Protein Powders

To eat 5 or 6 meals a day with protein at each meal can become downright time consuming. The chicken, meat, fish and eggs have to be prepared, or you can include sliced turkey breast, fat free cheese and lean roast beef as a quick alternative. In addition to the prep time, eating all the protein can become boring and even nauseating. Therefore, protein powders are a good alternative saving you time and, for the most part, they taste very good.

Of the many powders today, the two main sources of protein come from casein, the protein common to milk. The other popular powder is whey which is derived from the cheese making process.

While there are some differences among proteins, the most important factor in terms of protein, especially when trying to build mass, is the total quantity of protein consummed each day, as well as the meal frequency. No matter what type of protein powder you choose, if you underconsume protein, you will not build any appreciable muscle mass. Thus, "how much" total grams of protein you eat each day is more important than using powders. And, smaller meals with protein divided evenly through the day helps you maximize protein absorption, limiting gastro-intestinal distress which can aid the muscle building process. That said, there is some debate in regards to which protein is best; casein or whey. A recent study involving overweight police officers had the officers follow a calorie reduced diet over 12 weeks and exercise with weights. Ten officers did not exercise and ate no extra protein, but reduced their caloric intake by about 20%. Another group of 28 officers ate .68 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (that's about 136 grams for a 200 pounder) and also followed a calorie reduced diet-again about 20% less total calories than normal. Of these 28, 14 took casein protein hydrolysate and another 14 took whey protein hydrolysate. The results? The diet only group lost 5.5 pounds of fat, gaining no muscle. The whey group lost, on average, 9.2 lbs of fat and gained 4.4 lbs of muscle. The casein group came out on top averaging 15 lbs of fat loss and gaining 8.8 pounds of muscle. Big difference!(1)

Yet another study from McGill University in Montreal, Canada showed whey to reign supreme over casein. This study of 10 men and 10 women each taking either 10 grams of whey twice daily or 10 grams of casein twice daily showed the whey group lost more fat than the casein group and showed an increase in lymphocyte glutathione levels. Glutathione is an antioxidant derived from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. It's found in the inner part of cells. The theory goes; more glutathione suppresses the activity of free radicals and less free radical activity translates in less sore muscles or better recovery and possibly less muscular fatigue.

Whey protein is a fast acting protein while casein is a slower acting protein. That is, whey is rapidly digested into amino acids while casein is much slower in eventually breaking down into aminos. Some bodybuilders prefer to use whey in the pre-training meal hoping the whey will rapidly enter the blood, immediately sparing the body from using up body protein as fuel. An ideal pre-training combo might be whey protein combined with oatmeal or cream of rye cereal. Slow burning carbs like oats and rye are slowly digested into glucose. Slowing the glucose release into the blood allows a bodybuilder to train a bit longer as slower burner carbs before training are probably better than fast acting carbs (like bread, cream of rice, juice and potatoes) since slow burners, gram for gram, may spare muscle glycogen better than fast burners. Slow burners "stay with you" longer and often make the bodybuilder "feel" better during training offsetting fatigue. On the other hand, the casein proponents argue the slower acting protein is superior as slow burning proteins allow the body to evenly and consistently obtain the important muscle building aminos from the protein. The slow digesting caseins are commonly referred to as "time release" proteins. The aminos don't all flood the blood stream at once. The argument holds some water as whey, the fast acting protein, does seem to immediately flood the body with protein. The result: some of the aminos in the whey protein end up "unusable" to build muscle because so much protein enters the blood at one time, some of the amino acids are simply burned as fuel, leaving fewer aminos than you think remaining to build and repair tissue. While fast acting aminos are another reason to use whey in the post training meal, when amino acid pools are low and the body needs an immediate source of protein to build itself back up, the best solution is probably a middle way, to combine whey and casein together. Thus, you'll get both fast and slow acting proteins.

Whey may be best before training and a mix of mostly whey to casein after training. A 70% whey to 30% casein mix should do. At other times, when your inactive, caseins, the long acting protein, will likely be better or you can use a combo that's 80% casein and 20% whey.

(1} Derailing, R., et al. {2000} Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass in overweight police officers. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 44:21-29.

BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS

They are isoleucine, leucine, and valine. As discussed earlier, they serve as the secondary fuel source during training. First carbohydrates are used and when they run low, BCAA come into play.

BCAA are found in your normal every day protein foods. Many bodybuilders use them in capsule form before and after training to ensure that muscle mass is not used for fuel. When BCAA are present in the blood from eating protein or from capsules, and you train soon after, the body will tap the supplemental or food source of BCAA. If the BCAA are not there, then the body will tap muscle, and break it apart, to obtain BCAA.

When dieting and carbs are reduced by more than 25% and muscle glycogen becomes lowered, the need for BCAA increases dramatically. BCAA also displace serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is released from a high carb intake. Serotonin is a messenger in the brain that induces a sedated effect. Dieting bodybuilders can pop a few BCAA in hopes of eliminating this tiring effect before training or when they feel the need for energy.

Low heat whey protein is an excellent source of BCAA. All animal protein contains sufficient BCAA, though milk and eggs are higher in BCAA than chicken, meat, turkey and fish.

When calories are reduced or activity is high, the need for BCAA skyrockets. Even aerobic work can quickly deplete BCAA stores. Studies from Tufts University physiologist William Evans, show 2 hours of moderate aerobic work can deplete up to 90% of stored leucine. Leucine can be used directly as fuel for working muscle. Leucine releases two important hormones; insulin and growth hormone. Insulin drives amino acids from protein and glucose from carbohydrates into the muscle for growth and repair. Growth hormone works to release fat from fat stores so it can be readily tapped for fuel, thereby sparing muscle glycogen and BCAA. Growth hormone also contributes to protein synthesis. A lack of BCAA especially leucine, could prevent the bodybuilder from maintaining the necessary hormones for muscular growth. High BCAA intake also replenished muscle glutamine levels.

A recent study shows the benefits of BCAA. 25 very active wrestlers restricted their caloric intake to approximately 2500 a day (28 calories per kg of bodyweight). Each wrestler kept his calories low for 19 days.

Of the wrestlers, all ate 2500 calories a day. Some consumed a higher protein intake, others a lower protein intake. A third group followed a moderate protein intake, higher carb diet supplemented heavily with BCAA. Of the three groups all lost weight but the third group, the ones using BCAA held more muscle and therefore lost more body fat then the other two groups. The benefit: this study shows BCAA can save muscle while dieting. As a bodybuilder, if you can save more muscle mass, then you will look more ripped. And, the more muscle you save or hold onto while dieting, the easier it is to burn body fat as the total amount of muscle you carry is the number one influence on keeping the metabolism elevated while calories are reduced. The down side of the study is that the BCAA group used huge amounts of BCAA. About the equivalent of a 80 kg bodybuilder using 30 grams a day - about double of what most bodybuilders would ever use. Off season, try 4 grams before training. Dieting, use 6 to 8 grams before training and 6 to 8 grams after training if you train once a day and 4 grams before aerobics when doing cardio on an empty stomach. If you train twice a day pre-contest, then use 3 to 4 grams before and after each training session. Smaller bodybuilders, including women, may be able to use a little less.

GLUTAMINE

As discussed earlier, glutamine is a non essential amino acid that comprises 50 to 60% of the total amino acids found in muscle. Bodybuilders use up glutamine in huge amounts during and immediately after hard or long workout sessions in order to squelch the build up of toxic ammonia. When the muscle is worked, it releases ammonia which is detrimental to muscle growth. Glutamine is released into the blood from the muscle to counteract and fight the ammonia. Once glutamine levels in the muscle fall, growth becomes nearly impossible. High muscle glutamine levels are associated with muscle growth.

When glutamine is released from muscle, the body trys to keep the muscle levels high by making more glutamine from other amino acids, especially the BCAA. However, when the

BCAA are resynthesizing muscle glutamine, it takes away from the BCAA job of supplying fuel directly to muscle during training. Thus, another reason to add BCAA to the diet.

When the body is stressed as in training or sickness, glutamine is released from muscle to replenish and support the immune system. The immune system takes precedent over muscle growth. The glutamine must support immunity before it can be stored fully in muscle to aid growth.

Good ways to increase glutamine is to supplement with BCAA, to use a high quality protein powder, to avoid overtraining, and never train while sick or exhausted.

The amino acid glutamine can only increase muscle glutamine levels to a small degree since it is not well absorbed by the body. About 70% of oral glutamine is absorbed. Try using 2 to 3 grams after training to replenish muscle glutamine levels. Pre-contest, when calories drop and activity increases, you'll need a lot more. Those weighing less than 170 pounds will need 6 to 8 grams a day. If your weight falls between 171 and 215, you'll need 9 to 15 grams a day and large bodybuilders carrying more than 215 pounds will need 16 to 20 grams a day, preferably split over 3 servings throughout the day.

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