Protein and Nitrogen Balance, The Answer To Protein Synthesis And Muscle Growth.
What is nitrogen balance and how can it determine that we are consuming adequate amounts of protein for our bodies?
It is common knowledge that adequate protein intake is an essential part of muscle growth, as 60-70% of our bodily protein is found in our muscles, and makes up 15-20% of our total bodily weight. In fact, adequate protein is essential in multiple bodily functions. Protein is the catalyst for tissue growth and maintenance, enzyme production and biochemical reactions, pH balance, antibody development, nutrient transportation and storage, energy production, and many more vital roles.
Protein is made up of amino acids, some essential and some non-essential. We can obtain sufficient amounts of essential amino acids through diet and eating complete proteins, and/or proper supplementation. However, non-essential amino acids are produced through the liver when our body is functioning properly through physiological factors. When sufficient quantities of essential and non-essential amino acids are available, our bodies can produce enough protein for an optimal anabolic environment. Yet protein intake also varies on many other factors such as age, gender and level of activity, so determining that we are intaking adequate amounts of protein is crucial.
One way to ensure this is through focusing on our bodies nitrogen balance. Nitrogen balance refers to the status of the nitrogen metabolism in the human body. Nitrogen is a key indicator of adequate protein in the body because protein is the only macronutrient that contains nitrogen. A positive nitrogen balance indicates that your body has sufficient protein in order to build muscle, and carry out other vital roles. The ultimate goal is to achieve equilibrium where your nitrogen intake and nitrogen output are equal. Testing this would be sufficient to determine that you are consuming the correct amount of protein for your body.
How can we make sure that we are optimizing our bodies nitrogen balance?
Therefore, the key to optimal muscle growth is a positive and/or equal nitrogen balance. As mentioned, a large factor of obtaining this is through consuming adequate and complete proteins. The simplest, most effective, and efficient way to do this is by consuming one of the purest forms of protein, 100% pure whey isolate. Not only is this the fastest absorbing form of protein for the body, but it contains all 9 essential amino acids mandatory for protein synthesis, including a high dose of leucine, the king of all muscle building amino acids. Through supplementing with BCAAs you are also ensuring the consumption of these aminos. Some other foods that are complete protein sources include eggs, meat, dairy, soy and quinoa.
The other side of achieving better nitrogen balance is through non-essential amino acid production. Glutamine is one of these aminos so supplementing with this will help the body ensure it is getting the non-essential amino acids it needs for protein production. Another important factor in producing these non-essential aminos is creating optimal physiological conditions. Rest is one of the main conditions needed, which includes both sleep and time for recovery after training. Training itself has also been proven to trigger protein synthesis, however, a lower stress environment, both mentally and physiologically, is also important, which means over-training can negate progress.
Why is adequate protein and your body’s nitrogen balance so crucial?
The reason that a positive or balanced nitrogen balance is vital extends beyond just muscle growth. Having a negative nitrogen balance can be detrimental not only to muscle growth by increasing catabolism, but it is also detrimental to organ function as your body will pull nitrogen from it’s organs in order to get the nitrogen it needs. Furthermore, a negative nitrogen balance will lead to deterioration in your already present muscle and leads to a weakened immune system due to a decrease in antibody production in order to fight infection.
So, a higher level of protein in the body leads to a better nitrogen balance, which is important for the reasons listed above. It is the key indicator that one is consuming adequate protein. Adequate protein consumption means optimal muscle growth, and being able to carry out other vital body functions. A proper diet and physical condition is mandatory in order to achieve this. By getting adequate rest and training in, consuming one serving of 100% pure whey protein isolate a day or other complete protein sources, you can ensure you are getting all the essential amino acids in order to set your body up for adequate protein consumption, a positive nitrogen balance, and the maximum amount of gains.