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When protein is the most beneficial

Posted August 14, 2013 in Advice Column, Downtown

During the years, protein has rightfully gained a reputation for being one of the most beneficial nutrients.

Diet fads for athletes that suggest high-carb or low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar diets come and go, but protein always remains an important part of the athlete’s diet. And the importance of protein doesn’t come without reason — protein is arguably the most important macronutrient for muscle building. Of course, it needs healthy carbs and fats to help it do its job, but without protein, your exercise efforts are greatly hindered.

As your body burns fat and builds muscle, you will become a stronger, more efficient machine. No other macronutrient can get you there alone. Unfortunately, despite its reputation as being an essential nutrient, information on how much to eat and when to eat is harder to determine. As a rule of thumb, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends athletes consume around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (numbers vary from 0.8 to 1.5 depending on activity level, activity type and gender). While meeting these numbers may be easy as long as you focus on consuming protein-rich foods and have a source of protein at every meal, timing protein intake right can make a huge difference in the results you see.

•    Eat protein at breakfast. We’ve all heard it. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While that is undisputable, a protein-rich breakfast takes this meal to new heights. Studies repeatedly show people who consume high-protein breakfasts (eggs are a prime example) have less fat around the waist and may weigh less overall.

•    Before and after workouts. Consuming protein within an hour after your workout will enable your muscles to immediately begin repairing themselves. By leaving them depleted, they will continue to break down, and you may have done more harm than good by working out.

•    Before bed. Our bodies continue to work even while we are sleeping, so providing them with protein gives them ample time and nutrients to repair overnight. Plus, since protein is absorbed more slowly, it is less likely you will wake up with the midnight munchies.

Both the timing and overall consumption of protein is extremely important when trying to lose or maintain weight, build muscle or tone up. Try focusing on eating protein at these key times to help your body be more efficient.

Information provided by Julia Steggerda, Fitness World 24 – Downtown, 418 Sixth Ave., #110, 288-1111

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