How Much Protein Do I Need?
- Thursday, 11 October 2012
From Michael Phelps to the Average Joe: Just how much protein do you really need?
Most fitness enthusiasts are aware of the idea that protein is of the utmost importance for muscular repair. Yet many people have no idea just how much protein they need to consume daily to keep their form looking slim and trim. If only there was a simple answer. As is the case with most things in life, the art of nutritional needs is highly individualized and dependent on the type of physical fitness activity performed on a daily basis. Obviously, someone performing high intensity Olympic level training, such as Michael Phelps, will have different dietary needs than someone performing light to moderate training.
So why do we care so much about protein? Well for starters, every cell in the human body uses protein for growth and repair. Think of protein as the maintenance man of good health! It aids in production of hormones, red and white blood cells, immune fighting antibodies, and provides the nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. Protein is also the most satiating of all the macronutrients, giving the body a feeling of fullness. Protein can help cut cravings, speed up your metabolism, and help keep you energized all day long. Strive to eat protein and carbohydrate combinations throughout the day to maintain balanced blood sugar levels; this will also help curb any sweet-tooth cravings!
Protein is indeed important when you are trying to create a lean, toned physique, and maintaining a balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown in the body is crucial. This is why dietary guidelines have been created to help steer us in the direction of healthy limits. Try this simple calculation based on recommendations provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you discover your dietary protein needs. Remember, a serving size of protein is about the size of a deck of cards, or the size of your palm.
Average protein intake for a healthy adult: Dietary Protein Needs = Total Body Weight x 0.4 g / lb
For light to moderate training: Dietary Protein Needs = Total Body Weight x 0.55 to 0.8 g / lb
For heavy training and high intensity: Dietary Protein Needs = Total Body Weight x 0.7 to 0.9 g / lb
A key factor to consider when revving up for a workout is protein quality. Aim to eat a wide variety of quality absorbable protein sources such as egg, milk, cheese, fish, meat, peanut butter, peas, soy, rice, wheat, corn, oatmeal, and millet. Protein is imperative for our overall health, but let’s not forget the importance of eating a well-balanced diet of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. According to the USDA, adults should aim to consume 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein, and 20 to 35 percent from fats.
So what happens when we eat too much protein? Do we really just pee it out? Yes! Usually we do end up with pricey pee if we go over our protein limit! Try to avoid a protein intake greater than 250 g a day, or more than 40 percent of your dietary needs from protein. Excessive protein intake has been linked to liver damage and kidney failure, however the research thus far is inconclusive. Caution should also be used with amino acid or protein supplements and additives that contain aspartame. If a supplement makes overzealous claims and speedy results, it is probably too good to be true! Since the supplement industry is not regulated, the risk is not worth the reward. Although supplements and protein powders can supply amino acids to the body, only a small amount of these expensive supplements are actually absorbed. Instead opt to use your hard earned cash on nature’s protein-rich whole-food sources that supply all of these amino acids and more.
What you eat will affect your overall performance during a workout, and eating right can ultimately help you train even harder and allow you to recover faster. Along with carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes, protein is an important part of muscle recovery, particularly if you participate in high intensity fitness training such as resistance work and interval sessions that damage muscle tissue. Remember that what you eat is just one part of the equation. Finding a balance between physical activity and appropriate nutritional intake is the key to success!
Kim Denkhaus is a Nutritional Science Graduate Student writing on behalf of Rockit Body Fitness
Photo credit: thaines