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HOW MUCH PROTEIN
The authors of Nutrient Timing discuss the importance of protein intake in relationship to when we exercise. The protein content of skeletal muscle is approximately 65% of the body’s total protein. The protein your body may require will vary depending on your activity level. The basic recommendation is as follows:
Sedentary 0.4-0.5 gm/lb of body weight per day
Active 0.6-0.7 gm/lb of body weight per day
Athletes 0.9-1.2 gm/lb of body weight per day
The most important time to take in protein after exercise is within the first 45 minutes post exercise. They tell us that “at no other time during the course of your day can nutrition make such a major difference in your overall training program”. Exercise opens a ‘metabolic window’ that allows for more enhanced utilization of proteins and carbohydrates. This will help build lean muscle and burn fat more effectively.
Protein and kidney function
Individuals with healthy kidney function can tolerate high protein diets without negative impact on kidney function. In individuals with unhealthy kidney function high protein diets can place additional strain on the kidneys.
Protein and calcium loss
There are some studies that have indicated that with increased protein intake there is higher calcium loss in the urine. However, in these studies calcium and phosphorus intake were restricted and not allowed to be increased proportionally to the protein intake. Since whole-food protein sources contain calcium and phosphorus and most protein supplements are fortified with both any losses can be compensated for.
Protein and Dehydration
Extra protein can cause extra water excretion. To put that in perspective so do alcohol and caffeine consumption. You can offset any losses by drinking more water. In a study done on marine recruits a dramatic decline was noted in the incidence of dehydration in subjects taking the carbohydrate/protein drink versus those consuming water only or carbohydrate and water.
There are two protein types found in milk. Whey is the most commonly discussed. It has all nine essential amino acids. The concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is higher in whey protein than in any other protein source. Three of the BCAAs in whey protein can be taken up directly by the skeletal muscle instead of first having to pass through the liver. Whey protein is considered a fast-acting protein because it empties from the stomach and is absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestine faster than other proteins. Sources of whey protein:
Whey Protein Hydrolysate. This is a protein that has been broken down into its amino acid components. They tend to be more expensive and can have a bitter taste.
Whey Protein Isolate. A pure form of whey protein that has had almost all of its lactose removed.
Whey Protein Concentrate. The most common form. It is inexpensive and can be used in a variety of products. Some can contain lactose but there are now forms available that do not.
This is the second protein type found in milk. It is vastly different from whey protein. This protein is not as efficient as whey but does contain high amounts of glutamine which is a critical amino acid for strength athletes. This protein digests more slowly than whey. Most strength athletes use this protein before going to bed as it can help to minimize protein losses through the overnight hours. It has lower amounts of BCAAs than whey and can cause gastrointestinal upset in those who are lactose sensitive.
Soy protein is the original protein supplement. It is rich in BCAAs but only contains a small amount of methionine one of the essential amino acids. It is a fast-acting protein but usually considered to be a lower-quality protein versus its whey and casein counterparts. Its one advantage is that it contains no lactose. So is good for those who are lactose intolerant. Some forms that are fortified with methionine are now available. Soys should be used with caution in certain individuals because it contains isoflavones (plant hormones) that have been shown to have estrogenic effects in the body. However, there is no evidence that they decrease testosterone levels or decrease muscle gains.
Recommended reading: The Future of Sports Nutrition: Nutrient Timing, by John Ivy PhD and Robert Portman, PhD.
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