With what weight to work? How does the break in training affect the result? Can analgesics block muscle growth?
If you think that scientists – or athletes shoddy in terms of science – have managed to tell all the important things you need to know about muscle growth over the years, you are too high about us. Knowledge of muscle hypertrophy, like any other field of science, is continuously evolving and evolving.
Need proof? Look at the four discoveries of recent years.
1. The potential of muscle growth persists even after the termination of training
It is believed that if you abandon training, the muscles atrophy and eventually return to their original size. But what you might not even know is that it is much easier to recapture lost muscle mass if you resume the training process.
Thank for this you need cages satellites. In short, the satellites are the stem cells of the muscle tissue. In a state of rest these specific cells sleep, but muscle contraction and muscle damage under the influence of strength training awaken them from sleep. After the cells are activated, the satellites merge with the muscle fibers and give them their nuclei. The nucleus is the “brain” of the cell responsible for the synthesis of the muscle protein needed for growth.
The more nuclei, the higher the potential for muscle growth. Moreover, the cells of the satellite have the ability to self-regulation. With the re-activation, they immediately begin to share, in order to simplify future growth.
But here’s what’s really cool: the new kernels that received muscle fiber remain in it forever, even if you stop doing it. Therefore, when you return to training, additional nuclei will still be there to enhance protein synthesis and to quickly replenish the lost muscle mass. This is a muscle memory that you can use for your own good.
2. You can build muscle mass even with very light weight
One of the old commandments of strength training was that if you want to grow, you need to raise real gravity. Some scientists even stated that the working weight of less than 65% of the 1PM is too small to stimulate high-threshold motor units – those associated with rapidly contracting muscle fibers with the greatest growth potential.
Recent research refutes these statements. It has already been proven that even a working weight of 30% of 1PM can stimulate significant hypertrophy.
At first I was skeptical about such studies, because they were conducted on untrained people. Remembering that beginners sometimes gain weight even from cardio, I thought that light weight would not give sufficient growth stimuli to a trained athlete. I was wrong.
Subsequently, my laboratory conducted a study on athletes with more than three years of strength training behind their shoulders. One group was engaged in the classical range for hypertrophy – 8-12 repetitions; the second group trained with very light weights in the range of 25-35 repetitions. After 8 weeks, the growth in the biceps, triceps and quadriceps was the same in both groups.
Interestingly, some facts indicate that a set of masses can be associated with a specific type of muscle fibers. Light weights activate type 1 muscle fibers, and heavy loads – type 2 fibers. This suggests that the use of a full range of working weights in training can be the best solution for optimizing muscle growth. If trauma or other circumstances force you to give up training with a lot of weight, there’s nothing wrong with increasing the number of repetitions.
3. “Anabolic window” is more like an “anabolic granary gate”
For many years it was considered an axiom that the growth of muscles depends on the protein cocktail, drunk within an hour after training – during the so-called “anabolic window of opportunity”. The first commandment of the gym said that if you miss this window, the body quickly switches to catabolism, and muscle growth due to this is severely affected.
The results of the studies do not support this theory. Our recent meta-analysis of 23 scientific papers on this topic showed that all imaginary advantages of the strategy are explained by taking an additional portion of the protein instead of a placebo, and when this portion arrives, it does not matter. This led to the conclusion that in order to increase anabolism, it is not the time of protein intake, but the total amount of protein in the daily diet that matters.
For a thorough check of the theory of the anabolic window, we recently conducted a controlled trial. One group of trained athletes took 25 grams of protein just before training, and the second group drank the same protein cocktail immediately after training. The results showed an identical increase in hypertrophy in both groups. Protein intake after exercise did not increase muscle growth.
However, this does not mean that the post-training cocktail is completely useless; much depends on the diet during the day. We know that the anabolic effect of protein-rich foods persists for about 5 hours. Therefore, if you get a protein-rich food at more or less equal intervals throughout the day, you get into the “anabolic window” regardless of when you are training.
If the cocktail helps you maintain a stable supply of protein, then it serves its purpose. But obviously, it’s not necessary to drink it for an hour after training.
4. Analgesics can block muscle growth – depends on individual characteristics
Taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or orthophene, after or even before a hard workout for many athletes is something of an obligatory ritual. Analgesics are taken in order to reduce inflammation and muscle pain by reducing the activity of cyclooxygenases (COX), a group of enzymes involved in the formation of pro-inflammatory prostanoids. And although this measure can temporarily reduce discomfort, it can also block muscle growth.
The latest evidence shows that post-training inflammation is part of muscle growth. Prostanoids are considered to be extremely important anabolic regulators that can activate the mechanisms involved in the synthesis of muscle protein. Although the results of the studies are still ambiguous, the findings indicate that high doses of ibuprofen (1200 mg and higher) may inhibit protein synthesis.
But a more serious problem seems to be the possible negative effect of the continuous intake of NSAIDs on the cells of the satellite. As already mentioned, the cells of the satellite act as nucleus donors for muscle fibers, thereby increasing their ability to synthesize contractile proteins. Disruption of the function of cells of satellites can adversely affect muscle growth in the long term.
Curiously, in a number of studies, evidence has been obtained of the beneficial effects of NSAIDs on muscle hypertrophy. The problem is that these studies were conducted on untrained elderly people. The body of the elderly is prone to chronic slow inflammation, which, unlike an acute inflammatory reaction, has a negative effect on muscle growth. The positive effect of NSAIDs on this category of people can be explained by a decrease in chronic inflammation, which outweighs any negative impact on the acute response.
But for healthy young people – especially for those who are engaged in power training constantly – such chronic inflammation is hardly a problem. To such athletes, a systematic intake of NSAIDs will do more harm than good, because it will slow down the process of muscle hypertrophy. Of course, NSAIDs can be taken occasionally to reduce pain, but to exclude the slightest chance of negative effects of drugs on muscle growth, do not treat them as food additives and take them in small doses, for example, 400 mg or even less.