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How Important is Protein to Build Muscle?

March 2, 2011
by
I was talking to a new client who is vegetarian today and did a bit of research for him. Thought I’d address the matter of protein consumption for all.
Muscles are made up of protein and are an important element of every cell in our body. Like water, protein makes up a large part of the body — even our nails and hair are mostly protein. Protein is an important building block not only for our muscles but bones, cartilage, skin, and blood.
If you don’t get enough protein in your diet you cannot build muscle. Period.  We need fuel and that fuel is protein.  The body FIRST uses protein for body function THEN it uses protein to build muscle, so it’s important to eat enough protein.

Don’t make the mistake of working hard in the gym and not eating enough protein.

On the other hand, eating more protein without stimulating the muscles through exercise will not make your muscles bigger either. It’s recommended that .75 to 1 gram of quality protein per pound of body weight is sufficient. For example, if one weighs 200 lbs, they should get about 150-200 grams of protein a day. You don’t need any more than that. For several months I consumed more than that and I didn’t see any added muscle gain — just gain in my body fat!
Protein is categorized as a macronutrient just like fats and carbohydrates. But unlike fats and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, so there is no storage to go to when protein is needed.  What is not needed the body will excrete as waste.
Typically, proteins are not used by the body as a primary energy source. The body’s primary energy source is carbs when they are available. But when you do not get enough carbohydrates in your body it has no choice but to use your valuable muscle building protein for energy which leaves your muscles high and dry unless you are getting 600 grams of protein a day [I’m just being sarcastic].
The best protein sources are derived from animal sources such as meat, fish, eggs, and milk. The best absorbing proteins are classified as having a high biological value (BV). The Biological Value (BV) is a scale of measurement used to determine what percentage of a protein source is utilized by the body. So, the BV refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein source. Theoretically, the highest BV of any food source is 100%. Whey protein concentrate has a BV of 104 while an egg is 93.7. Below is a list of various sources of protein and their respective ratings.
Protein Ratings
FOOD
PROTEIN RATING
Eggs (whole)
100
Eggs (whites)
88
Chicken / Turkey
79
Fish
70
Lean Beef
69
Cow’s Milk
60
Unpolished Rice
59
Brown Rice
57
White Rice
56
Peanuts
55
Peas
55
Whole Wheat
49
Soy beans
47
Whole-grain Wheat
44
Peanuts
43
Corn
36
Dry Beans
34
White Potato
34
As far as sources of protein created in the lab are concerned, here is a short list of some protein sources you can find in supplements common today. See how they compare to the natural sources listed above:
Protein Ratings
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT
PROTEIN RATING
Whey Protein Isolate
159
Whey Protein Concentrate
104
Casein
77
Soy
74
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