today’s topic is one of the most discussed topics in the fitness world. But as time passes new researches come to light and opinions vary. Before we start analyzing the topic, I feel that there is a lot of misinformation out there and this is bad for two reasons. First of all there is a big possibility you can damage yourself over time and second you may not get the results you want, spend money and personal effort for no reason.
My goal is to help you people understand in simple words what is right or wrong. This article will not be a scientific approach, but it is based on my experience, what worked for me, for my clients and for other trainers and athletes I know and I have worked with. So let’s go!
What Is Protein?
There are three basic macronutrients that are essential for life, body and brain function; carbohydrates, fat and protein. Protein is the macronutrient that is essential for muscle growth. The word protein first appeared in the scientific literature in 1838 and it was derived from the Greek word “protos” – meaning “first rank or position”.
Protein refers to a type of molecule in food that can be broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are organic nutrients that appear in foods and in the human body either as building blocks of proteins or as free amino acids and are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Our body needs 20 of them and produces only 11. The rest 9 are called ”essential amino acids” that our body has to gain through food. The amino acids that are used to firm a protein can vary and there are many combinations. Each amino acid combination defines what the protein is and what it will do. For example Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which include leucine, isoleucine and valine, are essential amino acids that stimulate protein synthesis in the muscles.
Why Do We Need Protein?
There are many reasons you have to consume proteins. Here are some you need to know:
- Your chromosomes consist of nucleoproteins, which are substances made of amino acids and nucleic acids.
- Everything you do requires nerve cells to send messages back and forth to each other and to other specialized kinds of cells, such as muscle cells. Sending these messages requires chemicals called neurotransmitters. And neurotransmitters require proteins.
- Proteins keep the immune system functioning properly.
- They also maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.
- Finally they help the body produce enzymes. These are the proteins which make everything happen, e.g. to break down food for absorption, to regulate the entry of nutrients through cell walls, and the removal of waste-products, to grow, develop, move, reproduce.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This means that the average man needs approximately 56g of protein and the average woman 46g. However your needs of protein may depend on your actual goal.
Protein helps satiation, reduces your appetite and boosts your metabolism.
There is no specific number of grams you should intake but researches have shown that 30% of your calories is a good amount of protein to help you lose weight.
For Muscle Gain:
Your body gains muscle if it synthesizes more protein than it breaks down. This means that if your goal is to get ”bigger” you need to consume more protein.
This is also for people that want to lose fat and are in a strict diet, and want to keep their muscle mass.
Most studies suggest that 0.7 – 1 grams per pound of lean mass (1.5 – 2.2 grams per kg) is sufficient.
For Other important Reasons:
Like a demanding job or if you are a very active person. For example endurance athletes need also a lot of protein, 0.5 – 0.65 grams per pound, or 1.2 – 1.4 grams per kg.
At this point it is important to say that elder people need up to 50% more protein than the DRI, 0.45 to 0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight.
How Much Protein Can Our Body Absorb At Once?
Do we only absorb 30g of protein at once?
Protein metabolism depends on many factors: muscle weight, age, sex, how active you are and hormones. So it varies, some people need more protein and some less.
When we talk about protein absorption we talk about how quickly our small intestine can absorb amino acids into our blood. Also some proteins are absorbed faster than others. Theories and studies vary, but let’s think about this.
The ancient man went hunting and returned in his cave after hours or days to feed his family. There was no certainty when their next meal would be. So how did the humanity survived if we are designed to absorb only certain amount of protein at once?
Your body absorbs approximately 95% of your protein intake, but when it comes to muscle growth there is a limit by the amount of protein that your body can utilize for protein synthesis. Any protein that your body can’t use for growth will be used in energy pathways. This means that you really don’t need 40, or 30, or probably even 20g of protein per meal to keep your protein synthesis humming along.
Is Protein Enough For Muscle Growth?
It is undeniable that protein is the mecca of muscle building. Without protein nothing good can happen. But is protein itself enough? The answer is no and for you that are convinced from weight trainers, bodybuilders and bodybuilding magazines I beg you to reconsider this.
For me the perfect word is quality. We need all the macronutrients to maximize our results.
Quality protein + Quality carbohydrates + Quality fat = Success
You need carbohydrates to survive your killing leg workout. Carbs are your basic workout fuel. They will give you the energy, the concentration and the mood to go through your super workout. Proteins have nothing to do with that, their job is to support you after the workout. With carbohydrates you will lift heavier and with proteins you will build more muscles.
Do I Need A Protein Supplement?
If you ask me I support natural methods of gaining the amount of protein you need. For average people a balanced diet is enough. However not all of us, including me, are good in preparing meals and have something to eat the time we need to. This doesn’t mean that supplements are meal replacements, I totally disagree with that.
So if your protein needs are more than 200g per day or if your diet is poor and you are constantly losing weight, yes I recommend a protein supplement.
BUT for no reason you should use the supplement as a meal replacement.
When Is The Right Time To Take Our Protein Supplement?
The best hours to take your protein shake from morning till the night are as follows:
- Immediately after you wake up. You probably slept 6-8 hours and this is enough time without proper nutrition. Your body needs protein.
- Half an hour before your workout. This will help you to set up the ”anabolic window” and avoid muscle catabolism ( the wasting of lean muscle tissue).
- After your workout for maximum muscle recovery and growth.
- Before bed. As I mentioned above 6-8 hours are a lot without proper nutrition.
You don’t need massive amounts of protein to get you massive. Balance your diet, maximize your efforts in the gym and you will see the results you want.
If you still struggle with your protein, check out 5 Protein Mistakes You Have Been Making.
Thank you for stopping by! If you have any questions leave them in the comments below.
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