Most of us know that protein is a highly important nutrient, especially when you’re trying to gain muscle and lose fat.
Made up of complex chains of amino acids called polypeptides, proteins play a role in every animal’s diet and they participate in basically every process in our bodies. They works behind the scenes to help break down cholesterol, to boost your immune system, and are an important, natural source of nitrogen.
Protein also, and maybe most importantly to us, works to literally build your muscles. Without protein in your diet, muscle growth wouldn’t even be possible, let alone running marathons, doing deadlifts, or pushing yourself to master Crow Pose!
If you’re dieting, remember to keep some clean, potent sources of protein in your diet. This will protect your muscles from wasting and degrading as you shed fat!
Protein is also very important if you’re training hard. During a punishing workout session, you routinely damage your muscle cells—which is why you’re sore later! It’s part of the process, though, so not to worry: the damaged cells will repair themselves, and build up to protect themselves in the future. This is how your muscle mass grows. However, if you don’t have enough protein in your system (remember, it’s the literal building block of muscle), your damaged muscle cells will revert to a process known at catabolism. During this process, they will steal the nutrients they need from their healthy neighbors in order to repair. This obviously works against any muscle-building and weight-training goals you may have, since your muscle cells are basically sabotaging each other to survive!
So, timing your protein intake can be very important. You’ll want to protect your muscles from catabolism as much as you can, and if you really want to grow, you’ll want to take advantage of the anabolic window.
This ‘window’ is the half-hour period after every hardcore workout when your strained and damaged muscles are most primed to absorb any and all nutrients they need to grow, repair, and get strong! This time span is vital to muscle growth, and is one of the most ideal times to get in a mean dose of protein. The branched-chain amino acids in a high-quality protein, taken during the anabolic window, will not only help your muscles repair and grow, but they’ll also help you to recover faster and to feel less sore in the morning!
Unfortunately, we rarely feel hungry after a heavy workout. Especially not for something dense like a steak! Lots of supplement stores offer alternatives, though. Protein bars, especially, are a tasty and convenient way to get in a dose of protein, and they’re far lighter than a slab of meat or a can of lentils! Toss one into your bag and chow down on your way out of the gym, you—and your muscles! –won’t regret it.