By: Nicholas P. Valiyatharayil
We’ve all heard that one muscular guy saying something like “Oh I need to get some protein in” or something else protein related. Even now we see that more food producers are making sure to advertise more protein in their foods and products. So what is protein and why is there such a big craze about it? Well, protein is one of the three macronutrients and is made of compounds called amino acids. These amino acids make up a good amount of our cells tissue and muscles. There are many types of amino acids but our body only requires 22, 9 of which are produced by our own body. So why is protein so wanted? Around 20% of our bodies are made of protein. Also protein helps in many bodily functions such as regeneration of certain body parts like our hair and nails, help with the function and structure of cells, tissues and muscle in our bodies and they are also used for enzyme creation, hormonal responses and other body functions.
What really gives protein its demand is its role in the building of muscle after breakdown. See when muscle is broken down in the gym, your body needs to build it back and build it stronger. For that to happen your body needs many things, one being protein. That’s why you might see guys chugging down their protein shakes after working out. It is this reputation for aiding with muscle recovery that has made protein a must have nutrient amongst all athletic persons. In this article I look to discuss more on how protein is used to recover muscle and how we should use it to our advantage and the types of food you would want to consume in order to obtain your protein requirements.
Brief scientific analysis of protein synthesis and muscle recovery.
Ok, so you go to the gym, bust some weights and feel good but do you know what you’ve just done? You’ve just broken down the muscle you targeted. You caused micro-tears in them. The muscle is now weaker. Now that you’ve caused these tears, you need to repair them. This is where protein comes through. Let’s say you eat some chicken after working out. Your body digests this and turns it into amino acids. Now the body has its concrete to fill the patches in the wall. The body collects these amino acids into groups and uses them to repair the micro tears and make the muscle just a tiny bit better than they were before the workout. That’s a simplified explanation of the protein-muscle scenario.
So how much then?
Everyday there’s a new study claiming that this amount of protein is good, or this one is better. To be honest it can be confusing. Some studies say 2 grams per pound of body weight! That’s a ridiculous amount. I recommend staying between 0.8 grams to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight if you are looking to build muscle or do exercise regularly. If you don’t want to measure, I would recommend trying to get protein in every meal. When taking chicken curry don’t take the gravy only, make sure you get that chicken leg on the plate as well. Once again, I like to believe in testing our bodies because we are all different. If you are eating a certain amount of protein and see results, then continue. If you are not, then increase. You need to find the right amount for your body and listen to your body. You know your body best. All this 1 gram per bodyweight are just guidelines you should use. Don’t stick to it religiously, experiment and find the right amount for your body and for you to reach your goals.
What if I eat too much or too little?
See, persons believe that you have to gouge down protein in order to build muscle. This is absolutely not true; beginners will build muscle with adequate amount of protein consumption. Remember people, protein is not a steroid, if you eat protein with no work, you won’t see muscle added on magically. Now if you eat too much protein, you can find negatives such as gaining extra weight (yes the excess protein will give you extra fat not muscle), dehydration, nausea, bad breath and you could spoil your kidneys. Therefore, do not eat a lot of protein like it’s going to all run out tomorrow but keep it in moderation. Now if you eat too little and you workout, your muscles will not be able to grow like you expect them too. Actually if you don’t have enough protein and calorie consumption you can lose muscle since you don’t have enough protein to repair the tears in the muscle so its always important to keep your protein consumption up to maintain and build muscle and also for other reasons. You don’t want your hair to start falling out, nails getting rough or any worse sickness.
What food for protein?
Protein rich foods include meat from all animals and dairy products. Healthier options of protein include beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, peas etc. Many people have problems with vegetarian protein due to its incomplete amount of all amino acids present like in animal products. So far research on this topic is touchy and many sources claim different results but I would recommend sticking with the mixing of two vegetarian proteins to form a complete one. What do I mean by complete? Remember when I said the body requires 22 amino acids and our body provides 9? Well in animal products all the required amino acids are present but this is not the case in vegetarian products except for a select few. That’s why I and many others recommend the mixing of two vegetarian protein sources to reap the most rewards. Example the mixing of legumes and grains. Why? Legumes contain the amino acid lysine which is low in grains and grains contain the amino acid methionine which is low in legumes. Hence the mixing to form a complete protein. Now many people say it’s a myth and that you do not need to mix and combine for a complete protein. The topic is a bit controversial and there are no confident claims that you do not have to mix. To be honest if we don’t have to mix, it would be even more beneficial for us but if you want to play it safe, I say stick to mixing.
What about protein supplements?
Again people believe that things like protein powders are like steroids which will get you jacked. Remember protein powder is a supplement. It is meant to HELP with building muscle not build it magically. The protein found in meat is the same as that powder in the protein powder bottle. In case you aren’t able to get enough protein through food, then try the powder. If you can get enough protein through food, then don’t waste your money. Don’t forget, if you eat too much protein it will be turned into fat just like extra carbohydrate intake!
To conclude protein is something that is very important in the muscle building process as well as maintaining muscle mass and keeping fit and healthy. Just make sure you eat a good amount, not too much or not too little and you should be on the way to seeing gains and results. Good luck!