4 Truths About Protein: The Word From Current Sports Nutrition Research
You’re likely either an athlete or a dedicated fitness enthusiast, so you know protein is important to building muscle and bulk, and to aid muscular recovery. Basic, we know you got this. But when you dig further into the details of protein for sports performance, clear answers become harder to find. How much protein do you need? Is animal-based protein superior to plant-based protein? And will the timing of when you consume said protein influence your results?
As a 30-year veteran in the sports nutrition and supplementation space, we have to know protein. We continually invest in and monitor sports nutrition research to ensure we know the latest about how this key building block impacts sports performance and weight training - and incorporate that to optimize our products. We also know that there are a number of misperceptions, misinformation and confusion about protein.
So, let’s cut to the chase. While there are a lot of suspicions and ‘gym myths’ about protein, there are some facts that we do know from current sports nutrition research. Here are 4 key facts that should help you cut through the myths and confusions:
1. Most people can benefit from more protein - and it won’t hurt them. Protein is a satiating, nutritional powerhouse that will aid in muscle-building. The majority of people with a balanced diet do not have to worry about consuming ‘too much protein’, or ensuing kidney damage. But how much do you need, particularly if you have a strength or body-building goal in mind? Men who work out 5 or more days a week for an hour or longer need 0.55 gram per pound. And men who work out 3 to 5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour need 0.45 gram per pound. For the average 180-pound man who works out regularly, this translates into 80 grams of protein a day. However, bodybuilding is a specialized pursuit with specialized needs. While the aforementioned rules apply to the average active man, research continues to support that men and women with muscle and body-building objectives should increase their protein consumption to about 1.76 grams/kg. In other words, if your goal is body-building, you’re safe to consume about 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body weight per day.
2. Timing of consumption matters for optimal benefit - When you consume 30 grams of protein, you trigger a burst of protein synthesis for about 3 hours. It is this activity that gets you stronger and bigger. Protein synthesis is the removal or reparation of damaged proteins, and the building of new, stronger, more dense proteins that are able to handle stress better than before. However, the human body can only process a certain amount of protein in a single sitting; so a meal consisting of 80 grams of protein will provide the same benefit as one with 30 grams. So, for optimal absorption and benefit, we’re advised to spread out our protein consumption across meals and snacks throughout the day. For instance, a Champion Performance shake for breakfast, a salad with protein at lunch, snacks of nuts and cheese, another Champion Performance shake pre-workout, and a dinner of chicken, veggies and quinoa for dinner. Just don’t think you can get all your protein in at once.
3. Not all proteins are the same - There’s much conversation around whether plant-based proteins or animal-based proteins are equally effective, when it comes to strength-building and sports performance. This is one that garners many different opinions among endurance athletes, dedicated weight-training enthusiasts, and even Crossfitters. But here’s what nutrition science indicates, in short-order: Generally speaking, animal-based proteins offer more of the amino acids and BCAAs (branched chain amino acids like leucine) that are critical for muscle recovery, and the synthesis we discussed earlier for stronger, larger muscles. BCAAs occur at high quantities in dairy protein, in particular. Dairy proteins are considered “complete” because they contain all nine essential amino acids. However, most plant proteins (like beans, peas, vegetables, nuts and grains) are considered “incomplete”. Even a complete plant-based protein like soy still contains lower BCAA levels than dairy, according to Bryan Helwig, PhD, director of nutrition research for the Dairy Research Institute. And then there’s whey, which is higher in leucine, compared to other proteins. Leucine is linked to increased muscle protein synthesis - which you now know why is critical for weight-training and muscle-building. This is why we chose whey as the core protein for many Champion Performance protein powders. So, should you even bother with plant-based proteins if your goal is to build bulk? We recommend that yes, there is absolutely a critical role for plant-based proteins and foods in your diet. Balance and variety are important for a diet of a complete nutritional profile - and plant-based foods provide many other health benefits, beyond just protein. So we urge you to add vegetables, nuts, and other plant sources not just to your Champion Performance shake - but to your meals, as well.
4. You’ll need that protein before and after your workout - Your muscles are primed for protein when you work out. To optimize your body’s response to protein and the work you put in to build muscle, it is recommended that you consume half your protein 30 minutes prior to working out, and 30 minutes after. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20 grams is the ideal amount of post-workout protein for maximum muscle growth. Because your body breaks down muscle while strength and resistance training, you’ll need the amino acids in protein to repair and re-build it after. And you know what’s perfect to aid that? Our Amino Shooter Edge, no doubt.
So, if you didn’t already know, now you do. Now go train like a beast, and make sure you’re getting about 1 gram of protein - from a variety of sources, including Champion Performance products, before and after your workout - per 1 pound of body weight. See you at the gym.