Monday, April 21, 2008
What is Protein, And Why Do You Need It?
Protein, is made out of amino acids, which are linked together in chains. Amino acids are the principle means by which we get nitrogen -an essential element for your survival.
In order to build big and strong muscles you will need to achieve a positive protein balance. This means your body will have to synthesise more protein than it will break down. If the opposite occurs and you enter a negative protein balance your body will start getting amino acids from your muscles cause that's what they are built from. This means that they will get smaller and weaker.
How to measure protein balance?
Your protein balance can be estimated by measuring your nitrogen balance, since protein contains nitrogen. Having a positive nitrogen balance is generally taken as a sign of an anabolic (building muscles) state with an overall gain (retention) of nitrogen for the day, whereas a negative nitrogen balance indicates a catabolic (breaking muscles down) state.
Another way to keep track of your protein balance is by measuring your leucine balance. A positive balance of this amino acid shows protein anabolism. And as you are probably already guessing, a negative leucine balance suggests protein catabolism.
Simply said in order to have bigger muscles you need a positive protein balance. The way to know if you reached this is to check if your nitrogen and/or leucine balances are positive.
How to maintain a positive protein balance?
As you know you can't eat all the time so there are gaps in protein intake such as when you are sleeping. So the question is how does your body maintain a positive balance when its not receiving any for such long periods.
Your body maintains its protein balance largely by adjusting tissue protein breakdown according to how much protein you feed it.
In between meals, you loose tissue protein, but after a good protein-containing meal, you recoup what you lost through a decrease in protein breakdown. In most cases the synthesis of tissue protein stays the same after the meal, yet because protein breakdown is reduced, the result is a gain in protein. This is protein balance. You don't gain muscles and you don't lose any.
In order to actually make your muscles bigger and stronger, you’ve got to make sure you get adequat amounts of protein every 3 hours. The exact amount of protein is calculated according to the persons body weight. The stnadard formula is 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. So if you are e 200 pount person you need at least 300 grams of protein. As I already mentioned you need to get a good amount of protein every 3 hours. For the regular person who sleeps 8 hours, this means 5-6 meals containing a good protein source or in other words at least 50 grams of high quality protein per meal.
You are probably wondering why I keep saying things like "good protein source" and "high quality protein", right? Thats because not all protein is equal. As we already know protein is made by chains of amino acids, however, some sources have a bigger variety of amino acids than others. For example the protein in eggs has a different structure from the protein in carrots. Good sources of protein are most meats, dairy and eggs. Legumes and nuts are also considered to contain a great protein, however, their amino acid profile is also not optimal so you still need to eat them in a combination with a better protein source. OK, so we know how much protein we need every day- for our example of a 200 pound man it is 50 grams per meal for 6 meals. This means that he needs to eat somewhere around 150 grams of chicken breast, or 4-5 eggs in every meal. The good news for our friend is that he can substitute some of that with a protein supplement, thats why they are so popular in the bodybuilding world. Tasty, fast and easy to make.
I also forgot to mention that protein is very important for some of the most powerful muscle-building hormones like testosterone, HGH, insulin-like growth factor-1. Actually without it, they can't do their job.
So after reading all of this, you probably realize that picking the best protein supplement is a very important part of your bodybuilding efforts. There are many companies that claim their protein is the best, so be careful! The one I use is Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard and I am pretty happy with it so far. You don't have to use the same one to see results, however, make sure you do your research so you end up buying the best one for your budget (just like I did).
If you have any questions feel free to ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.
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