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ultimate guide on proteins

Ultimate Guide on Proteins: Influence on Muscles & Food Sources

ultimate guide on proteins

Now that we already know the remarkable functions of protein in our body, let us see some other important details about protein. In this second part of our Ultimate Guide on Proteins, we discuss its composition, relationship to the growth of muscles, types of protein supplements to choose from and some food sources.

Protein Composition

When we talk about proteins, it is vital to discuss its composition. Remember amino acids? These are the smaller building blocks which are chain-like in appearance, and which, when joined together, comprises our proteins. These amino acids have 20 different kinds that can be put together in various combinations making up the millions of proteins in our body. One protein may consist of as low as 50, to tens of thousands of amino acids. These can either be made by the human body, our non-essential amino acids, or can be supplied to our body, our essential amino acids, through our diet.

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Relevance of Protein Composition

When amino acids attach to each other through the peptide bonds, it creates polypeptides, which are various types of sequences or chains. These polypeptides, upon reaching a size and structure appropriate enough, then becomes a protein. This now is the protein that functions for our body to perform tasks, such as the stimulation and regulation of cell growth and division. This particular function is particularly important in muscle building.

Protein and Muscle Growth

proteins and muscle growth

What then is the role of protein in muscle growth? It is important to note, that in consideration of building muscle mass, individuals must take the right amount and kind of protein to maximize its benefits.

Protein Consumption and Muscle Building

So does the consumption of more protein equate to muscle growth?  The answer is NO. Medical research has shown that consumption of protein more than 30% of one’s daily caloric intake, can harm the body. This is based on protein expert Gail Batterfield, PhD, R.D., director of Nutrition Studies at the Palo Alto Veterans’ Administration Medical Center and Nutrition, who is also a lecturer at Stanford University.

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Adding protein consumption in your daily diet, partnered with additional calories or exercise will help build muscle mass. According to a study published in 1992 by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the increase in protein intake plus an increase in caloric intake while still performing the same exercise help in the build-up of equal amounts of fats and muscle mass.

If there is an increase in protein consumption without added calories or exercises, other body organs may undergo stress. This may cause a buildup of ketones which then forces your kidneys to work so hard to flush these ketones from the body, therefore, also stressing the heart. This process contributes to the loss of a significant amount of water from the body, putting you at risk for dehydration. This water loss often reflects as weight loss because along with this, individuals also lose muscle mass and bone calcium. Now, this is not a good thing especially if you are a dedicated bodybuilder.

Protein Sources


plant-based protein sources

With the rise of the vegan diet nowadays, it is no surprise that plant-based proteins are also gaining popularity. Numerous reasons trigger this like health or religious beliefs, animal protection advocacy, and more. Whatever the reason, it still boasts of providing adequate nutritional requirements for its end consumers. It is recommended to eat various plant-based sources of protein to achieve the needed amount of amino acids. Some sources are lentils, quinoa, peanuts, and tofu.

  • Tofu and soybeans. This is said to have the richest source of proteins amongst plants.
  • Lentils. Aside from proteins, you can also get fiber, iron, and potassium from this source.
  • Peanuts. Protein-rich and improves the health of your heart.
  • Chickpeas. May be eaten hot or cold. Highest protein content can be benefited from cooked source.
  • Almonds. Aside from protein, this is also a great source of Vitamin E.


meat-based protein sources

For bodybuilders, this is a more popular choice since this aids more in building muscle mass. Additionally, this also contributes greatly to muscle recovery after a rigorous workout.

  1. Seafoods. Usually low in fat, making it an excellent source of protein. Food sources – fish, shrimp
  2. White meat poultry. This is for your lean protein source. Food source – chicken & turkey meat
  3. Dairy products. These are not only excellent sources of food but is also rich in calcium. Food sources – milk, cheese, yogurt
  4. Eggs. These are one of the lesser expensive sources of protein. Egg whites contain the most protein.
  5. Red meat. Lean beef not only tastes good but is also very high in protein.

Protein Supplements

protein supplements

These are concentrated sources of protein. This has shown to be in demand amongst bodybuilders. There are a variety of options that one can choose from according to their sources.

Whey Protein

This comes from water-soluble milk. This type has consistently proven its ability to contribute to muscle growth and recovery. During the process of making cheese, the liquid that separates from the curds is what we call whey protein. A complete protein that it is, this type of supplement is digested quickly and contains a rich source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). This amino acid contributes greatly to muscle growth and muscle recovery after endurance and resistance exercises. Once digested and distributed into the bloodstream, it is then ready for the creation of a new muscle.

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Casein Protein

Next is casein protein which is also derived from milk. However, this one has a slower digestion and absorption rate in the body. This is because casein produces a gel during interaction with the stomach acid, which results in a gradual absorption of amino acids into the bloodstream. It results to more steady muscle growth. This is particularly beneficial after an exercise since the protein source is rich in glutamine, which is an amino acid that helps speed up muscle recovery.

Egg Protein

This is an excellent source of high-quality protein and is easily digested. Typically sourced from egg whites rather than the whole egg, this gives you less feeling of fullness since the high-fat yolks have been removed. This is a very good source of essential amino acids.

Pea Protein

For vegans and those with allergies to dairy products, this is a popular choice. This is sourced from fiber-rich legume which contains all, except for one, of the essential amino acids. Also a rich source of BCAAs, pea protein has a comparably slower rate of digestion than whey protein but is digested faster than casein protein. In addition, it also has the ability to give you that feeling of fullness just like the dairy protein.

Hemp Protein

Also, plant-sourced, this supplement has been steadily gaining its popularity. While more research has yet to be done, it does appear to be well-digested and also contains several essential amino acids.

Mixed Plant Protein

Normally, two or more protein sources are combined to produce this. This has slower digestion than the animal proteins and has the tendency to limit the amino acids which the body normally needs immediately after exercise.

When choosing protein supplements, consider the purpose and goals. For muscle building and recovery, fast-digesting proteins like whey are recommended post-workout. For sustained protein release, casein or mixed plant proteins are beneficial, particularly before bed. Dietary restrictions and allergies should also be considered. Those with dairy allergies might opt for egg, pea, or hemp proteins, while vegans or vegetarians would prefer plant-based options. Digestibility and tolerance are important; for instance, whey protein hydrolysates are pre-digested for those with lactose intolerance. The nutrient composition of protein supplements is another factor; look for products with minimal additives and fillers and those that also provide vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

Determining the optimal protein intake depends on various factors including age, sex, weight, physical activity level, and specific health goals.

For the average adult, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs) should consume about 56 grams of protein daily. However, athletes and active individuals often have higher protein needs. Endurance athletes might need 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, while strength athletes might need 1.6 to 2.0 grams per kilogram to support muscle repair and growth.

Older adults may benefit from higher protein intake, around 1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight, to maintain muscle mass and strength. Pregnant and lactating women also have increased protein needs due to the demands of fetal growth and milk production. Recommendations often suggest an additional 10-15 grams of protein per day above the standard RDA.

For bodybuilders and those aiming for significant muscle growth, higher protein intake is often necessary. A common guideline is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Using this guideline, a bodybuilder weighing 200 lbs would need 200 grams of protein per day.

It’s not just the quantity of protein that matters, but also the quality. High-quality, complete proteins from animal sources or a combination of plant sources are ideal for meeting amino acid needs. Protein intake should be evenly distributed across meals, with 20-30 grams per meal, to optimize muscle protein synthesis. Consuming protein immediately after exercise, around 20-40 grams, aids in muscle repair and growth. Combining protein with carbohydrates post-exercise can further enhance recovery.

While protein is essential, excessive intake beyond 30% of total caloric intake can strain the kidneys and lead to dehydration, especially if not accompanied by adequate fluid intake. High protein intake without sufficient carbohydrates and fats can lead to metabolic imbalances and reduced energy availability for other physiological processes.

In practical terms, incorporating a source of protein in every meal is beneficial. For instance, include eggs or Greek yogurt at breakfast, chicken or tofu in salads at lunch, and fish or beans at dinner. Snacks like nuts, seeds, or protein bars can help meet daily protein needs. On workout days, slightly increase protein intake, especially post-workout, to support recovery. On rest days, maintain moderate protein intake to aid in ongoing muscle repair and maintenance. Monitoring and adjusting protein intake based on how your body responds is crucial. Consult with a nutritionist or dietitian to tailor protein intake to specific health needs and goals.


Protein has always proven itself to be very beneficial in our bodily functions. With the proper consumption, partnered with the correct caloric intake and enough amount of exercise, one is definitely able to achieve the fitness goal that he dreams of.


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