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Friday, February 8, 2013


Today with the growing concern for health and nutrition much of the talk of the fitness industry is about protein and how it does wonders for the human body. But how much do you really know about what can be called one of the secret ingredients to the fountain of youth? What is its purpose in the body besides important nutrient for building muscle mass? Do you really know why it is so important to have the right quantities especially if you are doing resistance training? Is it true that for putting on muscle mass and losing weight you can never get enough? What is the truth about protein supplementation?

Let’s start with the basics, protein is made up of the chemical substances strongly bound by peptides (combined by electric charge) Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen forming molecules, called Amino Acids (AA). The most heard of when talking about resistance training are Leucine, Glutamine, Glutamate, and Arginine. Our bodies can produce most of them, but 8 Amino Acids, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine are considered essential because they have to be ingested so that you can have normal function of your body.

The importance of protein to our body, which means having all the types of AA available is to support the body (cell structure), for the immune system (antibodies), body movement (muscle contraction), biochemical reactions of the metabolism (osmotic equilibrium or flow of water and catalysts), hormonal function, and transportation (tissue nutrition, for example insulin removal from the kidneys, and oxygen delivery, and carbon dioxide removal). They are considered the building blocks for they are vital for body development, lining, protection, and support. When used as an energy source they provide 4kcal/gram of protein.

Most already knew that Protein is considered building blocks because it is responsible for building muscle mass, but do you know how it is built in the body? First of all, just like the energy balance to get your results, there needs to be more synthesis of protein in the body than breakdown (Positive Protein Balance). Protein synthesis or formation of protein starts in the brain of the cell (nucleus) where there is DNA. Information in DNA is copied into the RNA messenger (mRNA) molecule, and it is transferred into a specific sequence of AA into the cytoplasm of the cell. In the cytoplasm the RNA binds with ribossomos and undergoes translation of the information forming new peptides which are added onto the existing.
The amount of ingested protein that a trained individual needs is hard to calculate, but at a cellular level they might require more than the general population because there is a need to support muscle growth through elevated protein synthesis and the increase of catabolism of AA with resistance training. But protein turn over after resistance training is slow and repeated sessions are needed for this to happen. If there is excessive amounts of protein, AA is lost from the skeletal muscle and oxidized which increases the production of urea, or is converted into glycogen by Glycolysis. In fact, scientific research shows that for the trained, post exercise levels of protein in the muscle is maintained up to 48 hours, meaning that they may need less amounts for building muscle mass (Phillips SM, Protein requirements and supplementation in strength sports. Nutrition 2004).
There are different forms of calculating the protein balance which gave way for conclusions that the trained may need more because of an increased rate of resting protein turnover due to exercises responses (intensity, duration, frequency and type). Even though there is an indication that the daily consumption of protein should be of 0.8g/kg of bodyweight spread out through the meals of the day for hypertrophy and fat reduction (some even suggest 1.8 – 2.0g/kgs), for athletes, it really isn’t known what the right quantity is to maximize protein synthesis for each separate individual.
Some study’s results showed the positive effects when timing calorie intake. The right time led to a decrease in excretion of AA in urine if carbs were consumed immediately after resistance training. It also contributed to lower levels of nitrogen excretion and increased insulin concentrations which could result in a positive protein balance (Roy. B.D, et al. Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1997). According to Pasiekos et al  consuming AA before, during or immediately after exercise increases anabolic responses by maximizing protein synthesis and anabolism (Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American College of Clinical Nutrition, 2011). There is a need for more research with variable conditions instead of model settings to calculate the right timing of protein/carb consumption for protein synthesis. (Burd. N.A, et al. Enhanced amino acid sensitivity of myfibrillar protein synthesis persists up to 24h after resistance training in young men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011) 

For most, supplementation is not needed because sufficient levels can be provided by self-prepared meals based on energy intake calculations, but it has been shown that it can help with weight loss due to the right quantity of ingredients, and helping with reducing hunger. Energy intake can also spare protein if sufficient carbs are consumed, but if you choose to consume them make sure that the proportions of protein to carbs and other ingredients give you the highest quantity per serving

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