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You see it all the time at the gym, people finishing a workout, reaching into their gym bag, and pulling out their trusty shaker bottle filled with their favorite protein flavor. Now, I don't know if they know just what that tasty little drink does for them; at first, I didn't either. So I thought this week I would give you the scoop, err, the science behind what goes on when we take a scoop of protein.  Here goes nothing. 

 Protein and its amino acids (the building blocks for protein) are an essential part of muscle growth. But wait! That's not all. They also provide crucial biological and biochemical signals for growth and recovery, especially after a strenuous exercise session. So, let me pull it all together for you, and let's look at the role protein plays in muscle growth and recovery. As you go about your day, your body goes back and forth between several processes. The first is called muscle protein synthesis ("anabolism"), which is protein production to build and repair muscle damage from exercise. The second process is muscle breakdown ("catabolism"), where protein is lost due to training or energy usage. It's the body's yin to the yang, so no worries.  The key to building muscle is to maximize your time in anabolism and minimize your time in catabolism. This process creates what we refer to as net protein synthesis. 

 This brings me back to that scoop of protein in the shaker bottle. After ingesting your supplement, there is a brief but vigorous period of elevated blood amino acids, known as hyperaminoacidemia. Hyperaminoacidemia stimulates greater than average amounts of muscle protein synthesis. So, would you care to guess what else boosts your amino acid levels? Why it's the exercise, of course. An excellent hard workout produces a pretty extreme anabolic response when you consume your protein before or after a training session.   

 Now let's address which ones you should buy. There are so many on the market. Do they all work the same? Are they all made the same? I can answer that, no, and HECK no. Let me just cut to the chase. Get yourself a protein powder with under five total ingredients. The less, the better because it limits the number of fake products in your protein. Another great rule is to stick to the words you know and can pronounce. In other words, if you don't see a word in the ingredient section, you should probably not buy it. Whey protein is the best pre/post dietary protein supplement if you can tolerate it. 

So, what is so special about the protein in this equation? There's been plenty of research trying to determine that. And those in the know say it's pretty straightforward. It is the amino acid leucine. Leucine is one of the protein's three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the most powerful. The leucine contained in whey protein increases protein production while simultaneously decreasing the rate of protein loss. Remember that we all process foods differently, so if you have an issue with whey, find a plant-based protein with less than five ingredients and add leucine. Nutrasumma pea protein is my favorite plant-based protein, and they make great whey! That, friends is how you want to play the protein production game.

 Here is my final point on the subject of protein. All proteins are not made the same, and our bodies process them differently. So, in the search for your "perfect" protein powder, look for products that offer at least 25 grams of protein per serving, under five total ingredients, and a complete BCAA profile. Checking these boxes will optimize your results. 

Enjoy your week, everybody! Be great today!!!