Breakdown of Proteins: When to Take Them?

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Louise Hay

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Proteins are almost ubiquitous macronutrients in food but, obviously, there are substantial differences in the content of essential amino acids and therefore of biological value (BV).

Their distribution in the day is the subject of great debate among athletes, not so much for the doubt about how many to eat - another rather thorny topic - but in reference to the real ability to absorb the amino acids that compose them and use them at the metabolic level.

For further information: Food Proteins


Speaking of protein breakdown, it is not possible to ignore the nutritional objectives of the diet and the subjective condition.

Protein Management for a Sedentary

In the case of a sedentary person, the differentiation between the various meals assumes an almost marginal role. By virtue of the fact that he is characterized by an almost constant metabolism, there are no conditions that require the selection, differentiation or dissociation of meals. It is sufficient to follow the indications of the guidelines and, in the event that the evening meal is eaten late, possibly make sure that it is not excessively abundant.

Protein management for an amateur sportsman

If we talk about sportsmen and bodybuilders instead, the question changes radically. For an "amateur" it is not necessary to drastically increase dietary proteins as, while promoting a certain level of catabolism and requiring more amino acids for compensation and growth, these are all in all easily controlled.

In addition to the general indications for the sedentary, the amateur sportsman should pay more attention to the biological value, trying to guarantee the complete pool of amino acids; meat, fish, molluscs, crustaceans, eggs, milk and derivatives will make up at least 2/3 of the total. In the case of vegetarianism or veganism, it would be advisable to take care to reciprocally compensate the proteins of medium biological value (cereals + legumes), associating or alternating them.

For further information: Proteins and Branched Amino Acids

Protein Management for an Athlete

If we talk about an elite sportsman, the quantity and quality of proteins become a determining factor.

Protein management for an endurance athlete

In endurance athletes or middle-distance runners, the most abundant protein sources DON'T they should be placed in meals "close" to training. Yes recommends to consume good protein sources before performance, as their digestibility is decidedly lower than that of foods rich in carbohydrates - which, moreover, represent the main energy source during prolonged muscular effort.

For the same reason, if the athlete carries out 2 daily training sessions, it is essential to optimize the storage of energy reserves in the most favorable moment for anabolism, i.e. the immediate post-workout. Especially in the 15 minutes following the end of the performance, or in any case within the first hour, it is therefore essential to consume more carbohydrates with a high glycemic index by limiting the proteins that would slow down digestion and absorption. On the other hand, in all other daily meals, yes recommends to include protein foods in adequate portions.

Note: in the event that there is a real difficulty in reaching the daily protein quota - for meal management, poor digestibility or poor appetite - supplementation with amino acids in the post-workout meal would be advisable.

Protein management for a strength athlete

On the contrary, in the athlete who trains strength, given the lower frequency of training it is possible (and advisable) to include protein foods also in the post-workout meal. These athletes find advantage in increasing strength, therefore also muscle hypertrophy and, in certain subjects, ensuring a constant protein intake during the day facilitates the anabolism of myofibrils, increasing recovery and - in the long term - also performance.

Protein Management for a Bodybuilder

In bodybuilding, where it is essential to minimize fat mass, foods are often replaced by food supplements. In this case, it is possible to make a distinction in the use of protein powders and amino acids: if the integration must be carried out before sleep, some advise to seek digestion and absorption. lenses (even if, in hypersensitive subjects, it is an unhealthy practice for the stomach); for this purpose, whey and egg derivatives are indicated.

Furthermore, as regards the integration of the post-workout meal, a further distinction could be made: in the mass phase, when it is essential to "feed the muscle", it is common practice to prefer a significant intake of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index ( such as those of bread or polished rice) associated with a modest intake of amino acids or absorption proteins fast, distributing the remainder of the needs evenly throughout the day with food. On the contrary, in the cutting or definition phase when it is often necessary to periodically reduce carbohydrates, after training it could make more sense a more important integration of absorbed proteins. fast possibly associated with a few low glycemic index sugars. Among the proteins a fast absorption the market offers a wide range of products: whey proteins, isolated soy proteins, semi-hydrolysed, hydrolysed, etc.

Ultimately, the breakdown of protein intake makes sense alone in particular conditions such as extreme sports and competitive bodybuilding; under normal conditions, it is sufficient to follow national guidelines for a healthy and correct diet.

For further information: Branched amino acids: When to take them
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