Protein is essential for anyone who is trying to gain muscle mass. During resistance training, tiny tears form in your muscles. Eating protein helps to repair these tears and also aids in gaining muscle mass.
This is why protein is vital for the ultimate health of your muscles. However, there are different types of protein and the quality varies. Additionally, the amount of protein that you need to consume should be increased if you are frequently exercising.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, people who are participating in strength training activities such as weightlifting need to consume 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Sources of Protein
The human body is made up of around 60 to 70 percent protein. Next to water, it is the most prevalent substance in the body. Protein is made up of amino acids that assist in gaining muscle mass.
The American Journal of Physiology advises that the body breaks down over 20 amino acids. Some of the amino acids are considered essential because the body cannot make them.
These are also known as “complete proteins.”
Examples of essential proteins are:
- Other animal sources
Proteins that lack all the essential amino acids are known as “incomplete proteins.” Examples include the following food sources:
These aforementioned sources of protein are all involved in the muscle building process; however, the various types of protein will have different characteristics. Some proteins will be fat-acting when absorbed into the blood, while others will go through a much slower process.
This protein is derived from the soybean and is considered a complete protein source, since it provides all of the essential amino acids. The problem with consuming soy protein for gaining muscle mass is that recent research has revealed potential problems.
Studies have found that phytoestrogens contained in soy protein have decreased testosterone levels, while increasing the female sex hormone estrogen.
The results of this research are currently under dispute in the scientific community. However, there are other proven sources of protein to consider in the meantime.
An important factor to think about when looking at protein is its absorption rate into the body. Whey protein is found in milk, and it is considered to be a fast-acting protein.
In other words, your body starts to absorb whey protein almost immediately. It takes less than an hour for your body to completely absorb the amino acids associated with whey protein.
For this reason, whey protein can dramatically increase muscle synthesis, if consumed after exercise. If taken after exercise, it will also help your muscles to recover quicker.
Another benefit of whey protein is that it helps to regulate your body weight, while increasing muscle mass at the same time, notes the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Contrary to whey, casein protein is a slow-acting substance. It can take up to three hours to be absorbed into your body after consumption. However, this isn’t necessarily a negative attribute.
Your body’s muscle fibers also require a long-lasting source of protein throughout the day. The Journal of Strength in Conditioning explains that the most effective protein supplementation will consist of a combination of both whey and casein proteins.
The fact that both whey and casein have contradicting absorption rates make them perfect muscle enhancing companions.
Along with the correct types of protein, time in which you consume this essential muscle fuel is also important. Research has found that the post workout hour is a crucial time to consume protein. The period after strenuous activity is when your body needs to recover the most.
Many weightlifters also consume protein at bedtime. Your body goes into a fasting state at night. While you are asleep, muscle tissue can start to break down. Consuming protein before bedtime will help you avoid this catabolic state.
According to the Mayo Clinic, whey protein can lower blood sugar levels. For this reason, people with diabetes should consult their physician prior to consumption.
Protein powders and supplements can be a helpful and convenient substitute for your nutritional requirements; however, make sure to also get adequate protein from whole food sources.
Additionally, excessive long-term use of protein for gaining muscle mass can cause kidney damage. When taking large portions of protein, make sure to consume plenty of water.