Effective Nutrition - Are You Getting Enough Protein

Monday, October 29, 2012
It has often been said that proteins are the building blocks of muscles - and while there are a number of other factors involved, to a large extent this is true. No matter how well-structured your workouts are, without proper nutrition your muscles just won't grow and may even get smaller each week. Fortunately, today you have a lot more nutritional information readily available and much more is known about which proteins are best at different times of day.

A Fitness Fairy Tale Update...
Decades ago, little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey, when along came a spider who sat down beside her and scared little Miss Muffet away. These days her granddaughter Ms. Fit Muffet works out regularly and gets her proteins from eggs at breakfast, tuna or salmon at lunch, whey protein isolate in her pre- and post-workout shakes, chicken or lean beef at dinner and cottage cheese an hour or so before bedtime... Spiders everywhere are very, very afraid.

The Biological Value (BV) Of Proteins...
There are 7 different sources of protein listed above and all of them are derived from animals. Animal proteins have a higher Biological Value (BV) than plant-based protein sources such as soy or beans. Simply put, this means a greater percentage of the protein you ingest is assimilated and used by the body. As such, you need to eat a lesser amount of food to supply your body with sufficient protein.

Years ago bodybuilders did most of their 'bulking up' during the off-season and went on what many thought of as a 'see food' diet - if they saw food, they ate it. So while they did get more than enough nutritional intake, they also put on 30 - 50 pounds of unnecessary bodyfat, and lost some of their new muscle as they lost weight to get back in shape for the next competitive season.

Today's athletes are much better informed about healthy nutrition and aim instead to add only lean muscle mass when in a mass-building cycle. As such they want optimal nutrition with a minimum of excess calories to stay in better shape year-round and avoid yesteryear's heavy dieting cycles.

The Absorption Speed Of Various Proteins...
Effective nutrition goes beyond the BV of proteins though, and timing of your intake is also important. In our example above, the protein sources ingested at meals - eggs, fish & meats - are all absorbed and digested at a fairly normal rate similar to other foods.

Whey proteins digest and assimilate into the body much more quickly, which is perfect for those small windows just before and after your workouts. You pre-workout shake provides energy to power your weightlifting session while your post-workout shake is designed to get the protein and glucose into your muscles quickly to start rebuilding the muscle cells you've torn down during your workout and replace the energy you'll need for your next session. Most experts agree the post-workout window for maximum nutrient absorption is about 45 minutes long, so you want to fuel the body as much as you can during that short opportunity.

On the other hand you want your body to still have protein available for as long as you can during sleep, since that is when the body does most of its rebuilding and repair work. Cottage cheese comes to the rescue there since it contains casein. Casein is a phosphoprotein found in milk and is the basis for most cheeses. Casein is broken down and absorbed at a much slower rate than whey, and as such keeps your body supplied with protein for a longer period of time while you're asleep and fasting until morning.

Once digested, protein is only kept in your system for up to 4 hours. Beyond that time frame it's necessary to replenish your intake to keep it available for your body's use. By timing your intake and ingesting the right proteins at the right times during your day you can maximize the results from all of your bodybuilding, weightlifting and/or powerlifting workouts.