Clueless about protein? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! We’ll teach you everything you need to know about this amazing macronutrient so you can get more out of every calorie you consume.
Let’s get right to it!
First Things First: What Makes Protein so Special Anyway?
Protein does so many amazing things, we’ll need a separate post (or two) just to talk about them all in detail. So, to make this section easier to read, let’s do it enumeration style:
- It keeps you feeling full longer so you eat less
- It helps you burn more calories throughout the day
- It helps you build muscle and strength
- It helps you preserve lean muscle mass
- It boosts post-exercise recovery
- It helps you bounce back faster from injuries
Now you know why fitness buffs love this macronutrient so much.
How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?
Most experts agree that as a general rule, the average sedentary person only needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Of course, the number is higher for people who regularly engage in vigorous exercise. The more frequently and intensely you work out, the more protein you need. Athletes, for instance, require anywhere between 1.2 and 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Interestingly, older individuals also need slightly more protein than the average sedentary person to stay healthy. Experts recommend anywhere between 1 and 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight.
At the end of the day, though, these numbers are just general recommendations. The amount you require would ultimately depend on things like your physiology, dietary requirements, and level of physical activity. If you want a more accurate figure, talk to your doctor.
When People Say ‘Grams of Protein’, What Exactly Do They Mean?
‘Grams’, in this case, refers to the amount of the macronutrient in whatever protein source you’re consuming, not the weight of the protein source itself. Two hundred grams of chicken, for instance, don’t have 200 grams of protein.
The good news is you can easily Google the nutrition facts of the food you’re eating, so you never have to do any guesswork. There are also apps you can use, such as MyFitnessPal.
How Much Protein Can You Absorb Per Meal?
The short answer is no one knows for sure. There are just too many variables to consider to come up with a general recommendation.
Things like the type of protein you consume (i.e., fast- or slow-digesting), the level of physical activity you engage in, and the time of your intake (i.e., post-workout versus any other time during the day), can all affect the amount of protein you can absorb from each meal.
So, it’s best to just focus on hitting your daily protein target instead of worrying about the amount of protein you get from each individual meal.
Are Some Protein Sources Better Than Others?
Yes. Not all protein sources are created equal. Foods like eggs and most meats, for instance, contain all essential amino acids (i.e., those that your body can’t produce on its own). In contrast, a lot of plant-based sources don’t.
As a general rule, as long as you get your protein from a wide variety of sources, you shouldn’t really worry about not getting all the amino acids your body needs.
Do You Need Protein Supplements?
To answer this question, you’ll need to first ask yourself these questions:
- Do I workout regularly at a high enough intensity?
- Am I following a sensible workout program?
- Am I eating right?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
The thing is supplements are meant to do just that: supplement whatever it is you’re already doing. It’s not meant to replace regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep. You need to get these things right first before you even consider supplementing.
Protein powders won’t do you any good if you’re not training properly, eating enough wholesome foods, and getting sufficient shut-eye. You’ll just be wasting your money.
Can Too Much Protein Cause Health Problems?
Don’t worry. For most healthy individuals, a little extra protein shouldn’t hurt. There are currently no scientific studies that show a link between high protein consumption and health problems.
There are studies, however, that show that increased protein intake can help minimize your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you should go overboard with your protein consumption. At the end of the day, it’s still excess calories, and excess calories, as we all know, get converted into body fat.
Get That Protein—But Not Too Much!
Without a doubt, protein is one of the most important macronutrients for muscle building and fat loss. But that doesn’t mean you can just consume as much of it as you’d like. The goal is to just eat as much as you need based on your personal goals and requirements.