Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Importance of Protein

The more protein you eat, the bigger your muscles will get. Right? Well, actually that's wrong and very much a common misconception around the gym. But that's not to say protein isn't important.

Every muscle in your body contains strands of protein that work with the rest of your muscle fibers to cause muscle contraction. In other words, they help your muscles flex. And every time you push it in the gym, those strands of protein—and your muscle fibers in general—break down. Sometimes they even tear, which leads to prolonged muscle soreness. To combat this, our bodies begin to rebuild themselves immediately following the workout. This is known as protein resynthesis, and it's where our diets come into play.

Our bodies can't necessarily store excess protein, which is why foods that are rich with protein make such a great post workout snack—they deliver the much needed nutrient to our muscles, where it rebuilds and repairs any broken tissue. But too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing, believe it or not. Because we can't store protein, excess is typically turned into fat. And we all know how hard it can be to break down excess fat.

So, where to get that protein from? It's everywhere! Most of us get a decent amount without any help. And by help, I mean supplements. I'm sure you've seen protein powders in the supermarket, or read about them in health magazines. I advise you to use them wisely if you must. (I prefer not at all, actually.) They can wreak havoc on your kidneys. Instead, choose lean meats and beans. Eggs. Milk, yogurt and cheese. Toasted Nuts 'n Cranberry LUNA bars. Your options come aplenty.

And if you can't head home to eat after a workout, be sure to pack that gym bag with a healthy snack. A window of opportunity does exist. You'll typically want to eat within an hour of finishing up at the gym. This is when your muscles need the protein the most, and when it is most effective.

3 comments:

Bethany said...

Very informative! What happens if you push it hard in the gym and don't get a protein kick right away?

TARA said...

Since proteins aid in the recovery process, not indulging will simply slow down that process. Your muscles will have to work with what they've got in order to repair the "damage" you've done, which may leave you feeling tired and noticeably more hungry down the line. And since protein combats prolonged soreness, you might be feelin' it a little more than usual. Make sense?

Bethany said...

Yes. Thanks!

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