You should be eating a high protein diet. When I say “protein” I’m talking about foods that had a face, mother and soul. If it didn’t run, swim, slither or fly, we’re talking about salad ingredients. There are a multitude of reasons for choosing animal protein over plant protein for health and performance. Angering social media soy lovers and people who hang their hats on Netflix documentaries for life changing information are just a bonus.
The only thing I enjoy more than eating muscle is building it. To do so, a super model’s portion of protein just won’t cut it. If your goal is to get stronger, bigger, leaner, more powerful, you need a positive nitrogen balance. So, cook up a steak and tuck in because you’ll want to level up your carnivorous character after reading this one.
Nitrogen, the big letter N from the poster in high school chemistry class is essential for growth and reproduction. One’s nitrogen balance is measured by their nitrogen intake versus nitrogen output. Having a positive nitrogen balance means you have consumed more nitrogen than you have excreted. A positive balance is associated with pregnancy, growth, and anabolism. Incongruently, a negative nitrogen balance is associated with serious tissue injury, fasting, and catabolism.
When energy is expended without proper nutrient refueling, a negative energy balance will occur causing the loss of vital muscle tissue and potentially damage the organs. Over time, this could result in the body using its own blood to assist internal organs. A negative nitrogen balance has such a profound impact on the human body it can be seen clearly in the extremely bloated stomachs of malnourished children in third world countries.
While all macronutrients contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, only protein contains the nitrogen molecule and you need to eat a surplus of it to negate the impact of training. Your body uses protein to repair tissues, as well as to make enzymes and hormones. Protein is also the building block of skeletal muscle tissues, bones, cartilage, hair, skin, nails, and blood. The average Joe and Jane need protein just to make sure everything above is in working order. If you’re an athlete who is training for a sport, or someone who works out regularly, your protein needs will far exceed those of the general population due to the stress and breakdown of muscle tissue through intense training. While caloric needs will largely depend on the type of training you are doing and your athletic goals, I typically start people eating 30% of their daily calories in the form of animal based protein. With this approach of high protein intake, we can ensure all protein needs are met.
So, it makes sense that eating enough protein should tip the scales in favor of a positive nitrogen balance, right? Well, yes and no. It’s not enough to just eat protein. You also need to also make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates and fat to supply energy. If your diet is high in protein but severely lacking in the other macronutrients, protein will be used for energy thus robbing your muscles of the amino acids they need for growth. To get your nitrogen balance up, you’ll need a diet high in protein but also well balanced with carbohydrates and/or fat.
To put your nitrogen balance on the plus side, you’ll also need adequate sleep and rest. Sleep is crucial for performance. If you’re training repeatedly without adequate recovery, your body could use the excess protein you had stored for growth to provide energy for the next workout. Simply put, if you want to grow, and grow you must, you need plenty of rest to make sure your body is using protein towards a positive nitrogen balance.
You likely never knew in high school chemistry that the table of elements you were memorizing held the key to muscle growth. Nitrogen, a molecule found in the protein we eat must be consumed in excess of what we utilize if we want a positive nitrogen balance. A positive nitrogen balance is associated with growth and anabolism and necessary for optimal muscle performance. If growth is what you’re after and a positive nitrogen balance is what you need, then a high protein diet is going to get you there. So, if you want a body that shows off your hard work in the gym put more dead animal on your plate and get your nitrogen balance on the plus side.