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UNlocking muscle protein synthesis

The focus for today is muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

MPS is the addition of new muscle to muscle fibres, or building new muscle, which is what most athletes are after.

Adding more lean muscle can improve your overall metabolism, enhance your body composition, and lead to the fit, athletic look so many of us are working toward!

So how do we unlock muscle protein synthesis? Let's get into it...


MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS and muscle protein breakdown

Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is counterbalanced by muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Muscle protein breakdown simply means that the body is creating "micro-trauma" inside the muscle ... which typically occurs during training.

Hypertrophy is the increase of muscle mass, and occurs when muscle protein synthesis is happening at a faster rate than muscle protein breakdown. This is good.

When the opposite occurs, where MPB is faster than MPS, muscle mass decreases ... causing atrophy. This is bad.

There will be periods where MPS exceeds MPB and vice-versa. That said, only sustained patterns of either will cause a significant change in lean muscle mass.

In order to affect the balance between MPS and MPB, greater stress should be placed on MPS. MPB is generally very consistent, regardless of changes in exercise or nutrition.

Insulin is actually a big contributor to improving the balance between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. This hormone, that is naturally produced when we consume food, can decrease MPB significantly.

In addition, it doesn't take an exceedingly high amount of insulin, which I will talk more about later in this blog!


You might already know this, or have heard it before ... but exercise affects muscle protein synthesis. That's actually why we go to the gym, or catch a workout at home.

For instance, high-intensity resistance exercises have a great effect on muscle protein synthesis.

And with that, while exercising at lower intensities until "burnout" can have its benefits ... it doesn't have the same impact on MPS that high-intensity movements do.


The best way to kick-start muscle protein synthesis is to consume a complete protein source.

The protein is digested, and then separated into amino acids. Some amino acids are made by the body, others are not. Essential amino acids are those that must be consumed in the diet, or through supplementation.

Amino acids help build muscle and other tissues inside the body. However, the benefits of amino acids are limited by the least available amino acid.

In other words, the essential amino acids can only be used at the level of which all amino acids are available.

Because of that, our muscle protein synthesis depends heavily on an adequate intake of amino acids.


Protein is essential for repairing broken down muscle tissue, which means any intense training requires optimal protein levels if you want optimal results.

A great general recommendation is to consume 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, especially for someone who is exercising consistently.

Ideally, this will be done by consuming 20-30 grams of protein per meal/snack. To maximise MPS and the anabolic effect, we should look to do so approximately every 3 hours or so.

A great way to look at this would be consuming a complete whole food protein (chicken, fish, turkey, etc.) at your main meals, and supplementing with protein shakes in between. This is especially helpful if you need a convenient protein source between meals!


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