When it comes to building and maintaining no muscle, no matter what program you’re using your diet ultimately is going to make or break you. The most important macronutrient in this respect is protein, and making sure that you are getting plenty of it throughout the day.
Fats and carbohydrates are also extremely important to the muscle building process, as they provide us with the energy along with other nutrients which the body needs. The problem here with protein is that the body doesn’t store it as is the case with carbohydrates in the form of glucose, or fats themselves.
Due to the way in which the body processes proteins and its various uses within the body, it is in our best interest to not only eat an adequate amount of protein throughout the day to gain muscle, but to also eat more frequently as well. So, how much protein exactly do we need?
Most People Don’t Get Enough Protein
Depending on your source of information, the amount of protein recommended can vary greatly. This number is also going to be dependent on other factors such as your weight, age, and activity levels as well, which can understandably lead to confusion over just how much protein we need.
The recommended daily allowance of protein according to the National Institutes of Health is 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is at least 50 grams of protein for most people. That doesn’t sound like a lot because it really isn’t, however many of us still aren’t coming anywhere near close to that mark.
Another thing to consider here is that as we age, our ability to synthesize and process the protein we eat diminishes as well. This means that as we age we should be consuming even more protein to make up this difference, again something that many people are neglecting to do.
Protein Quality Matters
There is a huge change underway in the food industry in the United States, with many people choosing to eat less meats, by going vegetarian, or vegan. While these types of diets are excellent as far as animal ethics and energy consumption are concerned, many plant sources of protein are inferior to that of an animal.
This is because all types of animal meats contain all the essential amino acids, or a complete amino acid profile. This is not the case for the majority of plant based sources of protein, which tend to be lacking at least an amino acid or two which is essential to our health.
Wild caught fish, grass fed beef, along with antibiotic free poultry are going to be the best sources of animal proteins you can possibly get. Quinoa, Ezekiel bread, and some forms of soy are excellent plant sources of protein that provide a full amino acid profile as well.
Plant-based protein powders are also a great suggestion for vegetarian and vegans who are looking to supplement their intake of protein to accelerate muscle growth and repair.
Why is Protein Consumption So Important for Building Muscle?
The reason why protein is so important here is because of the relationship between protein and our skeletal muscle tissue. To put it simply, you need to be taking in more muscle than what the body is using during exercise in order to be building muscle instead of losing it.
This is what is known as the catabolic or anabolic states of the muscles, where you’re either building or losing this tissue based not only on the exertion of the muscle, but the available fuel. The act of lifting weight is what is going to build up your muscle over time, but only if it has the proper amount of protein to repair the damage done.
This is a great way to look at exercise, as this is exactly what is occurring in your body while you’re lifting. In doing so you are making small tears in some of the muscle fibers of whatever muscle you’re working, which are then repaired creating a larger muscle – if you supply it with the right amount of protein to do so.
This means that if you want to see results from lifting weights, you are going to have to eat more than the 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight that is recommended for just the maintenance of muscle. This number is going to vary depending on how active you are, however you should be aiming for 1.3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight minimally if you regularly weight train.
Do I Need to Eat Before a Workout? How About After My Workout?
Many people like to grab a bite to eat before a workout, however eating beforehand isn’t essential to success here. The main goal here is that you have enough energy to get though your workout, so if you don’t feel the need to do so, then don’t.
Pre-workouts are popular tools which can be effective in improving your workout, as ingredients such as caffeine have been shown in studies to improve workout performance. The best course of action here is to experiment if you’re looking for an edge, which many of these products can provide.
While eating before exercise may not be necessary, providing your body with an adequate supply of protein among other nutrients is. Protein powders, BCAAs, and other supplements are excellent tools you can use to accelerate your recovery time and to provide your muscles with the most benefit from your exercise.
There are many different types of pre-workout and post-workout supplements to choose from, which can be extremely confusing. The best way to go about choosing the best products is to check the percentage of protein in the supplement by weight, the greater percentage the better. It is also important to remember that quality is king here, and spending a few extra dollars on a superior product is well worth it more often than not.