As most people know, we need to consume a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrate, protein and good fats in order to fuel our bodies and remain healthy, and this becomes even more important when we are athletes, as our muscles burn more energy, both when we are active and when resting. Therefore, many athletes focus on carbohydrate intake, or carbo-loading, as it provides the fuel that your muscles run on, but protein is just as important, because it is essential in both the muscle-building process and the recovery process.
During your run or training in the gym, more muscle protein is being broken down than added to the muscle. Therefore, taking in protein immediately after exercise is essential to help reverse the impact of exercise on your muscles. Now, while many athletes turn to meat – we all know how much South Africans love their meat done on a braai – as well as dairy products and eggs for their protein needs, one of the best protein sources available is soy protein, to be found in many products from soups, breads and breakfast cereals to dairy and meat alternatives. Some people still look down on these soy alternatives, saying they prefer the real thing, but there are big benefits to be found in soy products:
? Low in cholesterol and saturated fat, which reduces risk of heart disease.
? Low GI – Sustains energy levels and keeps you fuller for longer, which is ideal if you want to watch your weight.
? Contains essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins – great for kids.
? Preserves lean muscle mass.
? Helps stimulate superior recovery time and makes athletes less injury-prone.
BRING ON THE SOY
Another big bonus of soy protein is that when combined with casein and whey (two protein types commonly found in dairy products), you get a triple blend of protein types that are digested by your body at different rates, thus creating a timed release that prolongs your ‘anabolic window,’ the amount of time after exercise it takes to build muscle. Whey is a ‘fast protein’ because it is absorbed very quickly, while soy protein is absorbed at an intermediate rate. Casein is a ‘slow protein’ and takes several hours to be digested. This means the blend can carry your repair and growth process, and the soy bridges the gap between other protein types.
“Within the first hour after your exercise, 20 to 25 grams of high quality protein should be consumed. This will drive rates of muscle protein synthesis above muscle breakdown,” explains Dr Greg Paul, Global Director for Sports Nutrition at Solae, one of the world’s leading soy-producing companies. He adds that the triple blend is a much better option for athletes: “Single proteins are fine for normal growth and development, but for athletes looking to pack on muscle or runners logging 10 to 20km a day and hoping to set a new PB in a marathon, the blend is essential. They get an edge.”
The blend then extends the release of essential amino acids to the muscles, and because of the natural antioxidants found in soy protein, you can also reduce the oxidative stress of exercise on the body. In other words, you can recover quicker after a long run. “It takes at least 24 to 48 hours for your muscles to recover,” explains Greg, “and the blend provides amino acids for up to five hours. So if you have a shake with these proteins in it for example, it will last you until your next meal.”