26 Jan How much protein should I eat and what are the benefits?
What is protein?
Proteins are made up of many chains of amino acids which comprised of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Because of all these different building blocks, 20 different types of amino acid can be formed, allowing the proteins to be used for different functions in the body – we’ll get to those later!
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning that, along with carbohydrates and fats, we need to consume relatively large quantities of it to function properly. It is through our macronutrient intake that we get calories – energy. Every gram of protein has 4 calories.
- Processed soy products
We can produce some amino acids in the body, but we must obtain the rest – the essential amino acids – from our food. Foods which contain all of the essential amino acids that you need are called ‘complete proteins’.
Sources of complete proteins:
- Dairy products
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Whey protein
A word of warning to vegetarians and vegans. Many plant-based protein sources are quite low in protein and are not ‘complete proteins’ – they do not contain all the essential amino acids. Vegans, in particular, will need to work a little harder with their nutrition and be sure to eat a wide variety of foods (and enough of them!) to ensure they get enough proteins.
What are the benefits of protein?
Proteins are used to create important molecules in the body, such as:
- Enzymes to speed up chemical reactions
- Hormones to transmit signals about your biological processes
- Antibodies to fight infection
- Providing structure to your bodybuilding and repairing muscle
As you can see, they are important for much more than simply building muscle!
As well as doing so much for your body, proteins also help you to feel full / improves satiety. Eating a higher protein meal will make you feel fuller for longer. I for one know that if I had a bowl of cereal in the morning I’d be starving an hour later, but I know my scrambled eggs will keep me going for longer.
How much protein should I eat?
General government guidelines for protein intake simply prevent protein deficiency, so they may not be optimal, particularly if you are training regularly. In order to build muscle and recover from training, you need to be eating enough protein to encourage protein synthesis (creation of new proteins from amino acid building blocks).
For this reason, as a personal trainer, I personally recommend a slightly higher intake for my clients:
Protein targets: 1.4 – 2.0g/kg per day
For example, if you weigh 68kg, you would need between 95.2g and 136g of protein per day, spread throughout the day. Roughly 20-30g per meal, topping up with snacks if necessary.
Try to get the majority of your intake from actual food, which has all those great micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fibre, but you may find it convenient to top up with a protein supplement such as whey protein. Here at The Club Gym you can easily pick up a freshly-mixed protein shake!
If you are quite new to training or train very regularly with decent intensity, you would probably benefit from the higher intake.