Let’s talk protein needs and why I am pretty sure you are not getting enough. In my years of nutrition coaching I can tell you that it is a pretty universal issue I see with new clients. It is not uncommon for me to look at a client’s eating diary and see no real amount of protein until dinner time!
Now it may seem like the fitness industry is always pushing you to buy more protein shakes but stay with me here, I am certainly not here to peddle shakes. If you don’t eat enough protein it is that much harder for your body to recover from a hard workout. It is also more difficult for you to resist the sugar cravings.
Protein is a key element to not only achieving the body composition goals you have, but also, since you are all athletes, to a better recovery from your workouts and strength gains in the gym.
Unlike carbs and fat your body is not able to store protein, which is why daily adequate intake is so important.
- Protein is vital to almost every body function. This includes muscles, hormones, organs, tissue, hair and skin.
- The more physically active you are, the more protein you will need. Why? Exercise is catabolic, meaning we are stressing the body and breaking down tissue to create adaptation. If you don’t give your body what it needs to recover, like time for recovery, good sleep and adequate protein you cannot recover from that stress and create adaptation. You want adaptation because this is when you are getting stronger and faster!
- People think only someone who lifts heavy weight requires more protein, but I guarantee you marathon runners and cyclists also put themselves in a catabolic state and need extra protein to recover!
- If your goal is weight loss, then you will love protein even more as studies show that dieters who had a higher protein diet were more successful and better able to stick to their diet. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. If you experience less hunger you will be more likely to stick to your diet.
- If you are over 40, you also want to prioritize protein. As we age our body’s ability to stimulate protein synthesis will decrease. We can fight back here by eating enough protein and lifting weight. Doing so will help maintain our muscle strength and bone health.
How much do we need? Most studies point to 0.8g to 1.2g per pound of body weight has being the best for the anabolic effect needed for muscle gain and fat loss. For example, a man weighing 185 pounds would need between 148g and 222g of protein. And a women weighing 140, a good range would be between 112g and 168g. Where you fall on that range depends just as much on your individual goals as your personal preference.
For visual 1 large egg has 6g of protein and a 5oz chicken breast is 30g of protein.
From my own experience I have found that my hunger and cravings go through the roof if my protein intake drops much below 0.9 and 1g per pound of body weight. Plus I love animal protein so getting my daily goal is never a challenge.
Does it matter what you eat for protein? I always recommend eating real food first. With both plant and animal protein, seeking food as close to its natural state makes sense. A pork chop is better than a hotdog! And both tempeh and tofu are great vegetarian protein options, versus something that has 30 ingredients and is made to look like a chicken nugget but is not!
Whole foods first, and supplement as needed.
If some is good more must be better? There is no need to go all in on protein and eat twice your body weight. Doing so will come at the cost of other macronutrients your body needs. Like eating colourful fruits and vegetables. When you are eating that much protein, the rest of the diet generally suffers. As protein intake climbs, so should your plant matter intake (fibre) to continue to promote good digestion.
Does timing matter? Yes and no. It’s an old body building myth that we can only absorb 30g of protein in one sitting, science has debunked this. But in my experience aiming to consume your daily protein in 3-5 meals a day will lead to better digestion and may promote better recovery and muscle growth. Think of including a decent serving of protein at every meal and including a post-workout recovery shake. Sorry! I did say I wouldn’t peddle shakes! ☺️
Signs your protein may be too low?
- Lots of sugar cravings.
- Brain fog.
- Feeling unusually sore from your workout.
- Difficulty losing weight.
- Difficulty building muscle.
- Poor immune function.
Not sure where to start? Like I mention above, start with a source of protein at every meal, if you don’t track your macronutrients or own a scale, aim for a serving the size of your palm.
And in my experience breakfast is where people fail the most at having enough protein. I am a big fan of oats in the morning, it is easy to prepare and keeps me full for hours, I sneak in extra protein in my bowl by cooking my oats with egg whites. I know it sounds strange, but I promise you it is worth a try.
Annie’s famous Proats- aka Protein Oats.
- Start with 1/2 cup of oats, 1/2 cup of egg whites + 1 cup of water on stove top over medium heat. Use a non-stick pan and don’t crank the heat on too high.
- Cook and stir on medium heat until oats are cooked (microwave is a good short cut but won’t be as creamy). You do need a non-stick pan or egg whites will stick.
Top with fresh fruits of your choice. If I need more protein I add in 1/2 scoop to 1 scoop of my favourite vanilla protein powder or top my bowl with a little Greek yogurt. Other great add-ons: Nut butter, granola, chia seeds, nuts, coconut, maple syrup, jam, pumpkin puree.
Calories + Macronutrients before toppings: 209 calories 27 Carbs 3 Fat 29 Protein + 4 grams of fibre.
And if you follow us on Instagram you can spot my almost daily bowl of proats @power_upnutrition !
Note: Though I was eating almost 5000 calories per day (way too much) when I started with Annie, I was surprised to discover I was not getting enough protein! Increasing my protein intake I’ve actually decreased my total daily caloric intake to about 3000 per day without being hungry. I’m recovering better from training and can now sustain 2-a-days twice per week, I have gotten stronger and leaned out (found my abs again and went from a 34 to 32″ waist)!
Annie and Kate will visit us 11am Saturday March 28th to discuss fueling for competition. This will be of particular interest to our 17 CanWest Qualifiers but everyone is welcome. $25 per person.