// Written by Mark David –
So you just crushed chest day at the gym. Great! Now what? Time to feed the machine. Let’s talk about protein.
When you lift heavy, you cause microscopic tears in the muscle fiber with the intention of repairing them bigger, stronger, and sexier! Protein is what your body uses to repair your muscle. If you crave gains, 10% – 35% of your diet should come from protein. For those of us that need a number, anywhere from a third of a gram to a gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Endurance and strength athletes require more protein than those that are sedentary.
For optimal muscle repair and growth, protein should be consumed within an hour of completing a workout. Studies show that about 20 grams is ideal, because that is generally all the body can absorb and use during that time frame.
From a metabolic perspective, the best type of protein comes from natural foods. One cup of cooked chicken breast provides 48 grams of protein, a cup of quinoa has 14 grams per serving, and a large egg has 6 grams. But who’s going to keep eggs in their gym bags?
If you’re like me, you want a protein that is quick, easy, and that you can carry around in your bag all day. In that case, you want the convenience and versatility of a protein powder. But what type of protein powder is for you?
The fitness industry standard is whey protein. Whey protein breaks down quickly, giving your muscles the nutrients that they need post workout. Whey protein is derived from milk. It is a by-product in the production of cheese (think of it as the wet part of cottage cheese). Whey is then filtered into whey protein concentrate. This is the most common and cheapest type of whey you will find. Whey is quick digesting, making it perfect for a post-workout shake.
Whey protein isolate is made by removing the cholesterol and lactose from whey protein concentrate. The isolate has less fat and calories per serving, so it is great for those of us looking to lose weight. It is also beneficial for those who have high cholesterol or happen to be lactose intolerant. It does tend to cost more, but that beats shitting your pants!
The other protein found in milk is casein. Casein is the protein that is found in cheeses, which is then manufactured into a supplement. A defining characteristic of casein protein is its poor ability at dissolving in water. Thus you digest it slower. Because casein protein digests slowly, it is great to take before bed. That way it will ensure that your growing muscles stay fed. Be advised though, some studies have shown it may contribute to giving users more vivid dreams.
If you happen to be vegan or have a milk allergy, plant proteins are the way to go. The most popular plant protein is soy. Soy protein is made by removing all the carbohydrates from defatted soy flour. It can then be refined into soy protein isolate. Soy protein is great for cardiovascular health because it naturally has no cholesterol. However, if your goal is to get huge, keep in mind that studies have shown that excessive soy intake can lead to inflated estrogen levels, so it’s best to limit it to 20-25g per day.
No matter what protein you decide to go with, always check the labels, this is especially true if you have any food allergies. Always make a point to look at the serving size as well as how the protein content compares with undesirables like fat, sugar and cholesterol.
Now that we understand a bit more about protein, hopefully we’ll see better results. Get those speedo bodies ready! Summer is coming and I’ll see you at the pool!
Mark David is a NASM certified personal trainer. You can find him at New Orleans Athletic Club, Downtown Fitness Center or behind the bar at Oz. He can be reached at MarkDavidFitness@gmail.com.