Many of my clients ask me about protein supplements, especially if they want to lose weight. There are plenty of myths going around the internet about well-marketed ‘must-have’ protein shakes causing confusion amongst people new to exercise – let’s see what protein is and why and how much we need!
What’s Protein? Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, found literally everywhere in your system making up about 16 percent of our total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. It plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in our bodies. It includes repair of muscles, red blood cells, hair and fingernail growth, regulation of hormone secretion, movement (muscle contraction), digestion, maintenance of the body’s water balance, protection against disease, transport of nutrients to and from cells, the carrying of oxygen and regulation of blood clotting. In addition, many of our bodies’ important chemicals – enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and even our DNA – are at least partially made up of protein. Although our bodies are good at “recycling” protein, we use up protein constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.
How much should we eat? Our protein needs depend on our age, size, and activity level. The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in kilograms by 0.8, or weight in pounds by 0.37. This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum for a sedentary person who is uninterested in gaining muscle (and free of health issues that might compromise your lean mass). Athletes need more protein than the average person, but perhaps not as much as most fitness enthusiasts think (or consume).
- If you complete regular weekly weight training or low impact cardio exercise and you’re in search of muscle definition or maintenance: 1.2-1.5g protein per kilogram body weight
- If you combine weight training with HIIT cardio exercise, look to consume: 1.4-1.7g protein per kilogram of body weight.
- If you complete regular weekly weight training and are in search of muscle growth: 1.5-2g protein per kilogram of body weight.Healing wounds increases protein requirements. After all, you’re literally rebuilding lost or damaged tissue. If you have an injury the recommended intake is around 1.5 g protein/kg bodyweight or close to 0.7 g protein/lb bodyweight.
High protein diets. Protein is essential for making sure you lose fat, not muscle. Your body uses the amino acids in protein to build lean muscle, which not only makes you stronger and more toned but also fries calories even when you’re not active. A study in women showed that a 1.6 g protein/kg bodyweight (or 0.7 g protein/lb bodyweight) diet led to more weight loss, more fat loss, and less lean mass loss than a 0.8 g protein/kg bodyweight diet. Among dieting athletes,2.3 g protein/kg bodyweight (or a little over 1 g protein/lb bodyweight) was far superior to 1.0 g protein/kg bodyweight in preserving lean mass. And this happens without dieters being sidetracked with constant hunger.
Also remarkable, that protein requires a lot more energy from the body to break down –roughly 15% more energy to break down then carbs. High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them. They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. The cumulative effect has obvious benefits for anyone who is watching her weight. If you are seeking fat loss then real, natural, least-processed foods, which have minimal amounts of fat (such as chicken breast, eggs, lean beef and pork, low-fat dairy, fish and seafood) are your best choices.
Protein in our diet. Everyone, including athletes and inactive people, can meet their daily protein needs by eating a well-balanced diet containing high-protein foods. Aim to consume about one-third of your daily protein needs during each meal, at least 30 of those grams at breakfast. (That’s roughly the amount you’ll get from two eggs and a cup of cottage cheese.) After fasting all night, your body is running on empty and may start drawing on muscle tissue for fuel if you don’t replenish its protein stores first thing in the a.m. Plus protein-rich breakfasts can help regulate your appetite all day.
Good sources of dietary protein include lean meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Basic list of the most common high protein foods. You just need to know that 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories.
- Chicken (skinless)
- Turkey (skinless)
- Fish (all kinds)
- Beef (leaner cuts)
- Pork (leaner cuts)
- Whole Eggs
- Egg Whites
- Beans (all kinds)
- Nuts (all kinds)
Here are examples of amounts of protein in food:
- 1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein
- Two eggs contain about 12 grams of protein
- 1 cup of cottage cheese provides about 25 grams
- An 8-ounce container of yogurt has about 11 grams of protein
- 3-ounce piece of meat or grilled salmon has about 21 grams of protein
- 1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein
Why and when do we need protein in relation to workout? When it comes to gaining muscle, there are three cardinal rules: train, rest and eat protein. But even if first two rules, you still can’t build muscle without the critical amino acids that protein provides.
After a workout your body needs to repair itself. If you do not give it what it needs to accomplish this, it will take it from other sources within your body. Resistance training increases the rates of both protein synthesis and muscle breakdown for at least a 24-hour period afterwards and is one of the reasons why you might feel sore the next day. Now whilst this may sound bad, it’s actually the first part of developing stronger muscles. However if a protein rich meal is not consumed during the recovery period and your body cannot find new sources to make this happen, it will resort to what it can find. This means it will actually tear down the muscles you have in order to get what it needs, muscle breakdown will exceed synthesis, resulting in the loss of muscle mass, which is the exact opposite effect of what you just worked toward.
The elevated sensitivity to protein lasts at least 24 hours after a workout. The effect is higher immediately after exercise and diminishes over time, but that certainly doesn’t imply a ‘magical window’ closes after an hour. Unless you need immediate muscle glycogen replenishment for the next day of training (athletes), you don’t need immediate post workout shake/meal.
Should I drink protein shakes? Protein and carbohydrates work together to help rebuild your newly broken down muscles. Ideally, protein should come from food sources, not from supplements, as the additional vitamins, minerals, and essential fats also play a role in building more muscle (and burning fat too), but many of us lean on shakes for convenience to help hit our high protein targets.
The biggest advantage of supplements is convenience, digestibility and their well-balanced profile. Shakes are easy to consume, handy to grab, and travel through the gastrointestinal tract faster than solid food. Whole foods have a major advantage over protein supplements — they stimulate the metabolism more and take more time and energy to be digested and absorbed than shakes. This is known as the Thermic Effect and while all protein scores the highest — around 30 per cent of all the energy it provides is used up in processing — your body uses more energy to metabolise steak than a protein shake. (Fat has a Thermic Effect of around 3 per cent and carbohydrates range from five to 30 per cent of all available calories.)
Protein shakes are convenient so it does not take a lot of effort to make something after you are done working out. It also goes down easy, especially if you are not feeling hungry after working out. The need to use protein supplements should be based on whether or not you are getting enough protein through your regular diet. Food should be your priority; no bar, shake or pill will ever replace all the goodness of the meals made from scratch. If you do not meet your required daily protein intake then a supplement is a great option. If you do, then there’s no reason to. In fact, too much protein can lead to increases in body fat and excessive strain on your kidneys and liver. This suggests that sticking to your body’s daily need for protein is the best approach to healing.
>> Blog by Orshi Domjan | MoreFit Personal Trainer
After many years of battling with her own weight, 5 years ago Orshi decided to enter the health and fitness industry. She is now an Advanced Personal Trainer who is passionate about passing this knowledge onto her clients to improve their quality of life and to become healthier, happier, and confident. She inspires and motivates her clients to achieve their fitness goals with a personalised structured and progressive programme whether it’s for weight management, toning, postural imbalances, functional training, cardiovascular fitness, muscular development or training for a 100 mile cycle challenge! She is keen to advise on nutrition and constantly reviews new training methods to ensure the sessions are varied and enjoyable. “Your goal becomes my goal. I will give you full support and take you beyond your existing limitations to help you fulfil your potential and achieve your desired results.” If you’d like to book a taster session with Orshi please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.