If you have spent at least 1 minute in a gym, there’s a good chance that you have heard about protein, what it does, and why you need it. However, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding protein as it relates to resistance trained individuals and athletes. Keep reading to find out all of the benefits of protein and how to use it in your diet!
As mentioned above, protein is an essential macronutrient for muscle growth but it has other functions as well.
– helps grow and rebuild muscle tissue – helps preserve muscle mass in a caloric deficit
– assists in immune function
– can be used as a source of energy when carbohydrates are low
Are you sedentary or are you active?
– A sedentary individual can get away with less protein in their diet, simply because their muscles are not being damaged and therefore do not need to be repaired. If you are an active individual who weight trains, consider elevating your protein intake.
– General recommendations for athletes consistently call for approximately 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Where is your metabolism currently at?
– If you are consistently eating lower calories or used to eating lower calories, before starting your diet, you should assess where your approximate macronutrients will be. In some instances, calories that are coming from protein could provide a greater benefit if they were exchanged for carbohydrates.
For example: If a client who weighs 200 pounds comes to me eating 1200 calories per day consistently over the past year, I am not going to start his protein off at 200 grams. Instead, I will start lower and use the remaining calories for carbohydrates in an attempt to increase his performance, strength, and to aid in recovery from his training sessions.
How hungry are you?
– Are you constantly hungry? If so, you may find that increasing your protein intake higher than the recommended amounts may help you fit off cravings and stay satiated longer.
– Protein Powder Supplements
There are also plenty of foods with trace amounts of protein in them. I would recommend disregarding these numbers as the quality of those types of protein are low. More on that below.
Quality in protein MATTERS. Without going too in-depth, there is a key amino acid that helps activate muscle protein synthesis, or in other words, helps us build, repair, and maintain muscle. This amino acid is called leucine. The higher the content of leucine in your protein, the higher the quality is said to be. Some excellent sources of protein with high leucine content were mentioned in the section above.
That is why I tend to not count the protein in a pop tart or a bag of Lay’s potato chips. It’s just not doing our body any good.
The amount of leucine it takes to activate muscle protein synthesis is still a matter of debate but if you are getting at least 3 grams of leucine in each meal, you are right in the ballpark.
However, spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day does have it’s benefits. Think of it this way, if we (as athletes) want to continually keep our body into a muscle growth and anabolic state, then we need to make sure that muscle protein synthesis is elevated throughout the day.
(Keep in mind that muscle protein synthesis is only raised for a few hours so it is best to eat once every 3-5 hours if you have the opportunity.)
We can do this by distributing our daily protein intake over the course of our desired amount of meals.
(HINT: it does not have to be 80)
(DOUBLE HINT: 4-6 is a lot more reasonable)
(TRIPLE HINT: Make your meal plan fit your schedule and stop worrying about it)
For example, an individual who is going to be eating 200 grams of protein per day over the course of 5 meals should have 40 grams of protein in each meal.
Furthermore, by choosing QUALITY protein sources this individual should have enough protein at each meal to get enough leucine to make sure we are activating muscle protein synthesis.
One of the easiest ways possible to make sure you are getting your protein in is to supplement with a whey protein shake or even a protein-based meal replacement bar. When I used to work construction and just did not have the opportunity for breaks, I would simply down 30-40 grams of whey protein.
There’s really no limit on a number of shakes that you can consume per day. Of course, I would strongly recommend varying your protein source to ensure that you are getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. But, if you are in a pinch and do not have food prepared, a shake will do just fine.
In conclusion, I hope this article helps your sift out some of the incorrect information about protein and that it allows you to set up a good plan of attack for your protein intake.
As always, I appreciate your time in reading this and please leave me any feedback you may have.
If there is a topic you would like me to cover, please shoot me a message or an email.