How to get a bigger butt, according to science


I learned three things about vegan fitness this week.

If you want to get straight to the butt stuff, scroll down to the third subheadline. See? I saved you some time!

How much protein to consume before and after training

In the “practical applications” section of this 2013 study by Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition—which I found via this amazing protein post by Anastasia Zinchenko—the authors note that eating or drinking about 0.4g of high-quality (what does this mean??) protein per 1g of lean body mass (not total weight!) both before and after training “is a simple, relatively fail-safe general guideline that reflects the current evidence showing a maximal acute anabolic effect.”

Truthfully, it’s not practical for me to eat anything prior to training, because I do it first thing in the morning and can’t eat anything within 2 hours of the start of my session without feeling very queasy. But 0.4 grams per gram of lean body mass after training is totally doable. For me (using crappy online calculators to estimate lean body mass) that’s about 20 grams of protein, or a scoop of Vega’s all-in-one nutritional shake in some cold water or unsweetened almond milk.

Several separate studies seem to imply that soy and other plant-based protein sources are not as effective as whey protein, so you may want to pump that number up to 0.5 grams per gram of lean body mass.

(Side note: the mocha flavor of Vega’s all-in-one shake tastes straight-up bad. I’m pushing myself to get through it. The mixed berry flavor is pretty good, though. I’ll probably stick to the simpler performance protein in the future, if I use Vega again.)

What should be in your last meal of the day

Turns out you really can build more muscle by consuming protein before bed. This 2015 study by nutrition scientists in the Netherlands found that participants who ate “a protein supplement containing 27.5 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrate, and 0.1 g of fat every night before sleep” gained more strength and greater quadricep mass than the control group.

To implement this, I would need to ingest a high-protein, medium-carb, low-fat snack around 9 or 10 p.m.. Those macros dictate this will almost certainly be a protein shake. I just ordered some vanilla-flavored 70/30 pea/rice protein, which I’ll drink with unsweetened soy. I’ll have to determine what amounts get me closest to what they gave the boys in Holland.

(Note: this study was performed exclusively on young men. Results could have been different for a group of women, or a different group of young men.)

The best exercises for building the booty

I love research about butts. And, luckily, there’s a lot of reasons to study your glutes.

Our largely sedentary society has created a population of sad, egregiously underused tush muscles. Unlike other parts of our lower-body, many of us have no need to work them them in everyday life—the other muscles we use to walk, climb, and squat over a toilet are more than happy to compensate for our gluteus muscles. Because we’re not used to firing them, it takes a lot for modern-day humans to activate and mobilize our glutes. That’s an issue that can lead to musculoskeletal imbalances and injury.

Yeah, so science studies the heck out of our butt muscles.

The fact that everybody now wants big, Kardashian-esque cheeks means dozens of high-profile fitness Youtubers have published videos about glute hypertrophy. The tips are, uh, variable in quality, but some do seem to know what they’re talking about. (Or are very good at pretending.)

But what do the peer-reviewed studies have to say?

This study, published last month in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, says the following generated the highest GTA index (gluteal-to-tensor fascia latae muscle activation):

So, hey, a lot of those Youtubers were right!

Let me know if you like this kind of post. I can make it a regular series. Using studies to inform my training is kind of my jam.




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