THQ Trainer Posts – All about protein

bread, ham, tight max

By Jamie Thorne

  1. Protein with every meal

The best approach is to distribute protein evenly throughout the day. The research suggest’s this number is around 20 -30 grams per meal. Getting enough protein at each meal is essential in order to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, tissue retention and recovery.

  1. Muscle protein synthesis

Protein is the foundation to building muscle. When you eat protein, it is digested and broken down into amino acids. The amino acids are broken down in the gut and then released to the rest of the body where they can be used to build muscle tissue. Protein synthesis is the body’s process of building new proteins. Try to think of each muscle as a wall, each brick is an amino acid. Muscle protein synthesis is the addition of new bricks to the wall.

  1. Muscle protein breakdown vs muscle protein synthesis

When you train a muscle, you are breaking it down for it to be rebuilt bigger. But this can only happen with adequate nutrition. If you aren’t getting enough calories from protein your body will start stealing the protein from your muscles and converting it into glucose to use for energy, this is known as gluconeogenisis. If muscle protein breakdown is higher than muscle protein synthesis we cannot build muscle.

  1. Getting enough protein for your goal

Protein requirements vary on a numbers of factors such as your weight, activity levels and your fitness goals. If you regularly train and your goal is fat loss then you should consume between 1.6 – 2 grams of protein for every kg of your body weight. If you want to increase muscle mass then you should consume 1.8 – 2 grams per kg of your body weight.

  1. Whole food vs supplements

In an ideal world we would get all our protein from whole foods. But this is not always going to be convenient to eat a chicken breast on your way home from the gym. Whole foods digest slowly and post workout the rates of protein synthesis are higher and that protein shake may be most useful here. Although there is little evidence suggesting that protein powder is more efficiently digested than whole foods, it is certainly digested faster. 

  1. The quality of protein

Not all proteins are created equal and have different levels of bioavailability. Bioavailability refers how well your body utilises the protein and is usually measured by its biological value (BV). BV measures the amount of protein absorbed, that is retained by the body for maintenance and or muscle growth. The highest scoring whole food is an egg bettered only by Whey protein at 104.

Highest protein BV’s;

  • Whey = 104
  • Egg = 100
  • Fish = 83
  • Beef = 80
  • Chicken = 79
  • Casein (Milk) = 77
  • Soy = 74
  1. Amino acids

There are 20 different amino acids, 9 are classified as essential and 11 classified as non essential.   Essential amino acids cannot be synthesised by the body and therefore are required in the diet. Nonessential amino acids are made by the body. Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are classified as complete proteins, foods that contain some but lack all of the essential amino acids are known as incomplete proteins. Complete proteins include eggs, meat and fish. Many plants contain some amino acids but lack others and are often considered a carbohydrate over protein.

  1. Branched chain amino acid supplements

Branched chain amino acid supplements are essentially pre digested protein. The claim is that because they are predigested the body will absorb them quicker. Out of the 9 essential amino acids there are 3 branched chain amino acids BCAA’s: leucine, valine and isoleucine. A study which investigated the muscle building properties BCAA’s found that participants who consumed a BCAA  drink post workout had a 22% higher increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to participants who had a placebo drink. Although other studies have found that muscle protein synthesis from BCAA drinks was 50% lower than in participants who consumed a whey protein drink containing similar amounts of BCAA’s. There are also arguments that consuming BCAA’s over whole foods in a weight loss programme may be counter productive, as you are losing the thermic effect of the food digestion.

  1. The thermic effect of protein

Not all sources of calories are created equally, each macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) has a different effect on energy expenditure. Basically the body uses varying amounts of energy/ calories to digest and absorb a given food. Around 10% of all calorie intake is used towards digesting and absorbing the food we eat. The energy required to digest each macronutrient can be expressed as a percentage of the energy provided by the macronutrient. Your body burns more energy digesting protein than any other macronutrient, for every 100 calories of protein you consume your body burns 20-30 calories processing them.

Thermic effect of macronutrient’s:

  • Fat = 0 – 5%
  • Carbohydrate = 5 – 10 %
  • Protein = 20 – 30 %
  1. Protein for vegetarians

Animal proteins are the richest source of complete proteins, but there are lots of ways to get complete protein meals on a vegetarian diet. Plant based complete proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids include: Quinoa, Soy, Buckwheat, Hemp, Chia seeds, spirulina, Tempeh and Amaranth. There are also many plant based incomplete proteins that can be added together to make a complete protein. Examples of this could include: Grains + Pulses, Vegetables + Nuts, Vegetables + Seeds, Grains + Dairy, Nuts + Seeds, Nuts + pulses, Seeds + Pulses. Its also worth noting that complimentary proteins don’t even have to be consumed together in the same meal. Research has found that if consumed separately within the same 24 hour window they can still be as effective. It as also worth noting that many of these foods contain more carbohydrates than protein so this to be accounted for when designing your meal plan.

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