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These days, it seems like there are more and more people taking in more protein in some form or another. Just if we walk around a local grocery store, and you'll likely find an assortment of protein-enriched cereals and even "high"-protein oatmeal. Whether the type of protein is soy, whey, casein, or milk... it's all about one thing protein.

Of course, one of the best ways to get the amount of protein that our diet requires is through solid food, but as I am sure many of people who do heavy workouts would agree, it is not always easy to get all of their protein though solid foods. Especially when we carry out a full time job and do not always have time to prepare meals, through which to get our protein. This is where protein shakes have their place.

So why is it that so many people doing heavy workouts take protein shakes? Well, protein is used for the production of muscles. Proteins are also used to manufacture hormones, enzymes, cellular messengers, nucleic acids, and immune-system components. Without adequate protein, our bodies can't put together the structures that make up every cell, tissue, and organ, nor can it generate the biochemical substances needed for cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, growth, and healing. Without an adequate amount of protein our muscles wouldn’t heal up as quickly and could therefore lead to straining our muscle which could lead to injury of our muscles.

Also, while coming to bodybuilders, after a workout the one of the best thing to get protein into the body so that the protein can be delivered to our muscles, to begin healing the micro tears (very small tears in the muscle tissue, caused by intense contraction of the muscle during workout) in the muscle is to have a protein drink. Because solid food takes more time to digest and to break down the protein and send it to the muscles, it can be best to take a protein shake immediately following a workout, since protein shakes only take about 30 minutes to reach the muscle after ingestion. Definitely, we can see the advantage to taking a protein shake in this instance. The same case applies to many of the people doing hard workouts leading to more straining of muscles, which can be supported by the instant protein drinks.

Why protein has become a favorite supplement for those seeking to put on muscle and enhance their physiques as well as improve their health. In order to decide which protein is best for a particular need, typically one would use a specific gauge of some sort (e.g., protein quality tests) to determine which protein to use. The most commonly used criteria to measure the quality of a protein is Biological Value (or BV for short), which is the amount of nitrogen (body protein in grams) replaceable by 100 grams of protein in the adult diet.

Proteins with the highest BV are considered by many to be the best for promoting growth, but this is an often disputed issue among scientists. However, most scientists directly involved with protein research agree that the higher the BV, the better the protein is digested, used, and retained in the body. This should equate into more lean tissue gained, all things being equal (i.e., calories, exercise choice, etc.).

The minimum amount of protein that we should take in for building muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (for instance, if we weigh 200 pounds than the minimum amount of protein we should take in is 200 grams of protein for muscle growth). Any additional protein that exceeds the daily minimum for muscle gain just helps to speed up the healing process.

Even though there has been debate over a maximum amount of protein one should take in, it is my belief that it is not possible for somebody to take in too much protein, however, if one takes in huge amounts of protein it is a good idea to supplement our diet with calcium and magnesium since excessive amounts of protein has been proven to deplete the amount of calcium and magnesium in the body. However, I emphasize high protein ingestion for more than one reason. Not only do muscles require the marvelous ingredient to repair and grow but also three-quarters of the solids in the body are comprised of proteins.

So now we know the benefits and how much one should take in, but the question arises, when is the best time to take protein into our body? Well, one of the times that our body is in need of it the most is immediately following a workout since our body starts to heal the muscle right after a workout, taking protein at that time will give the body the fuel it needs to heal and grow.

Following ones workout its a good idea to take in small meals containing high protein in about three to four hour intervals, thereby providing our muscles with a constant supply of protein to help our muscles heal. It is also vital to take in a protein drink or a slow burning protein (such as cottage cheese) before one goes to bed therefore providing our muscles with protein, since our body will be slowly depleted of protein as we sleep. Breakfast is a key meal as well, because your body awaits nourishment after sleeping for 8-12 hours. One of the best tips of advice I can give one though, is to eat consistently, day in and day out.

Regardless of your goals, protein should be regarded as a foundational nutrient of any nutrition program as it's an essential ingredient for achieving optimal progress in physique enhancement and performance. It's certainly no secret that any person who is generally active in sports and/or trains with weights or other resistance will benefit from getting enough protein. However, even those who don’t body build can find advantages to taking in protein. Many enjoy the anti-aging effects that a high protein diet can result in. But the only way to find out how beneficial protein can be for us, is to try it for ourselves.

The Importance of Protein Intake