People who work out need to consume more protein than someone who doesn’t. This is because exercise causes muscle damage. With each rep you perform, you cause tiny tears in your muscles, known as “micro-tears” in your muscle fibres, and your body needs protein to fully repair this damage. The body doesn’t just repair them to their previous state, however; it builds them bigger and stronger so it can better handle the stress of exercise.
Therefore if you want to get the as much out of your workouts as possible, your body needs to get enough protein. Plenty of people think that means just eating a large amount after their workout. It doesn’t. It means getting enough each and every day, this involves eating some with each meal you have.
Doing this will result in your body having the appropriate amount of amino acids required for muscle growth and repair. A lack of protein will result in your progress being stunted or even going backwards and you fall behind in the muscle breakdown and repair cycle.
There are two major sources of protein available – whole food protein and supplement protein.
Whole food protein is, as the title suggests, protein which comes from unprocessed sources, the best type is usually that which is low in fat, for example beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.
Should you be a vegetarian, your best choices are eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat European style yogurt, tempeh, tofu, quinoa, almonds, rice, and beans, although it is important to combine some of these sources to form a complete protein source, as individually, many of these are considered incomplete protein sources based on their amino acid profile.
Protein supplements usually take the form of powder or liquid and contain protein from different sources, some of the most popular include whey (the liquid left over after milk has been curdled and strained during cheese making), egg, and soy. In addition to these sources, there are also brilliant plant-based supplements which contain a mixture of high-quality protein sources such as quinoa, brown rice, peas, hemp, and fruit.
Protein supplements are not a necessity, you can get the protein your body needs from whole foods, however for most people this is impractical and expensive seeing as you will be eating protein 4 – 6 times per day.
When it comes to actually eating protein, there are something’s you need to know. How much protein you can absorb in one sitting is something which is often debated, due to the studies relating topic to this being extremely contradictory and disputed, mostly because it’s a complex subject. There are so many factors which contribute, genetics, metabolism, digestive tract health, lifestyle, and amount of lean mass, just to name a few. However, let’s keep this simple; your body should have no problems absorbing upwards of 100 grams in one sitting.
Nevertheless, there are no advantages of eating this way, many people find eating this much protein uncomfortable, however, it’s useful to know in case you skip a meal and need to make up for it later.
Another useful thing to know about protein is that different proteins are absorbed at different speeds, and the body can use some are better than others. E.g. Beef protein is absorbed fast, and 70 – 80% of what’s consumed is developed by the body. Whey protein is also absorbed swiftly and its “net protein utilization” (NPU) is in the low 90% region. However, egg protein for example is absorbed by the body much slower than whey and beef, and its NPU also falls in a similar region.
Knowing NPU and digestion speeds is significant information to know as you want to consume high-NPU proteins in order to reach your daily protein requirement. You also want a protein which is quick-digesting for a post-workout meal and a slow-digesting protein for your last meal before you go to sleep.
A final tip, I would not recommend consuming soy protein, because in my opinion, it’s not a good protein source, mainly because studies have shown that too much soy can cause a rise in estrogen levels as well as inhibit your body’s testosterone production.