Nutrition is polarizing. Nutrition is not black and white. Nutrition cannot and never should be the same for everyone. These statements are the reason we have so many diet books, nutritional questions and a population of people that have analysis paralysis on trying to eat “healthy.” It’s important to know that not all proteins are created equal. Some contain more essential amino acids than others.
The biggest question I get is “How much protein should I take in?” This is a great question and one that has been researched for the past 50 years. The results may be slightly different but the one fact that stays the same is “it depends on your activity and level of intensity.” Meaning in order to know how much you should take in, you need to align your intake with your activity and how vigorous that activity is.
In a normal untrained person, the recommended protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). This recommendation is for sedentary people and only is a bare minimum to keep from protein degradation or the burning of muscle as fuel. In this example a 150 lbs. person would take in 54 grams of protein per day, but this is not enough to build muscle tissue.
For individuals participating in high intensity training, protein needs to go up to 1.4-2.0 g/kg (or around 0.64-0.9 g/lb) of body mass. In our 150 lbs. example, this person would need to take in 95-135 grams of protein per day. A much more ideal percentage of protein.
Hold up there is more…
Beyond the basics of preventing deficiency and ensuring a baseline of protein synthesis, we may need even more protein in our diets for optimal functioning, including good immune function, metabolism, satiety, weight management and performance. In other words, we need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.
We can only store so much protein at one time. So, in order to optimally supply your body with much needed protein, you must eat it periodically throughout the day. Eating a 16 oz. steak and calling it a day, is not going to give you the overall effects that eating 5-6 servings of high protein foods will.
Can you eat too much protein?
Possibly, but it would be hard. Protein can be converted to sugar and stored. However, it is an inefficient process and not one the body wants to undergo. Studies have shown that a high amount of protein intake (up to 1.2 grams per lb.) has no health risks to the kidneys.
So which protein is best?
Research has shown that foods high in the essential amino acid, leucine, increase protein synthesis (breakdown of protein to be stored) higher than the other two essential amino acids. Foods high in leucine are spirulina, egg white, fish, poultry, and meat.
Take home points…
- Shoot for at least half your body weight in grams of protein per day. If wanting to gain muscle increase to your body weight in grams.
- If weight loss is a struggle, evaluate where and how much protein you are getting. Odds are it is not enough for your body weight and fitness goals.
- Try to eat protein in every meal.
- Choose whole foods over supplementation. However, choose supplementation over nothing at all.
- Can’t stress this enough, if you want to get leaner you must consume more protein!
Yours in Fitness,