Just off of Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas sits an old building that’s nearly 50 years old. It’s a hideous shade of yellow with a ghastly blue trim, and a gigantic longhorn in the parking lot.
It also happens to be one of the most famous restaurants in the world. The Big Texan, home of the “free” 72oz steak. The big catch to the steak being free is that you must finish the steak, and the accompanying meal, which consists of a buttered bread roll, shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, and a salad, all in under an hour.
It’s a hell of a lot of food, steak especially. In fact, it’s roughly 500g of delicious, gains inducing protein. Which is exactly what we’re talking about, because there’s hardly ever a bad time to talk about protein.
Go grab your steak and a protein shake to wash it down with. It’s about to get real.
What is protein?
Protein, at its most basic level, is an organic compound that is made up of large molecules, which are in turn made up of long chains of amino acids. It’s essential for all living things, especially as a structural component of bodily tissues like the liver, kidneys, and biceps.
Pretty boring though, right? All you really need to know is that protein the way that we think of it is a combination of amino acids, of which there are 22 in total. 9 of those 22 are essential. The rest we can make on our own, so long as we’re getting enough protein from our diet.
Other than my affinity for flexing and eating steak, why is protein important?
When most people think of protein they typically think of bros slamming protein shakes, otherwise known as brotein shakes, and talking about gainz. And this isn’t wrong per say, its just simplifying protein and its uses a bit.
When you go in the gym and deadlift for an hour straight you’re putting the body under quite a bit of stress. The muscles that were forced to work will subsequently breakdown, and this is where protein comes into play.
Eating protein, which is broken down into amino acids in the body, allows you to rebuild those muscles into bigger and stronger versions of their previous selves via a process known as muscle protein synthesis. Which is really just a fancy way of saying getting jacked.
And while getting jacked is awesome, and we should all do more of it, protein isn’t a one-trick pony.
When it comes to normal bodily function, protein is often overlooked. It plays a roll in keeping your organs working properly because after all, it’s a critical component of building those organs.
It also plays a major role in keeping your immune system functioning properly. And then on top of these obviously important points, it tends to taste delicious. Especially in steak form. But only medium rare. Anything else and you’re dead to me.
Why do some people drink haterade and scoff at protein?
Thankfully we haven’t hit that point yet where people freak out about protein to the degree that they have the other two macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people still out there worrying about getting in too much protein.
A lot of the scary stuff about protein stems from fears that excess protein could severely impact kidney function. Because as we’ll learn, a big function of protein and building muscle has to do with nitrogen balance, and the primary job of the kidneys is to excrete nitrogen.
So when you wind up with a metric fuckton of nitrogen from eating an entire dead cow for dinner, that puts a lot of undue stress on your kidneys.
Fortunately, a lot of the fear-mongering headlines borne out of studies on high protein diets tend to be about studies that weren’t done on healthy individuals who ate a balanced diet.
On top of that, there are plenty of people who sleep with a copy of The China Study right next to their bed and view it as their bible. The main premise of the book is that excess animal protein causes cancer, limp dick, and a whole host of other shit you don’t want.
Instead of taking the time to dispel that one myself, I’ll let someone who is far smarter than me do that.
If you’re eating plenty of vegetables and staying active, you can still eat plenty of protein and be completely fine.
So you want to know the nitty-gritty details on how protein helps you do more curls, lift more weight, or stay less hungry?
One of the most important reasons that people who lift hard need to really pay attention to their protein intake is because it works so well in helping people build muscle.
When you’re getting in plenty of protein, you’re supplying the body with a constant source of amino acids and keeping the body in a positive nitrogen state. When trying to get jacked, being in a positive nitrogen state is a very good thing because it essentially shows that you’re recovering properly and getting in enough protein to support your quest in catching a severe case of swoliosis.
This is part of the reason that BCAA (branched chain amino acids) supplements are so popular to drink during a workout. The thought being that if you’re lifting and drinking amino acids at the same time you’ll prevent muscle breakdown to some degree, and build even more muscle because of the increased positive nitrogen balance and availability of even more amino acids.