Protein is a crucial component of the body. It exists in every cell from muscles to hair and has the role of building, repairing and maintaining the body’s structures. It is especially important for combat athletes to receive a sufficient amount of protein due to the high intensity of their workout, aiding both in performance and recovery. Performance Protein provides the body with a source of energy, which is especially necessary after a workout. Approximately 90 minutes after exercise, muscle glycogen stores are almost completely drained and the body searches for an alternative source of fuel. This can be the muscle tissue itself, which not only hinders the development of muscles but also creates soreness. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to generate energy and reduces tissue cannibalization. Recovery The most commonly known benefit of protein is its ability to recover the body. During exercise, muscles suffer minor tears that need to be repaired. When you consume protein post-workout, your body sends amino acids to the damaged muscles. This stimulates the growth of myofibrils - the filaments that make up the muscles - which increases the volume and size of the muscle fibers. If the body is severely lacking in protein, athletes will experience prolonged recovery periods, difficulty strengthening muscles and suppression of the immune system. Any efforts during workouts will therefore likely be ineffective in achieving results. Quantity The recommended intake of protein depends on the type of exercise the individual does. Endurance athletes are recommended to consume about 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on a daily basis and strength athletes are advised to consume 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. As both endurance and strength are key physical attributes for combat athletes to have, the encouraged daily dose of protein should sit within this range. It should be noted that the body can only absorb 30g of protein at a time. So rather than piling it all in one meal, it’s best to spread your protein intake throughout the day. Timing There are a number of times throughout the day that you can consume protein to reap maximum benefits:
- Before a workout: As explained above, protein provides our bodies with amino acids that help build and maintain muscles. Consuming protein before a workout can activate this process during exercising and afterward.
- After a workout: A snack or meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates is ideal at this time to replenish energy levels and aid the recovery process.
- Before bed: While your brain is sleeping, your body is actively recovering from the day. A small protein-rich snack just before lights out can help aid this process overnight.