Protein is the body’s key source of nitrogen. When protein is stripped of nitrogen and is used as energy, nitrogen is excreted in the urine. The amount excreted is an indicator of amino acid availability. It is used as a measure of protein status known as nitrogen balance (N balance). Ideally, the nitrogen excreted from the body will be in balance with the amount of nitrogen from protein consumed.
All macronutrients contain oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. But, it is an only protein which contains additional nitrogen molecule.
Why Is Nitrogen Balance So Important?
The human body is built and rebuilt every day from and by proteins. If nitrogen balance is negative, the body will break down its own muscle to meet its most basic, life-sustaining needs. The body will conserve protein for these needs and may not perform other duties, such as healing and immune function, as effectively. Positive nitrogen balance is necessary to create an anabolic environment, allowing the body to build new muscle and helping to recover from strenuous exercise and activity.
Nitrogen equilibrium is when the body maintains the same amount of protein in its tissues daily (input = output). This applies to most healthy adults and is necessary for muscle maintenance.
Positive Nitrogen Balance
If nitrogen intake from protein and other sources is greater than nitrogen output, the body is in positive N balance. This is needed for muscle growth and pregnancy, among many other things.
Negative Nitrogen Balance
When the body loses protein, it is in negative N balance. This occurs with inadequate protein intake, burns, severe injury, infection, and fever. Negative nitrogen balance will lead to the breakdown of the body’s own protein structures, such as muscle, in order to get the amino acids the body needs.
How to Achieve Positive Nitrogen Balance?
- The basic rule is to improve on your protein quality. Consume more of complete proteins. It is advisable to consume minimum 30 – 40 grams of protein per meal.
- Post your workout and before going to bed, consume a slow releasing protein like Casein to help muscle repair and maintain muscle strength during the catabolic period.
- Give adequate rest to your body. Protein synthesis takes place only if you allow your muscles to rest. This is very important to save yourself from a negative nitrogen balance.
- Once you have provided your body complete protein with all essential amino acids and adequate rest, you can then opt for workouts.