As an individual on a muscle building programme, you will most likely have realised that in order to achieve your desired results, whether that be to gain strength or to improve physique, you will need to increase your dietary protein intake.
With countless organisations marketing numerous protein supplements, it can be difficult to select a suitable and genuinely effective supplement among so many choices. This could lead you to question whether it is necessary at all to consume protein supplements alongside your training programme.
In order to assess the need for an increased dietary protein intake as part of a muscle building programme it is important firstly, to understand what protein is exactly and its role in the body.
Protein is one of the body’s macronutrients, meaning it is a large organic compound that is used to provide the body with energy for numerous biological processes, such as muscle contraction. Proteins are structurally similar to carbohydrates and fats (lipids) in that they consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. However unlike carbohydrates and lipids, proteins are nitrogenous compounds, therefore they contain nitrogen as well as sulphur and in some cases, phosphorous, cobalt and iron.
Amino acids form the building blocks of protein. They are linked in long polypeptide chains, much like a string of beads, by linkages called peptide bonds. In recent years, clinical studies have been carried out in order to gain a better understanding of the effect of certain amino acids on the body. There is some evidence that particular amino acids such as L-lysine and L-arginine stimulate the release of growth hormone and other chemicals in the body. Human growth hormone has anabolic roles (roles involving the synthesis of complex molecules) in the body, including stimulating the growth of muscle tissue.
During resistance training, the intensive contraction of muscle causes small tears in the muscle tissue, otherwise known as ‘micro-tears’. Protein plays an active role in repairing micro-tears and rebuilding muscle tissue. This ensures that the muscle fibres are stronger and tougher than previously. It is therefore important to consume some form of protein following a weight-training session in order to allow muscle tissue to recover from the strenuous exercise.
Protein in the form of powders or bars offers an easy and convenient way to fuel the body. Similarly to how amino acids are the building blocks of protein, protein can be seen as the building block of muscle. Protein is needed not only in the maintenance of muscle tissue, but also in increasing muscle mass.
To conclude, if you are currently undergoing a muscle-building programme or considering beginning a training programme of this type, it is crucial to increase your dietary protein uptake. An easy way of doing this is to include some form of protein supplementation in your diet, in order to provide your body with the constituents it needs to repair muscle fibres torn during high intensity exercise.