If your passion is high intensity and strength sports, such as Crossfit, weightlifting, or triathlon, you may have considered taking a protein supplement to maintain your muscle mass despite physical wear and tear or even to increase it.
But what benefits do these add-ons bring? How much and when should they be taken? We’ll tell you then.
Why take protein after intense muscular exercise?
It is well known that strength training and, in general, all exercises with a high demand for muscle work, increase muscle mass. Also, higher protein intake is necessary to achieve this goal.
Well, according to the position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, both actions behave synergistically, that is, greater muscle gain is obtained when adequate exercise is added to an appropriate protein intake before or after sports practice.
What does this mean? That, in the practice of our favorite high-intensity sport, taking a protein supplement will help us preserve and increase our strength and muscle mass.
How much protein do I need if I practice a high-intensity sport?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, to generate muscle mass, a contribution of between 1.4 and 2 grams of protein per kilo of weight per day would be necessary. That is, a person weighing 80 kg would need to consume between 112 and 160 grams of protein per day on average.
On the other hand, an amount of protein to be taken associated with sports must be taken into account, that is, the “extra” that we take before or after training to promote good maintenance of muscle mass. This amount should be individualized according to sports practice and the athlete’s needs. However, the general recommendations are 0.25 grams of high-quality protein per kilo of body weight, that is, about 20 grams for a person weighing 80 kg.
However, when these proteins are consumed, as well as their quality, are also important.
Timing and quality are key to increasing muscle mass
As we saw in previous articles, the protein quality is key to optimizing the benefits it brings us. The quality of a protein is quantified according to two variables:
The type of amino acids that it gives us. It should include all the essential amino acids, especially leucine, one of the branched-chain amino acids that are directly related to the increase in muscle mass.
The recommendations for protein intake associated with exercise to improve performance and increase muscle mass emphasize that protein supplements should have between 0.7 and 3 grams of leucine in total, in addition to a complete supply of the rest of the amino acids essential.
Bioavailability. That is the ability of our body to have this protein for its metabolism. A highly bioavailable protein is one that our body can absorb efficiently.
When it comes to when these protein supplements are taken, that is key, too. It is estimated that the maximum benefits are obtained by consuming the protein between 1 hour before exercising and 2 hours after.
Additionally, consuming casein protein (milk protein) before bed has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis during sleep. For this reason, having between 30 and 40 grams of complete protein with dinner is also a good measure to take to increase muscle mass.
What Kinds of Protein Supplements Are Best?
There is a wide variety of protein supplements for athletes. Those that provide a greater amount of protein are supplements in the form of powder to dilute in water so that you get an easy and quick shake to take where and when it is needed. For example, while we relax after training.
In the market you can find:
Whey protein, or whey protein. Whey protein is considered the highest biological quality protein since it contains all the essential amino acids in the right proportion, and also has an optimal bioavailability. For this reason, whey protein is one of the most used as a supplement for athletes.
Vegan protein. Vegans must balance the different food groups they eat very well to achieve complete protein in their daily diet. This challenge is even greater for high-intensity vegan athletes, as they need higher protein doses. Po
Branched amino acids. Supplements based on branched-chain amino acids (also called BCAAs) are specially designed for athletes with high muscle wasting. They can be used to supplement the protein diet, or as an extra, in addition to protein supplements. It is a preparation rich in leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three protein components most related to the increase and maintenance of muscle mass.