Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in building and repairing muscles in the human body. It is very important for athletes and bodybuilders who desire significant muscle growth, but it is important for people of all ages and fitness levels. Let’s talk about the importance of protein in building muscle and its functions in the human body.
Muscle growth occurs when muscle protein synthesis (MPS) exceeds muscle protein breakdown (MPB). To achieve this, you will need to provide the body with an adequate amount of protein, which serves as the building blocks for muscle growth. A protein-rich diet promotes muscle hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the increase in muscle size and strength, and helps prevent muscle loss during weight loss or aging. So if you are in the “Getting Fit over 40” group pay attention.
One of the primary roles of protein is to provide the body with amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play a crucial role in muscle growth and repair. There are 20 different amino acids, and nine of them are essential. This means the body cannot produce them on its own and must obtain them from food. These essential amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, methionine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and histidine. BCAA supplements are a good way to increase essential amino acid intake.
Leucine, in particular, is critical for muscle growth as it stimulates muscle protein synthesis. It activates a signaling pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin which increases protein synthesis in the muscle. Research has shown that consuming protein with high levels of leucine, such as whey protein, can enhance muscle protein synthesis more than other types of protein. That doesn’t mean you should throw away your Casein Protein powder. Casein protein digests slower and is a great way to keep protein levels stable over night while you are sleeping.
In addition to Protein playing an important role in muscle growth, protein also has a thermic effect, meaning it requires energy to digest and metabolize. This process increases the body's metabolism, leading to an increase in energy expenditure and weight loss. 1 gram of Protein provides 4 calories of energy. Furthermore, protein has a high satiety value, which means it keeps you feeling full for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating and helping with weight management.
Protein also plays a vital role in the immune system, as it is needed to produce antibodies and white blood cells. These cells help protect the body against infections and diseases, allowing it to recover faster and perform at optimal levels.
It is important to note that protein intake alone is not enough to build muscle. Resistance training, also known as weightlifting or strength training, is necessary to stimulate muscle growth. Resistance training causes small tears in muscle fibers, and protein provides the necessary building blocks to repair and rebuild those fibers, leading to muscle growth.
Research suggests that consuming between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day can help increase muscle mass and strength. However, protein needs may vary depending on age, gender, activity level, and muscle mass. Older adults, for example, may require a higher protein intake to prevent muscle loss during aging.
There are several sources of protein, including animal-based and plant-based sources. Animal-based sources, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, are considered complete proteins as they contain all nine essential amino acids. Plant-based sources, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, are often incomplete proteins and may require combining different sources to obtain all essential amino acids.
Protein supplements, such as whey protein, casein protein, and soy protein, are also popular among athletes and bodybuilders. These supplements are convenient and provide a high-quality source of protein. However, it is essential to note that whole foods should be the primary source of protein, and supplements should not be used to replace a balanced diet.