Over the years, high protein has become a big part of most athlete’s diets. One reason for this is the increased amount of calories consumed by athletes. They’ll get them without really thinking about them. But many athletes will also make it a point to deliberately increase protein in their diets through eating protein-rich foods and adding protein supplements to their daily routine to enhance strength and performance. Most medical and scientific sources in the past have tried to discredit this view. They claim that high protein diets are unnecessary and that the Recommended Daily Allowance for protein supplies more than enough for the athlete.
In recent years, though, studies involving both strength and endurance in athletes have found that exercise actually DOES INCREASE protein needs. While those RDA levels may be acceptable for couch potato types, they won’t cut it for the athlete. The intense muscular stimulation the bodybuilder goes through in a workout increases both protein catabolism and its use as an energy source. A high protein diet protects the protein to be turned into muscle by, among other things, providing another energy source for use during exercise. The body will burn this protein instead of the protein inside the muscle cells.
One animal study found that dietary protein appeared to directly stimulate muscle growth by limiting protein breakdown and increasing anabolic compounds. Similar effects have been found in man. It’s well known that high protein diets are necessary for success in muscle growth using anabolic steroids. It’s also been shown that protein drinks taken after training may increase insulin and growth hormone, and thus have a strong anabolic effect. It also stands to reason that when intensity of effort is high and the body is stimulated to adapt by adding muscle, protein is going to have to increase to provide for the increased lean muscle mass.
My belief is that once you’ve exercised past a certain level of intensity, dietary protein becomes more important in adding to the anabolic effects of the exercise itself. If you’re under that level, you may not need the protein. But if you’re over, you will. And what’s the easiest source of dietary protein for those who need it? Eggs, meat, and some dairy products. Exactly those things that the high fat diet has you eating a truckload of. In this way, the high fat diet works doubly well in giving the bodybuilder just what he needs for growth.
Protein supplements can also help here. Several studies involving Refit (a milk powder containing around 90% protein and 5% mineral salts) have shown improved sports performance among athletes who use it. It should be pointed out that, despite what some have claimed, protein supplements don’t seem to have any anabolic advantage over high-quality protein food. Still, they can be a real ally for those who want to minimize calories or can’t eat food in the volume necessary to get enough protein.
Stuart Bateson transformed himself into Scotland’s top bodybuilder by scoffing SIX packs of turkey a day. The former army corporal devoured the high protein food constantly for four months before securing the Mr Scotland title in Glenrothes. The 40-year-old muscleman also put in punishing three-hour sessions in the gym every day to sculpt the perfect [...]
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