Bodybuilding is protein.
It seems redundant to say that protein is essential to bodybuilding. The two words practically belong together. Why? Well protein is the key nutrient for muscle growth and building of new tissue. This also goes for repairing broken down tissue – you break down muscle tissue whenever you work out. Get it? You break down that muscle and the protein builds it back up – bigger and stronger than before.
Protein is made up of amino acids (another key word for bodybuilders). There are nine amino acids that are considered to be absolutely essential because the body cannot create these acids on its own. Therefore it must be implemented in your diet.
To make a long story short – protein is the key nutrient that your entire diet should revolve around. So let’s break it down and figure out the basics of using protein to maximize muscle gain.
When and How Much?
The rule of thumb is to take about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. You should take in protein every 3-4 hours and evenly divided throughout the day. So basically, this evens out to 5 or 6 meals a day. The best way to spread this out is to have 3 high protein meals and then 3 other smaller supplementary meals (snacks and protein shakes).
We’ve mentioned it before but we’ll say it again to make it clear. Your high protein meals should be timed at the right part of the day (same goes for carbs). Your high protein meals should be in the morning, one hour before a workout, and then immediately post workout. This is the time your body needs the most energy – and the protein will be synthesized most optimally.
Where to get Protein.
Let’s talk about complete proteins. Complete proteins are from a source that contains the nine essential amino acids. Almost all animal protein sources are complete proteins. Meat, eggs, milk, chicken, and fish all have ample amounts of the nine essential amino acids.
Beyond that you can supplement your protein supply with powders and shakes. Sometimes you just can’t eat complete animal proteins for every meal – it just adds too many other elements to your diet that aren’t ideal. That’s where the shakes and the powders come in. It is a quick and powerful way to increase protein intake without having to balance the rest of your diet.
Now one question remains – if protein is good for muscle growth, then the more protein taken the bigger the muscles, right? Not necessarily. Like all things in life, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
While you will always digest all the protein you consume, there is only so much you should consume in one meal. Many people live by the rule “no more than 30 grams a meal” but your body doesn’t have a mathematical limit. Everyone is different – but only so much protein goes towards synthesis. If you end up eating too much protein it can end up cutting into your carbs and fat intake – thus throwing off the balance of your diet and leading to ruining your goals. And remember this as well, excess of anything can turn into fat.
So there you have it, a basic introduction to Protein 101. As you are probably starting to notice – all aspects of nutrition are starting to come together into a delicate but effective diet. It’s about finding the right nutrient source, timing your meals effectively, and combining your diet with a hardy workout and plenty of rest. With this basic understanding of protein you are on your way to maximizing muscle gain and figuring out what exact diet will best fit your body. Good luck!