Aaron Savvy, ACSM Certified Trainer
Hey, Aaron. You often write about the importance of eating enough protein when building muscle, but what exactly is protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient. There is no life without protein. Protein is contained in every part of your body—the skin, muscles, hair, blood, organs, eyes, even fingernails and bone. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in your body.
Proteins are composed of small units called amino acids, the building blocks of protein. When we eat foods that contain protein, the body breaks it down into these amino acids, which are necessary for building muscle and creating blood. There are 22 amino acids, divided into two categories—essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.
Eating enough protein is essential to maintain a healthy body. Our bodies can make some of the essential acids on their own, but certain amino acids must come from eating foods containing protein.
If the body sustains an injury, such as a cut, protein helps with tissue repair. Along with carbohydrates, protein provides energy for the body, which helps keep us from becoming fatigued. Another benefit of protein is that it helps the body fight off illness and disease and keeps the immune system functioning properly.
Proteins are considered either incomplete or complete. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids, while incomplete proteins do not. Good sources of complete proteins come from animals—eggs, milk, chicken and fish all contain complete proteins. Healthy food choices for incomplete proteins include nuts (such as almonds), beans and whole grains.
To get the proper health benefits of protein, most people need about 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
I’ve been going to the gym for a while now, but I’m not really seeing any progress and I’m starting to feel frustrated. How long does it take to start seeing results from working out?
—Todd, Silver Lake
Getting results comes in three parts—eating right, working out and consistency. Ultimately, 80 percent of how you look is going to be what you put into your body. The other 20 percent of shaping your body is going to be physical activity and/or working out. The more consistent you are in adhering to these steps, the more your body will recognize and begin to learn exactly what you’re teaching it.
If you are looking for a time period, generally speaking, I say three months. Though everyone is different, three months is a good time period to see change. The first thing you will notice is an increase in your energy level, the second will be weight loss and last will be the firming of muscles. Weight loss will come first before establishing the lean hard muscle mass you are looking for. It takes time for those layers of muscle to build and create definition.
With that said, if your body fat percentage is 18-25 percent, you’re looking at 3-6 months before lean muscle mass and definition is developed.