Protein Facts to Help You Build More Muscle

Protein is an important macronutrient required for many bodily functions and processes. Eating specific foods, especially high protein source, is needed for muscle growth to occur. One of the great by-products of eating additional protein is it keeps you “feeling full longer” compared to fat and carbohydrates. One reason for this is protein reduces the level of a hunger hormone known as ghrelin. It also increases the level of peptide YY, another hormone, that makes you feel full.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are important because they play a big role in protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption. Our body also needs amino acid-rich sources of protein for muscle growth to occur. It’s important for a healthy nutrition plan to include the major macronutrients and micronutrients. Almost all foods contain some source of protein.

Sources of Amino Acids

  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Fish
  • Turkey
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Beans

There are three types of categories made up of different amino acids and there are 20 different types of amino acids. The body makes 12 of these amino acids and we get the remaining 8 from the food we eat. The cool thing is our body produces thousands of different proteins using just these 20 amino acids. Amazing!

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Non-essential amino acids do not need to be included in the diet. Nine out of the 20 amino acids are essential, but adults only need to obtain eight of them: valine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan. The ninth amino acid, histidine, is only essential for infants. Your body doesn’t store amino acids, so it needs a regular, daily supply, of these essential building blocks.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids need to be included in the diet. There are handful of amino acids, as previously mentioned, but the one where going to focus on is leucine. Research has shown that this amino acid contributes directly to muscle protein synthesis. It effects the ability to recover from both stress and exercise. Leucine facilitates cell growth as well as the formation of sterols which are used in the process of forming hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Make sure the amino acid, leucine, is also in the whey protein shake you drink post workout. Whey protein has the highest essential amino acid content of 43 percent. This will improve your chances for muscle growth. Research has shown just 1.5 grams of leucine can provide adequate stimulation for muscle protein synthesis. additional research has shown 3 grams of leucine alone stimulates protein synthesis in young men.

Conditional Essential Amino Acids

You usually hear about essential and non-essential amino acids only. Conditional essential includes 8 amino acids that are specifically needed in the body under certain conditions like stress, exercise, aging, etc. A few examples of this amino acid include arginine, glutamine, and cystine.

High Protein Foods for Muscle Growth

  • Grass-fed Beef, Pork, Wild Game
  • Poultry (i.e. chicken, turkey).
  • Eggs (the yolk contains most of the nutrients; also 185 mg cholesterol).
  • Fish and Seafood.
  • Dairy (i.e. cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt).

**Additional food sources include Tempeh, Tofu, Beans, and Nuts.

How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

The average, healthy adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram per body weight. BUT, if your strength training and want to add muscle mass, that number needs to increase. See the protein recommendations (below) published by Precision Nutrition featured in The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd edition pp. 216.

  • Both American College of Sports Medicine & Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
  • International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

Final Thoughts

What do you consider as the best choices for protein intake? How much protein are you taking on a daily basis? Muscle growth occurs when the body maintains an anabolic state. Equally important are an adequate training stimulus, plenty of recovery between workouts and the big one, quality sleep. Think of it as a three pronged approach. Eat healthy and stay strong together with Jefit.

References

Precision Nutrition, The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd edition.

Smeuninx, B. et al. (2020). Amount, Source and Pattern of Dietary Protein Intake Across the Adult Lifespan: A Cross-Sectional Study. Front. Nutr., https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2020.00025

Millward J. (2012). Knowledge Gained from Studies of Leucine Consumption in Animals and Humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 142(12): 2212S–2219S, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.111.157370

Jefit App – Staying Stronger Together

Jefit, named best strength app by Men’s Health, Greatest, Forbes Health, Men’s Journal and many others, has a community responsible for 92,000,000 workouts to date! The app, which recently passed 10 million downloads, comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio coaching cues, and can share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. #staystrongtogether

Michael Wood, CSCS

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