The idea of having a high protein diet to support healthy muscle development isn’t some fad the fitness industry developed to sell you more protein products. Protein is essential to our survival and integral to the growth and repair of muscle fibers.
The foundation of muscles
Muscles are made up of muscle cells, which are also referred to as muscle fibres, which are predominantly formed from two different proteins; actin and myosin. Any training that requires strength, force or endurance places stress on these muscle fibers and this causes the fibres to tear or break. This means that your body has to then work on repairing and rebuilding those damaged muscle fibres, in order to make them stronger and more durable than before.
This is why training over a period of time not only causes your muscles to become stronger, but also to grow larger, because they are adapting and becoming more resistant.
Protein is in each and every cell in your body, and because your cells are always dying and needing to be replaced, your body needs fresh protein with which to create new cells. Protein is formed from amino acids, and there are 20 different amino acids in the body. Most of these can be synthesized by the body; however 9 of them cannot and need to be gained through our diet. These are what you will have heard referred to as the 9 essential amino acids. It is these 9 essential amino acids that are the building blocks to your muscles and are an essential part of our diet. If you don’t feed your body with protein on a regular basis, you will not have the building blocks required to build or maintain your existing muscles.
Some foods provide us all 9 essential amino acids in one go. These are called complete protein sources and include foods such as:
- Red meat
- Soy products
Others only contain some of the amino acids we need and are referred to as incomplete protein sources. Don’t let that put you off! By combining different incomplete protein sources over the space of a day you will gain all the amino acids you need to build strong healthy muscles! Examples of incomplete protein sources include:
Fortunately many combinations of incomplete protein sources taste fantastic together! Such as rice and beans, seeds and salad, hummus and vegetable sticks, lentil soup (Dahl) and rice. So there is no reason you can’t get all the protein you need on a daily basis, just by enjoying a healthy and well balanced diet!