Friday, 27 March 2015

Dr Michael Colgan - When You Eat Protein What Does It Do - Guide For Athletes Part 1

Dr Michael Colgan 24 February 2015

According to popular belief, protein is simple. You need just a good dollop of any complete protein every day to provide all the proteins necessary for optimum muscle growth. After all, locker rooms are awash with burger and bacon wrappers, and Mickey D is an official supplier to the Olympics. They must know their stuff, right. Wrong ! If you swallow this hogwash or the food behind it, don’t bother to read any further. You’ll be fine. But you will never achieve your athletic potential.

The recent science of protein is a complex story. I will attempt to tell it in a few simple words. After 20 years of cooperative research by thousands of scientists worldwide, the human DNA was finally decoded in 2003. By then, however, the same scientists realized that DNA is not the key to life. DNA is simply a code book for making proteins, locked up forever in your chromosomes. It does nothing by itself. Each one of your millions of different DNA codes is released only in response to a precise signal from your environment. In unraveling these signals, biological science is up to its neck in the vast mysteries of protein (1).

Begun in 2005, the Proteome Project has confirmed that every working unit in the human body is a protein. We know now that you are made of about 350,000 different proteins. And all of them are made from the proteins you eat (1).They form your complete structure. Your foundations and pillars, beams and rafters, floors and ceilings, the engines of your organs, muscles, and brain, are all made of proteins.

Our body proteins are far more complex than we ever imagined. The enzymes that operate every movement you make are all proteins. The longest known protein, for example, is an enzyme called titin. The DNA code for titin is 33,000 nucleotides long. It controls the last bit of contraction of muscles. So titin is crucial for athletes.

For titin to work properly, each of its 33,000 nucleotides has to be exactly right, and in exactly the right place in the code. Whether your body makes titin correctly depends on the raw materials you provide. Those materials are the proteins you eat. First, they have to provide the right environmental stimulus to trigger DNA to release the titin code. Then, they provide all the materials the body can use to make the titian.

Athletes of 150-200 pounds, in top shape, have a bit over a pound of titin in their bodies. Do not believe all the obsolete commercial blather about animal proteins being complete, and providing everything required to make it, and all your other bodily proteins. I will state the science plainly. I have documented it many times before (2,3). Most proteins in North America today are too inferior in quality to support top athletic performance.

The vast bulk of so-called “complete proteins” in North America, that is, feedlot beef, battery poultry and eggs, farmed fish, and GMO soy beans, have been progressively degraded. They no longer contain ideal amino acid ratios, nor ideal amounts of dipeptides and tripeptides (pairs and triplets of amino acids linked by sulfur bonds) for the body to make titin, or thousands of other proteins involved in building muscle, strength, and power.

Worse, anyone who gets their proteins from processed meats, chilidogs, burgers, bacon, sausages, ham, spam, or meat from a can, has been conditioned to be dumb, dumb, dumber about their nutrition. Eat chilidogs for protein and you will run with chilidog legs, and think with a chilidog brain. Eat even one chilidog and the inferior protein is built into your muscles and brain for the next six months.

Quality of dietary protein is THE big problem for every one of the 350,000 proteins your body has to make. All other essential nutrients you eat, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, simply oil the gears, seal the pistons, and provide the body’s fuel to support its protein structure and function (2,3). Contrary to obsolete beliefs that protein is simple, these recent discoveries make it far and away the most complex nutrient in your diet.

For both power and endurance athletes, the quality, type, amount, and timing of protein nutrition, and its integration with training, determine performance. These processes determine recovery of damaged muscle fibers, growth of new muscle cells, production of energy-producing muscle mitochondria, development of muscle capillaries that deliver oxygen and nutrients, and manufacture of the thousands of enzymes that govern muscle contraction.

Unless you optimize all these processes, you will never properly activate your DNA, nor build the protein structure required to achieve your athletic potential. Just like your cell phone, you do not have to know how protein works. But, if you want to be a successful athlete, you sure as hell better know where to get top quality protein, and how to use it. Here, in a nutshell, is the latest science.

You Are Controlled by Light
For 400 million years the creatures from which we sprang, evolved to the tune of light. We have the same circadian system today built into our brain. Many folk associate the circadian rhythm merely with sleep/wake cycles. On the contrary, we know now that it controls every aspect of our biology lifelong (4-6). By sensing light, it programs thousands of bodily functions to the 24-hour revolution of the Earth. It also programs when, how often, and how much protein we should eat.

To be in synchrony with the circadian system, optimum training stresses the body just enough each day, and provides just the right protein nutrition, to yield what is called the ADAPTIVE STIMULUS. This stimulus is used that night by the sleep recovery system, to repair and remodel muscle proteins, mitochondria, blood vessels, and enzymes.

To effect recovery from an optimum Adaptive Stimulus, and to reset the circadian cycle each day, the recovery system requires a minimum of 7.5 hours sleep each night. Most athletes, especially college athletes, do not get it.

Performance is devastated by reduced sleep (7). Peak power in cycling is significantly reduced (8). Knee extension strength bombs in trained athletes (9). Strength in leg press, bench press, and dead lift is much reduced (10). Endurance performance also bombs, as does sprinting speed (11,12). You have to get your sleep right first to reset the circadian system each night. Only then can you get your protein and training to work.

Here is a recent example. Researchers at Stanford U led by Dr Cheri Mah recently tested the Cardinals basketball team. The players recorded average sleep of only 6.5 hours per night. The men volunteered to increase their sleep to 8.5 hours per night for seven weeks. No other changes were made to their nutrition or training. They were tested before and after the seven weeks on the 282-foot sprint drill, free throws, and three-point shooting.

Results were tremendous. By the end of the extra-sleep period, players had improved their sprint drill by 0.7 seconds. Every single player on the team was quicker than before the study began. They improved their free throws by 11.4 percent and their three-point shooting by 13.7 percent. These are massive improvements in seven weeks. Simply increasing their sleep provided the right amount of recovery time for the circadian rhythm to respond fully to the Adaptive Stimulus provided by their nutrition and training.

But sleep alone is insufficient. EACH DAY you also have to provide an Adaptive Stimulus from a combination of training, and correct protein nutrition, at the right amounts, right times of day, and right frequency. Without an Adaptive Stimulus, remodeling and growth of the muscular system do not occur that night, and the opportunity for adaptation is lost.

The lost day cannot be made up by doubling training tomorrow. All the make-up strategies, such as doubling training next day or adding a bit to training for a few days to make up the loss, inevitably over-stress the system. Then the sleep recovery and growth system that night cannot complete the job. So the next day’s training is begun with an already inflamed and damaged system, and must be cut back to avoid further damage.

Of course, some adaptation occurs with almost any training and almost any protein, even chilidogs and intermittent training, say for an hour, 3 days a week. These gains in muscle and performance have misled many trainers and athletes to believe that what they are doing is optimum. We have had several thousands of these athletes switch to our program through the Colgan Institute, and it is not unusual for them to make gains in performance in one year that are 400% better than they achieved the year before.

Here is how we do it.

In Part 2 of this series I will cover the type, frequency, and timing of protein nutrition and its integration with training to produce optimum performance. To join our winning team go to

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3. Colgan M. The Anti-inflammatory Athlete. Sound Concepts, Grand Fork UT, 2012.
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10. Blumert PA, et al. The acute effects of twenty-four hours of sleep loss on the performance of national caliber male collegiate weightlifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(4):1146–54.
11. Oliver SJ, Costa RJ, Laing SJ, et al. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009;107(2):155–61.
12. Skein M, Duffield R, Edge J, et al. Intermittent-sprint performance and muscle glycogen after 30 h of sleep deprivation. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(7):1301–11.

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