Gaining muscle usually means putting micro tears in the muscles, in other words, injuring them. Other injuries, including auto accidents and surgery, increase the body’s need for protein to repair the injured part. Experts suggest that immediately upon injuring oneself we should up the protein intake to aid the body in healing and to prevent catabolism.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine in the USA established that the average healthy person who is not an athlete or bodybuilder should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Let’s look at one well-done study. This study found that resistance training athletes consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day were in a negative nitrogen balance. In other words, they were deficient in protein and their bodies went into catabolism mode. It was found that in order for them to be in equilibrium, they needed to consume 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The study concluded that 1.6 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is optimal for body building.
For those who are recovering from injuries, the body may need as much as 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Let’s go over the math for calculating your protein requirement. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Example: a 150 pound person weighs approximately 68 kilos (150 ÷ 2.2 = 68 kilos). Then multiply 68 (kilos) by 1.4 (grams of protein) to get your protein requirement (68 × 1.4 = 95 grams of protein per day). So a 150 pound person who is body building should consume at least 95 grams of protein per day to avoid catabolism.
As with much of the available research, there are conflicting recommendations from different sources. Perhaps that is because we are all so very different in our gene pool and the stresses that we place upon our bodies. Your digestion and absorption are other factors to consider, as is the quality of the protein that you consume. So if you want to be really sure that you are getting enough protein, you can have your doctor perform a simple blood test. It’s called a prealbumin test, not to be confused with an albumin test. Be aware that lack of zinc in the diet can also cause your prealbumin level to be low and it is not uncommon for men to be low in zinc.
If you have a protein deficiency while recovering from an injury, including repairing micro tears in muscles from working out, you will have decreased function of the healing process. Researchers have found that both collagen synthesis as well as lymphocyte response will be decreased when there are not sufficient amino acids to rebuild the tissue. That means that we will have a decreased ability to fight off infections and may get sick more often.
When protein is deficient, our body will break down muscle tissue, visceral tissue also known as smooth muscle (tissue associated with the internal organs of the body, especially those in the abdominal cavity) and connective tissue in various parts of the body in order to get the amino acids that it needs for use in repairing injured areas in the body. This process is called catabolism.
A protein deficiency will cause the overall length of time to heal damaged tissue to increase while at the same time weakening the immune system. This is why consuming enough protein while going through the healing process is so very important.
When properly performed, strength training can provide a significant improvement in overall health and well-being. Proven benefits include reducing the potential for physical injuries, improved joint function, increased tendon and ligament strength and toughness, increased bone density, increased metabolism, improved cardiac function, elevation of HDL, (the good cholesterol) and, of course, increased muscle strength.
Craig B Sommers ND, CN.