We all know that we need protein, but what is it, how much do we need, when should we eat it...there's many questions surrounding protein, protein quality, and protein intake and in this episode, Peter Attia and Dr. Don Layman lay it out for us.
Super interesting with lots of facts you may not have known, you're gonna want to give it a listen!
But if you don't have 2-3 hours, we've laid out some interesting talking points from the episode for you.
We got you.
Organized by topic, use these takeaways to give you a better understanding of protein.
- Protein and RDA
- Animal vs. Plant Proteins
- Essential Amino Acids
- Protein Absorption
- Muscle Protein Synthesis
- Refeeds and Muscle Growth
PROTEIN AND RDA
RDA = "recommended"
Essential means our bodies can't make it. We need to get it from our diets, this is where protein comes in.
Here's an eye opener from Don Layman,
"...protein we should think of as a vitamin pill, we don't have a daily requirement for a vitamin pill, we have a requirement for the 12 vitamins in the pill. We don't actually have a daily requirement for protein, we have a requirement for nine or 20 amino acids inside of it."
ANIMAL PROTEINS VS. PLANT PROTEINS
- Animal proteins are complete sources of protein where all amino acids are present.
- Absorption is usually 95% of higher.
- Animal sources have balanced levels on amino acids in all meats, however different protein sources have different make ups of amino acids.
- Plant proteins are incomplete sources of protein because not all amino acids are present.
- Protein found in plants are there for the purpose of the plant and is attached to fibers and structures for life and growth.
- In raw form, plant proteins are only 60-70% available due to the fiber content.
- However, if a plant protein has been isolated, such as pea protein isolate, the bioavailability increases.
DIAAS = Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score
It's purpose is to calculate the amino acid quality of food proteins that are based on ileal digestibility.
You can use a DIAAS score to determine the quality of your protein source. Quality scores are based on three amino acids; Lysine, Methionine, and Leucine.
DIAAS Score = 100+ "Excellent" Quality
DIAAS Score = 75-99 "Good" Quality
DIAAS Score = < 75 Cannot be claimed a protein source.
See the comparison of DIAAS scores for animal and plant based proteins in the table below.
Scores are percentages. To read the chart below think of 1 as 100%.
ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
Ready for an interesting tidbit?
Amino acids are derived from bacteria...yes bacteria.
Here's the breakdown from Dr. Layman:
- The primary source of amino acids in nature lies in the bacteria of roots and plants.
- Bacteria takes inorganic nitrogen and forms organic amines to form protein in plants.
- Ruminant animals (cattle, elk, bison, deer, etc.) feed on the plants and ingest the plant proteins.
- During digestion, the bacteria in the gut of these ruminant animals then upcycle non amino acid nitrogen from the plant protein and transforms them into concentrated versions of amino acids.
- These concentrated version of amino acids are why we should be eating "grass fed" protein.
"For every 60g of plant based protein an animal eats, they'll "upcycle" it into 100g of amino acid balanced proteins."
Does your body waste protein? According to Dr. Layman, no, it doesn't.
The myth is that your body can ONLY absorb a certain amount of protein per sitting.
In actuality, there is no waste or limit.
Let's say you eat 100g of protein in one sitting. Your body can use anywhere from 20-60g of that protein (depending on quality) for muscles and an anabolic response.
The remaining 40-80g will be utilized by the liver!
MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS
To get your muscles out of its catabolic state, Dr. Layman says that you need to hit 3g of Leucine in your FIRST meal - this translates into at least 30g of protein.
If you're wondering why your muscles would be in a catabolic state...it's due to your overnight fast aka sleep.
During these hours, protein synthesis decreases and mTOR is down regulated and inhibited.
You need to jumpstart your systems and get them out of this catabolic state which is why your FIRST MEAL IS THE MOST CRITICAL!
The second most important is your last meal - to prepare your body for the fast. Prioritize your first and last meals by protein loading.
REFFEDS TO MAXIMIZE MUSCLE GROWTH
When should you take protein after a workout? 30 minutes? 2 hours? 6?
In untrained individuals - you have a 2 hour window to get your protein in and maximize protein synthesis and muscle growth.
For the well trained individual, you'll see less of a post exercise effect. There's no big difference between refeeding two hours post exercise and having 3-4 high protein meals per day.
"You won't see any difference in either mass or strength." - Dr. Layman
What does this mean?
If you're new to training, get your protein in quickly post workout. If you're well-trained, you can be less maniacal about meal timing and focus on the big picture...protein quality and spreading it out throughout your meals for best absorption and metabolization.
Protein is a crucial part of training and longevity.
When planning and meal prepping, prioritize protein, then build the rest of your meal around it.
One last fact we'll leave you with...protein is an ABSOLUTE number not a percentage of your calories.
If you've made it this far you're committed. Listen to the full podcast to broaden your understanding of protein.