The human body is made up of about 45% protein.  It is a vital macronutrient to your overall health with primary functions in movement contracting muscles, immunity (antibodies), structure (collagen), transport (hemoglobin), the list goes on and on.  Proteins are built upon amino acids (comprised up of a nitrogen-containing molecule) that are bonded together to form it.  They are key building blocks that help you sustain your training and recovery.  Understanding how protein supports your training is critical to your overall performance.  As you exercise and train, your muscle is breaking down, damaging in some cases.  This initializes muscle protein synthesis to build the muscles back up and grow them.  However, for best results and benefits you need to support your exercise with proteins that deliver those amino acids to your muscle via your bloodstream.  
There are different types of amino acids, basically broken down into 3 groups:


1.  Non-essential (these can be synthesized in the body and not necessarily needed to be supported through diet)
2.  Essential (these must be consumed through your diet and are important key building blocks to building muscle)
3.  Conditional (may be produced in the body but dependent on when they may be considered essential, i.e. illness). 


Knowing the difference is important so you can understand more about the source you’re consuming, basically if it is a complete protein or not.  You want to make sure you are consuming as many complete proteins in your diet as possible to get a maximum benefit from protein consumption.  Complete proteins are those sources that contain all essential amino acids.  Some examples are dairy proteins, poultry, fish, and meat.  If you are vegetarian, there will be more of a need in supplementation to reach complete protein levels based on amino acids contributed what is typically consumed being low in essential amino acids.


Understanding what protein is and how it can benefit you is the first step, the second is understanding how much you need to help support your goals. 


To support your recommended daily allowance, you would need ~0.8g/kg body weight.  However, if you are an endurance athlete, you’ll need to be in the range of 1.2-1.7g/kg body weight.  More recent research has come out showing increased muscle building and recovery benefits based upon increasing protein consumption to 2g/kg body weight or roughly 1g per pound of body weight.  I have seen improvements anecdotally with athlete’s I’ve worked with that have shown improved lean body mass, performance, and strength by increasing their protein to that level.


The last learning is the “when” to consume protein.  It’s a 24-hour nutrient, however, so there are critical points where it can be more beneficial than others.  After exercise, you should look to consume a protein recovery beverage or protein-rich source.  However, there is a 24-hour window post exercise where protein consumption is important, it may be more ideal to consume immediately upon finishing your training.  You should target to consume a protein source every 3 hours throughout the day.  By replenishing every 3-hours, your protein consumption will continuously deliver amino acids to the bloodstream and which then reaches your muscles.  This leads to other recent research regarding how consumption of protein before bed, helps limit muscle breakdown and increases muscle protein synthesis.  This is most likely occurring because there is a continuation of amino acid delivery in the bloodstream.  Before bed, it is ideal to consume protein, but more particularly, a casein protein source as it digests slowly.


Remember when selecting protein sources for your diet, the ideal sources are that of complete proteins and high in the amino acid Leucine (an essential amino acid and also called a Branched Chain Amino Acid due to its structure).  Leucine is the trigger and ignites muscle building by signaling the body to begin muscle protein synthesis. Whey and milk-based proteins are typically the fastest and richest sources of protein if it is an option.  If vegetarian, soy and quinoa may be your best options.


Knowing the difference is important so you can understand more about the source you’re consuming, basically if it is a complete protein or not.  You want to make sure you are consuming as many complete proteins in your diet as possible to get a maximum benefit from protein consumption.  Complete proteins are those sources that contain all essential amino acids.  Some examples are dairy proteins, poultry, fish, and meat.  If you are vegetarian, there will be more of a need in supplementation to reach complete protein levels based on amino acids contributed what is typically consumed being low in essential amino acids.
Understanding what protein is and how it can benefit you is the first step, the second is understanding how much you need to help support your goals. 


To support your recommended daily allowance, you would need ~0.8g/kg body weight.  However, if you are an endurance athlete, you’ll need to be in the range of 1.2-1.7g/kg body weight.  More recent research has come out showing increased muscle building and recovery benefits based upon increasing protein consumption to 2g/kg body weight or roughly 1g per pound of body weight.  I have seen improvements anecdotally with athlete’s I’ve worked with that have shown improved lean body mass, performance, and strength by increasing their protein to that level.


The last learning is the “when” to consume protein.  It’s a 24-hour nutrient, however, so there are critical points where it can be more beneficial than others.  After exercise, you should look to consume a protein recovery beverage or protein-rich source.  However, there is a 24-hour window post exercise where protein consumption is important, it may be more ideal to consume immediately upon finishing your training.  You should target to consume a protein source every 3 hours throughout the day.  By replenishing every 3-hours, your protein consumption will continuously deliver amino acids to the bloodstream and which then reaches your muscles.  This leads to other recent research regarding how consumption of protein before bed, helps limit muscle breakdown and increases muscle protein synthesis.  This is most likely occurring because there is a continuation of amino acid delivery in the bloodstream.  Before bed, it is ideal to consume protein, but more particularly, a casein protein source as it digests slowly.


Remember when selecting protein sources for your diet, the ideal sources are that of complete proteins and high in the amino acid Leucine (an essential amino acid and also called a Branched Chain Amino Acid due to its structure).  Leucine is the trigger and ignites muscle building by signaling the body to begin muscle protein synthesis. Whey and milk-based proteins are typically the fastest and richest sources of protein if it is an option.  If vegetarian, soy and quinoa may be your best options.

Nick Suffredin is a specialist at helping Team D3 athletes understand their race day nutrition needs.  Their successes, working together, have helped generate a lot of happy finish line smiles.  Nick is a former scientist from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) where his primary responsibility was to support the GSSI physiology research program. As part of the innovation team, Nick supported research to help improve athlete recovery and performance. Primarily working in the human performance laboratory he incorporated components such as sports nutrition, sports psychology, exercise physiology, motor behavior, bio-mechanics, and strength and conditioning. His targeted research was testing elite professional athletes to enhance their hydration and nutrition intake to improve their performance.

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