Protein consumption has always been a hot topic for discussion. Nowadays, you will still find people thinking that protein is a kind of steroid that isn’t good for your health. However, protein is one of the most important nutrients that human body requires to increase muscle size, strength, repair damaged tissues as well as muscle fuel. Protein can be found in a variety of foods, high amounts particularly can be found in red meat, chicken, eggs, turkey, cottage cheese, lentils, etc. Protein requirements increase with increase amounts of fitness/resistance training. If you are doing regular lengthy and intensive gym sessions and looking into building some muscles, you would need to opt for an extra protein intake. But don’t rush into the conclusion of thinking the more protein the better. In fact, if you eat protein in higher amount that your body needs, the protein is burned as fuel, which is wasteful. In worst case scenario excess protein will be turned into fat as protein cannot be stored for later use by the body. You need to give significant importance to the source of protein and its other nutrient composition. Lean animal protein foods would be able to supply you will all essential amino acids, dairy foods with calcium, shell foods with iron, fish with healthy fats and vegetable foods with carbohydrates.

It has been proven that timing of protein intake is a crucial element in improving training performance and post-training recovery. This explains why it is important to have protein without delay after the training session (within 1 hour time), whilst protein synthesis in the muscle is at its peak. One of the reasons why you notice many people have a protein shake as they leave the gym is to provide muscles with protein supply as soon as possible. Whey protein is digested faster than natural protein foods (chicken, meat, etc.), therefore muscles are supplied with protein much quicker. Having protein immediately after training sessions would be beneficial for both endurance and resistance/strength athletes; protein will help repair damaged muscle tissues and build more muscles.

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I would like to stress the importance of having protein with every meal throughout the day, ensuring your muscles are always provided with needed nutrients. Be careful when choosing your source of protein as there could be hidden factors like high levels of fat or carbohydrates that may prevent you achieving your daily nutritional targets. There are wide ranges of foods available with protein, some of the best choices are listed below:
• Lean beef
• Chicken breast
• Lentils
• Cottage cheese
• Turkey
• Salmon
• Tuna
• Crab
• Clam
• Cod
• Bass
• Tofu
• Chickpeas
• Egg Whites
• Soy
• Oyster
• Veal
• Lamb
• Lean pork
• Pumpkin seeds
• Peanuts/peanut butter
• Almonds
• Oats
• Whey protein

Suggested protein intake needs:
Strength training (muscle gain/maintenance): 1.8-2.6/1.4-1.8g per kg of body weight*
Endurance training (moderate/intensive): 1.2-1.4/1.4-1.7g per kg of body weight*
*Growing persons would require around 15% more than figures outlined above.
**Females would require around 15% less than figures outlined above.

Conclusion
Protein is an important component in every cell in the body, it is used to build muscles, bones and skin, etc. Ensure you consume adequate amount of protein per day to support your fitness/nutritional goals, as well as maintaining healthy body function. Too much protein isn’t good, as it cannot be store for later use. But having too little could be even worse leading to a lower metabolism, deceasing levels of immune system, lower energy levels, losing muscles, etc. If you don’t have a sound knowledge of nutrition and food choices seek advice from a competent nutritionist/dietician, this will definitely optimize your health, fitness/sport performance and overall wellbeing.

By beFitness team.

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