In bodybuilding and every part of life, protein is key. Protein gives your body the ability to recovery faster, increase & maintain muscle mass, improve our immune system, lose weight & fat, and overall have a healthier lifestyle. The big question I normally get is, “when should I eat protein? Is it not just for around the workout?”
The answer to the question is, no. Let me tell you why.
Before we proceed, let’s define a few terms. Normal protein diets, prescribed by the USDA, are a protein consumption of 0.8g//day. In english this means 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. If you need help converting kilograms into pounds, use this formula below
Bodyweight in pounds ___ / 2.2 = body weight in kilograms ___
Therefore, a 200 pound person would be 91 kilograms. Which means if they followed a normal protein diet, they would be consuming 73 grams of protein per day. Now, don’t gasp at the sound of that. Most Americans fall within that range everyday. When we talk about a high protein diet, it is generally known that anything over 1.2g/kg/day to 2.2g/kg/day. To give some context to this, a common guide for bodybuilders is consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If we use our formula from earlier, this would mean 1 gram per pound is at the very high end of the protein recommendations.
Benefits of Protein
As I mentioned, protein is great for many aspect of your life. There is an extensive amount of research in people who are overweight consuming high protein diets and it has a robust effect on their health1,2. Although, even if you are a normally weight, with no health issues, high protein diets have many benefits.
One of the known benefits of protein is the fact that it makes you less hungry. This happens through a few different ways. First, protein decreases a hormone called ghrelin3. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone that rises and causes you to be hungry. Protein also releases hormones in the gut called CCK, PYY, and GLP-1, which are known for their satiation effects 4,5,6. Not only that, whey protein and casein protein in a low dose (8 grams) with glucomannan (1 gram) increased the hormone GLP-1 and the desire to eat 7. Whey protein as a whole can improve satiety leading to a better body composition and weight loss8.
Protein is touted for its thermogenic effects, meaning it will increase the amount of calories burned9. This is because up to 30% of the calories in protein are burned during digestion. The is partially because the digestion of protein is relatively slow compared to carbohydrates and fats. Protein is also required for many process’ in the body including being a constituent to hormones, enzymes, and receptors because it is need to make all of these things. This means, consuming a high protein diet will not only improve your satiety, but help you burn more calories.
It is commonly known to consume protein before and/or after you workout, but it is also beneficial at all times during the day to improve recovery10,11. When looking at recovering from a workout, you have to take two factors into consideration. This includes consumption of protein after your workout and total protein intake during the day. Both of these factors will contribute to you recovering optimally, reaching your body composition goals, and gaining muscle. Oh, and it is also a myth that you cannot consume more than 30 grams of protein at one sitting because your body cannot “absorb” all of it, but that is for a different article.
Recovering from your workout and gaining muscle are two-fold because most do not go to the gym and beat themselves up to stay the same. Most go to the gym to gain muscle and look better; this is where protein is key. As I said before, consuming protein after your workout is crucial for recovery, but it is also crucial for building muscle. This is because after you train your body is primed to absorb nutrients and recover. Protein will protect your body against muscle loss as well as help you gain muscle11,12. You should consume 30-60 grams of protein within 30 minutes after your workout to ensure you are getting adequate nutrients for recovery and muscle growth.
One of the most underrated benefits of protein is its effects on the immune system. As I mentioned, protein is used in many metabolic functions, not simply to build muscle. To properly maintain your immune functions, consuming adequate protein and essential nutrients (fiber, fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) is a key in performing your best. The needs for these nutrients are increased as you become more active and begin to gain muscle13. The addition of carbohydrates during and/or after your training session can aid in improving your immune system by combating stress hormones that can further harm your immune function14. Therefore, as you become more active, make sure you increase your protein intake to around 1-1.5g/pound of body weight and you have a wide-variety of foods in your diet to ensure proper nutrient consumption.
As you can see protein is not simply to build muscle. If you look at the big picture, building muscle may be one of the last things protein is used to do. Remember, many of your vital organs and the components that help those organs function are made of protein. Therefore, consuming adequate protein in your diet will not only help you gain muscle and recover, but also make sure your health is in check.
- Wycherley, T. P., Noakes, M., Clifton, P. M., Cleanthous, X., Keogh, J. B., & Brinkworth, G. D. (2010). A high protein diet with resistance exercise training improves weight loss and body composition in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care.
- Clifton, P. (2012). Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), S122-S129.
- dit El Khoury, D. T., Obeid, O., Azar, S. T., & Hwalla, N. (2006). Variations in postprandial ghrelin status following ingestion of high-carbohydrate, high-fat, and high-protein meals in males. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 50(3), 260-269.
- Hopman, W. P. M., Jansen, J. B. M. J., & Lamers, C. B. H. W. (1985). Comparative study of the effects of equal amounts of fat, protein, and starch on plasma cholecystokinin in man. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 20(7), 843-847.
- Karhunen, L. J., Juvonen, K. R., Huotari, A., Purhonen, A. K., & Herzig, K. H. (2008). Effect of protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre on gastrointestinal peptide release in humans. Regulatory peptides, 149(1-3), 70-78.
- van der Klaauw, A. A., Keogh, J. M., Henning, E., Trowse, V. M., Dhillo, W. S., Ghatei, M. A., & Farooqi, I. S. (2013). High protein intake stimulates postprandial GLP1 and PYY release. Obesity, 21(8), 1602-1607.
- Sukkar, S. G., Vaccaro, A., Ravera, G. B., Borrini, C., Gradaschi, R., Massa Sacchi-Nemours, A., … & Andraghetti, G. (2013). Appetite control and gastrointestinal hormonal behavior (CCK, GLP-1, PYY 1–36) following low doses of a whey protein-rich nutraceutic. Mediterranean journal of nutrition and metabolism, 6(3), 259-266.
- Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A. J. P. G., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., … & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300-307.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
- Levenhagen, D. K., Carr, C., Carlson, M. G., Maron, D. J., Borel, M. J., & Flakoll, P. J. (2002). Postexercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 34(5), 828-837.
- Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.
- Pasiakos, S. M., Cao, J. J., Margolis, L. M., Sauter, E. R., Whigham, L. D., McClung, J. P., … & Young, A. J. (2013). Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal, 27(9), 3837-3847.
- Venkatraman, J. T., & Pendergast, D. R. (2002). Effect of dietary intake on immune function in athletes. Sports medicine, 32(5), 323-337.
- Gleeson, M., Nieman, D. C., & Pedersen, B. K. (2004). Exercise, nutrition and immune function. Journal of sports sciences, 22(1), 115-125.