Why protein is important and how it helps to build muscle
Protein plays a vital role in building muscle, but how does it really work? Let’s start with the basics.
The terms muscle mass and lean body mass are often thrown around and used interchangeably, but they’re different. All muscle is ‘lean,’ primarily composed of proteins, however lean body mass (LBM) refers to your total weight minus the weight composed of fat mass. Skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is part of your LBM but are only the muscles that are controlled voluntarily for movement and posture. When thinking about gaining muscle, you’re referring to your SMM, as an increase in LBM can be a result of water weight.
So, what is protein and why is it important for muscle growth?
Protein is a macronutrient built from amino acids, which are stitched together in long chains. The body can manufacture many of those amino acids, however there are nine amino acids, known as the essential amino acids (EAA) which can’t be made in the body. These amino acids must be consumed through food from sources like beans, meat, soy, and nuts.
Leucine is the amino acid responsible for a lot of the muscle-building process. It is known as the leucine trigger concept because enough leucine triggers muscle protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is a process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise, it is the opposite of muscle protein breakdown (MPB) where protein is lost as a result of exercise. Scientists measure the intensity of exercise by one-repetition maximum (1-RM), meaning the maximum weight you can lift for one rep. Even when exercising to failure, low intensity exercise will do little to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) so therefore won’t increase muscle mass.
MPS can be enhanced by increasing your protein intake immediately after exercise. The amino acids from the protein will be transported to your muscles, replacing any lost during exercise. This can also help improve recovery, performance, and endurance. Many studies have been undertaken to examine the role of protein in building muscle. A study published in the journal Nutrients, found that protein intake ‘was shown to promote additional gains in lean body mass beyond those observed with resistance exercise alone.’
Protein can also play a role in weight loss. Studies suggest that eating protein can increase the number of calories you burn by stimulating your metabolic rate. According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. However, protein intake varies for each individual and relies on a number of factors. You can find out your recommended protein intake using a protein calculator. Increasing the intensity of your workout, in a safe way, and combining that with sufficient protein consumption is a great way to build muscle. If you’re looking for somewhere to store your protein powder for your post workout refuel, check out our shakers, each come with built in storage for 150grams or protein powder or snacks!