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You always see them, the gym rats, their protein shakes ever ready at hand; seemingly poised on their hips like two six shoots to a cowboy; big, bulky containers showcasing big, bulky boys promising muscle making magic in a milkshake. You ever wonder why the meatheads are such advocates of protein? Well, it’s not because they’re all brawn, no brain and gullible to the mediocre marketing attempts by protein manufacturers; there is actually science behind their belief and though you wouldn’t think the typecast gym junkie would dabble in the physiology behind their physique, but they know enough to bulk up by utilizing protein in its intended form; the building block of muscle anabolism.

Composition of Protein

Proteins are primarily comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen ; the necessary cell building components and are essential to the production of amino acids as tools to synthesize lean tissue. Upon ingestion of a protein source, it is broken down into amino acids by stomach enzymes and sent across cellular membranes to be used in the anabolism of muscle tissue and the recovery and repair of damaged muscle tissue. The excess amount is stored for later use, or excreted as waste.

Muscle Catabolism and Anabolism Requirements

When you hit the gym, weight lifting creates a natural process of breaking down muscles to repair them. If you have enough aminos through protein intake, then they will be repaired and new tissue will be synthesized to add to the size. If your body does not have a sufficient amount stored within your tissues, it will use your own muscle tissue to break down into aminos to aid in the muscle breakdown that naturally occurs with physical exercise. Obviously resistance training would require a greater amount of protein intake to prevent this loss that accompanies your body attempt to “fix” the muscles that are targeting through training.

This is a rapidly executed sequence with your body recognizing the protein inventory and needs; absorption is fast, amino acid distribution, storage, and excretion is executed within a few hours. Once digestion breaks the protein down, the amino acids are escorted to cells, and if it exceeds maximum occupancy, they are turned away to be stored in the liver as glycogen, if there’s room, or as fat, but most often are processed into byproducts, taken to the kidneys and excreted as urea in urine.

In order to prevent this speedy removal of aminos generated through protein intake, a slowing of this process is necessary which is why some protein supplements incorporate casein, a lactose derivative, to hold the aminos in a little gel form in the stomach to allow them to pass more slowly, similar to the method of time released pills, and fill a muscle building need in the future, usually six or more hours. This also helps to avoid the catabolism that occurs once your meal is digested and your body seeks forms of energy, leaching them from your lean muscle tissue. So, because these pumped up patrons of the free weight room understand how their bodies make the muscles that they’ve made their trademark, they replace what they need to continue seeing the gains from training. Pretty smart for meatheads huh?