Whether it’s to lose body fat or build muscle, protein is a vital cog in the machine that is our nutrition. So the question is how much do we actually need to eat?
So we’ll start with what exactly is protein?
If we strip it all right back the main thing to take away from this is that Protein is a massive player when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Lot’s of people also have designs on losing body fat and building muscle and it then becomes an even bigger player!
Proteins are made up of small molecules called Amino Acids. There are 20 in total, 11 we can produce inside our bodies and 9 we need to get from outside source e.g. food
Protein is everywhere in our bodies – cells, skin, hair, hormones, muscles etc so it’s worth getting this into your head now. Protein = Important
If you remember back to the Vitamins and Mineral post we know that protein is one of 4 macronutrients (macro meaning the food is required in high quantities in the diet). The four are Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates and Alcohol and we use these Macros as an energy source in the form of Calories.
Protein can be used for recovery after workouts, repair after illness or injury, building new muscle and for health and wellbeing among other things
How much do we need in our diets?
Currently the recommended intake is around 0.8g per kg of bodyweight. So if you’re 80kg for example that would be 64g of protein across the day. The problem here is that this recommendation is really only to keep you alive and it doesn’t take into account your situation. If you sit on your asss all day then fair enough, you probably won’t develop a protein deficiency issue however if you are active at all or want to build some new muscle then you need to read on.
What’s the right amount then?
Well there are loads of studies out there on Protein consumption. It’s one of the most widely studied areas in human nutrition and they all agree on one thing. The current recommendation is just too low for most people. This study showed greater fat loss with added muscle retention with a higher than recommended intake. This one showed improvements in waist circumference, fat loss and reduction in fasting insulin levels. This one showed levels over 1.3g per kg of bodyweight started to maximise muscle protein synthesis levels.
So we’re seeing a trend here. All of the research is showing by increasing our protein levels we’re improving our health and aiding fat loss and muscle gain.
If we look at our 80kg example again and we use the 1.3g per kg of bodyweight we’re now looking at 104g of protein per day. The research has showed that even elevated protein consumption, as high as 1.8-2.0 g per kg per day depending on the caloric deficit, may be advantageous in preventing lean mass losses during periods of energy restriction to promote fat loss. Somewhere between 1.3 and 1.8g per kg of bodyweight per day would seem suitable for muscle gain based on the current research.
Base your protein levels around 1.3-1.8g per kg of bodyweight per day. Consider going for the upper end if you are in a deficit
What are good sources of Protein?
This is where we need to be careful! All protein sources are not created equally!
Some are what we call complete and others incomplete. Why’s that?
Complete protein sources contain all 9 essentaill amino acids that we can’t make inside our bodies. Incomplete proteins might contain some but not all of these.
Why’s this important?
Well if you want to maximise health and muscle building then taking in complete proteins is the way to go!
Complete proteins are generally sources that come from animals, some of these are:
- Dairy sources like milk
- Whey protein
All of these foods contain all essential amino acids and therefore make sense to include these as the bulk of your protein sources. there will always be an argument over whether fresh is best to go for vs processed versions in supermarkets. It depends on your budget so go with what you can afford. Some more ideas here
What about Vegetarians and Vegans?
The research is pretty clear here. In terms of all-round complete protein sources, animal sources are the way to go. However and this is a pretty big however, you can most certainly get enough protein to build muscle while being a vegetarian. It just means it will be a bit harder to get enough in throughout the course of the day as they are generally considered incomplete sources so mixing and match is required. Planning and preparation will be key here and then understanding what levels of protein are in appropriate foods for you.
Aim for complete protein sources like meat and dairy if possible
It really depends on your goal as to how much protein you should be eating but as a bare minimum I would suggest 1.3g per kg of bodyweight and go higher if required give your lifestyle etc. Use complete protein sources in your diet like chicken and eggs and if you are a vegetarian or vegan then make sure you know you are taking in enough throughout the day to meet your needs.
If you have any questions just ask away or contact me on social media!