Does Protein Build Muscle?
Everybody talks about protein, but do you need to eat more protein to build muscle. It’s true. If you exercise regularly, you DO need to eat more protein.
Most people starting an exercise programme are advised to eat more carbohydrate – found in foods such as bread, pasta or rice. High protein foods, such as chicken, beef or fish, are relegated to the bottom of the food league. These recommendations are usually made by well-meaning (but out-dated) nutritionists who insist that the RDA (recommended daily amount) for protein is enough to cover your protein requirements.
In fact, protein expert Dr. Peter Lemon recently concluded that exercise more than doubles your need for protein. Based on his review of the research, Lemon reports that if you’re exercising on a regular basis, you’ll need to consume at least 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For people who want to build muscle as fast as possible, this figure should be nearer 2.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, then your body starts using its own sources of protein for energy. And guess where your body gets the protein from? It starts eating away at your muscles – slowing your metabolic rate, reducing your strength AND bringing muscle growth to a grinding halt.
If you’ve been training with weights without seeing much in the way of results, make sure you’re eating enough protein – either in the form of whole food (such as chicken, fish or lean red meat) or a protein supplement. Protein supplements are an easy, convenient and simple way to make sure you’re providing your body with the protein it needs. But don’t make the mistake of thinking all proteins are the same – they’re not.
Many supplement companies include cheap ingredients in their formulas. One of the most popular ‘cheap’ proteins is known as casein (pronounced kay-seen). Casein is derived from dairy products. It’s the same protein you find in milk, cheese and yoghurt. Although it was popular some years ago, casein has now been replaced with whey – a far more advanced protein.
Several clinical trials have compared whey and casein. The results were the same – whey protein came out top every time . Canadian scientists found that after three months of supplementation, whey protein was six times more effective at improving exercise performance than casein . The whey protein group also lost an impressive 4.8% of body fat, and reported feeling far more energetic. Simply put, adding a high quality whey protein powder to your diet will significantly improve your performance – both in the gym and on the pitch.
What’s more, the right type of protein will also help you build muscle faster. French research shows that whey protein leads to a massive 119% greater increase in protein synthesis (the fancy term for muscle growth) than the cheap milk protein found in most protein powders . Furthermore, top European researchers report that whey protein halts the muscle-wasting hormone ‘cortisol’ dead in its tracks . In short, whey protein quickly leaves your stomach and heads straight into the bloodstream – ready for delivery to your protein-starved muscles.
Protein also plays an important part of a fat loss programme. To lose weight you must restrict the number of calories you consume. However, when you cut down on what you eat, the body starts using muscle protein as energy – in other words, you are literally ‘eating’ yourself. You must get enough protein from your diet to cover these losses. If you fail to get enough protein on a daily basis, you’ll quickly lose strength, get weaker and your metabolic rate will slow down.
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Research has also shown that high protein diets can accelerate fat loss. A recent study compared the effects of a high protein and a high carbohydrate diet on weight loss . After six months, the high protein group lost almost twice as much fat as those on the high carbohydrate diet.