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Activity Snacks and Protein Consumption

Protein-based activity snacks can help improve performance.


Want to get more out of the protein you eat? “Activity snacks” may help. This is the conclusion of a Journal of Applied Physiology study that suggests quick bursts of exercise to break up periods of sitting can help our bodies better utilize the amino acids from food to support muscle mass.

Researchers from the University of Toronto looked at 12 men and women who did three separate sessions of sitting for 7.5 hours, once without any movement breaks, once with participants completing 15 body-weight squats every 30 minutes and once with people completing a 2-minute walk at 3.1 mph every 30 minutes. Their food intake was controlled with meals offering a specific mix of macronutrients—55% carbs, 30% fat and 15% protein—the day before each session. Blood samples and muscle biopsies were used to determine how participants were responding to intermittent movement compared to sedentary time.

When participants performed the activity snack sessions, they utilized amino acids from the food they consumed much more efficiently for the purpose of muscle protein synthesis than when they were only sitting.

In other words, breaking up bouts of sitting with short bursts of activity made amino acids more available to skeletal muscle. The study authors say that the long-term impact that this lifestyle modification would have on lean body mass is yet to be determined.

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