If your goal is to lose weight, build muscle and improve metabolism then protein intake is an essential part of your diet.
The health and fitness industry is riddled with all kinds of information regarding protein intake and its potential to help you recover and build muscle so let’s shed some light on protein and recovery.
What is Protein and How Does it Work?
Protein is a type of macronutrient that along with carbohydrates and fat make up the total calories you ingest on a daily basis. Protein works to build and repair tissues. Your body also uses protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
Protein is an important building block in the process of repairing muscle, bone, skin, hair and other soft tissue. A lack of protein can result in a loss of muscle mass, hair loss and a weakening immune system to boot.
When protein is ingested it is broken down into amino acids. These amino acids then go to work repairing soft tissue, and in some cases can be quite anabolic.
There are four main amino acids that stand above the rest. These are L-leucine, L-Valine, IsoLeucine, and L-Glutamine. Each have different jobs, yet L-leucine has been shown to be the most important factor in overall muscle repair and anabolic strength.
How and Why You Need to Increase Your Protein Intake
Good sources of protein rich foods include white poultry meat, lean beef, pork tenderloin, seafood, milk, cheese, yoghurt, soy and eggs. If consuming enough protein through your diet is not possible, you could increase your protein intake with a protein supplement.
Supplementing a protein shake has one main purpose – to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle protein synthesis is a reaction that occurs to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue (after a tough workout). Only by stimulating muscle protein synthesis at the correct times and maintaining a positive amino acid balance will we enable our body to recover and gain strength.
When is the Best Time to Take Protein?
Contrary to popular belief there are two main times you should take care to supplement protein into your diet in order to maximise your strength and recovery.
Supplementing a clean and readily digestible protein directly after a workout will work to provide your body with a quick source of nutrients to start repairing muscle tissue and limiting muscle loss.
Lack of protein and their respective amino acids after a workout has been shown to promote catabolism (loss of muscle). It is recommended you intake 20-25g of protein within 30-45 min of intense resistance-based exercise.
Perhaps the most overlooked time to supplement protein into your diet. Research shows that supplementing protein before bed can be more effective at promoting recovery and strength than any other time.
Supplementing protein before bed helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis while you sleep. Some researchers hypothesise that during deep sleep cycles your free testosterone is highly active and will work in conjunction with the amino acids to promote greater recovery.
The best supplements to take prior to sleep are those that take an extended period of time to digest, such as Micellar Casein and Egg.
Many people think that protein should be taken alone, with little to no carbohydrates present. This is not true and research has shown that when protein is ingested with carbohydrates the effects of muscle protein synthesis and overall digestion is amplified.
For best results try supplements Whey Isolate with a Simple Carbohydrate such as Maltodextrin or a Waxy Maize. The carbohydrates work to stimulate an insulin response, increasing the uptake of muscle protein synthesis and replenish lost glycogen stores.
It should be noted that if your goal is to lose weight you should limit the amount of carbohydrates you intake. If your goal is to optimally build strength, power and increase recovery the benefits of supplementing your protein shake with carbohydrates must be noted.
Whatever your goal or experience, supplementing with a clean protein shake after each workout and before you sleep will help you to recover faster and get you back into the gym working harder.