When it comes to nutrition and exercise, there is no single macronutrient (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) talked about more than protein. Everyone has heard of it, we all know we need it, yet most of us still don’t eat nearly enough of it.
Why is protein so important? If it’s so important, how can you get enough of it on a daily basis?
So glad you asked! I’m here to answer those questions for you!
To get the most out of your training and recovery, all while looking and feeling your best, it is absolutely essential that you consume enough protein daily. Of the many of reasons that can be discussed, there are three things that stand above the rest when it comes to being successful with your strength and weight loss goals. The purpose of this article is to discuss these reasons to help you understand why protein is essential to your success and how much and what foods you should eat in order to support your strength and body composition goals.
Let’s begin, shall we?
1. Protein’s main role in the body is recovery.
Exercise stresses all structures of the body including muscles and tendons. Appropriately programmed and performed exercise causes a small amount of damage to these structures that our bodies then repair and recover from. Repeatedly stressing the body, recovering from the stress and then eventually adapting to the stress is what causes improvements in muscle size and strength over time; a process appropriately coined the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle.
For avid strength trainees, and individuals with specific physique goals, protein requirements are more than double that of the average Joe because of the need to support the synthesis of new muscle proteins within the stress/recovery/adaptation process. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of for the average person is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight per day. But what recent scientific literature shows us is that when looking specifically at strength trained individuals, a protein intake of 1.6-2.2g/kg of body weight better supports muscle protein synthesis. Protein needs increase even more when eating in a calorie deficit. So eating at the upper range is better to maximize results.
Now, what is protein synthesis and why is it so important? Muscle protein synthesis is the process of building new muscle proteins to help with muscle contraction and muscle cell growth. Without MPS you will not build more muscle or get stronger from your training. Plain and simple.
If you have strength and/or physique goals, not consuming enough protein poses potential risks including a decreased ability to recover from hard training sessions, a loss of muscle mass, and a decrease in overall metabolic function. These issues are exacerbated when eating in a calorie deficit where protein’s function also serves to protect against muscle wasting. This is the last thing you want to happen when your goals are to improve strength and body composition!
To avoid these issues, make sure you are eating plenty of high quality protein, such as meat, poultry, dairy, fish, and eggs, every single day! Below are some examples of how you can add quality protein to your diet.
2. Protein keeps you full!
If your goal includes changing your body composition and lowering your body fat you’ll likely be in a caloric deficit for some period of time. Protein consumption helps with satiety (feeling full and satisfied) and appetite signaling which is highly important during periods of caloric deficits. More so than any other macronutrient, protein causes the gut to signal to the brain that the body is well fed because of an interesting little peptide called PYY (a topic for another day). Increasing your protein intake means that you will stay full for longer resulting in less hunger between meals. We all know this is important to help us snack less, reduce cravings, and reduce extra calorie consumption throughout the day. Perfect for when we are intentionally trying to lose weight!
So how does protein help with fat loss? Decreased hunger leads to less overeating and consumption of empty calories aiding in less stressful and more successful weight loss.
3. Eating protein burns more calories!?
Protein has a positive effect on your metabolism. Every food takes a certain amount of energy to digest. This is called the Thermic Effect of Feeding. Protein specifically takes more energy to breakdown, absorb and use in the body compared to fat and carbs. Additionally, having more muscle mass (remember we talked about muscle protein synthesis earlier?) increases your body’s resting metabolic rate. This means that you’ll burn more calories each day simply by existing! So burning more calories from eating protein and burning more calories simply by being alive (because you have more muscle mass), makes eating a higher protein diet more effective for your weight loss goals. And because of all this, consuming more protein means you’ll be able to eat more food during a weight loss phase compared to if you were following a lower protein diet.
Smart right? If that isn’t enough of a selling point for eating more protein, than I don’t know what is!
So all this talk about protein and you have no idea how much to eat, right?! No need to fear!
Most men should be eating no less than 190g of protein and most women should be eating no less than 115g. If you’re in a caloric deficit, we recommend increasing these numbers by about 10-20 grams for reasons 2 & 3 discussed in this article. Doing so on a consistent basis will maximize your potential for improvements in strength, muscle size, and body composition, which is something that we all want. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this article!
So, let’s just sum that up real quick so you can digest it a little more:
Protein consumption assists in building muscle and recovering from workouts.
Protein keeps you fuller longer and makes dieting for fat loss a little easier.
Eating more protein helps you burn more calories.
Men should shoot for a minimum of 190g of protein per day and women should shoot for 115g per day.
In fat loss phases increase those minimums by 10-15g per day.
If you have no idea how much protein you’re eating on a regular basis here’s what we suggest:
Download a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal
Input what you eat for a week. You don’t have to be accurate...eyeballing is better than yolo-ing.
At the end of the week look at your average daily protein intake. Too much? Lower it a little and some more carbs. Yum! Too little? Use some of the ideas in the article to jack up your protein intake while keeping your calories the same.
Trust me when I tell you if you were eating too little protein you’re going to feel SO MUCH better in just a few days. You’ll have more energy, improved workouts and less hunger. You’ll probably notice that the number on the scale is no longer stuck and your waist dropped an inch as well!
If you’re still in need of a little more help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us so we can get on call, talk about your diet, and set you up with a plan that supports you specific goals. Check that out here!
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