Protein Power: Why you need it, and how to get it.
There’s one thing that broccoli, the former governor of California, and the actin cytoskeleton all have in common: lots and lots of protein. Whatever your fitness goals are, you’re going to need rich sources of protein to supplement your intake of carbs and fat. If you’re looking to turn some heads at beaches and pool parties, it’s time to make a good friend of Mother Nature’s bulking buddy. You’re going to need a lot of it for a long time.
A Quick Inventory
If you know the first thing about fitness, you know that there are four main categories of essential macronutrients to include in your diet as you strive for the body of your dreams:
- Pure unadulterated rage
Alternatively, discipline, willpower, and a wicked Montage can also take place of No. 4. For now, however, the focus is on No. 3.
A Ton of Protein
Whether you’re trying to cut and diet or bulk and build, protein is one major category where you never want to skimp. Anger, frustration, joy, ecstasy, and determination help a whole lot too, but seriously, you need protein. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the IOM, the average individual needs about an estimated 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. However, RDAs are quick and easy rules of thumb. Recently, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discussed a range of studies suggesting that Americans should be including more protein in their diet, shooting for about twice the RDA.
So, what does this stuff do?
First off, a quick primer: Proteins do a lot of awesome stuff in our bodies and are involved in just about every cellular process. Ever wish you had an army of tiny minions doing your bidding? That’s basically protein.
Building Muscle Specifically, as it pertains to your burning desires, the major role of protein consumption in fitness is to build or maintain muscle mass. When you exercise, your muscles are placed under tension that actually causes tiny tears in microscopic muscle fibers. During rest, your body comes back and repairs these tears with proteins from your diet. As you place muscles under increased stress, the tear-and-repair process leads to increased muscle mass and strength. Without protein, there’s no adequate repair, no gains in strength, and no gains in size.
Losing Fat If you’re mainly concerned with losing weight, protein is still crucial. The main issue here is that eating a caloric deficit without enough protein will lead your body to start taking it from its own sources. In other words, you’ll start losing muscle mass.
Sources of Protein
Great, so all that’s left to do is shovel down the closest vat of whey protein and watch the muscles pop! Well, no. First off, it’s important not to overdo it with protein consumption. You want to get about 10 percent to 35 percent of your daily protein from calories but not more. Don’t forget about the other essential macronutrients. You also want to get your protein from a variety of sources, some of which include:
- Meat and poultry: Steak, chicken
- Legumes: Lentils, black beans, peanuts
- Greens: Broccoli, asparagus
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and of course, whey
So, with that in mind, you can start working on that big ol’ vat of purified whey. No, really, whey is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production and is processed to form the basis of protein powders.
And the stuff is magical. Supplemented to a balanced diet, whey protein provides huge advantages for lean muscle gains and maintaining muscle mass during weight loss. First off, whey is a complete protein. It contains all 9 essential amino acids. Those are the ones your body can’t make on its own.
Whey extracts are also particularly great for building muscle, as they not only contain a surplus of protein; they also have high concentrations of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). What are BCAAs? Basically, the Holy Grail of protein. BCAAs like leucine and valine play a crucial roles in muscle protein synthesis, reducing muscle breakdown and decreasing mental fatigue. In other words, in addition to being quick, easy, and complete, whey extracts provide natural boosts to keep you pounding on your beastliest workouts.
Once you’ve planned out a dietary map, the next step is just to tear it up at the gym. With the right fuel and the right mindset, it doesn’t matter where you are in life or how long it’s been since you last worked out. Stick to your diet, occasionally mix things up with your routine, tap into your inner feral creature, and you’ll start seeing results faster than you would have thought.