When you are in the gym and push yourself to your limits by lifting heavy weights and engaging in other strenuous exercises, you are doing your body a great favor. Contrary to popular belief, however, muscles are not created in the gym. What you are actually doing when you go to the gym is tearing apart your muscle fibers. The gains come afterward when you allow your body sufficient time to rest and recover.

This recovery process is important, perhaps even more than the actual exercises that you engage in. Research has shown time and time again that recovery is essential to one's health. However, there are also important nutrients that can help expedite the recovery process. One such nutrient is protein.

Protein is the primary structural component of cells and has a long list of duties. Sticking to its primary function, protein is consumed in the diet to build and repair cells. This includes cells that are damaged to the point where momentary fatigue starts to kick in. Additional roles that protein plays are transporting cells, acting as hormones and serving as enzymes to support various important physiological functions. When it comes to working out, the value of protein comes through once again.

Carbohydrates are important to recover from exercise, but protein is critical in muscle recovery. Many experts conclude that protein requirements are especially higher for athletes. The reason why protein helps muscle recovery is multi-faceted. First, it aids in repairing exercise-induced damage to the muscle fibers that you tore apart when you lift heavy waits. It also helps replenish lost stores of energy and promote adaptations in muscle fibers. This basically means that new proteins are synthesized in activities that involve energy production or force generation.

This contributes to the reason why many people who are active in the gym or athletes are typically seen drinking post-workout recovery shakes that contain an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates. Studies suggest that drinking a high-quality protein source from egg whites, soy or whey protein is ideal because they contain the essential amino acids to promote protein synthesis. This also helps refuel the muscles and speed up recovery so that you can stick to a more stable workout regimen.

Protein provides approximately 4 calories of energy per gram. When protein is consumed with a well-balanced diet, feelings of being full or satiety increase. This will reduce feelings of hunger that can lead one to consume more calories than needed. If one is looking to lose weight, then feeling full is something that is desired.

It is highly essential to have protein incorporated into your post-workout recovery regimen because if the body falls short of its protein needs, there can be negative consequences. Primarily, your body will begin to break down the proteins in your muscles for energy. This essentially erases all of the hard work that you put into the gym, and you will eventually have to make up what you lost. Whether it is through supplementation, a protein shake, or a meal with enough protein, ensure that you have enough quality protein daily.

Ideally, you will want to have protein incorporated in some manner in every single meal. Shorting your protein or eating it in sporadic periods will create a deficit within your body. The quality of your life can drastically changed based on how you handle recovery from the gym. If you do not allow your body sufficient time to recover, you will not be able to keep with the desired pace of workouts, and you may end up in a worse place physically. Keep your protein consumption consistent and make sure you get it from a variety of sources.

Research also suggests that exercise burns up about 15% of the total amount of calories that we get from protein. This is done by extracting amino acids from various muscle tissues. If athletes, or people who go to the gym often for that matter, do not have this protein as part of their regimen, lean muscle tissue will be lost through gluconeogenesis. This is because the biochemical balance of the body needs to be maintained, and in order to keep homeostasis, lean muscle tissue will have to be sacrificed as a result.

If you exercise beyond 2-3 hours, protein from a dietary source will be needed. Failure to get that protein within that time frame will result in the body devising another means by which to get that protein. Typically, this comes when your body will "borrow" amino acids from your muscle tissue. Do you see the relationship? The longer you exercise, the more muscle tissue that you will have to sacrifice. This can create problems with exercise performance and increased levels of fatigue. Complex carbohydrate and protein intake are sufficient to offset the body's process of compensating for what is lost. However, it has to be done in a timely manner.

There are many kinds of protein, and many wonder which form of protein is right for them. Soy protein is a preferential choice for many because your body can readily use it as an energy source and aids in alertness during activities which require endurance. 

There is also the highly popular whey protein, which is a commonly used form of protein used in recovery shakes. Whey protein is thought to be the quickest and most efficient in enhancing the recovery process. This is because whey protein is rapidly absorbed and contains the highest percentage of amino acids. They also stimulate powerful antioxidants which contribute to a healthy immune system and even healthy liver function.

You cannot go wrong with one choice of protein, but it is also important to understand how much you require. Studies demonstrate that athletes will have a higher requirement than recreational athletes. To figure out an approximation of what your protein needs are, multiply your weight in kilograms (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2) by 1.4 to 1.7. You can vary this number based on the intensity of your workout. This will give you the amount in grams of how much protein you should consume on a daily basis.

As you can see, protein helps muscle recovery in a litany of ways. It is a staple for regular gym goers, and it is required in order to give your muscles the adequate recovery and strength it needs to keep going.

Everyone's bodily needs are different, so you should evaluate your own health and your expected workout intensity to understand how much protein you require. Just ensure that you do get the protein you need, and your body will thank you later.