Packed with PROTEIN, Protein Isolate, Whey Protein, Vegan Protein, and Now with Added Protein. We’ve all come across these labels, but what’s with all the buzz? Why is everyone stuffing their grocery cart with more protein?
Well, if you haven’t heard, protein is one of the three macronutrients essential at every meal. But it’s role in nutrition and exercise is where even fitness enthusiasts often times get it wrong. So, don’t worry, this pop quiz is “open book.”
Multiple modes of exercise can create stress in the body that require recovery strategies in order to improve performance. Resistance training, as typically seen at your local health club, elicits damage to the muscles being trained, subsequently creating an opportunity for repair, and ultimately, growth. Simply put, with bigger muscles more strength and power can be generated. Here’s where one of protein’s roles comes into play. Following a bout of resistance exercise, your body looks to repair the tissue through a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS). This window of protein restoration peaks at 3 hours post exercise, but remains elevated for 24 hours. Think about it as a new movie at the theater. If you watch it within 3 months, you’ll enjoy it without anyone spoiling the surprise ending. Any longer than that, and you might as well wait to stream it later down the road!
Where everyone gets confused is how much to take, which protein source is best, and amino acids’ supporting role.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is about 0.8 to 1.2g/kg/day. However, body composition improvements have been achieved with 2x and 3x RDA (1.6g/kg and 2.4g/kg, respectively). A friendly reminder, these results are factoring an entire day’s worth of protein consumption. When it comes to supplementation, consuming 20 grams of whey protein isolate in a single dose can provide maximal MPS responses. For older populations, benefits have been seen with doses as high as 40 grams, without any adverse effects.
What about amino acids?! There are 20 amino acids, and 9 of them are considered essential (EAA) because our bodies can’t produce them and must be consumed from our diets. The most important EAA is leucine, which helps drive protein synthesis. Think of leucine as the nitrous oxide in The Fast and The Furiouscars. They all have modifications to make them fast vehicles, but leucine (extra boost) speeds up the signaling process required to repair the tissue. The combination of leucine, isoleucine, and valine have important
functions in protein metabolism, neural function, and blood glucose and insulin regulation. Oral consumption of these branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) circulate the bloodstream quickly, increasing the availability to skeletal muscle and MPS. This results in quicker repair and affording you the ability to endure consecutive workouts throughout the week.
So, lets wrap it all up! What did we learn? Following exercise, its best to consume at least 20 grams of whey protein isolate within 3 hours. If a shake isn’t available, don’t stress, benefits can still be achieved if you consume 1.6 to 2.4 g/kg/day through regularly scheduled meals. This provides a positive net balance of protein, and remember, MPS levels are elevated for 24 hours post exercise. When it comes to BCAAs, leucine is king and 3 grams should be included into the ratio, followed by 1 to 1.5 grams of isoleucine and valine. Since they are easily absorbed into the bloodstream, BCAAs can be consumed prior, during, or in conjunction with your post workout shake. BCAAs count towards your total daily protein consumption, so be sure to account for them too!
Example case: 180 lb individual
1kg = 2.2lbs
180lbs / 2.2 = 81.8kg
81.8kg x 2.4g (Protein) = 196g of protein per day
Miguel Motolongo (MS, ATC, LAT, CSCS)
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