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Is carbohydrate needed to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis/hypertrophy following resistance exercise?

Vandré Casagrande Figueiredo and David Cameron-Smith*

Author Affiliations

The Liggins Institute, Faculty of Medical and Science Health, University of Auckland, 85 Park Road, Grafton, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1023, New Zealand

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Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:42  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-42

Published: 25 September 2013


It is now well established that protein supplementation after resistance exercise promotes increased muscle protein synthesis, which ultimately results in greater net muscle accretion, relative to exercise alone or exercise with supplementary carbohydrate ingestion. However, it is not known whether combining carbohydrate with protein produces a greater anabolic response than protein alone. Recent recommendations have been made that the composition of the ideal supplement post-exercise would be a combination of a protein source with a high glycemic index carbohydrate. This is based on the hypothesis that insulin promotes protein synthesis, thus maximising insulin secretion will maximally potentiate this action. However, it is still controversial as to whether raising insulin level, within the physiological range, has any effect to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis. The present commentary will review the evidence underpinning the recommendation to consume carbohydrates in addition to a protein supplementation after resistance exercise for the specific purpose of increasing muscle mass. The paucity of data will be discussed, thus our conclusions are that further studies are necessary prior to any conclusions that enable evidence-based recommendations to be made.

Leucine; Insulin; Glycemic index; Skeletal muscle; Dietary supplements; Whey protein; Lean body mass