Protein is without doubt the most popular supplement in the world, it is the most widely researched supplement alongside creatine and has the most science behind it’s application to sport and fitness. There is no questioning proteins efficacy, the benefit it has on muscle anobilism and hypertrophy is irrefutable…in short, it WORKS!
What type of Protein?
The choice of protein is as vast as it is diverse. Protein can be derived from many sources including dairy, pea, soy, hemp and rice, each coming with their own unique health and fitness properties. Protein is assigned with something known as a biological value (BV), a figure that indicates the proteins availability to the body i.e. how well it’s absorbed and used.
Protein’s biological value (most readily absorbed to lowest):
5.) Casein (but is absorbed more slowly, which has unique benefits)
7.) Wheat Gluten
Egg was originally thought to be the most biologically available source of protein, hence the BV value was originally based on egg (BV 100). It later came to light that whey protein was in fact more readily available and utilised than egg making it the gold standard of all protein sources!
When to consume protein?
The optimal window for consuming protein is during the ‘anabolic window’ i.e. within 30mins after exercise. This is the optimal period because this is when muscle is most in need of protein, and in particular, amino acids. Muscles are in their most catabolic state (breaking down) first thing in the morning and immediately after the gym, so it pays to consume approx 20-25g protein (ideally whey) in this window. The morning is an important time to consume whey protein because of the 7-8 hour fast you’ve observed over night, the body will have probably depleted much of its glycogen stores (stored glucose) meaning it dips into muscle for protein as a secondary energy source.
For best results then be sure to ingest a whey, pea, soy, hemp or rice protein source first thing in the morning (usually 1-2 scoops depending on the protein), and within 30mins after your gym session.
How much protein to consume?
As mentioned above, the optimal amount of protein to consume is between 20-25g per serving. Your body is capable of absorbing more than this, but muscle protein synthesis is not thought to directly increase with higher amounts of protein. In other words muscle protein synthesis (muscle size) stops at 20-25g protein per serving meaning the excess protein will be used by other bodily tissue and stored in the amino acid pool. If you’re training regularly and intensely, a good amount of protein is anything between 25-35g protein (Tipton and Luc van Loon, 2013).
Should you wish to make your protein intake more personal (note this is only an estimation), aim to consume approx 1.5-2g protein per kg bodyweight per day. Many elite athletes may need in excess of this, so maybe 3-3.5g protein per kg bodyweight which is key to maintaining their muscle mass. Exceeding protein requirements is not advisable, so be sure that you are training regularly and monitor your bodyweight to be sure you are getting what you need.
Tipton & Luc van Loon, (2013). Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency. Nestle Nutrition Institute. Basel: Karger