Beginning Nutrition: Part 1 Protein

If you want to see best results from a training program, proper nutrition is critical. This means proper intake of calories, macro nutrients - protein, carbs & fats... Learn why they are important and the best time to have them.

If you want to see the best results from your training program, proper nutrition is critical. This means the proper intake of calories, the proper ratio of macro nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, and fats - and the proper timing of these macro nutrients.

This also means understanding and maintaining a positive nitrogen balance. Many bodybuilders - beginners and otherwise do not understand the basics of good nutrition from a bodybuilding standpoint.

The nutrients in food are broken down into the three types of macro-nutrients mentioned above. Macro-nutrients mean nutrients we need in large amounts. Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals - micro meaning we need these in small amounts. Each type of nutrient performs specific functions in the body, but interacts with other nutrients to carry out those functions.

PROTEIN

The word protein was coined by the Dutch chemist Geradus Mulder in 1838 and comes form the Greek word "protos" which means "of prime importance." Your body, after water, is largely made up of protein. Protein is used by the body to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue.

Protein consists of amino acids, usually referred to as the "building blocks of protein." There are approximately 20 amino acids, nine of which are considered essential because the body cannot make them, they must be supplied by the diet.

Protein is essential for growth and the building of new tissue as well as the repair of broken down tissue - like what happens when you work out. When you hear the term "positive nitrogen balance," it refers to being in a state of having enough protein available for the needs of the body and the needs of building muscle.

What does nitrogen have to do with protein? Nitrogen is one of the most important elements in all protein (Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, P. n-31). It is essential to animal life for tissue building.

This statement alone defines the key need for protein when lifting weights. For the most part, we are told to eat sufficient protein (every 3-4 hours) to maintain a positive nitrogen balance because your body is actually in an anabolic, or building up phase in this state, where a negative nitrogen balance, from lack of adequate protein, indicates a catabolic, or tearing down state.

This is one reason why protein (and eating enough throughout the day) is important: lack of adequate protein, and your body begins to break down tissue (read: muscle) to meet its daily protein needs.

Our bodies constantly assemble, break down and use proteins (in the form of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein), there are thousands of different protein combinations used by the body, each one has a specific function determined by its amino acid sequence.

Virtually all modern authorities agree that one to 1 ½ grams of protein per lb. of body weight is best for muscle growth. Besides taking in high quality protein from food (lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs), the best way to keep your protein intake at the proper levels are through the use of protein shakes.

The other part of getting the most out of your protein intake and thereby maintaining a positive nitrogen balance is carb and fat intake; both are needed in reasonable amounts to insure protein synthesis.

As far as powders are concerned, whey protein is the best quality, meaning your body will absorb and use more of it.Whey protein remains number one, because of its high quality, but milk-based proteins are making a comeback, largely because of their longer lasting effects in the body: whey is typically touted as a fast digesting protein, milk as a slow digesting protein.

People always judge a protein powder by the number of advertised grams per serving: "This one only has 17 grams, it's not as good as this one that has 50 grams!"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Protein contains four calories per gram, that's how it's measured, meaning that it doesn't matter what the label says, they are using different scoop sizes, and number of scoops per serving to get that advertised amount.

Since protein is four calories per gram, and scoop sizes are measured in grams, if you used a standard scoop size and quantity, you would get the same amount of protein, regardless of the brand name (excepting minor variances for fat and carb content).

Test this out yourself, the next time you're at the vitamin store, compare protein labels. Note the protein, carb and fat per serving. Now note the scoop size and how many scoops equal one serving. You will see that any label with a high advertised protein content is using a large scoop and probably two scoops a serving. A smaller scoop and serving amount corresponds to a protein with a lower advertised amount.