All About Protein

In our sports nutrition practice, we see athletes from the recreational all the way up to the professional level. Regardless of the types of athletes we work with, their training goals always involve minimizing loss or increasing muscle protein.

Over the course of a day, muscle protein turns over. This means our body is always in a state of breaking down and rebuilding. The goal is to ensure protein intake is sufficient to create positive balance (anabolic state) where the body builds more lean tissue over time than it breaks down. How do we do this?

• Ensure resistance training is in place to overload muscles and push for muscle adaptations. See our Fitness Affiliates over at Body By Bennett!
• Ensure aerobic training does not overlap/interfere with resistance training – at least a 3 hour window should separate resistance training and aerobic training.
• Get your sleep! Sleep deprivation reduces muscle protein synthesis and promotes muscle breakdown.
• Nutrition: Ensure intake of leucine-rich sources of protein during critical periods (especially after training and prior to sleeping) to not only prevent muscle breakdown, but to promote muscle synthesis.

With this being said, let’s break down the key roles of protein in our body:
• Growth, repair and maintenance of body tissues including muscle, skin, organs, bones and blood.
• Development of enzymes and hormones, which allows your body to communicate and function normally.
• Immune system support as antibodies – protects your body against dangerous bacteria and viruses.
• Controlling and reducing cravings by slowing digestion – helps to release sugars from our meals into the body in a steady manner resulting in more consistent energy levels during the day.

So how much protein should we aim for? The goal on the nutrition front is to focus on ~20-25 grams of protein at meals/snacks throughout the day as this amount appears be the sweet spot to increase protein synthesis. Focus on leucine-rich protein sources at these meals/snacks to maximize the effectiveness of your meals.

To reach 20-25 grams, try the following leucine-rich protein sources:
• 3 oz Chicken/Turkey Breast
• ¾ cup 1-2% Cottage Cheese – add crushed pineapples to create a balanced snack!
• 3 oz Lean Beef or Pork
• ¾ cup Soybeans – add to a Power Greens salad (Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard) with avocado and Bolthouse yogurt dressing! Yum!
• 3 oz Beef Liver – saute with onions, mix with ground beef in a food processor to make meatballs!
• 1 standard scoop (28 grams) Whey Protein Isolate – blend with a ripe banana to help refuel after a workout!

As you implement these strategies, consider having your body composition checked. We use the InBody 230 to track lean body mass over time. As a training program progresses, we often start to lose body fat and increase lean body mass when the above strategies are implemented – sometimes our body weight doesn’t change. This nifty tool helps to provide you measurable outcomes and shows you exactly what’s happening in the body even when the number on the scale stays still!