Hit the gym, smash a steak, chug a shake, and gain. That’s basically how it works, right? Well, no, sadly it’s not exactly that simple. In fact, there’s a limit to how much protein your body can absorb in one sitting.
According to dieticians and Nike long distance runner, Linden Hall, that upper limit of protein absorption is around 30 grams in one sitting for a full-grown man. Anything above this amount heads to other areas of the body or passes straight through and into the toilet.
Hall gives an exact idea of exactly what 30 grams of protein can look like; 1 cup of Greek yoghurt with nuts, a palm sized piece of chicken, or one scoop of whey protein. Any product offering you a protein hit above this is pure marketing gimmick. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
“Skeletal muscle protein synthesis is maximized by 25 to 35 grams of high-quality protein during a meal,” confirms Dr Doug Paddon-Jones, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch, when talking to Men’s Health US.
When you exercise, tiny tears occur in the muscles, and protein helps fill these tears, repairing the muscle and putting on size. And while there’s no doubting the benefits of protein post-workout, eating too can place you at risk of causing more damage that good, inhibiting your nutrient uptake from other foods.
So, if there’s a limit to how much protein your body can absorb at one time, how the heck are you meant to get swole? Hit the carbs!
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but as your body’s first source of energy, you really shouldn’t be avoiding them, especially if you’re looking to put on some size. Without sufficient carbohydrate intake, you risk entering a catabolic state of muscle soreness, poor recovery, and limited progress. Protein is the obvious go-to when body building due to its role in damaged muscle tissue repair, while carbohydrates are converted to glycogen, energy stored in the muscles, giving them essential extra size and strength.
If you’re training at least 2 times per week, then you should work towards eating carbs for at least half of your dietary intake to prevent the breakdown of muscles for energy, suggests The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, making sure you’re ingesting the right carbohydrates is key, avoiding processed sugars. An easy win? Fruit.
Eating fruits high in potassium is a great way to top up on electrolytes without the accompanying processed sugars found in sports drinks. And why is potassium a hero when it comes to muscle building? Essentially, it’s an electrolyte that is responsible for the contraction of muscles, which is lost during sweating. Therefore, replacing potassium quickly means you’re back on the squat rack sooner, cramp free.
Not only a great source of natural sugars, watermelon also contains citrulline, which is an amino acid responsible for the production of nitric oxide. If this is sounding a lot more like a science experiment than muscle building agent, don’t worry, there is a simpler explanation. Nitric oxide is a notorious provider of blood flow to the muscles, increasing their size and delivering a solid load of recovery nutrients. To put it in perspective, nitric oxide is reportedly used as a more effective ‘muscle builder’ than Viagra when it comes to erectile dysfunction.