Protein is the single most valuable macronutrient in our diets. It’s the building block of our tissues, including muscles, organs, skin, hair and others. Protein consumption is especially crucial to bodybuilders and athletes in general, since all types of athletic training cause muscle damage. In order to recover and become bigger and stronger, the muscle needs extra amount of amino acids. These amino acids are available by breaking down proteins that we ingest as food. It is true that most amino acids are manufactured in the body; still, the essential ones have to be provided from food sources. As a result of this, protein consumption is one of the most commented topics when it comes to fitness nutrition.

In order for you to optimize your protein intake, you have to look at several different variables.

Daily Amount
The amount of protein is greatly dependent on the needs of your body. If you are working out very often and very intensely, then you will definitely need higher quantity of protein in your diet. There is a scientifically accepted recommendation for bodybuilders and athletes who want to gain muscle mass. They are advised to consume 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of bodyweight. This means that an average 80 kg person has to consume 160 grams of protein in order to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. Many coaches and specialists claim that a slightly higher quantity of 2.2-2.3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended. I personally go for no less than 2.3 grams of protein, which for me equals a minimum of 220 grams per day. Consuming 220 grams of protein in one meal wouldn’t do the trick – you have to spread it equally throughout the day.

Amount per Meal
Many of studies have recently proven that the amount of protein needed for initiation of protein synthesis is 25 grams of whey protein, or 30 grams from quality protein source. The amount needed is dictated by the content of leucine – the most anabolic amino acid, which triggers protein synthesis. A meal of 40 grams of protein is 15% more effective for muscle growth compared to a 25-30 gram meal. More than 40 grams has little added benefit. Go for 30-40 grams of protein per meal as a minimum in order to optimize muscle growth.

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Let’s assume that you are taking 200 grams of protein per day. In order to design an optimal intake schedule and spread it throughout the day, one should divide 200 by 40 (optimal quantity of protein per meal) in order to get 5 meals for the day, as the most effective number of meals for him per day. A similar approach is to consume protein-rich meals every 3 hours.  This will create 5 sparks of protein synthesis per day, which is considered optimal by the latest research and my personal 15+ years of experience. If you try to consume more protein and more frequently this may result in protein indigestion and subsequent stomach and kidney overload.

That’s about it, it’s time for a protein shake now!

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