Consuming adequate amounts of protein should be the cornerstone of any athlete’s diet. Whether training to increase strength, size, or both, protein is essential. How much protein do you need? For decades the answer in the gym has been one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Over the years, articles and studies have attempted to criticize this credo on both sides (either you don’t need that much or that isn’t enough – talk about confusing). One thing most everyone can agree on, however, is that you cannot go wrong with consuming at, or around, 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every single day. The point being, if you engage in regular high-intensity training, you need your protein.
Proteins in the body perform all kinds of different functions and are made up of amino acids – often called the “building blocks” of proteins. When you eat something that contains protein, your body breaks the protein down into amino acids. If you don’t eat enough grams of protein, you simply don’t have enough amino acids to build or repair muscle. Even people who don’t exercise need protein to survive; however, when you exercise you need more protein so your body can repair the muscles you’ve damaged during training (hence the 1 gram theory).
While every person is unique and may have slightly different needs, I have found that my body responds well to the 1 gram rule of thumb. After many years of a sedimentary lifestyle, I have been able to increase my strength and lean muscle mass significantly following this rule, all while over the age of 40. With that being said, as I gain lean muscle mass it has been increasingly difficult to make sure I consume adequate protein. Currently weighing 220 lbs, it is sometimes difficult to make sure I consume 220 grams of protein every day. Accordingly, I have turned to supplements to assist in meeting my protein needs.
Not all proteins are equal. Indeed, proteins come in different forms, digest at different speeds and are utilized by the body differently. In evaluating a certain food’s protein value, you can look to its Net Protein Utilization (its “NPU”). The NPU of a food is the percentage of protein contained in that food which is retained by the body after the food has been eaten. Whey protein, for example, is digested very quickly and it has an NPU of more than 90%. This means that over 90% of the whey protein consumed can be used by your body.
Whey protein is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Whey protein has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis (the rebuilding of muscle tissue) and promote the growth of lean tissue mass. If you want to increase strength and size, you need to consume whey protein. I have found that a post workout whey protein shake is filling, helps reduce hunger over other, less healthy snacks, and because of its quick digestion, really fuses my body with the building blocks it needs to begin muscle recovery. While you shouldn’t use whey protein shakes to replace meals, adding whey protein to your diet is an easy way to meet the increased needs high-intensity training places on your body.
Whey also delivers a large amount of the amino acid L-cysteine, which can alleviate deficiencies that occur during aging and diabetes, as well as other conditions. Studies have shown that whey protein can improve your immune system and even help fight cancer. Generally, whey is attributed to assist in increasing fat loss; however, this is a function of protein, rather than the whey itself. Thus, just as protein is needed to build or repair muscle, it can often aid with your fat loss efforts. So, whether you are looking to gain lean mass or lose fat, whey protein can help you achieve your training goals.
Guest Blogger – Scotty B
Scotty was born at a very young age. He spends most of his time moving heavy things, drinking protein shakes, and pondering the pros and cons of artificial testosterone. He received his Certificate of Awesomeness with honors.