Protein is derived from the ancient Greek word meaning, “prime importance”. As athletes, we continually come across this word, protein. For many, this is a topic surrounded by stigma and confusion, what works, what doesn’t, how much do we need? Where did our obsession with protein start?!
Protein is made up of a sequential chain of amino acids; each protein has differing functions and properties depending on its amino acid profile. The body produces many amino acids. Essential Amino Acids however, cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through our diets.
Branched Chain Amino Acids are most commonly talked about and regarded as the “most important” Amino Acids for athletes. The majority of research suggests that throughout training, a 2:1:1 ratio BCAA supplement can delay the onset of protein catabolism (muscle wastage), essential if you want to preserve those precious gains you’ve been working so hard for. For those of you looking to be slightly more expansive, you could try Essential Amino Acids as a cost effective way of consuming a balanced amino profile.
Catabolism – as mentioned above – is the bodily state where there is no longer enough energy from carbohydrates available to muscles, so the body reaches to other sources. When we reach this stage, around 2-5% of our energy is actually derived from the breakdown of our protein sources, our muscles! The protein is broken down to its basic amino acid form and then excreted in urine, we pee it out!
So how do we combat catabolism? Simple – by ensuring we have a constant stream of protein in our diets.
The recommended dietary allowances are:
Men, Women & Teens – 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
I.e. for a 80kg Man, around 60g of protein per day.
Children – 2-4g per kilogram of bodyweight.
I.e. a 40kg child could consume around 80-100g of protein per day.
But are these really sufficient for athletes? If you’re this far into this article, the answer is probably no!
Studies have shown that an intake of around 1.2g-1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight has enabled strength training athletes more rapid progressions. Moreover, intake of around 3.5g protein per kilogram of body has led to large muscle mass gains and strength increases. It is also worth mentioning, 3000 calories intake of anything and 2500 calories expenditure will also lead to some fat storage as there is surplus energy, even if this is protein.
So what are the key take home points?
There are two types of protein:
Complete Proteins – foods containing all Essential Amino Acids (most efficient for recovery and growth), such as Milk, Eggs, Meat and Fish.
Incomplete Proteins – a protein lacking one or more essential amino acid (less efficient for growth and repair), such as Lentils, Beans and Nuts etc.
1.) We need to feed our muscles pre and post workout with protein to fuel the recovery and growth period. As much of this should come from complete proteins where possible!
2.) Protein and/or amino acids will slow down the process of catabolism and keep your muscles working harder, for longer.
3.) Carbohydrates create an Insulin response post-workout which help act as a transporter for the protein and hugely aid the recovery process and time. You can find blends of protein & carbs – for example, our Complete Recovery™.
4.) Everything in moderation – if you train hard you need more protein to recover than if you’re spending a lazy day in bed! RDA’s are guidelines, but your muscles need rest to grow and repair.
5.) Pure Whey Protein™ is a great option for an affordable way to ensure your hard work in the gym will pay off (the chocolate cookies flavour is delicious!).
Cathcart et al (2011) “CHO-PRO supplementation therefore appears to prevent body mass loss, enhance thermoregulatory capacity and improve competitive exercise performance despite no effect on muscle damage”.
About the Author
Peter Beaumont is a BSC Sports Science and Nutrition specialist with over 8 years of experience working with professional and amateur athletes. He now co-ordinates the strength and conditioning programme at a Private Football Academy working with athletes from across the world up to premier league standard.