Protein makes up part of the structure of every cell and tissue in our bodies including muscle. And roughly constitutes 20% of your total body weight. We need protein for growth, formation of new tissue and certain enzymes. There are 20 amino acids that are the building blocks of protein and can be combined to make hundreds of different protein structures. Twelve of these can be made in the body from other amino acids and are called non-essential; the remaining eight are called essential and must be obtained through our diet.
How much protein do we need to maintain athletic performance? This is a tricky question with lots of different answers. The ACSM states that the current value of 0.75g per Kg/BW is not enough for those who take part in regular exercise as additional protein is required to compensate for the breakdown during intense training. Your exact protein needs will depend on the type, intensity and duration of the exercise that you participate in. For high intensity training the ACMS recommends a value of 1.2-2.0 g/Kg/BW.
Consuming protein in the post exercise period increases adaption and performance and is used to rebuild the actin and myosin (contractile muscle fibres) which over time builds stronger and larger muscles. In order to rebuild muscle you must be in a positive nitrogen balance, that is you retain more protein than you use or is excreted.
What’s the best form of protein to take? Again this is a tricky question. However, in my opinion, try to get the bulk of your protein from natural foods like meat, fish and dairy products including eggs. What about whey powder I hear some of you say? Well it has its place. We will discuss protein powders in the next article.