Protein: Nature’s Muscle Booster
Today, it is common knowledge that athletes are big believers in protein – from any source – to build and maintain muscle mass. After all, muscles are made of protein and so augmenting your diet with extra protein would surely be beneficial for muscle growth.
While protein can be obtained from a various plant and animal sources, we still need to consistently provide our bodies with complete protein containing essential amino acids. These amino acids serve as building blocks and cannot be manufactured by our body.
Understanding Plant-Based & Milk-Based Proteins
Plant-based proteins such as soy and grains contain all of the essential amino acids, used to manufacture specialised protein structures needed by our body. As non-animal sources, they are also naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and comprising mostly polyunsaturated fats, ensuring heart-healthy properties.
At the same time, milk-based proteins are concentrated sources of certain amino acids that may offer advantages over other proteins for muscle repair and growth. This is because the two primary proteins in milk, whey and casein, offer what is referred to as a ‘one-two punch’ for muscle building. Whey protein is considered a “fast” protein that is readily digested, while casein is absorbed more slowly, giving a sustained release of amino acids into your system.
This makes all the difference, because the two opposing processes balance your body’s constant building up and breaking down of protein. The fast-acting whey protein helps to stimulate muscle protein build-up, while the continued casein action aids in inhibiting the protein breakdown process. In addition to this, whey protein further enhances the effectiveness as it stimulates certain metabolic pathways that lead to muscle protein synthesis, enabling muscles to be directly energised.
When Is The Best Time To Take Protein?
Apart from consuming the right amount of protein, it is also essential to time your protein intake for optimal muscle development. This is because muscle protein synthesis is stimulated not just by strength training activity, but also when you eat protein. Hence, strength-training athletes are often recommended to spread their protein intake evenly over meals and snacks throughout the day.
Before exercising, take a light and easy-to-digest meal that contains both whey protein and carbohydrates, such as a protein shake. This promotes muscle building in a couple of ways – carbohydrates supply you with quick available energy, while whey protein works to protect against muscle protein breakdown.
Another thing to remember is that protein synthesis takes place around the clock – even when you’re asleep. Having a snack of about 25g of protein before bedtime can help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis through the night, giving you a great boost to kick-start the next morning.
Disclaimer: Before embarking on any physical activity, please consult your physician.