I WANT TO START BY APOLOGIZING! This is a long write up guys, but I couldn’t help myself. There is lots of material I wanted to share with you. So much material that I broke it up into 2 parts! I will be releasing PART 2 later this week.
I’ve recently been asked to address protein. In this article I want to outline some need to knows about protein. Protein seems to be a huge topic in the fitness world, especially for competitive athletes and those looking to put on muscle. It seems that protein is the “Magic Macro-nutrient” that everyone is currently aware of. Its common for me to meet a fellow weight lifter in the gym and them ask “how many grams of protein are you taking in?”. I don’t know the last time someone asked me how many carbohydrates or fats I was consuming. Protein Sources
Here are the questions I want to address in this article.
All of these are great questions so it prompted me to put together this quick protein 101 write up. In this blog I will attempt to break it down so that you’re better suited to tackle your daily protein needs!
What Is Protein?
Well I figured what better place to start but the ground level. Before we can even discuss what proteins and how much to consume, we need a better understanding of what it is and its functionality in the human body.
Proteins are large Molecules (also known as macromolecules) that consist of one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins differ from each other primarily based off their prospective amino acid chains. These complex linear chains of amino acids are referred to as Polypeptides, and each of the amino acids are held together by peptide bonds. Proteins are an essential part of living organisms and take part in virtually every process within cells. Protein is found in each of the trillion cells throughout the human body. So to say “protein is important” would be an understatement.
As discussed above, when we break down a protein, you will be left with an assortment of amino acids. Amino acids in essence are said to be the “building blocks of protein”. There are 20 known common amino acids, 9 of which are considered “Essential”. They are considered “Essential” because they must be obtained through our diets and can not be synthesized in the body . There are also 3 Branch Chained amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Here is a list of each of the 20 amino acids and their prospective category.
Amino Acid Break Down
What Are The Differences In The Quality Of Proteins?
Now we know that protein is essential to build new lean tissue, BUT what about its quality. Is there a difference in protein quality from different sources?
Each peptide sequences effects the quality of the protein. For instance there are certain ideal amino acid ratios that allow us as humans to utilize dietary protein to its max. Basically we can take these ratios to rate our protein sources. Also each Amino Acid has specific roles to undergo, some professionals have found reason to believe that certain amino acids such as Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine (Branch Chained Amino Acids) are more important for Protein synthesis.
So keeping it simple, Professionals have found that there is a specific ratio of Amino Acids that is “ideal”
The PDCAAS is an acronym for Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score. This is simply a chart that allows us to ra
te the quality of a protein based off human amino acid requirements and our ability to digest them. This method was adopted by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. It is now considered the “best” method for evaluating protein quality. There are other methods such as the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) and the Biological Value (BV). The FDA however has gone far enough to suggest that other methods of evaluating protein are inferior.
How The Scoring Works
Utilizing the PDCAAS methodology, the quality of the protein rankings are determined by comparing the amino acid profile of the specific dietary protein against a standard amino acid profile with the highest possible score being a 1.0. This score means, after digestion of the protein, it provides per unit of protein 100 percent or more of the indispensable amino acids required.
Sounds easy enough! 1.0 is a perfect 100% score, and we go down from there. Below is a break down of different food proteins and their PDCAAS score.
A PDCAAS value of 1 is the highest, and 0 the lowest. The table shows the ratings of selected foods.
1.00 casein (milk protein)
1.00 egg white
1.00 soy protein
1.00 whey (milk protein)
0.75 black beans[disambiguation needed]
0.70 Other legumes
0.59 cereals and derivatives
0.42 whole wheat
So when selecting your protein the ideal scenario would be to choose protein sources that are higher on the chart, HOWEVER this may not be the only focus necessary.
How Much Protein Should I Consume Daily?
Yes believe it or not quality isn’t everything. Don’t get me wrong, quality matters! But I can’t tell you how many times I have had people tell me that they “Eat Clean” or only eat “Healthy Fats” or only get in “High Quality Protein”. But what a huge majority of these people tend to lose sight of is the amount of overall protein they are consuming.
Above all, hitting your total calories and your macro nutrient goals, like protein, are at the top of the priority list. So before you get super hype about only eating high quality foods, you should first start by setting total daily protein intake goals… regardless of the source. You of course can then refine this to choosing mostly high quality proteins.
1g – 2g of Protein Per Lb Of Body Weight….. FAIL!!
“Hey Bro, how much protein you taking in?”…. “You Know you should be consuming 1g – 2g of protein per lb” If you haven’t heard something similar to this on the gym floor by now you’re probably living under a rock!
The old school bro methodology of protein consumption was to simply eat about 1 gram (on the low end) of protein per lb of body weight. Whats amazing to me is that this concept has been so deeply ingrained in the gym community that nobody questions its validity! Well, at The Fitness Trainer Academy, that’s not how we roll! Check out just some of these excerpts from past research…..
So hopefully based off that you get the idea. The 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight was clearly an exaggeration. The worst part is that there are some trainers and Bodybuilders to date that are recommending much higher than that. Some up to 2g per lb of bodyweight. Based off many studies this would be 2.5 times the recommended ideal intake.
Now I understand, many of you want to be absolutely certain that you are consuming enough protein. For many people ts easy to justify consuming more than whats needed…. just in case.
Based off of most research and review studies, 0.82g/lb of protein woul be the highest limit recommended (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011), and many studies, as you can see above, conclude lower than this. 0.82g/lb at this point seems to be the extreme higher end of the spectrum and is backed up with This recommendation often includes a double 95% confidence level, meaning they took the highest mean intake at which benefits were still observed and then added two standard deviations to that level to make absolutely sure all possible benefits from additional protein intake are utilized.
How Much Protein Should I Consume Per Meal?
Another very common logical fallacy in the weight lifting community. You have most likely heard it spouted off that “You can only use 25g of protein per meal” or you “50g per meal” or basically some number within that realm. Basically these geniuses want to convince you (based off of some bodybuilder magazine article or because their buddy that’s jacked told them) that your body can only absorb so much protein per sitting. This fuels the whole “eat every 2 hours debate”
Let’s take this opportunity to put that old myth to rest…. Assuming that you have a healthy digestive system, the amount of amino acids you absorb in a sitting, regardless of the meal size is very great! Absorption is simply referring to how much of the nutrient was utilized for something during the digestive process. Think of it this way, if you didn’t absorb most of the nutrients in the food, you would most likely be sick to your stomach and in the bathroom for long periods of time post eating.
Even from an evolutionary standpoint it doesn’t hold up. Throughout the history of the human species it was unlikely that we were able to have 8 evenly spread out meals per day. Can you imagine cavemen with Tupperware containers and their six pack bags? lol okay so that maybe taking it too far…. but hopefully you get my drift. We wouldn’t survive without an efficient digestive system that allows us to consume large amounts of nutrients in one sitting.
Now what these folks are really most likely getting at, is how much of the amino acids are actually getting to the muscle tissue for rebuilding. So how much of them are we actually utilizing for muscle growth. When we consume protein and its broken down via the digestive system into its prospective amino acid ratios. The amino acids are dived up to help with several processes such as kidneys, heart, skin, etc….
So the question is not neccessarly how much of the protein do we absorb, rather its how much of it goes to helping us build bigger muscles!
Perfect Amount Of Protein For Muscle Growth
Based off research it seems that to maximize the rate of skeletal muscle synthesis the body requires 15g of essential amino acids. It has also been postulated that the amino acid leucine plays a special role of stimulating this effect. Out of the 15g of essential amino acid, it is recommended 3.2g of it come from leucine.
The 3.2g of leucine would be considered the “threshold”. Now this can come especially beneficial when trying to figure out how much protein to consume of each source of protein to optimize protein synthesis. To keep it simple, you would need to know how much leucine each protein source has and you can then calculate how much of the protein you must consume to reach optimal levels.
Example: Whey protein is approximately 12% leucine, this would mean at 27g of whey you would reach the threshold therefore maximizing anabolism.
Below is a chart that outlines several protein sources and the amount of protein needed to reach the maximum anabolic response.
Timing Your Meals
Now I will be the first to say that nutrient timing should not be on the priority list for most people. Above the timing of your meal are so many other important factors to consider. The differences in eating 7 times per day and 3 times per day are not a huge impact on results as we once thought.
With that being said however, it has been study and shown that protein anabolism tends to return back to normal every 2-3 hours. So what this means is that after hitting your amino acid threshold you will have an elevated level of amino acids in the bloodstream and the anabolic response of skeletal muscle is increased. These levels tend to return back to normal following 2-3 hours depending on the protein source.
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