More about Protein

After last week’s blog, I had some more questions about protein. So I figured this week I would build off of that.

Dietary protein provides our bodies with the building blocks we need to grow and repair healthy tissues. Your body is constantly turning over protein by breaking it down and rebuilding tissues. This includes muscle. When you workout, you cause micro trauma to your muscles, this is what leads to soreness and more protein turnover. You need protein to repair/build muscle tissue so that you can recover and do it all over again.

There is some merit to the timing of intake of protein after working out, but that is a more advanced nutrition strategy. For most people, they will do really well if they focus on protein consumption for the day as a whole.

The old recommendations for how much protein to have in your diet is based on the MINIMUM amount you need to not be sick. That recommendation was 0.8g/kg of body mass. That is only 54.4 grams of protein per day for someone that weighs 150 lbs. Research now suggests that if you are training hard, lowering calories to lose fat, have a physically active job, are injured, sick, recovering from a surgery, or in a state of high stress, your protein intake should be much higher. The OPTIMAL intake of protein is more in the range of 1.2 – 1.7g/kg of body weight. That would be 81.6 – 115.6 grams per day for someone that weight 150 lbs. That’s a big difference between the minimum intake and the optimal range of intake.

In the past, there were concerns over taking in too much protein and kidney damage. There simply isn’t any evidence that a higher protein diet will damage healthy kidneys. If you have a preexisting kidney disease, then that is a different story and obviously you should work with your medical doctor and a dietitian that can help treat that. The upper limits to how much protein a healthy person can eat is somewhere between 3.5 – 4.5 g/kg body weight. That would be 238 – 306 grams of protein for someone who weighs 150 lbs. The average sized chicken breast has 54 grams of protein, that would be almost 6 chicken breasts in one day. Good luck chewing all of that! Protein is also something your body isn’t good at storing like fat and carbohydrates, so eating too much doesn’t do you any good.

I figured I should leave you with good sources to eat to get the protein you need daily:

  • lean beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • wild game
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • duck
  • eggs (2-3 eggs is 1 palm-sized serving)
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • lentils
  • beans
  • cottage cheese
  • plain Greek yogurt
  • protein powders (1 scoop is 1 palm-sized serving)

So referring back to last week’s post, at each meal women need 1 palm-sized portion of protein dense food, men need 2. Following this will help you reach your optimal protein intake for the day instead of doing math and weighing out your food all the time.

Something to keep in mind, anything you eat has some protein in it. If it was alive at some point, it has protein in it. A fist-sized portion of broccoli has 3 grams of protein. So the other things on your plate do help contribute to your overall protein intake. I’d just recommend not trying to get all of your protein for the day from broccoli unless you like to chew from sunup to sundown.

And just so you know I’m not making any of this up, I pulled this info from a text book, “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd edition” from the Precision Nutrition certification manual.

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