Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Protein - The Rebuilder

I looked at "The Humble Carbohydrate" in the last entry so today I am focussing on PROTEIN.

Lean muscle mass, it is what gets us to the finish line or to the top of the hill (as theses legs from the 2010 Tour of Bright winners clearly show you)
 So Carbohydrate is the most basic form of energy and it is clear that athletes need to include a good amount of carbohydrate for their ENERGY REQUIREMENTS. But the next most important nutrient is PROTEIN.

When you break down protein you get Amino Acids - the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are the essential amino acids which must be supplied to the body in what we eat as our bodies cannot make these amino acids, or make them at the rate the body needs them. The remainder are the are the non-essential amino acids, which the body can make.

What does protein do in my body? 
  • It forms cell membranes  
  • It helps with chemical reactions in the body including the metabolism reactions
  • In the blood proteins have important roles such as carrying oxygen (you may have heard of haemoglobin...the oxygen carrying protein)
  • In the form of antibodies, protein help to get rid of bacteria and viruses from the system
  • Proteins in muscle help with muscle contraction and the movement of our muscles (pretty important as an athlete).
Improved strength from muscle growth, improved recovery from exercise as tissues repair faster, improved immunity to fight disease (so less time away from training due to sickness), decrease in injuries, increase in manufacture of proteins for all purposes in the body and increase in development of lean muscle mass.

Different types of exercise require different amounts of protein.
 How much protein is enough?

Studying protein requirements is an interesting task in itself. Our diet needs to be looked at as a whole - NOT JUST PROTEIN OR CARBOHYDRATE

Our bodies are quite smart in being able to manufacture the things that may be inadequate and there are differences in requirements.A 25 year old bodybuilder, who effectively is causing muscle damage each time he pushes his boundaries with weight lifting - muscle repair is the key to “building” muscle, is going to have different requirements to say a 16 year old female dance student who trains in endurance type work for 6 hours a day. But there is a way to calculate your requirements.

The recommended daily amount is 0.8g per kg of body weight per day.....but HANG ON .. athletes need more! Are you an athlete? Do you participate in regular exercise? Then read on:

When we eat protein products, they are broken down into amino acids and theses amino acids top up the body’s pool of amino acids which will then be utilised to make those proteins used in the body, the excess amino acids are broken down to form energy (helping out the Humble carbohydrate) when glycogen stores are running low during exercise, the body will look to fat and a little bit of muscle for energy, which is why we need to rebuild with protein after exercise. If we overdo the protein, excess is just removed through waste, so too much protein is really a waste.
Your protein requirements will depend on the type of training you do. There is a constant stream of information and new studies stating particular requirements for protein.

As a general guide:-

Endurance – moderate to heavy training – 1.2-1.4 g/kg/day
Strength or power athletes (bodybuilders) 1.4-1.8 g/kg/day

So work out your daily requirement using the estimate above....An 80kg endurance athlete (hey that could be a cyclist) would need 96-112g of protein per day.


Don't underestimate the amount of Protein
 in Dairy - Try to choose low fat dairy where possible

1 large egg has 6 g of protein
85g of Mince Steak has 21grams of protein 
85 g of Roast chicken breast without skin has 26g
85g of Tuna has 25g of protein
1/2 cup of tofu ahas 10g of protein
1 cup of Baked beans has 14g of protein
200ml skim milk has 7g of protein
50g of peanuts (1 handful) has 12g
3 tbsp of boiled chickpeas has 12g


So this 263gram chicken breast fillet will give you
 approximately 78g of protein. It adds up quickly


Studies have shown that a diet deficient in protein is associated with a loss of muscle mass, but a diets containing both a medium and a high amount of protein resulted in very similar increase in muscle. Therefore, excess protein has no real advantage.


Look to dairy products (low fat) and protein rich plant sources to meet your requirements.

Again when in doubt look at the labels,
 200g of this low fat yoghurt (Jalna in this case)
 will provide you with 10.6g of protein.


It can be considered "trendy" to use supplements and with promises such as "building muscle". "high quality protein" they seem like a good way to get your protein requirements

Before using supplements, try this exercise:- for a couple of days, calculate your protein requirements, and work out how much protein you are eating without supplements. You might find you are eating an adequate amount without using expensive supplements.

Protein supplements remain a controversial area. I will just say that inadequate protein intake has been associated with loss of muscle, and excessive protein whilst not being harmful offers no real advantage for health or performance.

Read the labels, here we can see that 100g of tuna has 24.0g of Protein.
 WARNING.- Be careful when reading the "serving sizes"
as sometimes they are a lot less (or more) than you might
personally eat in a serving

Studies have been inconsistent demonstrating that supplements are beneficial.


Eat good quality protein such as that found in meat/fish/.chicken and dairy and plant proteins.

After your workout enjoy a post exercise snack, containing both carbohydrate and protein to maximise muscle repair and glycogen stores.

It might sound complicated, but just spend a few days looking at the contents of your food and you might be surprised to find that you are already on track to meeting your protein requirements

Next article I will look at FAT.....the good the bad and THE UGLY 


Sonia Throssell said...

well done Judith - well presented : informative and easy to read. Like your photos : thanks for sharing !

Buttsy said...

Thanks Sonia, I am just trying to use my blog as a way of really making sure I understand basic nutrition concepts.Mainly using textbooks and a few articles for references, Which I forgot to list in this one.....will fix that

Krista said...

Nice face-lift of the blog! Thanks for this post. My husband and I recently went vegetarian and i'm always on the look out for new ways of getting our nutrients..especialy protein since we often looked to meat after those long hard rides. Now beans and legumes have become our new best friends (though an enemy to anybody hanging out near us lol)

Buttsy said...

Hi Krista, I am wondering when you say you "went vegetarian"...at what level of vegetarian did you go? Do you eat dairy?


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