The ultimate guide on Protein. What are BCAA’s, Amino Acids, and do you need to drink protein shakes.

Protein. Easily the word of the year. As companies cover their packaging with the word, and brands like Snickers releasing a high protein version of their traditional bar, people are seeing protein everywhere. However many people are still confused whether they need to supplement their diet with it, take BCAA’s and drink shakes all day long. We explain exactly what is going on, and what you need to do; all scientifically based of course.

What is Protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient for the body and is the building block of cells and tissue. This is why it is so important for those who are training hard, as you are tearing muscle fibres during exercise. Your body requires protein to repair these muscle fibres, to ensure recovery and growth.

What is the difference between Amino Acids, BCAA’s and Protein?

Simply put, Protein is chains of Amino Acids grouped together; it breaks down into Amino Acids. Just as with Carbohydrates, the body breaks down Carbs into simple sugars. The body breaks down Protein into Amino Acids.

There are 21 Amino Acids in total and 9 essential Amino Acids, which cannot be produced by the body and must be ingested. They are:

  • Histidine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Valine

BCAA’s stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. They are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, and are simply slightly more complex in structure compared to regular Amino Acids.

Do you need to supplement with Protein?

The short answer is it depends. It depends on your diet, your fitness levels and the type of activity you are doing.

But here are some facts and guidance.

Your body can only process and utilise about 25 grams of protein in one sitting (every 2-3 hours). Anything over this either gets excreted, or can be converted by the body and stored as fat. This means that if you have a steak and a shake at the same time, you will be wasting most of the protein ingested. Instead wait 2-3 hours, then have the shake.

If you are heavy weight training of any format, whether Bodybuilding, CrossFit, Powerlifting or just general weight training then you definitely need more than the recommended daily intake. This is around 1g per kg of bodyweight.

The Anabolic window is not a real thing.

As covered in our blog on the Anabolic Window, it’s not a real thing. There is a 2 hour time period when Amino Acid uptake rate is double the resting level following exercise, but you will not lose all your gains.

To maximise muscle repair, consuming protein shortly before bed is key.

Your body does most of its repairing overnight while you sleep, and your metabolism has slowed down. Having Casein or a shake will help supply the muscles with the key components for recovery. The other benefit of this, is that as your metabolism has slowed it digests slower – meaning you can actually utilise more amino acids.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, definitely consider supplementing.

Meat, eggs and dairy are the best and most complete proteins, contain all essential amino acids. If you are not eating these, then it can be much more difficult to eat foods containing the amino acids. By supplementing you can ensure maximum recovery, and that you’re not causing your body any negative, long-term damage.

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