Why protein isn’t the only nutrient fitness enthusiasts should focus on
The requirement for protein does increase with the volume and intensity of exercise and training. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) suggests a daily intake of 1.4–2g of protein per kilogram of body weight for most exercising individuals looking to build and maintain muscle mass.
However, having a healthy and varied diet can provide enough high-quality protein to meet any increased protein demands. To put into context how easy it is to get enough protein in your regular diet, two medium eggs contain 11g of protein, a grilled chicken breast (about half the size of your hand) has roughly 38g, half a can of baked beans promises 10g and a bowl of Greek yoghurt served with granola and fruit includes about 20g.
Protein intake should be spread out evenly, every three to four hours across the day. The optimal time to consume protein is a matter of individual preference and tolerance. Although having a meal with good source of protein (or a snack with protein) after exercise might be beneficial, people don’t need to get too caught up on timings. The effects of exercise on muscle gain can last for 24 hours, so focusing on having regular meals throughout the day is key.
So, while there is a plausible explanation for protein receiving so much attention from fitness enthusiasts, high protein intake does not automatically equate to muscle gains. Without proper amounts of carbohydrate (which is our main source of energy), the body will use the protein as energy rather than use it to build muscle.
As for exercises that will help improve muscle growth, resistance exercises are great – such as working with resistance bands or machines. Body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats also work well, as does lifting weights – or simply carrying heavy shopping bags.