Nutrition Food

How can the timing of nutrition affect our muscle health?

Dr Catherine Norton at UL is analyzing how the timing of nutrition impacts efficiency and muscle health in athletes and older individuals. She spoke to Dr Claire O’Connell.

For athletes, whether or not they wish to cross the line with a brand new world report or tempo themselves via a gruelling match, timing is every part. Could getting the timing proper with their eating regimen additionally assist them achieve peak efficiency?

Sport and exercise nutritionist and registered dietician Dr Catherine Norton at the University of Limerick (UL) is determining how you can fine-tune the protein consumption of athletes to enhance restoration from training, in addition to facilitating muscle progress. 

But it’s not solely the elite sportspeople who’re benefiting from the science – her work can also be offering insights into how the relaxation of us can get extra out of our actions, and shield our muscle tissues as we age.

Age and muscle loss

Norton began her analysis in the space at UL’s Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. As half of the Food for Health Ireland consortium, her PhD checked out whether or not bioactive proteins remoted from milk might assist to scale back muscle loss as we age.

“A lot of people are familiar with the fact that we lose bone density as we get older but, from the fourth decade on, there is a measurable loss of muscle mass on an annual basis,” she defined.

Exercise – and notably resistance exercise – is a good way to guard towards muscle loss, however Norton needed to see if optimising dietary protein might supply safety, too.

‘Exercise is still the most potent stimulator for building muscle, but we have shown that redistributing daily protein intake and optimising the quality of that protein can also have benefits’

Protein round the clock

The research recruited 148 healthy older adults aged between 50 and 70, and the first step was to seek out out extra about the protein presently of their diets. When Norton analysed the outcomes, a robust sample jumped out.

“Even though everyone was taking in the recommended amount of protein on a daily basis, the nuances of the total intake were not attended to. Many participants were taking the bulk of their total daily protein intake in their main evening meal rather than spreading the protein out across a few meals during the day,” she stated.

“That frequency pattern, where you might get all your protein from the salmon or chicken or beef in the evening, might mean you are not getting the benefits of protein for protecting muscles at other times of the day, too.”     

If you eat three primary meals every day, there are round 1,095 alternatives annually to modify on the mobile mechanism to construct muscle, however the analysis confirmed that the individuals solely activated this mechanism as soon as day by day. “Those sub-optimal meals with less protein represent lots of missed opportunity to prevent muscle mass loss with ageing,” stated Norton.    

Next, 60 participants took part in a six-month study to see whether or not taking a dairy protein complement at breakfast and lunch had an impact on their muscle mass. The outcomes? Those who took no protein complement misplaced muscle mass, as individuals their age sometimes would, however the individuals who took the milk-derived protein at breakfast and lunch noticed a rise in muscle mass, even with no additional bodily exercise.

A patent is now pending on the protein complement, and Norton believes it might assist individuals to age extra healthily. “Exercise is still the most potent stimulator for building muscle, but we have shown that redistributing daily protein intake and optimising the quality of that protein can also have benefits,” she stated.

Converting nutrition to efficiency     

Following her profitable PhD, Norton went to work with Munster Rugby for 3 seasons the place, as head of efficiency nutrition, she was in cost of telling giants of Irish rugby what to eat. “It all depends on how you present the message,” stated Norton, whose father performed rugby for Munster and Ireland, and who has had a lifelong curiosity in the sport.

“As with everyone, you have to appeal to their needs. There is little point in telling them that changing eating habits now will reduce the risk of osteoporosis in your 70s. They are focused on performing well in the 80 minutes of a match. So, you tell them that this dietary change will help them to run faster, get stronger and recover better, and that gets everyone onside.”

Around a yr in the past, Norton returned to UL as a co-principal investigator with Food for Health Ireland, the place she is working with high-performance athletes to personalise their nutrition for efficiency. “We are looking at how the timing of protein intake helps trained athletes with muscle building and recovery from resistance and endurance training,” she defined.

Just as with the healthy older adults in her earlier work, a key facet to the analysis is determining the standard patterns of protein consumption for particular person athletes. “We ask them to keep seven-day food, fluid and activity diaries; the athletes wear on-body technology that monitors activity patterns; we analyse body mass and composition; and, most importantly, we determine the specific needs of the individual. Then we prescribe bespoke nutrition for that individual and we provide them all the food they need for the duration of the study,” she stated.

“It has been a huge learning curve as we have developed new tools to capture the dietary data, to analyse it digitally, allowing us to time-stamp eating occasions throughout the day, with a particular emphasis on the quantity, quality and timing of food relative to a specific training stimulus. We have coined the phrase ‘peri-training nutrition’ to describe this. With that information, we can see minute by minute, in some instances, how diet affects recovery, how well the muscles ‘refuel’ after training and, over the long term, how muscle mass and even bone mass changes.”

Water and dairy

While Norton is presently working with extremely educated athletes, she has sage recommendation for these of us who could be contemplating taking over or boosting our exercise regimes in the new yr.

“Most people who take up a new exercise are focused on health and wellbeing rather than silverware, and it’s good to think about the best option for supporting that with nutrition,” she stated.

“You don’t need expensive isotonic drinks and protein supplements if you are starting out with running or resistance training. Drink water to keep hydrated, and dairy is an excellent source of protein in terms of availability and cost.”

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