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Protein Consumption for Martial Artists

Martial arts training is physically demanding, especially if you are in a tournament. The timing of protein consumption is critical for muscles to rebuild and recover. It all depends on something called protein synthesis.

Protein synthesis is a process that repairs broken down muscles, mainly happening from training or competing. However, your body is constantly going through this process, fluctuating at low levels throughout the day. Conveniently, when you train or compete, your muscles break down, and, at the same time, it stimulates protein synthesis. Protein synthesis also simply happens when you ingest protein.

Most people and athletes have poor timing replenishing. How well you utilize protein synthesis will make a difference either enhancing your training and athletic performance or being adequate. The key to using protein pre, during, and post-training or competition, is to reduce the level of muscle breakdown for optimal recovery.

Before Training/Competition

Eating protein before training activates and increases protein synthesis. It has a greater effect on muscle repair and growth, not just afterward. Plan to minimize damage.

Eating protein before training and competition will:

  • Improve muscle recovery, inducing a faster more effective recovery.
  • Suppress muscular breakdown to increase performance.

The only issue with eating before is less time to digest. So, consuming 20g of whey protein 1-2 hours before is perfect! About 2-3 hours before, you can have a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Keep it naturally cooked and as light as possible for easy digestion. Digestion uses a lot of energy so eating a big meal with oils or sauces can be counterproductive. A pre-workout meal could be half chicken breast, potatoes, and vegetables.

During Training/Competition

The focus is to repair and minimize damage caused by training/competition for faster recovery.

  • For training less than two hours, you don’t need to worry about protein during the training. Pre and post are ok.
  • Training lasting more than two hours- tournaments, multi-round fights, etc., consume 20-25 grams of protein per hour, as well as 40g carbohydrate drink.
  • If you don’t want to consume protein, you can use essential amino acids (EAA) and branched amino acids (BCAA) together, to prevent breakdown as well.

After Training/Competition

Food is the best source, however, many times it is not practical. By consuming a fast-absorbing protein, like whey protein immediately after your workout, you’re supplying your muscles with protein and EAA needed to repair and grow.

Immediately after exercise, within the first 0-20 minutes is best. You can have a full meal 2 hours later. Although protein synthesis is highest 24 hours after training, the most effective time frame to ingest protein is within 20 minutes, it is like the spark that starts the fire.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the best to use. It has all 9 EAA’s to make a complete protein. It stays soluble in the stomach for fast-acting digestion to rapidly enter the small intestine. Proteins like soy and casein are digested more slowly. Many whey powders boost their muscle recovery by adding BCAA’s. BCAA’s give a big boost to repair and recovery when combined with whey protein. Leucine is a BCAA that has a dramatic effect on increasing protein synthesis in comparison to other EAA’s and BCAA ‘s to increase muscle growth and preserve lean body mass, the reason whey protein powders add it.

Helpful Tips:

  • It is best to consume protein at about 20-35 g at a time. Anything more than 35g will probably get wasted. So, it is best to space it out throughout the day.
  • Potassium is important and enhances the transport of EAA’s and BCAA’s.
  • To maintain normal body weight, consume 1g of protein per kg of body weight. For athletic people consume about 1.2-1.6g. The higher the protein the more muscle growth.
  • Have whey protein 2 hours before sleep to assist in protein synthesis.
  • Take 5 g BCAA’s 30 minutes before your training and greater protein synthesis will occur.
  • If you take whey protein, you don’t need EAA.
  • For protein synthesis to be most effective, combine whey protein and BCAA or EAA and BCAA.
  • Structure your protein consumption around your training for best results.
  • 20g before / 30g after and structure the rest around the number of meals you eat in a day.

And most importantly: you should consult a specialist: your coach or sensei before using any supplements!

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