Protein is used by our body to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue. As we'll see, in this area bodybuilders have been way ahead of most nutritional experts in recognizing that building muscle (in fact, hard training of all sorts) requires a lot more protein intake than had been formerly realized.

The body cannot use the protein you ingest for muscle-building unless all of the necessary amino acids are present. However, the body itself can produce only some of these amino acids. The others, called the essential amino acids, have to be obtained from the foods you eat.

Protein is made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as they are other macronutrients) and one more element none of the other nutrients have - nitrogen. If you ever hear somebody talking about being in positive nitrogen balance or negative nitrogen balance what they are referring to is whether they are in an anabolic state - able to build muscle - or in a catabolic one - losing muscle.

Some foods contain what is called complete protein - that is, they provide all the amino acids necessary to produce usable protein. Examples of these foods are milk, eggs, meat, fish and various vegetable products, such as soybeans. But even these foods contain differing amounts of usable protein per weight. That is, even though a food might contain, say, 10 grams of protein, your body is able to use only a certain percentage of it - only 7 or 8.5 grams.

How much protein your body is actually able to use for building muscle ?

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