Protein seems to be a big buzz word in the vocabulary of anyone interested in their fitness or sports nutrition and rightly so as it is one of the macronutrients alongside fats and carbohydrates (Yeah, alcohol is a macronutrient too but you don’t need that to survive so we won’t mention them as an essential)
Cynics amongst us may think that too much emphasis has been given to protein in order for supplment companies to sell us more of their wonderful protein powders and ready to drink shakes and potions but let’s see what protein’s all about and why, as a fighter or someone interested in fitness in general, a diet rich in protein is a good idea!
So what exactly is protein?
Every cell in our body is made up of protein and the protein we consume is made up of amino acids. Our bodies use the amino acids which are digested from the protein we eat in order to build more protein help repair cell tissue and help them regenerate.
Now our bodies can generate some amino acids itself which are "non essential" but the rest have to come from food and these are called "essential amino acids" These can come from a variety of sources including:
Some of the sources above are better than others. "Complete protein sources" provide all of the essential amino acids and are usually found in meat, fish and supplements whilst "incomplete protein sources" do not have all essential amino acids and are typically found in vegetable protein sources.
Protein aids in the building of muscle tissue which is extremely important for a fitness lifestyle because lean muscle mass is good!
Why do you need it?
Like I just said, Lean muscle mass is a good thing but put it this way, When you work out or put your body through strenuous activity, you’re putting your body through stress which means cells and muscle take a beating and need to be repaired. Ever had that achey sore feeling a few days after a gruelling workout? That’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or D.O.M.S. for short which are micro tears in the muscles from over use. Protein helps rebuild the muscle tissue and help generate new muscle tissue too so if you’re looking to gain muscle mass, adequate protein is required. So it’s good for gaining muscle and recovery. It is also beneficial for rehabilitation from injury.
How much should you take?
Mostly, this depends on your body and your activity levels but an active person should have, in my opinion, between 1-2 grams of protein per lbs of lean muscle mass per day. It should also make up around 30-40% of your total caloric intake but this again depends on your requirements and a more in depth approach should be taken.
If you’re not too active and are just interested in healthy eating or weight loss, I would still recommend eating up to 1 gram of protein per lbs of lean muscle mass.
It helps you lose weight!
Imagine that your metabolism is like a furnace, a fat burning furnace (or at least a calorie burning one). Lean muscle mass keeps that furnace working harder thus making it burn more calories. Therefore the more lean muscle mass your body is comprised of as opposed to fat and water, the more calories you can burn even during resting periods. Since protein helps with muscle synthesis, it will help you lose weight. Also when you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’ll lose some muscle which means a weaker furnace but making sure you’re getting adequate intake of protein will keep you from losing much muscle.