The 3 T’s of protein
Now, we’re all for packing in the protein but do you really know when you should be getting your fix, how much you need and which type you should go for? To help you out, we quizzed Grenade® nutritionist Alex Beaumont and asked him to lift the lid on the three T’s of protein: timing, type and total.
“You must have been living under a rock for the last 100 years to not be aware of the importance of protein when it comes to muscles, training and ideal body composition. But is it enough to just knock back a protein shake after training to really see the benefits?
Now before we begin, it is important to note that protein alone is not going to build muscle. To kick start the process of increasing muscle tissue, you need a training stimulus, and patience - lots and lots of patience.
Consistency in the gym and in the kitchen will always trump a perfect diet and training programme that you stick to 50% of the time.
Now, let me introduce you to the three T’s:
Let’s start with breakfast, a staple for many but an inconvenience for the rest. Toast, porridge, OJ or a continental, all common breakfast foods and all typically low in protein. Now, the biceps you’ve been curling for won’t disappear if you skip breakfast, however, think what you’ve been doing before then…
Some people train in the evening and won’t consume food until breakfast (or even later if skipped)! This could be pushing on 12 hours without feeding your muscles the much-needed amino acids they need to build those pesky calves! Breakfast is an ideal time to get a good quality source of protein like eggs and milk at a time where your muscles could really do with a refuel.
It was once thought that if you didn’t chug down a protein shake or a scoff a chicken breast within 30 minutes of training, your workout would be wasted. Now, I am pleased to say that for most people, this myth has now been put to bed. But it is still important to get a good quality source of protein after a tough workout or training session. While it isn’t crucial to get protein seconds after putting down the dumbbells, getting it in within a couple of hours will maximise muscle growth and speed up recovery after a demanding session.
You should look to get a source of protein in each main meal. Protein spaced throughout the day will allow a constant supply of amino acids which are crucial to build muscles. If you had your entire protein intake for the day at 8pm, you’d have one period of muscle protein synthesis (where you body is building muscle). But if you spread that out over the day in meals and snacks, you’ll have several periods of muscle building which will result in more muscle growth.
The type of protein boils down to amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are 20 different types with all having important and varied roles in the body. Some amino acids are more beneficial to muscle growth than others, so for example, foods higher in leucine will be better at promoting muscle growth than foods with little or no leucine in.
Protein sources like whey and other animal sources including meat, fish and eggs are great at promoting muscle growth as they have high leucine content and a large variety of the essential amino acids. This makes these sources a convenient addition to the diet when looking to get in quality sources of protein.
Plant-based proteins can also help to build muscle - we just need more and from a greater variety of foods to get all the essential amino acids. This can be a challenge to begin with, but with a bit of research you can easily get all the essential amino acids into your diet.
You may have heard of casein protein – it’s found in milk, dairy and some supplements, including our Hydra 6® protein powder. Casein protein is digested and absorbed a lot slower than whey and animal proteins and, as a result, the amino acids reach the muscle for a prolonged period compared to whey. This makes it the perfect protein to have before bed to rebuild your muscles while you sleep.
It would be very easy, and would make my job a lot simpler, if you could just eat your total days protein requirement in one go. Unfortunately, this won’t benefit the hard work you’ve spent in the gym. We’ve talked about the need to space out protein throughout the day, but how much do we really need?
Total daily protein requirements are individual and there is no one size fits all number. Think of it as more of a range and not to panic if you don’t hit your protein target to the nearest gram (likewise, don’t worry if you go over either).
Guidelines suggest a minimum of 0.75g of protein for each kilogram you weigh, although nutrition experts have suggested this is on the lower end, especially if you are active and take part in regular exercise. Recommendations of between 1.4-1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight are widely accepted and some studies suggest upping it to 2.2g per kg, which would equate to 176g of protein per day for an 80kg man.
There have been claims that high protein intake can cause kidney problems, however there is little research to back this up and the current research suggests no harmful effects when consuming levels as high as 3.3g/per/kg (unless you have kidney problems, of course). If you are healthy and have no issues with your kidneys, studies have shown there to be no ill effects of high protein diets.
To keep things simple, if you are looking to gain muscle mass, aim to have your total protein requirements between 1.4-2g of protein per kilogram of your body weight and find a range you are happy with to fit in with your lifestyle.”
So, to summarise:
- Time your protein intake equally throughout the day rather than in one big meal
- Pick your type wisely - whey and animal proteins have higher concentrations of amino acids but a large and varied plant protein diet will be suitable too
- Aim for a total daily range of 1.4-2grams of protein per kg of body weight
If you're still not feeling like a protein pro', have a read of the 6 protein myths you really need to stop believing. If it's more info on supplements you're after, you can find out more about which supplements we recommend here. Now, we may be biased but we think our protein offering is pretty damn good! Shop the full sports range over on our website now.