The Scoop on Protein
Fitness professionals harp on the idea of protein intake, and for a good reason. We are going to break down why protein is really so important, what your intake should be, and how you can make the most out of your protein choices.
Why is protein important?
Protein serves a variety of vital functions in our body. The primary function is synthesis and repair of cells, tissues, and structures such as collagen, elastin, and muscle. This is why you may hear your trainer say “protein builds muscle”... because simply, it does! Protein is also required for synthesis of hormones, and transporting lipids (fats) and minerals such as calcium around the body. Protein in addition can be used as an energy source if there is lack of carbohydrate availability or low calorie intake (but this is not the ideal as protein is working hard in those other areas listed above).
What should my intake be?
Recommendations vary, but the National Association of Sports Medicine uses this chart as a starting point:
In addition they stated:
“Current sports nutrition recommendations for protein also vary, and the following ranges have been suggested by various sports nutrition authorities.
· 0.25–0.55 g/kg of body weight or 20–40 g per meal, 3–4 hours apart (Kerksick et al., 2018)
· 0.24 g/kg of body weight, or a range of 0.18–0.30 g/kg per meal (Moore et al., 2015; Morton et al., 2018)
· 0.4–0.55 g/kg protein per meal (over four meals per day) for optimal muscle building (Schoenfeld & Aragon, 2018).
The take-home message is that the RDA for protein (0.8 g/kg per body weight) is likely too low for most active individuals and athletes.”
Making the most out of your protein
Not every protein source works alike. Protein quality refers to the amino acid profile of a protein source, and how easily it can be digested. Animal proteins are known to be higher quality proteins, as they contain all nine essential amino acids, and are easily digested and absorbed. Proteins that contain essential amino acids are known as complete proteins. Proteins that do not contain all nine, are incomplete proteins.
The following are examples of complete proteins: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, soy, buckwheat
The following are examples of incomplete proteins: beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, collard greens
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you will need a diverse range of protein sources to ensure you are getting an adequate intake. Combining two incomplete proteins that together provide all essential amino acids, known as mutual supplementation, will be helpful for you.
Ultimately, although types of protein consumed is a factor, the most important is the TOTAL daily protein intake. Don’t get caught up in “I need a glass of milk everyday or I won’t build muscle”. Simply emphasizing protein overall, will reap benefits.
But what about protein powder?
Protein powder is a cost effective and easy way to up your protein intake. Although it’s not a necessity to have a protein shake, it can be helpful. If you’re looking for a protein powder, click the link here to see a list of 50 different protein powders compared by a sports dietician.
Here are your key takeaways:
· Protein is vital to your bodies function, especially when it comes to muscle
· Your protein intake should be specific to you and your goals
· Eat complete proteins and mutually supplement where needed
· Look at total protein intake and don’t stress over the little things!
Thanks for taking the time to read,
Karpinski, C., & Rosenbloom, C. A. (2017). Sports nutrition: A handbook for professionals (6th ed., pp. 37 and 52). Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Kerksick, C. M., & Kulovitz, M. G. (2013). Requirements of protein, carbohydrates and fats for athletes. In D. Bagchi, S. Nair, & C. Sen (Eds.), Nutrition and enhanced sports performance: Recommendations for muscle building (pp. 355–364). London: Elsevier Publishers.
Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., & Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15, 38. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y
Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(10). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1