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The Secrets to a Lean Physique Part 2b - Getting Your Fuel Right (Protein)

Posted Apr 29 2010 1:03am
In Part 2a of The Secrets to a Lean Physique - Getting Your Fuel Right (Carbohydrates) we took a look at our good old friend Carbohydrates.  We have all heard of "Carbs" and indeed this macronutrient is hard to avoid as it is in just about everything we eat!  The problem with the typical diet is that it is too high in carboydrates.  Whilst this does not register as a problem to the uninitiated, it represents a concern to those who are aware of the role of carbohydrates in the diet, and the issue of having too much carbohydrate in our diet.  As a reminder, this is what was covered in that article and you can click on the link above to revisit
  • what carbohydrates are,
  • how they work in your body,
  • where you get them from,
  • how much you need for different circumstances,
  • the difference between High Glycaemic Index and Low Glycaemic Index carbohydrates and when you need to get these different types
Today we continue our exploration of macronutrients and look at every athletes and trainers favourite Protein. With so many different protein products available this is a subject that I will be exploring in more detail in future articles to help you understand the different types available, what they are for, and which one is most suited to your needs.  For this article though, we stick to the basics and cover the same information for Protein that we covered for Carbohydrates to give you a good foundational understanding.  So let's explore!

Protein - What is it and what does it do?
  • Supports repair of damaged tissue caused by the training stimulus
  • Made up of small chains of building blocks called amino acids
  • Essential for growth and repair of tissues
  • Important role in maintaining a strong immune system
  • Forms part of important enzymes and hormones
  • Provides a source of energy in extreme conditions

Some amino acids can be produced by the body (non essential).
Some cannot and must be obtained from our diet (essential).  These essential amino acids are very important in our diet as we cannot survive without them (hence why they are essential!). A diet containing both plant and animal proteins will typically cover all bases Legumes, grains, red meat, soy, chicken, eggs, fish, dairy.

Branched chain amino acids - (BCAA’s) and essential amino acids particularly important for
  • Recovery
  • Muscle growth
  • Repair
The combination of these 3 essential amino acids Leucine/Isoleucine/Valine makes up 1/3 of skeletal muscle in the body.

How Much Protein Do I Need When I Am Exercising?

The current concepts in Sports Nutrition suggests that 12-15g of protein, 20 minutes before exercise is recommended for the following
  • Lean muscle maintenance
  • Prevent muscle atrophy
  • Digests into amino acids ready for uptake in the muscles post workout for repair and growth
  • Have with a banana for a burst of energy
How Much Protein Do I Need After Exercising For Recovery?

The current concepts in Sports Nutrition suggests that 15-20g of protein, within 20 minutes post exercise is recommended for the following
  • Gain lean muscle
  • Lean muscle maintenance
  • Produce muscle hypertrophy (growth)
  • Studies have proven that post strength training protein intake is directly attributable to muscle hypertrophy and is therefore important to the athlete
How Much Protein Do I Need In General?

 Note: 15% less for female athletes as the % of lean muscle is less

I've Heard Athletes and Trainers Talk About Whey Protein - What Is It?
Whey Protein is a pure, natural, high quality protein from cow’s milk. For more information go to:

At times it can be difficult to get enough protein in our diet and so there are products available to assist in achieving the targets.  As a trainer I understand the need for this type of supplementation for the athlete.  For the average person though I always recommend that you look to natural whole food sources to obtain your protein.

Let's look at the different types of Whey Protein Powders available to help you understand the difference.

WPC - Whey Protein Concentrate
  • 70-85% Protein
  • Cheaper than isolates (this is because it is not as refined, not as high in protein, and not processed to remove the fat content).
  • As the fat content has not been removed these will be higher in calories
  • This is the recommendation if you are struggling to get protein from natural food sources
WPI - Whey Protein Isolate
  • 90-98% Protein
  • processed to remove the fat
  • Low lactose/cholesterol levels
WPH – Whey Protein Hydrolysate
  • Predigested (this simply makes it the most readily absorbed by the body)
  • Partially hydrolysed
  • most biolavailable form
  • most expensive
This completes our basic exploration into Protein.  We will have a more in depth look at protein in a future article.  By subscribing via email to Thrive Healthy Living in the ENEWS AND UPDATES area, you will automatically receive all future posts!
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