Why? Because I said so.
How Much? Lots.
When? All the time.
OK enough of that. In all honesty though, protein is an important macro nutrient. It’s found everywhere in your body from your muscle tissue, to enzymes that digest your food, to your skin cells and even in your blood. If you are a body builder or a power lifter, you understand the importance of protein in your diet. The problem I see now amongst the general population of exercisers is the medias push on low fat and low carb stuff. Admittedly, we are becoming more and more knowledgeable in relation to food choices, and the low fat push is definitely diminishing. Optimal protein consumption is a key component of muscle building and a healthy lifestyle, and it’s not just for the big boys.
Why Do You Need Protein?
When you think protein and exercise, what immediately comes to mind is that muscle is basically made up of protein. Protein supplies essential amino acids that you need for growth and recovery. Its like the building blocks of muscle, without enough, no matter how much work you do, you won’t be able to reach your goals as effectively. This is the same for all the macro nutrients, however protein is one we commonly fall short on.
It’s not just the muscle building potential of protein that makes it so attractive, there are many health benefits, even if you don’t exercise or lift. Here are just a few of the benefits of eating enough protein.
- Muscle Building- As I mentioned above muscle is made up of protein. To build muscle you need to have a satisfactory amount of protein floating around.
- Recovery- whether you want to build muscle or simply keep your figure, after exercise your muscle crave nutrients. When you work out, you get muscle damage. Protein intake goes a long way to reversing this damage and getting you back on the park quicker. No matter what your goals are, protein after exercise and lifting will help and speed up recovery. Your muscles are hungry and will use whatever you put into your body much better.
- Prevents Muscle Loss- Similar theories as above. Many of us are in it for the weight loss. But, what’s the point in losing weight when half of what we lose is our muscle mass. By having enough protein in your diet, you are going to help slow or even halt the rate of muscle loss when you are on a low energy diet. Protein will help preserve what muscle you have, even if you aren’t eating enough to get into an anabolic (muscle building) state.
- Satiety- Protein is filling. It takes more energy to break down, which also means it takes longer. As a result protein in held in your stomach for a lot longer than carbs. This increases satiety, or the feeling of fullness.
- Thermogenic Effect- Nitrogen needs to be stripped off the protein in the liver, basically taking a lot more work to be digested. Hence, burning more calories. Protein has the highest thermal effect. It can be as high as 30%, compared with as low as .8% for carbohydrate. See how you simply can burn more calories from increasing your protein intake.
Build muscle like the hulk
Such a loaded question, and an extremely hotly debated one. I will have a crack at answering it. The current RDA for dietary intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram. If you are participating in strength training, or aerobic exercise for that matter, which by reading my blog I am sure you are…then you are going to need to eat more than that. The RDA is enough protein, but it is enough to stop your body eating its own sources. Staving of muscle loss is one thing; building muscle and getting some extra health benefits along the way are another.
Check what level of protein you are eating now. Just for one day, write down everything you eat, and then figure out how many grams of protein it was. This may be an eye opener for many of you. Use this site to help.
- If you are strength training regularly and are aiming to build muscle and lose fat, build mass, lose fat and maintain muscle, or you are participating in heavy exercise and your protein intake is currently low, try to get between 1.5-2grams/ kg to start with. Up that intake to around 2.2 grams/kg. If you aren’t strength training…start. There are too many benefits for you to avoid this kind of exercise.
- Another way to look at it to start, is to consume at least 30% of your daily calorie needs from protein. I prefer to look at grams/kg however this will also give you a decent number to aim for, and simply another way to look at it.
- If you don’t want to count the amount of protein you eat, make a conscious effort to get some quality protein (preferably of animal descent) in at every meal. Remember you should be eating 4-6!
These are pretty loose recommendations I know, but it is going to be different for each individual. You are going to need to experiment a little. Strength training will increase your need for protein. The key point is that if your intake is low, it might be hard to just start sucking down more meat, increase slowly, see how you feel, reap the benefits, and grow more muscle.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be an exact science for everyone.
Optimum Nutritions 100% Whey Protein contains 24 grams of protein, only 2-3 grams of carbohydrates, 1.5 grams of fat and minimal lactose, the choice of brand is clear, now to decide what flavor and size! Optimums 100% Whey Protein comes in 1, 2 and 5 pound containers and is available in Double Rich Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Cookies and Cream, Strawberry and Vanilla.
But I heard too much protein is bad for you?
Firstly let me say that anything in ridiculous excess is not great for you. Here, the key point is the word excess. To get a ridiculously large excess of protein in, you are going to have to eat a lot. Getting a lot of protein in, perhaps even more than what your body actually needed for its metabolic functions, will not kill, damage, injure or harm you.
Generally the concern is with the function of the kidneys. This myth mainly comes from studies done on people with unhealthy kidneys, those who are not as well able to process protein.
Researchers have shown that high protein diets do not have an adverse effect on healthy kidneys. In fact Poortmans, JR and Dellalieux, O (2000) conducted a study checking this exact concept out. In this study body builders consumed up to 2.8 grams/ kg of protein. This did not have any adverse effects on their kidney function and the researchers were able to conclude that an diet underneath 2.8 grams/kg of protein is safe. Research hasn’t been done on healthy people past that threshold.
When Should I Eat This Magic Macro nutrient?
Protein is accepted well by your body most of the day. Unlike carbohydrate, where your glucose sensitivity is higher in the morning and after workouts, protein should be eaten though out the day. A good tip is to try and get some protein in at every meal.
However, after strength training or exercise your body craves protein. This is an important time to get some protein into you to make sure you stay in an anabolic (muscle building OR at least preserving) state. Because the cells are so hungry, they will use the nutrients best in this post workout window and will ensure that you recover properly. If you don’t get something appropriate in after working out, then you will lessen your chances of muscle growth, repair and recovery. As mentioned in the carbohydrate post, some quick acting high GI carbs are great to eat with some fast acting protein (for example, whey).
Though this might all sound a bit high tech and complicated, it’s really not. Post exercise, no matter what your goal, is the perfect time to eat. Sure, for most of you it’s not necessary to go and search for the best protein supplement out there, however post workout nutrition is important. You can get good protein from natural sources, in fact, if you can do that, it is probably more desirable. Protein sources will be discussed on Monday.
My Final Words
Firstly these aren’t my final words, you will soon be reading some more information on natural protein sources and supplements. But for today I wanted to say a few things. This is sometimes a controversial topic and again, you need to keep an open mind.
I am not advocating very high protein and very low carb diets. If you up your protein and lower your carbs a little you will be doing fine. The only reason I even recommend this is because the everyday mans diet has a little more carbohydrate than they need. Carbs are important, I have made that clear. I don’t like any diet to the extreme. Carbs give you energy; are needed for many bodily functions and they even aid protein absorption when you need it most. All this post is trying to teach you, is the importance of adequate protein consumption.
Remember, quality protein is important. Perhaps when you analyzed your diet you did eat enough protein. If that’s coming from take away food that can almost not be classed as meat, be weary, it also comes with too much saturated fat. That isn’t good. Lean sources are generally the way to go. Fear not, I will have a comprehensive post on protein sources for you on Monday. For now, go and check your protein consumption and get your chickens ready.
Note: I don’t own or kill chickens. However it would be a much cheaper source of eggs.