What is Protein?
Protein is an essential macronutrient, along with carbohydrates and fats. Chemically speaking, proteins are chains of amino acids, which are nitrogen containing molecules. Protein is essentially the building blocks for the body, but can also be burnt for energy, depending on your body’s requirements. Without protein your body cannot synthesise or repair muscle, which is why protein is probably one of the number one nutrients to consider when taking up bodybuilding or intensive exercise. Many other things such as hair, skin, and some hormones are also made from protein.
Where Does Protein Come From?
Both plants and animals are capable of synthesising protein, because they are vital structural and functional components. Notable animal sources of protein include meat, dairy (eg whey and casein), fish, and eggs. Plant sources include legumes (eg. soy), seeds, and nuts. The source of the protein does affect the quality. Animal sources tend to have high biological values and have an amino acid profile closer to what we need.
Where do we begin with this one? Protein is needed for life, but it is also very important for bodybuilders, athletes, or even the average Joe wanting to lose some weight. In general, benefits of protein include increased strength, increased lean gains, and reduced fat mass (Burke et al, 2001; Cribb et al, 2006). The magnitudes of these benefits vary depending on the type of protein, and each of these has been discussed in great detail in other articles.
- Whey protein: the king, and best known of all proteins among bodybuilders.
- Casein protein: a slow release protein from milk for when you cannot eat.
- Egg protein: A non-dairy protein that’s the perfect complement for whey.
- Soy protein: The best non-animal protein, perfect for vegans and those with milk allergies
- Fish protein: Learn about a novel form of protein that is starting to make its way into the supplement market.
Protein Negatives and Safety
No single protein is perfect. The negatives and weaknesses of each protein depend on its source. Please refer to the above articles for the strengths and weaknesses of each type of protein.
Protein is a natural macronutrient that is needed by everyone. It is therefore considered a safe ingredient with few side effects when consumed at recommended levels. However, it is important to note that some people have allergies to specific proteins. These sources should therefore be avoided.
Protein Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
The recommended protein intake per day depends highly on the individual and the level of exercise. In general, this could be anywhere between 1 to 2 g protein per kilo of body weight. There are benefits of taking protein before workouts and after exercise. It can also be taken with food or between meals to meet your daily requirements.
There are a huge range of protein supplements. They can come as protein powders, protein bars, or as ready to drink products. Of these, the type of protein used varies substantially. All the above mentioned proteins (whey, casein, egg, and soy) are all available in one form or another. These proteins can then undergo varying levels of processing. To read more about this, check out our article on “Choosing the Best Protein Supplement”.
Protein is a fundamental supplement that all bodybuilders and athletes should have. It can be stacked with pretty much anything, but works especially well with carbohydrates and creatine. You can learn more in our “How to Stack Supplements” article.
Burke et al (2001), The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation With and Without Creatine Monohydrate Combine with Resistance Training and Lean Tissue Mass and Muscle Strength. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 11: 349-364
Cribb et al (2006), The Effect of Whey Isolate and Resistance Training on Strength, Body Composition, and Plasma Glutamine. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16: 494-509