Weight loss? Protein!
Reduce blood sugar swings? Protein!
Body composition change? Protein! Protein! Protein!
But there’s much more to it than just eat more (or less) protein. In this month’s post, I’d like to focus on the athletic population (a way to state a disclaimer that the general population is different and has different nutritional needs).
Flipping through various peer review publications, several themes have come to the forefront: Daily protein intake vs training protein intake; Timing and distribution of protein for strength vs endurance athletes; and protein intake prior to sleep (to maximize recovery from a muscle and immunity standpoint). The actual accrual of skeletal muscle protein requires a sustained positive muscle protein balance (eg. rates of muscle synthesis exceed muscle breakdown). It is well known that a bout of exercise, followed by the ingestion of protein helps stimulate muscle synthesis and maintain a positive nitrogen balance; but the “gray” area is how much protein is necessary? Moreover, what are the critical windows for anabolic stimulus; post exercise or spread across the day via meals?
The long standing hypothesis behind protein intake post exercise is that ~20g provides a maximal anabolic stimulus in the early recovery process (~5 hours post exercise). This theory originated in the resistance training literature, and has been generalized to the endurance athlete. Upon examining the endurance literature, there are several other factors which come into play, including: if the athlete is male or female, if the athlete is energy deficit, the composition of the overall diet (high or low protein), and the composition of the protein ingested.