Protein 101: You Might Be Wrong About How Much You're Consuming.
Diet is extremely important when trying to improve your body composition. If you have a physical exercise routine, that’s great - but it is only half the story. If you are not consuming proper nutrients, it might be hard to get the results you are looking for.
Now if you don’t know where to start, that’s okay - we have all been there! This nutrition series will cover all the basic information you need, starting with protein!
So What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for muscle tissue repair and is full of amino acids, which your body needs to survive and to build new tissues. This is especially important for those who are active or have a body composition specific goal in mind. High protein intake could help increase weight loss, enhance muscle growth, and improve your overall health.
Protein for Muscle Growth:
Your muscles are made up of over 25% protein (the remaining 75% is water and stored glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrates). 25% is a large amount and consuming adequate protein daily is important to maintaining lean muscle mass and supporting muscle growth.
The easy version of the science behind muscle building, is that your body needs to synthesize more muscle protein than it breaks down. There is even an entire study done on here. The article states “protein intake was shown to promote additional gains in lean body mass beyond those observed with resistance exercise alone.” So you see that the fuel you take in, is just as important as the training you do.
Protein for Weight Loss:
If your goal is weight loss, protein intake also plays a significant role. Science shows that eating protein can increase the amount of calories you burn (it helps stimulate your metabolic rate) and even reduce your appetite (especially if you struggle with over eating). If you don’t believe me, check out this study from Maastricht University, where the results report that even a modest increase in protein, from 15% to 18% of calories, reduced the amount of fat people regained after weight loss by 50%.
How to Actually Calculate Your Protein Needs:
The American Dietetic Association’s RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein is 0.36g per pound of bodyweight. This is the bare minimum, especially if you are active. This is the amount you need to reach daily for optimal every day function if you are sedentary.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that active people aim to consume between 0.4g to 0.6g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and as much as 0.8g for competitive athletes. There is no one size fits all here. Your body will need slightly more protein if you are slightly more active, so keep that in mind.
If you are reading this, I assume you are active and wanting to build muscle in some form. Research shows that the average athlete or trainee who has that goal benefits the most from getting between 0.6 grams to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
An example is : If you weigh about 140 pounds, you should be eating between 98 and 140 grams of protein per day.
The exact amount that is right for you will depend on your exercise level, genetics, goals, and consumption of other macronutrients (I have some free and easy resources below that allow you to calculate your estimated number in two minutes!). Rule of thumb, the more active you are, the more you should slightly increase your protein. Most trainers and online calculators will ask you your activity level for this reason, so be honest about it for accurate results! Here's an example of grams if you are very active daily. This includes your daily activity level as well as training.
Moderate intensity : 1.2-1.4 grams per bodyweight per day
High intensity 1.4-1.7 grams per bodyweight per day
The only exception here would be, if you are overweight. We just have to tweak the numbers a little bit! If you are medically overweight and let's say 220 pounds, you do not need to consume 220 pounds of protein a day, that amount is too much. Try to aim to consume your target bodyweight in grams of protein. So if you weigh 220 and want to reduce your bodyweight to 180, you should aim for around 180 grams of protein a day.
Yay! You made it past all the science and math. There are tons of free resources to find a good estimate of what your daily protein should be. If you have your basic measurements such as height, weight, activity level, and your goal (weight loss/ gain), you should be set!
Alright, now whatever big number you got, you don’t have to consume that in one sitting, unless you want a stomach ache. Experts recommend spreading them across several meals containing at least 20 grams, and as much as 40 grams at a time.
Once you calculate your ideal intake, you can start to plan out meals. Try to think about how you can spread out those small doses of protein throughout your day. Stay tuned for the rest of my protein series where we will go over the best ways to get protein in, high protein recipes, and more!
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