Cannibalization and Nitrogen Balance

Nitrogen balance is a topic frequently encountered when one reads articles about athletes’ protein and amino acid requirements.

It is an important parameter that indicates an important nutrition balance for muscle maintenance and gain.


Cannibalization and nitrogen balance

Don’t eat yourself

Cannibalization is the breakdown of muscle tissue by the body. It happens for the purpose of obtaining amino acids for other metabolic purposes and may also include other body tissues.

So, for everyone, and specifically for this topic for athletes, and those who care for muscle growth it is for sure a situation you must prevent.

In addition to carbon and hydrogen, amino acids also contain nitrogen as part of their molecular structure.

This is a unique characteristic, one we can use to our advantage because. It allows us to determine whether protein intake is adequate.

Specifically, nitrogen balance refers to the condition in which the amount of dietary nitrogen taken in is equal to the amount of nitrogen exerted.

A nitrogen balance that is positive indicates a possible net growth in body tissues.

A negative balance indicates an inadequate protein intake and the possibility that the body is cannibalizing its muscle tissue.

How to act to maintain nitrogen balance

It is, of course, possible to measure our nitrogen balance but for most of us, it is just important to make sure we consume enough diverse protein.

Combining from as many as possible sources, having complete proteins, with the essential amino acids. Or combining food sources to have the consumption of all essential amino acids.

It is a bit harder, but possibly also for vegetarians (and harder for vegans).

Make sure to consume proteins all day long and especially within the durations before and after workouts.

For athletes, therefore, egg and milk proteins are more desirable, as they are rich sources of proteins with higher Net Protein Utilization that help to balance nitrogen levels.

Consumption of BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino acids) is also a helpful way to maintain nitrogen balance and to back up muscle synthesis and growth.

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