CM SEAL Team blogger: Mike Ryan
What do you need?
Proper protein intake is critical for athletic performance. Though protein can be used as energy by converting amino acids into glucose, its primary function is to build and repair tissues. Protein is made up of essential and non - essential amino acids. The key difference is that the body can produce non-essential amino acids whereas essential amino acids must be gained through food. You need both. Good sources include whole foods (beef, fish, turkey) as well as high quality sports supplements. Supplementation is a convenient way to augment your diet to ensure adequate protein intake. (We’ll discuss this later - a lot of you aren’t getting enough.)
Are all proteins created equal? Not really. Different types of proteins are digested and synthesized differently and at different rates. Let’s take a look at two common sources of protein: whey and casein.
In a recent study, ingestion of whey protein produced a rapid rise in amino acids, whereas casein showed a slight rise in amino acid levels - but over a longer period. Additionally, the casein resulted in higher Leucine retention after 7 hours. Quantitatively speaking, whole body protein breakdown was inhibited 34% with casein. Whey however, resulted in a 68% increase in protein synthesis vs. only 31% with casein. Further studies suggest that a combination of protein sources may yield optimal results.
When do you need it?
The benefits of consuming protein as part of every meal are varied and well documented. In addition, recent studies have demonstrated the importance of protein as a component of both pre and post-workout meals. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Nutrient timing, “Post-exercise ingestion (immediately after through 3 hours post) of amino acids, primarily EAAs, have been shown to stimulate robust increases in muscle protein synthesis. The addition of carbohydrate may increase protein synthesis even more, while pre-exercise consumption may result in the best response of all.” Bottom line, in order to grow and repair muscle tissue, we need to maintain net positive gain in protein synthesis vs. degradation. Here’s a good approach. Throughout the day, eat small meals (with protein) and focus on pre and post exercise macro-nutrient intake.
How much do you need?
Protein requirements vary greatly and are determined by a number of factors including type, frequency, duration, and intensity of training. Recent studies show that protein requirements for athletes far exceed those of sedentary adults. Intake estimates range from 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg (of lean body mass)/day. I bet that’s more than you thought! Individuals engaging in endurance exercise should ingest levels at the lower end of this range, individuals engaging in intermittent activities should ingest levels in the middle of this range, and those engaging in strength/power exercise should ingest levels at the upper end of this range.
One final bit of advice.
Everybody’s different. There is no ‘on size fits all’ program for optimal nutrition. There are tried and true guidelines (i.e. no sugar, beer is not a good carbohydrate, etc.) but you need to determine what works for you. As the saying goes, “You need to know where you are in order to get where you’re going.” Or something like that. Make a commitment to focus on nutrition for one month. Before you start, get a basic blood panel and get an accurate test of your body fat and lean body mass (ideally from a hydrostatic chamber.) Keep a log of everything you eat and check your weight once every seven days. At the end of the month, retest you blood and body fat. Have your doctor help you to interpret your ‘before and after’ blood work. From there you need only to modify your program and you are well on your way to increasing performance and overall vitality.
Write me and keep me posted of your progress and your results. Better yet, send pictures. Don’t quit. Stay focused. Remember, you only get one go-around. Live with Intensity.
Michael Ryan is the President and CEO of Intensity Nutrition LLC. Founded by former Navy SEALs, Intensity develops super-premium sports supplements for professional, semi-professional, tactical, and functional athletes. Intensity will launch early summer ’09 and welcomes any recommendations for product development. Mike and Alden met during “running remediation” at Basic Underwater SEAL (BUDs/s) training. Special thanks to BMC Pardue for the introduction.