The Importance of Protein


Quite a few people message me asking for protein powder recommendations and it’s really not as easy as just telling people what my favourite band is and why they should listen to it (and anyway I’d be hard-pressed to pick my favourite although The Colourfield is definitely up on the top choices list). That’s how I feel about being asked to recommend whey protein.

It’s probably best for us to understand what protein is and what kinds there are to help us better understand the importance of protein in a bodybuilder’s diet. Let’s go straight to the meat of the subject–get it? Meat. Haha. Ok.

What is protein and why do we need it?

jacob berzelius
Berzelius has bad-ass mutton chops

Protein comes from the Greek word “protos” which means “of prime importance.” We can thank Swedish father of chemistry, Jacob Berzelius, for that term which he coined sometime around 1810 or so. It’s a well-known fact that after water, our body is largely made up of protein–and protein is used by the body to build, repair, and maintain muscle tissue. There are 20 amino acids that comprise Protein, of which, nine are considered essential because our bodies are unable to make them and therefore must be acquired through diet. We need protein to produce muscles, yes, but it’s also used to create hormones, enzymes, nucleic acids, and components important to our immune system. Without enough protein in our body, we wouldn’t be able to build necessary structures responsible for every tissue, cell, organ, as well as biochemical substances we need for cardiovascular function, muscle contraction and growth, and healing. Muscles won’t heal as quickly without the proper amount of protein in our diet, and it can even lead to overtraining the muscle and worse–injury.

Which kind of protein should I take?

So you’ve got whey protein and there’s casein protein. Remember the childhood rhyme, “Little Miss Muffet, sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey” ? Whey is a byproduct of cheese and is the thin liquid that’s left over when cheese is produced. The ‘curds’ in the rhyme refers to casein.

Whey is a fast-digestin protein (the body digests it in about a half hour) which results in a huge increase in plasma amino acids. What that means is there is a fast and efficient increase in protein synthesis but protein breakdown is not affected. This kind of protein is higher in leucine (one of the essential amino acids our body needs to produce and build muscle). This is best taken after a workout because it goes straight to your muscle tissues for repair and building.

Casein, on the other hand, is a slow-digesting protein. It takes about 2-3 or even 4 hours for it to be fully digested by the body. This kind of protein dramatically sows down the rate of protein breakdown. Casein is still a protein that benefits the body. This is a great protein to take before a gym session and many suggest that taking in a slow protein drink before bed helps to keep your muscles fed even while you sleep.

How much protein do we need?

It’s suggested that the minimum amount of protein you should consume (for muscle-building) is 0.8 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, I weigh 107 pounds, therefore my minimum protein intake in order to build muscle should be about 85 to 90 grams. I’ve been told before to be careful and not overload on protein. I’m not sure how that’s possible since I can really only take so much chicken breast and drink so much whey. But if you do take in a lot more protein than most for your weight and workout demands, you might want to check with a doctor about whether you need calcium and magnesium supplements (because excessive amounts of protein have been shown to deplete calcium and magnesium supply in the body).

open hand
image from Web

A good technique is to take your open palm hand, fingers close together, and that size of your entire hand is how much protein (size, width, thickness) you need to maintain your weight. But if you want to lose weight, go for the size of your palm in measuring your protein source.

What are good sources of protein?

You can choose from beef, chicken, eggs, and pork–but you’ll want to make sure you get the lean cuts of beef and pork. My technique is to pick cuts of meat that have the word “loin” in them like tenderloin, striploin, or sirloin. For chicken you definitely need to go for a skinless breast fillet because that’s the part that’s lowest in fat. Thigh fillets are pretty fatty. Eggs are another great source of protein. You can make yourself a good breakfast with three egg whites and one to two yolks. Don’t be afraid to eat the yolk! Half the nutritional value of the whole egg is found in the yolk. Some bodybuilders chuck the yolk mostly because they don’t want the extra calories.



Now that we’ve tackled the basics on protein, and you have decided to go for some whey or casein supplementation, you can start shopping for your protein and other supplement needs by checking out Nutrition Depot. They have an excellent range of choices for any and all of your bodybuilding needs.





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