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Articles > Bodybuilding Supplements > Protein - When, Why, and How Much!
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When you think of all the sports in the world and compare them, it doesn't take a whole lot of smarts to see that bodybuilding is unique. In no other sport do you place your muscles under so much constant stress. And in no other sport is the stress so direct on the muscle fibers.

Endurance sports, such as running and cross-country skiing, are stressful to your muscles too, but in a completely different way. They do not require the production of continuous bursts of power through anaerobic contraction. Consequently, scientists cannot make blanket statements that all athletes are alike and have either the same protein or energy requirements! Mary Skanley is a track champion who needs energy for aerobic work. She does little heavy-duty strength resistance work. Because of her size and the nature of her sport, she needs a whole lot less protein than Ronnie Coleman does!

We believe that athletes are unique. And bodybuilders are unique among athletes. Everyone has different nutritional needs. Bodybuilders should read this article closely. What you will find out is not only do you need more good-quality protein than other athletes, but you also have different protein needs during different training periods, depending on whether you are mass-building, maintaining or cutting up for a contest. So read and get protein-wise!

Protein comprises about 20% of our bodyweight. It is highly concentrated in skeletal muscle. Aside from water, protein is the most abundant substance in the body. Proteins help make up muscle, skin, blood, hormones, antibodies, enzymes and cell membranes; among other functions, they are responsible for tissue growth.

Bodybuilding Stages and Protein Intakes
gm/lb/day -phase
1.0
buildup
3/4
maintain
3/4 - 1.0
cut-up
3/4
competition
1/2
layoff
WEIGHT
         
140 lbs
127g
102g
115-127g
96g
64g
150
136
109
123-136
102
68
160
145
116
131-145
109
73
170
155
124
139-155
116
77
180
164
131
147-164
123
82
190
173
138
155-173
130
86
200
182
145
164-182
136
91
210
191
153
172-191
143
95
220
200
160
180-200
150
100
230
209
167
188-209
157
105
240
218
175
196-218
164
109
250
227
182
205-227
170
114

 

Protein Requirements for High-Intensity Training
Weight (pounds)
Total Calories
15% Protein (cal/gms)
55% Carbohydrates (cal/gms)
30% Fat (cal/gms)
103
2500
375/94
1375/344
750/83
124
3000
450/113
1650/413
900/100
145
3500
525/131
1925/481
1050/117
165
4000
600/150
220/550
1200/133
186
4500
675/169
2475/667
1455/162
200
4850
728/182
2668/667
1455/162
207
5000
750/188
2750/688
1500/167
227
5500
825/206
3025/756
1650/183

AMINO ACIDS

Amino acids are the basic structure of protein. They are composed of carbon hydrogen, oxygen, iron, phosphorous and sulfur. The body meets the needs of some amino acids by manufacturing them. Those the body is unable to make are known as essential amino acids (EAA). The protein content of food is measured by its EAA concentration. Those foods containing all the EAA are considered complete proteins.

EAA constitute about 40 % of the amino acids found in protein tissue, and are needed in amounts of at least 20% of the total dietary protein. The need for FAA varies according to your level of activity daily caloric consumption, body size, muscular weight and sex:

PROTEIN METABOLISM

Protein in the body is metabolized by means of catabolism (breakdown) and synthesis (production). These processes are continual. Unlike plants, animals cannot synthesize all their own proteins. Rather, the body must produce proteins through the combination of different amino acids. Since this requires amino acids to be available, dietary protein (especially EAA) is critical to a healthy body.

Protein production is hindered when inadequate protein is consumed. A deficiency of protein is possible when EAA are not consumed at each meal. Even if one of the EAA is missing, protein production can be drastically slowed or stopped.

PROTEIN AS AN ENERGY SOURCE

Energy for muscular work comes mainly from carbohydrates and fats, but to a small extent, also from proteins. It is believed that about 10% of expended energy comes from protein. Some sports scientists say that physical training reduces the need for protein as an energy source.

While you're starving or on one of those fad diets that neglect carbohydrates and fats, your body begins to use tissue (like muscle tissue) for energy.

The importance of carbohydrates in preserving protein is well established. Glycogen-depleted athletes break down more protein than athletes with glycogen reserves. A proper mixture of carbs, fats and proteins in the diet is vital to healthy living.

NITROGEN AND PROTEIN RETENTION

Protein retention is measured by means of nitrogen consumption and excretion. Researchers consider two major criteria when evaluating nitrogen and protein retention. First they measure the protein content of the diet. Then they measure the nitrogen in the urine. More precise evaluations would also measure the nitrogen content in the sweat and feces. The amount of the nitrogen lost from the body is subtracted from the amount in the diet. If this figure is positive (+), protein is retained. If the figure is negative (-)more protein is lost than taken in.

EXERCISE AND PROTEIN

Protein catabolism and synthesis change during and after exercise. Physical performance generally increases protein catabolism while decreasing synthesis. Synthesis increases again during recovery, as the body replaces parts of broken down muscle cells. With prolonged training (of under four hours) protein synthesis decreases and remains in this state for several hours after exercise is stopped. Inadequate rest with insufficient complete proteins in the diet will cause reduced muscle strength and sub-max physical performance. Usually the strength losses are short-lived.

Endurance exercise of more than four hours causes a significantly greater excretion of nitrogen. This implies a marked increase in protein catabolism. Also it has been observed that exercise of such length promotes protein synthesis, but this increase in protein production is unlike that associated with muscle hypertrophy from weight training, so it's unwise to weight train in four-hour sessions. Protein breakdown tends to increase in conjunction with a rise in work intensity and/or duration. Therefore if you exercise intensely, your protein requirements will increase.

PROTEIN AND SERIOUS BODYBUILDING

The old belief that protein builds muscle is only partly correct. Sure, it's needed, but only to complement hard physical training. The bodybuilder needs additional protein to keep his or her body in constant nitrogen balance.

Before training, the body is usually in a positive nitrogen balance protein synthesis is greater than protein catabolism. During the next few days of training, the nitrogen balance will become negative, as the body breaks down more protein than it produces. After a couple days of rest, the body approaches a positive nitrogen balance again. Since muscle-building is an intense training regimen, the following week of training will once more lead to protein breakdown. The regimen will cycle like this until the muscles get used to the training. Then protein retention levels off and the body's nitrogen remains balanced for a short time; until it again becomes positive.

What does this imply for the bodybuilders diet? Basically, that the requirements for protein change. Depending on your phase of muscle building, whether it be hypertrophy, maintenance, or competition, your protein consumption should change.

Generally during a Iayoff, the bodybuilder needs only about .5 gram of per pound of bodyweight per day. During intense muscle building, the requirements can rise to about a full gram per pound a day. During a maintenance period, the demands fall and can be met through a diet containing protein of about .25 gram per pound per day.

As the bodybuilder reduces his weight resistance and increases his rep/sets in the cutting-up stage, the protein requirement increases minimally and then decreases slightly as competition nears.

PROTEIN RETENTION

It's difficult to tell someone how much protein he or she will retain in a single 24 hour period, since many factors enter the picture. A study performed by Laritcheva (2004) on Russian champion weightlifters, concluded that the athletes retained about 18 grams of protein a day.

A gain of lean body mass is evidence of protein retention. Since about 20% represents protein, a week's gain of 500-1000 grams (equivalent to 1.3-2.7 pounds) would reflect a retention of 100-200 grams of protein a week, or about 28 grams per day. And since it is possible that 1000 calories each training day are burned, 25 more grains of protein might be catabolized. Therefore, the daily requirement for training together with the increase in lean body tissue could be in excess of 50 grams.

It is unlikely that this will happen often, because lean muscle tissue cannot be increased at this rate for very long. As a matter of fact, a gain of eight pounds of muscle in a year is quite a lot.

PROTEIN GUIDELINES

If you lead a sedentary life, you most likely get more than enough protein through diet. If you're a fitness-minded person concerned only with staying in shape by running and/or lifting weights at a low to moderate intensity, your probable increase in caloric consumption should give you adequate protein, providing you eat a balanced diet.

Demands for protein are increased when serious athletes train hard and try to better past performances. The exception to this might be the endurance runner, for whom additional muscle weight can be a disadvantage. Therefore the marathoner's protein consumption should not increase to a large extent.

VEGETARIAN DIETS AND PROTEIN

More times than not, vegetarian meals lack one or more of the essential amino acids. It is therefore crucial for the vegetarian to mix vegetables in a way that all EAA are provided. Provided combination might include mixing almonds with your broccoli to provide complete FAA coverage.

EXCESSIVE PROTEIN

The old adage more is better does not apply to protein consumption. Excessive protein consumption leads to large-scale nitrogen catabolism, thus requiring extra water for urinary excretion. This can put stress on the kidneys and dehydrate the body. Animal fats are often fellow travelers with proteins and elevate the possibility of cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Large amounts of protein can hypertrophy the liver because the liver converts excess protein to fat. And fat is the last ingredient a bodybuilder wants.

CONCLUSION

Since nitrogen measurements are expensive and not always practical, the best method for you might be trial and error. Recommendations of high protein consumption can be helpful to strength athletes, including bodybuilders. Providing these athletes have high caloric expenditures and are training at high intensities, the suggested 1-gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day, should not be excessive. Such eating habits are advised for only short periods of, say, no more than three to five months with at least an equal time span of less protein intake.

Eating foods with even moderate amounts of complete protein can get costly. This is the time for supplements. The best protein supplements are those containing all the essential amino acids. Whether you consume protein through food or supplements, your meals should he spread out. Athletes will find it easier and more beneficial to eat five or six meals a day.

To be a champion, you must eat like a champion. But let's not confuse our terms. In athletic training, quality is always more important than quantity.

 

Related Articles
Choosing The Right Protein Supplement
When To Take Protein
Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein

 




 
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