What’s the Deal with Protein Intake?
This week I would love to give a shout out to protein and how important it is when you look at reaching any health or wellness related goal. I truly feel having an adequate (and even high!) amount of protein in your diet is the secret weapon against poor health, obesity, diabetes and so many other health related illnesses out there. Allow me to unpack this for you…
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients alongside carbs and fats. Each of these play a role in a well-nourished body.
Protein is the building blocks of your muscles. Adequate consumption helps you recover properly from your workouts, and from all that life throws at you.
And if and when one is looking to lose fat, there are three big benefits:
1) When you’re getting sufficient dietary protein, you’re more likely to burn a higher percentage of fat instead of burning muscle (protein) for fuel.
2) Protein is more filling and satiating. This means you will tend to overconsume calories much less.
3) Protein takes more “work” for your body to digest. So the absorbed calories that you consume are lower.
The most common protein food sources are meat, fish, and dairy. Not a meat-eater? You can get protein from foods like tofu, lentils, beans, and legumes.
Depending on your goals, you may go with higher or lower fat sources. We don’t need to be afraid of fat, but if you’re prioritizing fat loss, you may want to prioritize lower calorie (fat) versions. Alternatively, if you want to gain muscle, you may need the extra calories from full-fat choices of protein.
Side note: When it comes to meat, fish, dairy, and vegetables in particular, it’s a good idea to consume high-quality organic sources whenever logistically and financially possible.
Now you may be asking “How much protein should I get?”
The FDA recommends a minimum of 0.8 gram per kilogram (or .36 grams per pound) to avoid malnourishment. However, while there’s debate on the ideal amount, most nutrition experts recommend getting more for optimal functioning. This is particularly true as we age and want to maintain muscle mass.
The sports nutrition standard is 1 gram per pound per day. This is definitely on the higher side, but it’s a good general high target when one has any short term fat-loss, muscle-building, or performance goals.
At Epic Fitness, we suggest striving for a range of between .7 – 1 gram per pound per day. So, for a 160 pound female your goal would be to hit between 112 – 160 grams of protein per day. That is a BIG range, but when you start to prioritize protein, getting between 30-40 grams at each meal is not that tough!
(You can always just ask Arnold, and he will give you the right answer too!)
And of course, as always, we have to factor in your personal preferences. If that’s more than you can consume without overhauling your diet, you may decide to shoot for a (relatively) lower amount. Protein powders can also play a role if you’re not getting enough protein from the whole foods in your diet. At Epic Fitness, we LOVE the SFH brand of protein powders as they come from a great source – free range, grass fed New Zealand cows!
For customized protein recommendations based on your body and goals, check out Examine.com’s nifty protein calculator HERE. (Fun factoid – the recommendations that they make are very close to ours, and are close to .72 Grams per pound of bodyweight).
Another note: “X grams per pound per day” makes for a clear quantitative goal, but most people are best off without counting calories anyway. In the beginning, tracking protein can be helpful so it helps you become very aware of how much you are getting each day. After about 2 weeks of tracking, you should have a very good idea of whether you are hitting your protein intake goals or not.
In the end, when you do your best to anchor each meal with a big serving of protein, you will be all that much closer to your goals. Outside of a highly specific physique or performance goal, you’ll be golden.
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