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Bodybuilding and Protein Intake

The Real Story

Protein requirements for active versus sedentary individuals have been a hotly debated topic for quite some time. I've seen the battle rage in the iron game for the last 20 years, and I know it was going on long before then. Proteins quite simply are just "chain-like" molecules. The links that make up the "protein chain" are the amino acids. I think it's imperative that you understand that protein isn't found in muscle alone, but is a major component of almost every cell in the body. It does of course help build muscle, but it also helps build bone, skin and blood. Those things are kind of important to most of us too! Next to water, protein is the major constituent of the human body.

Protein will serve you a dual role in body modification in that it is as important for body fat reduction as it is for muscular gains. In regards to body fat reduction, protein has a specific dynamic action on the metabolism which means that when you ingest protein, your metabolic rate is elevated higher and remains elevated longer than when you ingest either fats or carbohydrates. A high carb meal will only elevate your metabolism from 4 to 30 percent above normal. This small elevation will last only 2 to 5 hours. A high protein meal however will elevate your metabolism by up to 70 percent above normal and this effect can last as long as 10 to 12 hours.

If your desire is additional muscular body weight, you should understand that our bodies are constantly in a state of repair and growth. When you wash your face, cells are sloughed off. When you cut your hair or fingernails, new growth has to occur. Muscle tissue specifically, is of course broken down mostly during exercise. That should be your goal during your workouts. Tear the muscle down as much as you can with intense weight training, then go home, eat, sleep and let it grow back. The process of tearing down the muscle, technically is known as catabolism. The rebuilding process that protein dictates is called anabolism. Protein has everything to do with driving the anabolism/catabolism cycle.

When protein intake is increased, your body can form new lean muscle. This is what completes the anabolic portion of the cycle. It's important to note, and frequently overlooked, that your exercise program only tears you down. You cannot repair, recover or recuperate unless you get plenty of rest and have adequate nutrients (specifically proteins) present. I have witnessed numerous individuals who lose muscle and store fat very readily due to their exercise program. Here's why; It's an all too common practice to cut calories while increasing activity in order to drop unwanted body fat. When your level of activity exceeds your level of nutrient density, your body senses a "famine". Our bodies built in protective mechanisms will guard against the effects of this "famine" by storing fat very readily while cannabilizing lean mass in order to support life sustaining functions. Remember the amino acids mentioned earlier? Eight of them are called the eight essentials because if we don't get an adequate supply of them on a daily basis from food or through food supplements, we would eventually die. (Funny thing, add the letter t to the end of die and you have diet! What a coincidence!) We can't manufacture these eight particular aminos and therefore when they are in short supply in our daily intake, our body will "take" them from the muscle tissue. That's far from the ideal situation!

Great stuff so far, but what does all this mean to me? Glad you asked. I'll spell it out in very simple terms. Start counting your protein, fats, carbs and total calories. The first goal will be to reach a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (bodyweight x 1.5 = daily protein intake). Spread your protein out over 4-7 meals as your schedule may allow. Choose only lean proteins such as egg whites, skinless white meat chicken and turkey, white meat fish, lean game meats like venison and ostrich, and quality protein shakes. Monitor your progress, watch how your body changes!

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