Protein…how much should you really be consuming?
In order to get your PT certification with Cooper’s, you have to have a little knowledge of nutrition, and that was fine for me for a while. A month or so ago, I decided I wanted a little bit more background in order to better serve my clients and my family, so I went back to Cooper’s and took their Providing Dietary Guidance: Nutrition Specialty Course. I am still not a complete expert, but I have been taught by the best.
One thing that really bothered me while taking this course, was the fact that people nowadays think that the more protein you get, the better. That is simply not true. I’m not sure what or who is putting this information out there, but just because you lift does not mean you need 150 grams of protein. Your protein intake is probably surpassing what your body needs. Hopefully by the end, you can decide whether or not that protein shake is totally necessary. Here’s the breakdown.
- What exactly is protein? Protein is large, complex molecules made up of “building blocks” called amino acids and make up about 20% of body weight. We can call amino acids “building blocks” because that’s essentially what they do: grow and repair our cells. They also aid in the synthesis of enzymes and hormones, but their main job in our body is to repair and grow. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must get through our food, and the rest are non-essential that can be made by the body. There are four calories in every gram of protein.
- Where can we get protein? You can get complete proteins (proteins which contain all the essential amino acids in proper balance) from animal sources like milk, cheese, eggs, meat and fish. If you are intolerant to dairy, soy products like tofu, soy milk and soy flour are also complete proteins. Incomplete proteins (proteins that have to be combined in order to receive full benefits) are found in non-animal sources like most grains and cereals, legumes, nuts/seeds and green veggies. Bottom line is that you can find protein in a lot more places than meat. This is awesome if you’re a vegetarian!
- How much do I need? Here’s the million dollar question that I want to address. The RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance is 10-35% of your daily calories. In most adults (and by most adults I mean MOST ADULTS….that’s probably you), it works out to be about .36g/lb of body weight. If you’re into kg’s, that’s .8g/kg of body weight. If you weight 150 lbs, you really only need about 54 g of protein a day. Here’s who needs a bit more: Infants need about 1 g/lb (2.2 g/kg), endurance athletes (those who train VIGOROUSLY for over an hour 5 days/week) need about .5-.6 g/lb (1.2-1.4 g/kg), and strength athletes (again, those who train VIGOROUSLY for 1-2 hours for 5-6 days/week) need about .7-.8 g/lb (1.6-1.7 g/kg). The population of real endurance and real strength training athletes is very small. Odds are, you are part of the “most adults” population. (Vigorously means at a high intensity, which is 85% of your target heart rate…and if we are all honest with ourselves, most of us don’t work out at that level of intensity for the whole workout.)
Here are some more interesting facts about protein:
- If you take in too much, your body stores is as fat. On a high protein diet and can’t lose weight? That’s why.
- Protein is a minor source for energy during a workout. It gives us maybe 5-10% of our energy…primary source for energy? CARBOHYDRATES.
- More protein does not mean more muscle mass….see two points above.
- Other dangers of too much protein are dehydration risk since protein catabolism requires water, urinary calcium loss, increased risk for coronary artery disease due to high fat content of some meats, and GI upset (no one likes a tummy ache). Also, protein supplements are very high in cost.
- You only need protein supplements if you aren’t/can’t get enough from your diet. If you have to, whey protein is the best since its absorbed quickly.
- Chocolate milk works the exact same, if not better, than an expensive protein shake after a workout.
Please, instead of listening to everyone that says you need more protein, more protein, just calculate your RDA and you should be just fine. A healthy diet is one that emphasizes moderation and balance…even with essential nutrients.
Stay sweaty, my friends!
Sources: The Cooper’s Institute “Providing Dietary Guidance: Nutrition Specialty Course; http://www.choosemyplate.gov
All of Cooper’s Institute claims are backed up with scientific, peer reviewed, published research. If you find something that you want to pursue, always make sure its backed up with the right kind of research.