mTOR’s—The Undersized Proteins with Health Benefits
The complex jargon that often accompanies discussion of muscle growth can often become too overwhelming. However, in order to achieve your goals in the shortest, most effective way possible, there are a number of key ideas and words that require further exploration and understanding; mTOR certainly falls into this category.
A rarely discussed yet essential function of muscle growth, mTOR stands for ‘mechanistic target of rapamycin’. This is essentially a group of naturally occurring enzymes within the body that regulate the function of proteins including, most importantly, protein synthesis and protein breakdown inhibition.
In layman’s terms, the more frequently mTOR’s are ‘activated’ the quicker and more efficiently your muscles will grow.
So, how are mTOR’s triggered and what changes can you make in your current program to ensure that this group of enzymes can be used to their full potential?
Firstly, and perhaps most expectedly, mTOR is triggered when muscles are put under stress through a variety of methods including weightlifting. More specifically, the rhythm of your weight repetitions can ensure the activation of mTOR; lower the weight/s slowly for a count of five seconds, ensuring the target muscle is tensed/flexed. When the weight is lifted, hold in a full extension for a count of two seconds and repeat.
One of the most effective way to ensuring mTOR is triggered is carefully planned post-workout nutrition.
By properly fuelling your body after an intense workout, your blood glucose levels elevate and therefore insulin production is increased. This increased insulin production is essential for mTOR activation, as insulin opens up the pathway for this key group of enzymes to regulate protein synthesis.
So, how can you fuel your body correctly to ensure mTOR takes place?
Despite the tendency to want to consume a protein-heavy post workout meal, it is actually the consumption of carbohydrates that will ensure increased insulin production. Include 30-40 grams of natural carbohydrates in your post-workout meal; options include fruit, chickpeas, sweet potato, wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread and much more.
Another key way to activate mTOR is through the consumption of BCAA’s. For those of you who haven’t hears the term before, BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAA’s have become a key part of the daily consumption for those looking to increase their muscle mass. This is because three key BCAA’s, namely valine, leucine and isoleucine are not naturally produced by the body and preserve muscle glycogen stores, which is the primary source to keep muscles working and reduce muscle fatigue.
Leucine is a BCAA that can work especially effectively in protein synthesis, which in turn means that mTOR activation can be achieved through consumption of BCAA’s, specifically Leucine.
If you choose not to add BCAA powder to a protein shake, or if you want to ensure as many BCAA’s as possible are in your diet, there are a number of foods that you can add to your meal plans that contain Leucine and others, including meat, eggs, tofu, dairy, soy, beans and legumes.