total net phenylalanine, an indicator of muscle protein
gain, by 158%, when the EAAs were taken before
So, in this study, it's clear that an essential amino acid
cocktail has greater effects on protein synthesis when it's consumed
before training versus after training.
Does this mean we should skip the post-training
meal/supplement? Of course not. In fact, you will see that when you
consume a meal after exercise also critically affects protein
metabolism and potential muscle gain.
After Training - Glycogen Repletion
How about a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, and fat? Jeez,
you must be thinking' it took a guy with Ph.D. to tell me this?
Well, there is more to it than that. How much of these items should
An important aspect of recovery is muscle glycogen
resynthesis, refilling carbohydrate stores in your muscles. How?
Regarding the use of a carbohydrate only versus carbohydrate -
protein mixtures, here are points to ponder. Most published data
indicates the addition of protein to carbohydrates generally has no
further effect on glycogen repletion [van Hall, et al., 2000;
Tarnopolsky, et al., 1997]. Interestingly, once you consume a
certain level of carbohydrates (~1.0-1.5 grams/kg body weight, every
2 hours post-exercise), it is not likely that adding any more
protein or carbohydrate, has any further impact on the rate of
A recent study [Rotman, et al. 2000] compared a carbohydrate
solution (1.7-g CHO/kg body weight) versus an isocaloric (same
calories) solution of carbohydrate (1.2 g CHO/kg body weight) plus
0.5 g protein/kg body weight. After 1.5 hours of cycling, the
subjects consumed the solution immediately after and, alternatively,
2 hours post-exercise. They found no difference in glycogen
However, you don't need a Ph.D. in physiology to realize that
glycogen depletion is just one part of the recovery process. Indeed,
there are other aspects of recovery, like fluid/electrolyte
replenishment and skeletal muscle repair and muscle protein gain.
The first aspect's a no-brainer. The average trainee just needs to
drink water. If you have an arduous workout with lots of
perspiration then add the electrolytes.
The second aspect is the part that is more important for the
weight-lifting gym rat.
Protein and Muscle Gain
A recent study in the Journal of Physiology showed that if
you consumed a post-workout protein-containing drink immediately
after training, you were able to increase muscle area and muscle
fiber size more than if you waited 2 hours after
In this study, subjects trained 3 times a week for 12 weeks.
They consumed a supplement of 10 g protein, 8 g carbs, and 3 g fat
either immediately or 2 hours after each training session. Over that
3-month period, quadriceps muscle size increased 7% and muscle fiber
cross-sectional increased 24% in the group that took the supplement
immediately after training.
No changes in muscle size occurred in the group that took the
supplement 2 hours after training.
Based on these findings, it appears that the timing of
protein intake is important for protein synthesis and muscle growth.
The question is whether this particular combination (10-g protein,
8-g carb, and 3-g fat) is the ideal post-workout supplement. For
bodybuilders seeking mass this post workout mixture seems pretty
My personal opinion
* A fast-acting high grade whey fortified with
glutamine after training.
* Combine this with some extra essential amino acids
and perhaps BCAA.
* Use a carbohydrate to protein ratio of roughly
* Serious bodybuilders should use a range of 30-50-g
of protein and 60-150-g of carbohydrates. But -just don't wait too
long after training. Your muscles will love you for it!
1. Esmark B, et
al. 2001. Timing of post-exercise protein intake is important for
muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans.
Journal of Physiology. 535:301-311.
2. Rasmussen, B.B., et al. 2000. An oral essential amino
acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after
resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology.
88:386-392.Tipton, K.D., et al. 2001. Timing of amino
acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to
resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology.