What’s better than a nap after a huge, protein-rich meal?
Your body absorbs the amino acids from the proteins in your food nearly 50% more effectively if you consume and digest them while sitting up or standing, according to a new study.
Researchers gave eight healthy young men shake containing 60 grams (g) skimmed milk powder - which provided 22 g protein and 29 g carbohydrates, as well as 1.5 g paracetamol (aspirin). The researchers monitored the subjects' blood for four hours after intake.
Several days later, the same group was given the same shake, but made to lay down immediately after consuming it. The researchers again monitored the participants blood work for four hours afterward.
When in the reclining position, fewer essential amino acids (EAA’s) and less leucine (the most anabolic of the BCAA’s) made it to the blood stream than when the participants drank their shakes upright.
Because the uptake of the paracetamol correlated with the uptake of the amino acids, the researchers conclude that lying down reduces the uptake of nutrients in general – not just proteins.
Gravity appears to play a direct and important role in the optimal function of the stomach for nutrient absorption and transport to muscle (via the blood stream). Placing the body in a horizontal position (laying down) likely slowed the digestive process and kept nutrition in the acidic environment of the stomach longer than is ideal.
As the researchers put it:
"Changes in body position substantially modulate gastric emptying rate and the subsequent post-prandial rise in plasma amino acid availability, thereby increasing the post-prandial muscle protein synthetic response to meal ingestion. Therefore, an upright body position during and after feeding is important for adequate nutrient absorption and should be considered when aiming to optimize post-prandial muscle protein accretion in both health and disease."
Want to maximize the effectiveness of the muscle-building, amino acid-rich protein you consume? Stay up at least 30 minutes after.
Currently bulking and having a shake shortly before sleeping in order to remain as anabolic as possible through the night. Based on this research, it would be wise to have that shake slightly earlier, and allowing it to get through the stomach (and into the intestines to be mined for nutrients) before hitting the pillow.
It's also aimed squarely at athletes who are sick or recovering from an injury, who may be spending more time laying down than usual. Eat meals sitting up and stay up at least 30 minutes after.
Lastly, this research is an important reminder of how many little things -- even things that may seem distant from training itself -- stack up to generate serious results.
Empires aren't built by one triumph, but by winning a great many small battles. Nutrient timing, modifying the way lifts are performed (like this or this), exercise selection, and smart supplementation add up. Individually, any one of them might make a noticeable difference, but when all the pieces get put in place together, the results are powerful.
Be disciplined, sweat the details, and be the guy (or gal) willing to do what others won't -- and pretty soon you'll be doing what they can't. It all adds up. Just listen to Al, below.
Tip: Try the at-home Leg Day exercise that’s so good you’ll do it even when the gym opens up.