Protein And Weightlifting: A Basic Overview

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There is much literature on the proper diet, and much that conflicts.  However, the basics are agreed upon by at least of plurality of knowledgeable people.  The FDA Pyramid Guide  for daily nutrition is pretty middle of the road, and I don’t think you could go much wrong with using that as a base.  However, I do personally suspect we need more Vitamin C than the Pyramid suggests, so I’d bump that up.  I personally ratchet-down breads and sugars.  But if you’re an active person you may need to operate in the high end of the suggested carbohydrate intake.

The thing a weightlifter needs more of than the average person is of course protein.  This is because protein is composed of the building blocks (amino acids) that one needs to remodel the body.

Carbohydrates and Fats contain some of the body’s most fundamentally necessary atoms… containing, as they do… Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen.  But Proteins contain these same atoms– plus Nitrogen.  In fact, according to our authors, “amino” means “nitrogen-containing.”

Of the nearly two dozen amino acids we use, there are only eight which cannot be produced by the body itself.  They are therefore called the “Eight Essential Amino Acids“– it is essential to get them from our diet.  For the curious, the eight are: Lysine, Methionine, Phenyl-alanine, Tryptophan… Threonine… Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine.  I group them like this because I made-up a joke to help remember them:  “How did the broken-legged man get down the volcano?”  He… “LMPT T LIV”… “limped to live.”  (Hey, there’s only one vowel… not an easy acronymn to make).  Truth is, it is doubtful– especially in the internet age– that you have any real need to memorize them… Perhaps if you’re some variety of vegetarian-etc you might need to keep a special eye for a few of them.

However, if you’re like me and will eat anything that doesn’t eat you first, you won’t have to worry too much about getting in your essential aminos (aminoes?)… As our authors tell us, “high levels of Essential Amino Acids can be found in any number of animal-based proteins.”

I think many people are perplexed as to what the real dangers (if any) of a vegetarian-etc life-style are.  While reading Essentials Of Strength Training, I discovered some of the answers… Turns out, there are several nutritional items to be concerned about if one eats not of fowl, fish, or flesh…


Vegetarians have an increased risk of consuming inadequate:




-Vitamin B-6


Take out dairy and eggs too, and you can add to the list…

-Vitamin B-12


While we’re on the subject diet and variety, anyone not eating their fruits and veggies will probably not be getting all the Vitamin C and Beta Carotene they need… and, our authors add, the “exclusion of grains increases the risk of inadequate riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin.”

The authors also state that Rasmussen and colleagues found that taking an amino acid supplement shortly after resistance exercise, “demonstrated significantly greater anabolic drive– that is, the building of new muscle tissue.”. 

And we learn that Tipton tested what would happen if a weightlifter took amino acids together with a good dose of sugars (36 grams) thirty minutes before working-out and found that the post-workout anabolic (muscle-building) response for the three hours after the workout was 158% greater than when the same supplements were taken after the workout.



“Whether the protein supplies amino acids in amounts proportionate to the body’s needs determines the Protein Quality.”

The “high quality” proteins are all of animal origin, including dairy and eggs.

If a protein source is “deficient in one or more Essential Amino Acids” they are said to be “low quality” proteins.  These would include all non-beasty sources, such as:  beans (including soy), grains, vegetables.

Whey is a little tricky since its protein quality depends on how it is processed, but it does start as a dairy product, so it is typically considered a better protein source than, say, soy.  However, according to the book, soy is the highest quality of the vegetarian-etc low quality protein sources.

Grains and some other plant proteins tend to be low in Lysine (the first “L” of “LMPT T LIV”).  Beans and certain other plant proteins tend to be low in Methionine.

It is therefore only logical for a vegetarian-etc to mix their sources of protein throughout the day, the intention of course being that whatever amino acids one type of protein source lacks, you can get it from eating another type of protein.  So there you have it… license to chomp on seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes all throughout the day.


The authors list some tasty-sounding combos:

— beans-and-rice

— corn (tortillas) and beans

— peanut butter sandwiches


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