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Your Health & Wellness, Iss #61 -- Health news for the health conscious
January 15, 2011

(Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle)

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High Protein, Low Carb Eating Plan

Scientists have discovered that the primary muscle building mechanism in the human body is a complex protein known as mTOR. This protein is a part of the insulin pathway. When activated, mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) signals the muscle to increase protein synthesis.

There are three primary activators of mTOR in muscle:

  • growth factors and insulin
  • amino acids
  • muscle overload (such as lifting weights)

Muscles are completely inhibited during exercise. But immediately afterwards they are reactivated and further stimulated by insulin and amino acids. With the proper nutrition, mTOR bolsters protein synthesis at a level which exceeds the rate of protein breakdown leading to a positive protein balance which results in muscle gain.

mTOR is very sensitive to insulin and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) hormonal stimulation; IGF-1 itself is reliant upon growth hormone and intense exercise. But it still needs insulin to accomplish the building of lean body weight (muscle.)

This all comes together during the recovery period right after exercise; the time immediately following intense exercise is known as the window of opportunity. Insulin can kick in while IGF-1 is at its maximum. This is the perfect time to feed your muscles.

Since mTOR is a part of the insulin pathway, it can be thwarted by insulin resistance. This is the reason high glycemic meals and diets can potentially prevent muscle development.

The primary nutritional trigger for mTOR are the essential amino acids -- particularly leucine. Studies reveal that intravenous administration of amino acids increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis after exercise and simultaneously lower the rate of muscle protein breakdown. Dietary protein seems to be the primary factor in muscle nourishment.

Recent studies have been reporting substantial benefits of the high protein, low carbohydrate diet on muscle conditioning and weight loss. A key element in this diet regimen appears to be the high intake of the amino acid leucine, which is part of the branch chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine).

Besides the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, leucine has also shown the capacity to modulate insulin and blood sugar.

Dietary protein provides the 20 naturally occurring amino acids and nine essential amino acids. Although all amino acids contribute to building your body's protein, a few have additional metabolic roles. One of these is the branched chain amino acid (BCAA) leucine.

Unlike other amino acids which serve primarily as building blocks for muscle protein, leucine also signals your muscle to increase protein synthesis. Incredibly, leucine has been shown to stimulate your muscle protein synthesis even during times of food restriction or after prolonged physical hardship.

The highest concentrations of leucine and branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are found in dairy products; particularly quality cheese and whey protein. And even though leucine is relatively abundant in our food supply, it is often wasted as an energy substrate or used as a building block rather than an anabolic agent.

This fact necessitates increasing leucine consumption beyond just meeting maintenance requirements!

But only leucine from food can achieve the anabolic atmosphere without side effects. Using leucine as a free form amino acid can be highly counterproductive.

Intravenous administration of free form amino acids including leucine can cause severe hyperglycemic reactions and insulin resistance.

Based on nitrogen-balance measurements, the requirement for leucine to maintain body protein is 1-3 grams daily. And to optimize its anabolic pathway, it has been estimated that leucine requirement should be about 8g - 16g daily.

Leucine Content of Common Foods (per 100 grams)
Whey protein concentrate8.0g
Raw chedar cheese3.6g
Lean beef1.7g
Chick peas1.4g
Raw eggs1.0g
Egg yolk1.4g
Sheep's milk0.6g
Cow's milk0.3g

In order to meet the minimum amount of leucine (8 grams) for anabolic purposes, you need to consume 3 ounces of whey protein. In comparison, you would need to eat 1-1/2 pounds of chicken, over one pound of almonds, or one-half pound of raw cheddar cheese.

Studies have reported that dietary protein has a beneficial stabilizing effect on insulin levels when entering the circulation from ingested food. In other words, protein food benefits your body's glycemic control.

Branch chain amino acids can serve as excellent sources of fuel during intense exercise sessions. Over 80 percent of dietary BCAAs are absorbed. It is likely that the body spares BCAAs specifically to fuel your muscles.

Scientists now know that BCAA and leucine reach your muscle directly to serve as emergency fuel. BCAA contribute carbon to synthesize glucose via the alanine glucose cycle. Called gluconeogenesis, this process converts BCAA into alanine and glutamine which then serve as carbon donors to the production of glucose.

This fueling mechanism is so efficient that it persistently keeps blood sugar from overspiking or overplummeting. In other words, amino acids serve as primary fuel during times of intense physical or nutritional stress. They could be the ideal fuel for athletes engaged in anaerobic activities such as weight lifting and bodybuilding.

How can what is known about leucine be put into a practical methodology that can benefit even seniors battling sarcopenia?

  • Increase your intake of leucine rich foods such as high quality whey protein, raw cheese and organic, pasture-raised eggs
  • Increase the gap between meals to potentiate the anabolic effect of each meal
  • Feed your muscle with quality whey protein after exercise. Make sure the whey protein is derived from grass fed cows and is cold processed. Note that whey protein is the fastest to assimilate among all protein foods. Its anabolic impact after exercise is unmatched. Whey protein is also ideal for muscle fueling before exercise. It has the highest content of leucine and BCAA among all foods
  • Increase your intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables to support your muscle antioxidant defenses and allow recuperation and buildup
  • Stay away from any product made with added fructose. Fructose is the worst fuel for your muscles
  • Start your morning with a whey protein meal to cover your minimum leucine requirement. This will allow all additional protein meals to become increasingly anabolic (by releasing extra leucine for anabolic purposes)
  • Use whey meals as a primary source of protein during the day to grant maximum protein/leucine loading efficiency with minimum digestive stress
  • Have your slow assimilating proteins (eggs, cheese, fish or meat) at night to grant a steady release of leucine and a long lasting anabolic impact during the sleeping hours
  • Add coconuts to a whey protein meal. Coconuts contain MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides.) They have the capacity to swiftly convert to energy without spiking insulin and without the need for bile acid digestion. MCT can help shift leucine's pathway from fueling into muscle building
  • Keep your diet clean from chemicals, pesticides and preservatives to minimize the metabolic stress on your body. Accumulated metabolic stress and toxicity present major obstacles to muscle recuperation and buildup
  • For maximum results, try to eat two protein-rich meals after exercise, each consisting of at least 20 grams of protein. It can range from 20 grams to 30 grams. Adhering to those guidelines will prevent nitrogen waste.

    Ori hofmeklerSource: Ori Hofmekler. Ori Hofmekler is the author of The Warrior Diet, The Anti-Estrogenic Diet, Maximum Muscle Minimum Fat, and the upcoming book Unlocking the Muscle Gene/North Atlantic Books. Source material used is on

    January 9, 2011: A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that breastfed babies turn up healthier and more vibrant than babies who are not breastfed.

    Lead researcher Enrico Garcia Artero and his colleagues from the University of Granada determined that breastfeeding leads to increased muscle mass, greater athletic performance, and overall improved health as children grow into adolescence.

    "Our objective was to analyze the relationship between the duration of breastfeeding babies and their physical condition in adolescence. The results suggest further beneficial effects and provide support to breastfeeding as superior to any other type of feeding," stated Dr. Artero.

    The research team evaluated over 2,500 breastfed and non-breastfed children. They observed that the breastfed group had larger leg muscles compared to the non-breastfed group by having both groups engage in a horizintal jumping test.

    Test results also showed that the longer a child was breastfed, the better he performed physically in life.

    "Until now, no studies have examined the association between breastfeeding and future muscular aptitude. However, our results concur with the observations made as regards other neonatal factors, such as weight at birth, are positively related to better muscular condition during adolescence," said Dr. Artero.

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