Protein is required for the growth and repair of muscle and all bodily tissues.
During intense exercise, muscles are subjected to trauma, causing their fibres to become damaged as a result. This is a completely normal process that actually leads to an increase in muscle mass. Protein helps to repair muscle fibres and thus, there is an increased requirement for this vital nutrient in individuals who train regularly.
However, with a busy lifestyle, it can be difficult to achieve an adequate intake; this is where protein supplements come in, and the reason they’re considered a staple within the sports nutrition industry. Whether it’s a protein shake, RTD, bar/snack or dessert, there is a solution available to support you in reaching your fitness goals in the most convenient and delicious way possible.
- Essential amino acids
Classified as a macronutrient (required in larger amounts in the diet), protein consists of amino acids, referred to as the ‘building blocks of life.’ Of these, nine are considered essential; this means the body is unable to synthesise them, and so they must be obtained through the diet and/or supplements. They are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan.
- Non-essential amino acids
Non-essential amino acids are called such because the body synthesises them, and so dietary intake is not usually necessary (however, demand can sometimes increase during periods of illness or considerable physical stress – including heavy training); their biological roles are vital nonetheless. These are: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
- Conditionally essential amino acids
There is also a third category known as conditionally essential amino acids, which the body can make, but which deplete rapidly during exercise, stress and illness, which lends to an increased requirement. These are: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
Animal sources of protein include red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. They provide what is known as complete protein – meaning, they contain all nine essential amino acids. Whey – a by-product of dairy – remains a widely utilised supplement by active individuals of all levels and practices, including bodybuilders, powerlifters and endurance athletes, because of the high quality protein it provides.
Plant forms of protein include soya, legumes, pulses and nuts. Vegan protein powders are derived from entirely plant sources – often soya, pea, rice and hemp protein. They are a great alternative for those who avoid animal products for cultural/ethical reasons, or because they are allergic/intolerant to certain animal-derived ingredients.
Using a protein supplement is recommended for good health and well being. It has a positive influence on the metabolism, as well as being the ideal bodybuilding food, enhancing muscle recovery and exercise performance. Protein is also known to be critical in controlling appetite by increasing levels of satiety and helping to balance blood glucose levels. Therefore, it is superb as part of a weight management programme.
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