Protein and muscle gain – do they work hand in hand?
Have you ever wondered why you weight train like crazy and yet your muscle definition decreases? You’ve increased your weights, cardio’d your head off to lose extra body fat, thinking you’ll look ripped, but none of this seems to work. You’re not sure what you are doing wrong but you’re getting fed up with not getting results.
So why Would Protein Help?
When exercising, particularly weight training, our bodies need sufficient protein to develop and maintain muscle. Protein is broken down into amino acids, then turned back into protein to produce and repair our muscles after our training session. Because amino acids can be burned by the body during exercise, especially aerobic exercise, it is important that we make the effort to supplement our muscles to help them repair faster and more efficiently.
What Happens to my Muscles if I don’t Bother To Monitor my Protein Intake?
At the beginning of this article I mentioned instances that you may be familiar with. If you are training hard and don’t bother to ensure your muscles receive the nutrition they require they can start to deplete – due to your body turning to muscle / protein as a source of energy.
So how Much Protein Should I be Taking?
This depends on your body size, training schedule and program. It is important that you increase your intake if you’re only consuming small amounts of protein to cater for your training so your muscles can survive your training regime.
Protein intake required for the average person – who performs a light amount of exercise.
Around 1 gram of protein per kilo of body weight
Protein intake required by an Athlete or someone who has a heavy training schedule that involves a lot of resistance exercise, sports specific training or weight training
Around 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight
Protein intake required for the person – who has a hard core heavy weight training schedule.
Can be up to 2.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight
The above are approximations and examples to give you some idea of what the body’s requirements are for protein. Notice the difference in the protein intake for the programs that involve more muscle damage?
Keeping Up with Consuming Larger Amounts of Protein
Such high intakes of protein can be difficult to keep up with on a daily basis. So as well as including the following protein sources in your eating program you can also use a protein powder if you’re struggling.
Sources of protein:
Lean Red Meat, Lean White Meat: Fish, Chicken or turkey (no skin), Eggs (both egg whites and whole eggs), Dairy (cottage cheese, natural yoghurt), Beans and legumes (that are higher in protein, also higher in carbohydrates). Nuts (contain protein and healthy fat eg… walnuts, pecans, almonds)… just to name a few.
When it comes to the meat, eggs and dairy you consume… aim for organic, free range and that come from farms that treat their animals with compassion. Whether you do this for ethical reasons or just because the products are much better for you… you’re going to benefit from consuming good quality products and you’ll help support improved animal welfare in the farming industry.
When performing regular resistance training try to include a source of protein in each meal.
Examples of protein portions for your meal…
Breakfast: poached whole eggs
Morning snack: cottage cheese and some nuts
Lunch: lean chicken
Afternoon snack: protein shake
Dinner: grilled lean read meat or fish
If you are still hungry late at night, and you’ve been training hard, you might want to also have a protein shake before going to bed, as this is your peak muscle recovery time.
2 x protein shakes per day is ample for the average person wanting to increase lean muscle mass, along with your other protein sources.
Protein Powders can help supplement your eating program with the necessary muscle nutrients that your body requires such as Amino Acids (mentioned above), Vitamins and Minerals. Protein powders are a convenient way of ensuring you receive an adequate protein intake. I personally use organic pea protein powder.
There are so many protein powders available to us now. You can choose from a variety of different flavors, different powders for different training needs and even easier to mix powders that can be mixed in shakers rather than blenders. One more thing too. Make sure that you drink lots of water when increasing your protein intake to prevent dehydration and to help the digestion of your protein.
In saying that though, consuming “real food” is vital, so don’t go overboard gulping down protein shakes with every meal because you’ll more than likely find that you’ll end up consuming too much. Which is not only as waste of protein powder but you could cause yourself to raise your calorie intake too high.
Consuming real food protein sources, instead of protein shakes, allows the body to work harder when breaking down the protein… meaning that you’re burning more calories.
If you’re already consuming plenty of protein, you can always use Glutamine and BCAA’s. So you’re not going overboard with your protein intake.
Just a few last words!
It is important before starting any new eating program to check with your doctor regarding increases or decreases in certain food intakes and food sources. You should now have a better understanding of why protein is important for assisting with your training. Your eating program and training program work hand in hand to help you achieve the training goals you have worked so hard for.