Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet. Proteins are made up of chemical building blocks called amino acids. Your body uses amino acids to manufacture new proteins to help support the growth of new lean tissues, bones, hormones and enzymes. So if your goal is to increase lean mass, strength and improve your health, then protein should be a priority in your diet. Today we take a look at protein and how by optimising your protein intake and the quality of your protein sources, you can maximise your gains in the gym and in your life.
What are the benefits of protein and how it can serve to help your body?
- Increase lean mass and strength
Proteins (amino acids) are the building blocks of muscle. When you ingest an optimal amount of protein you help your body maintain your lean mass and promote growth, if you do resistance training. If you are aiming to increase lean mass it is vital you optimise your daily requirements for protein. Also, by optimising your protein intake while you are aiming to drop body fat you will help prevent the loss of lean mass.
- Good for bone health
Long term studies suggest that the ingestion of protein (especially complete protein sources) has major positive benefits on bone health. Individuals who eat a higher protein diet have been shown in studies to have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. This is especially important for women as they become high risk after they go through menopause.
- Reduces hunger and appetite
The three macro-nutrients affect your body in different ways. Protein has been shown in studies to be the most filling which make it a powerful tool in a weight loss nutrition plan. The effect protein has on appetite is significant enough that it is suggested that up to and over 30% of your nutrition should come from protein to help keep you feeling full and satiated.
- Helps your body recover from injuries
Since proteins are the building blocks of amino acids and lean tissues, when your body is damaged from an injury, your body must manufacture new proteins to repair your body. By ingesting a high protein diet, you inherently help your body repair itself faster.
What is total daily protein and how much protein do you need each day?
More recently, the science community has shown that total daily protein is most important when maximising recovery and muscle growth. Your total daily amount of protein is simply that, the total amount of protein you ingest each day from all of your foods. If you do not get enough protein daily, you cannot maximise your gains and even worse, you can potentially be losing lean mass.But… how do you know how much protein you need? Generally speaking, most people need a lot more protein in their diet then they are currently having. If you goal is to increase lean mass, strength and if you are physically active and hitting the gym hard, you should be trying to achieve at least 1.6-2.2g of protein per 1kg of body weight per day. For individuals who are slightly more sedentary, aim for between 1.2-1.6g per 1kg of body weight. For individuals who are in a calorie deficit, and who are training hard your protein requirements should be between 2-2.5g per 1kg of body weight.
What are the best sources of protein to eat?
After you have worked out how much protein you need to eat, the next most important aspect in optimising protein in your diet is to focus on consuming high quality sources of protein.
But what makes a specific protein source high quality? When it comes to protein quality, three variables must be considered. The first one is the proteins amino acid profile. The second variable is whether or not it is a complete protein source. Finally, the third aspect is whether or not the protein source is practical.
The best protein sources generally come from animals. Animal protein sources have a good amino acid profile and are practical to eat.
Here is a list of the best lean protein sources:
- Fish, sardines, and seafood
- Lean beef
- Lean pork
- Eggs and eggs white
- Fat free yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Whey protein
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How does protein timing and distribution matter?
It was once theorised that post workout yielded the magic window of opportunity, where by ingesting a high protein/high carb meal was the magic ticket to gains city. This has since been shown to be not true. Generally speaking, the timing of protein meals does not matter. Some research suggests that what is most important, especially while you are bulking, is consuming consistent amounts of protein per meal, between 20-50g.
While the science of protein synthesis and amino acids is quit complicated, when we breakdown what is most important with regards to muscle growth and recovery and what needs to be prioritised, it becomes a lot easier to understand how to make gains. By focusing on what matters the most; total daily protein intake and the best sources of protein, we give ourselves the best opportunity to increase lean mass, increase strength and optimise our health.