Anyone embarking on a new fitness regime is probably also concerned with tidying up their diet. This may lead to them having been told/read articles by numerous experts giving the advice to “load up on protein”.
Now there is no denying that protein, as one of the three macronutrients, is hugely important. However, it is easy to get carried away with your protein consumption and so here is my guide to getting it right.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine “ACSM” (the largest sports medicine and exercise science organisation in the world) you need the following amount to ensure you reap all of the benefits of your protein consumption.
General recommendation:0.8g /1.0g per kg/day
Recreational athletes 1.0g / 1.2g per kg of bodyweight
Strength athletes 1.2g/1.7g per kg of bodyweight
Endurance athletes 1.2g/1.7g per kg of bodyweight
Ultra endurance athletes 1.5g / 2.0g per kg of bodyweight
To ensure you are getting the right amount you will need to record your food intake and see where you are at. The myfitnesspal app will do all of the hard work for you, or if you love a spreadsheet (like me!) you can do it manually. Whichever way you do it, make sure you do it.
What do you think of when you think of protein? Chicken…eggs…protein powders?
These are indeed all good sources of protein but you are need to educate yourself on all of the other forms of plant-based protein, which are extremely healthy like nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Variety is the spice of life and the same is true for your protein intake. Mix it up and try to include as many different sources as possible.
If you are vegetarian or vegan it is really important to eat as wide a variety as possible of plant-based protein sources in order to get all the nutrients you need, especially the nine amino acids that aren’t manufactured by your body. Tofu is a great meat free alternative to help boost your levels.
One of the roles of protein in the body is to repair the muscles after a workout and make them stronger. You should always consume a post workout snack within 30 minutes of finishing.
The recommended formula (again from the “ACSM”) for your post workout snack is:
Carbohydrate – 1.2g per kg of bodyweight
Protein – 0.1/0.2g per kg of bodyweight
Research shows that foods rich in the branch chain amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine) can reduce muscle soreness. These can be found in dairy products, eggs and roasted peanuts
One key thing to know is that your body can only absorb so much protein at any one time. This fact is often why you here some people say that spending money on protein powders only produces expensive urine! Personally I prefer to get my protein from food sources rather than supplements but as long as you know your intake and how much you are consuming at any one time, if it works for you go for it!
You should aim to consume no more than 20 to 30 grams of protein in any one meal or snack. This way you can be sure that your body will be able to absorb what you have given it and put it to best use.
Snacks? Are you now thinking: “Well hang on a minute! I’m undertaking a new exercise regime to get fit, I’m paying proper attention to my diet, so how can there be snacks?!”
Snacks are important. They are not to be used for filling boredom or satisfying a craving but they are needed. Snacks help keep you feeling full until your next meal, you just have to make healthy choices and protein plays a big part in that.
Think about how you can spread your daily protein intake across your day and incorporate some of that across your snacks. As a general rule I try to include about 5 to 10 grams of protein into my snacks and for me that is usually spreading peanut butter on to some fresh cut apple slices, or (because I have a cheese problem) some thinly sliced cheese on some fresh cut apple slices! Other good choices are wholegrain toast, Greek yogurt or nuts.