Ever wondered exactly how protein works, why it’s so important and precisely how much you should be getting?
Read on for all the answers and learn how to send your muscle growth, gains, performance and health through the roof.
What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that forms the basic building blocks for your body to grow, recover and operate. Protein is absolutely essential for all humans, and getting the right amount is especially important for people that love fitness and care about their health.
Let’s get more scientific with a little help from the Oxford World Dictionary.
“Protein: Any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds which have large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.”
Why does the Human Body Need Protein?
Proteins are “King” when it comes to muscle growth and recovery.
These nutrients, once in the body, are digested into amino acids that become the building blocks of your lean mass.
During your workout, the cells in your muscles are subjected to higher stress than they normally are, among them, the significant release of lactic acid which occurs in exercise. This leads to the athlete having to recover a part of the ‘damaged’ cells, while also replacing some of the old cells with new ones, in the growth of which protein synthesis is vital.
Therefore, any nutrition must include the correct amount of protein in order for the body to be assisted in its process of recovery from effort.
Any protein deficiency will result in a decrease in performance.
This will also lead to a considerable decline in health as well, but more on that later.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
So how much protein do YOU need? It’s an interesting question that deserves more attention because it depends on how much you train, your goals and your lifestyle.
Now let’s put this into practice…
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training.
Editor’s Note: Please be aware that the following figures are estimations based on specific requirements and training history. Simply emulating them will not work in exactly the same way for your body. They are designed to work as a guide for you to learn.
We spoke to two athletes on this topic, both are competitive level CrossFit® Athletes.
BOXROX: How much do you weight?
Athlete 1: “I’m usually around 84-85 kilos.”
BRX: On an intensive training day, how many grams of protein and carbohydrates do you have to eat?
A 1: “I’m eating around 180 grams of protein, 75 grams of fat and 300 grams of carbohydrates daily.”
BRX: How much do you weight?
A 2: My bodyweight is around 70kg, give or take 1kg, and that’s where I feel quite good.
Usually during competition it might be 1-2kg less, not because I try to, but because the intensity increases and the body is in a peak state to perform. A little lighter but just as strong.”
BRX: How much protein do you eat?
“I consume 160 calories of protein and over 2,700 calories a day. My exact macro amounts change a bit each day depending on the food choices I make and whether or not I am training 1x per day, 2x per day, or resting.”
Finding the Right Protein for You
It is absolutely essential for athletes to fuel themselves with healthy, natural sources such as:
- lean meats – beef, lamb, veal, pork
- poultry – chicken, turkey, duck,
- fish and seafood – fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
- dairy products – milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially cottage cheese)
- nuts (including nut pastes) and seeds – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- legumes and beans – all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.
Some grain and cereal-based products are also great sources, but are generally not as high in protein as meat and meat-alternative products.
For more Vegan and Vegetarian sources, try these:
Protein Supplements are also an excellent, easy and effective way to make sure you are getting enough protein.
The Protein Works offer natural, excellent quality protein (alongside a huge range of other supplements) that will help you hit your targets and achieve your goals.
Right now you can grab an Extra 15% OFF The Protein Works Sale Exclusive with BOXROX.
Use the code: BOXROX for your discount!
Now that you know the positive effects of having enough protein in your diet, we need to highlight the other side of the coin.
Effects of Protein Deficiency of the Human Body
Deficiency, especially for athletes, can have exceptionally negative consequences.
Watch out for the following signs and resulting symptoms.
1. Your Workouts are Suffering
You’re probably already aware that protein is needed to build new muscle mass, but it’s also important for sustaining your energy and motivation.
A low protein diet can result in muscle wasting (or muscle atrophy), fatigue and even fat gain — it can also be behind female athlete triad.
In fact, you can workout more, but see fewer results if your diet isn’t adequate to support tissue repair or your energy needs.
2. High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol and triglycerides are not just caused by eating fatty foods — they are also a result of increased inflammation, hormonal imbalances and high-processed/high-sugar diets.
If you tend to replace protein foods with sugary snacks, refined carbs and packaged convenient goods, your cholesterol can start to rise as your liver and cells process fats less efficiently.
Some studies have even found an inverse relationship exists between protein intake and risk of heart disease.
3. Poor Sleep
Poor sleep and insomnia can sometimes be linked to unstable blood sugar levels, a rise in cortisol and a decrease in serotonin production.
Blood sugar swings during the day carry over through the night. Carbohydrates require much more insulin than fat or protein does.
Eating foods with protein before bed can help with tryptophan and serotonin production, and they have a minimal effect on blood glucose levels; in fact, they even slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal.
How to Track and Measure Your Protein Intake
Tracking your intake is the safest and easiest way to ensure that you are eating enough to support your training and guaranteeing that you can avoid any deficiency.
Although it can be tedious and boring, we would recommend doing it for a single month to start off with.
This will teach you much of the knowledge that you will need going forward, whilst also solidifying good habits and discipline.
Listen to multiple world Champion Powerlifter and Doctor Stefi Cohen’s 2 cents on the topic:
“It’s the most difficult thing because it requires you to work and be consistent and track, which is boring and repetitive and mundane, but it’s absolutely the only way out,” she says, “You need to understand what your body’s energy requirements are, and calculators are just a guess. So, the place where everyone needs to start is tracking their weight every day for at least a month and tracking their intake every day for at least a month.
That way you can see if you’re gaining or losing weight at this current energy intake.”
Getting Enough Protein Will Help You Feel Full
Another advantage of eating the correct amount is that it will make you feel full, and therefore less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
Having a high intake will help you to cut down on unhealthy snacking. Check out another great tip from Stefi:
“Don’t buy high calorie foods if you struggle to avoid them, and if you do, put them in high up places that you’ll need a chair to reach.
Keep filling, low calorie foods at eye level. So much of what we do throughout the day is based on habit and instinct; that’s why it’s so hard to stick to a diet, no matter how educated you are on what needs to be done.”
Alternatively, switch to healthy snacks which will satiate hunger and keep your healthy.
Finally, Pay Attention to “NEAT”
NEAT stands for “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.”
The calories we burn outside of exercise vary significantly depending on our lifestyle.
Another reason it’s important to track your weight and your intake is that people’s calorie needs vary a lot, even among people who are the same age, weight, and height.
Folks with similar bodies can burn different numbers of calories not just because of how much they work out, but also because of NEAT — Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
Stefi: “I didn’t believe it when I first learned about (NEAT), that some people fidget and move around more and that’s why they’re burning significantly more calories, until I started purposely moving more throughout the day by tracking my steps, standing more, things like that,”.
“The different it makes is huge. I believe about 30 percent of the calories you burn come from NEAT. That’s crazy. And those are things you have control over.”
Why The Protein Works are a Great Choice
Protein powders, snacks and protein foods – they’ve got the lot! The Protein Works is a multi-award-winning brand that offer a massive range of top quality supplements.
- Offer: Grab an Extra 15% OFF The Protein Works Sale Exclusive with BOXROX
- Code: BOXROX
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- Barbell-Lifting-in-Box: WODSHOTS
- Protein-Foods: The Protein Works
- Female-Athlete-Lifting: WODSHOTS
- Man-Drinking-from-Shaker: The Protein Works
- Athletes-Walking: WODSHOTS
- Vegan-Protein: The Protein Works
- Protein-Powder: The Protein Works
- Squat-Time: WODSHOTS
- Advice-from-Coach: WODSHOTS
- Athlete with Barbell: WODSHOTS