Basic Nutrition Pt 1:
Background and Protein
Proper nutrition, if you search for it on the Internet you will find all kinds of craziness and millions of different perspectives.
There are all kinds of “diets” for people to follow from Atkins, the Zone, and Paleo (and so on and so forth). Some are better than others, but I adhere to a few simple rules:
1. Everything works
2. Some things work better than others
3. Nothing works forever.
If you tell someone who has never paid attention to what they ate to log their food and stick to even a terrible plan, they will see some results. Some plans are better than others, some people respond more quickly than others.
If you understand the basics, it makes deciphering the multitude of, at times, nonsense, much easier.
Let’s define a few terms first.
Metabolism: a term that is used to describe all chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of the cells and the organism.
Metabolism can be boiled down into two sub-categories
Catabolism: the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy (break down)
Anabolism: the synthesis of all compounds needed by the cells (build up)
Macronutrients: carbs, fats, proteins
Micronutrients: vitamins, minerals, etc
Everyone on the same page now? Good.
Let’s start by talking about what you want.
No matter your goal; be it fat loss or weight loss (body composition), athletic performance, whatever, building muscle should be your main focus.
Athletic performance: apples to apples, the stronger athlete wins. Your skill work should be done at practice, but in the gym, focus on getting stronger and building muscle.
Focused on body composition? You guessed it; build muscle.
Muscle is the foundation of your metabolism. Let’s focus on that fact for a second.
Muscle is expensive, calorically speaking. It is hard to build and hard to maintain (meaning you need to eat more to get it and to keep it)
Muscle helps keep your body “burning” calories even when you are not in the middle of a training session. It’s like a fire, the more muscle you have, the bigger the flame, but the more fuel needed to keep it burning.
That sounds good so far, but what kind of fuel do I need?
Let’s circle back to macronutrients.
Today, we are going to focus on Protein and some common questions and misconceptions.
Your body/performance/fuel needs work on a pyramid type setup.
Eating an adequate amount of protein forms the base of your pyramid.
What is protein and how much do I need?
To get real “sciency”, a protein is any nitrogenous organic compound that consists of large molecules of one or more long chains of amino acids. To simplify, think meat. (not the only source of protein, I’ll talk more about that in a second…)
Most people need between .7 and 1.0g per LB of bodyweight each day. (a 200lb person needs between 140-200g of protein daily; go ahead and do the math for yourself real quick)
1 oz of meat has roughly 7g of protein, but meat is not the only way to get it. You can get pasta that has protein in it (stuff like this), quinoa has protein, so does milk, etc. There are plenty of ways to get an adequate amount.
Some people who are drastically under this number may take as long as 6 months to reach it, and that is fine, work on slowly bringing that number up towards optimal levels.
I heard too much protein is bad for you.
In a healthy individual, there is almost no upper limit of safe protein intake. There have even been studies on people taking in 3x the amounts I recommend with no adverse effects on kidneys or gut health. In 2011 a study by Lowery et al. found markers of kidney work were higher in protein seeking athletes, however, markers of kidney damage were not. Much like your muscles get worked and grow stronger, so do your organs, and they quickly adapt to the higher protein workload.
Can’t You Only Use 30g of Protein at a time?
While it is true that MPS (muscle protein sysnthesis aka building muscle) maxes out around 20-30g at a time. If eating twice the protein gave you twice the gains, we’d just eat way more protein and look like Greek gods. Protein is used for more than just muscle growth and repair; for starters, protein is expensive to digest. Roughly half the calories of protein you eat are utilized in digestion and absorption. Some ingested protein is used to make hair and collagen (skin) as well as enzymes and antibodies.
I’m not 18 anymore, I surely don’t need as much protein as I age, do I?
Actually, the opposite is true. You need more protein as you age to get the same benefit. It’s called anabolic resistance, you become less responsive to protein as you age. In a study by Yang et al. older adults had lower protein synthesis response to whey protein around their training time. To get the same response, they needed double the protein in fact, 20g instead of 40g.
OK, Where should I start?
General recommendations are easy; shoot for 4 meals with 40g of protein for men, and 30g for women. As you become comfortable in that range, we can sit and talk about more specific recommendations for your goals.
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