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Protein is the bodies’ building block, and makes up all of our structures, whether it’s a muscle, bone, ligament, hair or even hormone. We typically need about a gram of protein for every kilo of body mass each day, but this requirement dramatically increases if you do a lot of exercise or are really trying to build lean muscle mass.

Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, certainly knows plenty about high training volumes and maximising lean muscle mass gains for performance. Quite simply, the more muscle fibres you have, the greater the cross-sectional area of the muscle will be and the greater number of fibres there are capable of producing force. The training done to achieve this of course also produces a lot of metabolic changes, making the muscle fibres capable of turning over increasing amounts of ATP molecules and coping with high levels of lactic acid.

There is a long history of athletes taking protein shakes in sports such as weight lifting and rugby, but more and more the understanding of the importance of protein intake in endurance-based sports such as cycling is increasing.

In order to achieve his status as Britains’ greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy knew that attention to detail was key, including his nutrition. He has made Science in Sport his trusted sports nutrition choice throughout his career, and his desire for high quality protein hasn’t faded with the years.

“Throughout my career I have always tried to do a lot of the little things right, and a big part of that was always managing my nutrition carefully, including making sure I took enough protein. Lots of people look at me and other sprint distance athletes and recognise that protein is a key ingredient to our diets. But taking in high quality protein regularly around three training sessions each day whether I was at home or away was always one of the biggest challenges for me.”

Protein-rich foods such as meat, pulses and dairy products contain the key amino acids that are used as the building blocks to make new proteins in our muscles. Unfortunately though it’s not always easy to eat whole foods so close to training. Often these protein-rich foods need cooking, and contain fats (meat and dairy sources) or fibre (beans and pulses) which would slow down the digestion rate of the protein.

Protein supplements such as shakes provide just the key protein elements you need after training, and typically a good product will try and limit the amount of fat, fibre and usually sugar in it.

“The protein source you choose should ideally contain as many of the different amino acids as possible, and you also want fast absorption into your system. Whey protein is an ideal supplement to use as it has high levels of the key amino acids that support lean muscle rebuilding.”

There are 20 amino acids in total, eight of which are essential, meaning that the body cannot synthesise them itself; they must be eaten within the diet. Three of these essential amino acids are known as branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, namely leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are particularly important for sports performance as they make up approximately a third of lean muscle mass. Animal and dairy proteins such as whey naturally contain high levels of BCAAs.

Serving size is also important. Eating too much protein at any one time is simply a waste of money, research has demonstrated that you only need 20g of protein every three hours to maximally stimulate the rate of muscle protein synthesis.

“Taking in smaller servings of around 20g every three hours or so is the best way to support the growth and maintenance of your lean muscle mass. It’s not always very convenient to eat whole foods this often, so a products like Whey Protein and WHEY20 are a really convenient way to make sure you get high quality protein exactly when you need it.”

Written By

Sir Chris Hoy