You may heard a lot that people don’t eat enough protein, especially vegans but why proteins are so important and how much you should actually consume?
I collected some data and briefly summarised some key information on the role of protein, muscle building, daily protein requirements and if there is best time to have your post workout protein meal/shake.
1. Role of protein
The importance of protein in our life is reflected in the term itself: protein is derived from the Greek term protos, which means “first element.” and protein is not only for bodybuilders 🙂 Protein makes up the vital organs, muscles, tissues and even some hormones like insulin and adrenaline, it is needed for tissue repair, neurotransmitters production and transporting nutrients. On average it comprises about 20% of body weight,
2. Can your body store protein like it does fat or carbs?
The thing is your body can’t store proteins as it does with carbohydrates or fats that’s why it’s so important to provide appropriate amounts each day. When this is neglected the body will break down vital tissues to supply amino acids that are missing and needed.
No matter if you are professional athlete or a person not exercising at all you need to meet your daily minimum protein requirement to maintain some of the body basic functions and processes as each day proteins in your body are broken down to amino acids and then rebuilt. If you exercise you are breaking down more protein in your muscles hence you need more protein to maintain your muscle mass.
Let’s make some math:
Building muscles = muscle breakdown < muscle protein synthesis
Loosing muscles = muscle breakdown > muscle protein synthesis
Maintaining muscles = muscle breakdown = muscle protein synthesis
3. Role of amino acids – some basics
As just mentioned amino acids are basically building blocks of protein. Your body needs 20 amino acids to form hundred of different proteins in the body for various processes and functions.
12 amino acids can be made by the body (non-essential amino acids- NEAAs), the other 8 amino acids the body can’t synthesise and therefore they have to be provided with a diet, these are called essential amino acids (EAAs). Protein that you consume with the diet is broken down to amino acids so they can be reused for building muscles and other various processes.
4. How much protein do we need?
Here we need to consider few factors:
- Activity level – The more you exercise, the more protein your body needs. The greater the intensity and the longer the duration of the workout the more protein is broken down and the more protein you need to consume to replenish it.
- How much muscle you have. The more you have, the more amino acids your body needs to maintain your musculature
- Age – The older you get, the more protein your body needs to maintain its muscle as your body is more resistant to hormones that stimulates MPS.
- Hormones – Insulin growth hormone stimulates MPS, on the other hand elevated levels of cortisol reduces protein synthesis and accelerates the process where the body breaks down amino acids into glucose (gluconeogenesis).
More doesn’t mean better.
If you consume too much protein at once, the excess calories from protein will be converted into fat and excess amino acids will be exerted with urea. According to the recent studies upper protein limit per meal is 0.55g /kg of body weight.
Current guidelines for recommend daily protein intake :
- 0.7g/kg BW/day for both sedentary lifestyle and recreational low intensity exercisers
- 1 – 2g.kg BW/day for higher intensity trainings. Usually higher protein intake is recommended for resistance workout 1.2 – 2g/kg BW/day and slightly lower amount for endurance training 1 – 1.4g/kg BW/day.
These amounts are just average recommended reference values and should be adjusted according to individual needs lifestyle and age.
On average consuming 20-30g of protein post exercise is considered a good amount to maximise muscle repair. It also increases training adaptation and enhances performance for both strength and endurance athletes.