Why in the hell would I be talking about something like this when we want to determine what the best protein for muscle growth is? Well, what is catabolism?
When looking at your metabolism (notice the common “bolism”) you can “break-it down” into the two categories of Anabolism and Catabolism. Anabolism is the process your body has to build up complex molecules that your body uses. Catabolism on the other hand is the process of breaking down these complex molecules. Of course, no matter how you swing it, both need to occur in order for life to exist. However, if you are trying to build muscle, you really don’t want the catabolism to be happening on your muscles.
Instead, you want to have the breakdown of other complex nutrients such as glycogen and fat. So you want anabolism to occur on muscle proteins and catabolism on the glucose and fatty acids that you are consuming or have stored up. In order to build muscle, you must be using energy from somewhere. Anabolism creates new proteins, tissue, cells , and enzymes. This is essential for any growth and repair to be going on in your body. On the other hand, catabolism is essential for the breakdown of complex molecules for energy, reuse of the remaining nutrients from the molecule, and also to evict the spent molecules and toxins from your body.
So what does this all mean with regards to muscle gain?
How to Prevent Catabolism on Your Muscles
Well, when you exercise your muscles and you damage the fibers you release a chemical called cortisol more rapidly from your muscles. Cortisol raises the free amino acids in the serum. It does this by inhibiting collagen formation, decreasing amino acid uptake by muscle, and inhibiting protein synthesis. If you have high amounts of protein in your diet, this effect is reduced. Other nutrients such as L-Glutamine as well as anti-oxidants also reduce the effect cortisol has on muscle degradation. Less degradation means more growth.
Fundamentally, the goal is to have more anabolism then catabolism. There are essentially two periods when catabolism is at an all time high. On an empty stomach and when you are training. This is why it is a good idea to get some protein in you prior to a work out and after a work out. In your search for the best protein, it is a good idea to consider the effects of catabolism, how and when it happens, and how to prevent it.
After a work out, you will need to get the high protein content back in your body to subdue the cortisol effect. To do this, the best protein is whey protein because you want it delivered fast to your body. You also need to spike your insulin levels to help get those amino acids to the muscles (resulting in muscular hypertrophy). This is why it is a good idea to consume some high glycemic carbs immediately after your workout. This will help reduce the catabolic effect of working out.
However, at night when you are sleeping, your body is emptying your stomach. By the middle of the night, your body is lacking the nutrients it needs and it begins a catabolic state. To help prevent this, the best protein to put into your body before bed is a casein protein as it is absorbed slowly throughout the night and will continue to feed your body. Some people also say that cottage cheese is a good night time snack and if you are not too heavy into body building, it might be suffice. However, if you are pushing your body hard and looking for big gains, a casein protein shake before bed is the best protein for the job.