“And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17
For body-stewardship, it’s important to understand the basics of what protein is and its role in muscle growth.
It should come as no surprise that there are traces of God’s nature in how our bodies function (Romans 1:20). There are glories to be displayed in how protein and muscle growth work, and like a skilled craftsman, God left His regenerative signature on these processes.
Protein & Nutrition
Comprised of amino acids, proteins play a role in nearly all cellular activities, including disease defense, muscle and tissue repair, digestion, muscle contraction, movement, and more.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, & proteins), but is the only macronutrient that our bodies are not able to store for later use, which is why regular protein consumption is essential.
How much protein we should intake is a regularly debated question, and the answers from experts (such as MayoClinic, Harvard, and the nutrition researchers who met over two “protein summits“) vary across a wide spectrum. But in general, here are the typical recommended daily guidelines:
- 10% – 35% of your calories should come from protein
- 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for the average sedentary adult
- 1.1 – 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight for those who exercise regularly
- 2.0+ grams per kilogram of body weight is typically considered excessive
For reference, Johns Hopkins put together a helpful chart that shows the protein content of the common foods that we eat.
Protein & Muscle Growth
Your skeletal muscles are made up of hundreds to thousands of muscle fibers. When you repeatedly contract and extend your muscle fibers through exercise, microscopic tears occur in these fibers, which is what causes you to feel soreness after exercise.
Muscle repair and growth happen next. Satellite cells are sent to the muscle fiber tears, and are fused with the torn fibers, which creates new muscle protein strands (myofibrils), and results in thicker and bigger myofibrils.
And what is protein’s role?
Your body is constantly repairing tissue with the support of amino acids. Regular consumption of amino acids (via protein) in the diet supports your body’s need for cell repair. Since exercise creates the need for additional repairs, your body requires more amino acids.
To summarize this highly complex process, muscles grow by the building work of regenerative satellite cells, supported by amino acids, after the breaking caused by exercise.
Protein & The Gospel
This regenerative cycle of breaking and building is the pattern of protein and muscle growth. And regeneration is the pattern of God’s work through the Gospel of His Son.
This growth and Gospel connection is strikingly illustrated through a metaphor Jesus tells about Himself in John 12.
“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ “ – John 12:24
In John 12, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection to His disciples, and He uses an agrarian metaphor of growing wheat.
When a wheat stalk has ripened, the plant begins to wither and die. At this stage in the wheat’s process, the grains (or kernels) have developed. These kernels have three parts; the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.
The bran is the protective shell around the nutrient-dense inner parts of the kernel. The endosperm contains the nutrients for the seed’s embryo to grow. The germ is the embryo of the kernel, where future plant growth will occur.
And would you want to guess one of the key nutrients within the wheat grain that makes future plant growth possible?
For the wheat plant to develop grain, it must die and give its nutrients to the kernels. This is Jesus’ point to His disciples. He must die so that we might live (Romans 5:18).
But Christ’s death and resurrection abounds for many, for all who would believe and put their faith in Him:
“For if many died through one’s man trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many”. (Romans 5:15).
This exponential blessing is again seen in Christ’s wheat grain metaphor.
Each head of wheat on one individual stalk contains roughly 50 kernels. And each bushel of wheat (60 pounds) contains about one million wheat kernels. If an estimated 37.5 bushels of wheat can grow on one acre, a simple acre of wheat can yield nearly 40 million wheat kernels.
God’s pattern of breaking and building is the glorious cycle we step into, experience, and share when we repent and put our faith in Him. God is building His kingdom through the regenerative work of His Son. And God’s regenerative work is on display in all creation, which points us to the wonders in the Gospel.
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