Dr. Lee, the Healthy Professor

Why you need Protein

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If fitness and strength are to improve, you must avoid muscle catabolism

Eating enough protein every day is essential for many bodily functions. For both strength and endurance athletes, sufficient protein means maximum muscle development and recovery.

Conventional wisdom has promoted that North Americans on average eat more than enough protein to satisfy daily requirements. However, such advice seems to ignore the recommendations of numerous protein studies, including those published by Dr. Vernon Young of MIT University, where he has indicated that protein recommendations should be 3 times current levels.

If you fail to ingest enough protein, your body will break down its own muscle tissue to get the protein it needs for survival. This mechanism, known as muscle catabolism, is convenient when you face starvation, but highly detrimental to your everyday health and athletic performance.

Essential Amino Acids - The Key To Muscle Recovery

Proteins are comprised of an assortment of amino acids, classified as essential and non-essential.

Essential amino acids (EAA’s) are those that your body cannot manufacture and must come from your diet. If you want to build and repair muscle tissue and ensure optimum health, you must consume enough of the EAA’s every day. When your body is deficient in even a single EAA, it will break down muscle to obtain it.

Athletes suffer from frequent muscle catabolism due to inadequate total protein intake and/or inadequate intake of all nine essential amino acids. Especially important are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s): leucine, isoleucine and valine, which stimulate lean muscle growth and repair.

Why Supplement a Healthy Diet?

Recent studies suggest that dietary protein needs increase with rigorous physical exercise.

Peter Lemon, M.D., a leading researcher on the protein needs of athletes, reported in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition that athletes involved in strength training need to consume as much as 1.7 grams of protein / kg of desirable body weight / day. (0.8 gm / lbs.) That amount of protein is roughly twice the RDA. Endurance athletes should consume 2.0 -2.25 grams /kg of desirable body weight /day. (0.9 – 1.2 gm/lbs.) This amounts to about 2 – 2.5 times the RDA.

Some question the importance of powdered protein supplements, believing that a well-rounded healthy diet provides adequate amounts of protein and other vital nutrients, even for serious athletic performance. While it’s true that you can obtain  from whole food all the essential amino acids and other ingredients found in protein powders, no whole food is as concentrated or as perfectly formulated for muscle growth and repair as a scientifically formulated performance supplement.

To consume the amount of essential amino acids, branched-chain amino acids, glutamine, and other performance ingredients found in a powdered supplement, you would have to consume a massive amount of calories from a smorgasbord of different foods and combine them perfectly  and have a perfect digestive system to attain similar results to using a powdered supplement.

Whey protein isolate, the primary protein source in many supplements is a high quality protein source, with an excellent BCAA profile and considered ideal for recovery supplements. Soy Protein Isolate possesses the isoflavones, another phyto-nutrients desirable for optimal hormone  and immune system production. A recent study from England has demonstrated the value of soy protein isolate supplements in controlling blood sugar levels and preventing hypoglycemia.

How To Use Your Protein Supplement

There are four excellent times to use your protein supplement:

  • In the morning
  • Immediately before a work-out
  • Immediately after workouts
  • In the evening before bed.

Morning: If you eat a breakfast of predominantly carbohydrates, or worse, skip breakfast altogether, consuming protein in the morning will regulate your energy levels and reduce sugar cravings for several hours. You can mix a serving of soy protein supplement with water or milk and add small amounts of fruit to create smoothies.

Pre-Work-out: You can mix your soy protein isolate in water, add a small amount of  fruit  to help provide “in the blood stream” nutrients for your exercise.

Post-Workout: Studies show your muscles have a one-hour “window of opportunity” immediately after exercise when they are most receptive to nutritional replenishment. Ingest a recovery drink that contains some whey protein isolate in combination with carbohydrates and that will  give your muscles the easy digestible amino acids they need to begin the recovery process immediately and avoid post-exercise muscle catabolism, characterized by stiffness and pain the next day.  Research shows a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is optimal for recovery

Evening: If you’ve had a stressful day or exercised intensely, your body reaches a catabolic state by bedtime (and maybe a catatonic state as well!). Mix a serving of protein powder with water or milk before you go to bed. Protein that contains naturally occurring L-tryptophan stimulates the release of potent neuro-transmitters that will relax your mind and body and promote a deep peaceful sleep. The branch chain amino acids so crucial to muscle recovery will be optimally absorbed overnight, and you will wake up in the morning with renewed energy.

Further Reading

Sport Drinks Science
Sport Drinks Reviews
Daily Water Requirements

Building Muscle
Muscle Recovery from Exercise

Daily Protein Requirements
Protein is the Answer
Benefits of Soy Protein
Soy Protein and Your Health: An Update on the Benefits
Soy Protein and Your Health: Dispelling the Myths

Recommended Products

Soy Protein Supplement - low-fat, non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism), biologically complete protein contains all 20 amino acids used in human metabolism, including the nine essential ones.
Physique - Physique® uses exclusive Bio-Build® to deliver the ultimate protein-to-carb ratio for enhanced muscle recovery and growth.