Protein is absolutely essential for athletes, especially if their goal is to increase size and strength. Reason being, protein is made of amino acids, which are critical for helping muscles properly recover and rebuild after intense training.
Jump-start the recovery process with a protein shake, and sip your way to bigger muscles. The three ingredients below will augment the gains you make in the weight room by promoting muscle growth and speeding recovery.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey is considered the highest quality natural protein. It's derived from cow's milk and contains all nine essential amino acids. Research suggests that, compared to other proteins, whey is most effective for repairing exercise-induced muscle damage, because the body absorbs it more rapidly.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids [BCAAs]
BCAAs are protein's building blocks. They support muscle growth and improve endurance. Mensfitness.com suggests a ratio of 45 percent leucine, 25 percent isoleucine and 30 percent valine. David Pearson, CSCS, director of strength research at Ball State University, says, "Those three are the ones that really work the magic in muscle repair, post-workout."
To repair damage from working out and to promote protein synthesis, your muscles use their glutamine stores. Although glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body, it can still be depleted when released post-workout. This inhibits protein synthesis, making for a rough, sore muscle recovery. A glutamine supplement can counter this possibility. Pearson explains: "Besides aiding muscle growth and maintaining a healthy immune system, glutamine is a cell volumizer, meaning that it helps the muscle hold water, which is also necessary for growth and repair."
Athletes weighing between 175 to 210 pounds should aim for the following amounts:
- Whey protein powder = 30-40 grams
- BCAAs = 6 or more grams
- Glutamine = 8 or more grams
Place all ingredients in a shaker cup or blender along with 16 ounces of a carb-dense substance like juice, low-fat chocolate milk or a sports drink; add fruit for additional flavor. Drink it within 30 minutes of completing a workout.
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