PROTEIN: What is it and how much do you really need?
My freshman year at Boston College I weighed 210 lbs (I'm only 5'9"), and had 13 % Body Fat (second highest on the team). By the time I was a senior, I weighed 212 lbs. and my Body Fat dropped to 6 % (Lowest on the team). BC truly helped me transform my body composition from Freshman year to Senior year, which made me feel like a machine! There is a great quote from Charles Poliquin, a Strength & Conditioning coach and expert, "No training out-performs a bad diet." You need to treat your body like a machine. At Boston College, I learned how to fuel my body with the right foods at the right time!
Here is a great article written by my good friend Matt Harder who is the Strength Coach for the Manchester Monarchs and owner of Harder Performance.
Always remember "No training out-performs a bad diet"
PROTEIN: What is it and how much do you really need?
By Matt Harder
There is a common misunderstanding that extra protein intake alone will support a larger muscle mass, and this theory is the main rational for large protein intakes seen in athletes.
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. It is commonly found in animal products, though is also present in other sources, such as nuts and legumes.
There are three macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates. Macronutrients provide calories, or energy. Many athletes consider protein to be the key to athletic success. However, most athletes consume more protein than they require and, in doing so, may limit the intake of other macronutrients that are critical to achieving athletic success.
Consumed protein is digested into amino acids. Amino acids are essentially the “building blocks” to our bodies. Thus, it is essential that we consume protein to maintain or develop our physical structure.
But how much is needed? If we want to get “bigger muscles” shouldn’t we just eat more protein?.....NO!
Protein has approximately 4 calories per gram, which is the same as carbohydrate (fat has 9 calories per gram). The recommended level of protein for general population is 12-15% of total calories consumed. However, an easier was to calculate protein requirements are grams per kilogram of body weight (g/kg). Most non-athletes do well with 0.8 g /kg/day. Using this formula…a 165 lb. (75 kg) person (1 lb. = 2.2 kg) would need 60 g of protein per day. Athletes or physically active people may need a higher requirement of protein because of a greater need for tissue repair as a result of increased activity. The requirements for an athlete (or physically active individual) are approximately 1.5 g/kg/day ( a range from 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day). Therefore, a 75 kg athlete would require roughly 120 g (480 calories) of protein per day.
What happens when you ingest too much protein (which is very common with athletes and the popularity of supplements, powders, and shakes that contain extremely high amounts of protein)?
When you consume an excess in protein your body has two options of what can be done.
1). Your body will convert it into fat and store it to be used later..…(more fat is not really what anybody wants).
2). Your body can use it as an energy source and burn it up as fuel. However, protein is so important for building and maintaining tissues and for making hormones and enzymes that burning it up as fuel could and should be considered wasteful.
So, if you are a 75 kg athlete and you require roughly 120 g of protein per day, should you eat a breakfast that contains 120 g of protein and be good for the rest of the day?.....NO!
A person should aim to consume a distribution of protein that avoids large peaks and valleys in protein intake. Ideally, the protein consumed should be evenly distributed over multiple meals per day. However, more than 30 g of protein should not be exceeded per intake (roughly every 3 hours). More than 30 g of protein cannot be adequately processed by our bodies.
But is you take 120 g of protein and divide that between 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) you have 40 g of protein at each meal….which is an excess of 30 g! What do you do then…..?
It is best to have 3-4 meals during the day with small snacks in between. If you manage to evenly distribute your protein intake during the day you will be able to avoid those peaks and valleys as well as the negative effects (stored as a fat or used as energy) of excess protein consumption. See below for an example of how to spread out your protein intake during the day:
8:00 a.m. – 25 g protein
10:00 a.m. – 15 g protein
12:30 p.m. – 25 g protein
3:00 p.m. – 15 g protein
6:00 p.m. – 25 g protein
9:00 p.m. – 15 g protein
Total: – 120 g protein consumed in 13 hours.
One can see that it is easily achievable to consume an adequate amount of protein during the day without exceeding 30 g at any point and spreading protein consumption out over the course of the day.
There are many ways to monitor your caloric intake and more specifically your protein intake. It helps to educate yourself on nutrition values of specific foods by reading nutrition labels and understanding what you are putting in your body. However, I understand not everybody has the time or even wants to do that, which is understandable. There are apps that are available for your mobile devices that allow you to track and monitor your dietary intake. I use “MyFitnessPal”. It is very user friendly and takes a lot of the work out for you, making monitoring your diet much easier.
If you have any questions always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me
on Instagram @harderperformance for more tips on Nutrition!!!