Hey there! I’m Brett McNeil, the fitness consultant for FitMinutes. Throughout the month, I’ll be answering questions from our readers. This week, we’re talking about getting an adequate amount of protein in your diet. How much should you really be eating? Read on to view my views on protein intake!
Q: What is protein and why is it so important?
A: Protein is a macronutrient that is composed of amino acids. It is essential for good health and required in large amounts, hence the reason it falls into the category of “macro” nutrient. It is so important for us because it is essentially the building blocks for our muscles. When we do any kind of strenuous activity, our muscle tissues break down, and in order for them to be repaired, they need protein, along with other important nutrients and minerals.
Q: So, if protein is that important, how much should I be eating?
A: This answer is will depend on a few different factors such as activity levels, your work and goals. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) states that for an average person, 0.8 grams per KILOGRAM of body weight is sufficient. Where this lacks truth is they don’t take into account all of the factors that could change this answer. If you’re looking for a number, step on the scale and be realistic with yourself about your goals. If you are a highly trained athlete looking to keep building upon your strength, anywhere from 0.75-1.0 grams of protein per POUND of body weight is what you should aim for. For males, that means if you weigh 180 pounds, your goal should be 135-180 grams of protein a day. For highly trained athletic females, aim for about 15% less than that. For your average gym goer with a regular 9-5 job, it doesn’t need to be quite that high, but it’s not much less as we don’t really want to drop below 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. That rule can apply for both males and females. If your goals are on the flip side and you’re trying to drop a couple pounds, protein is still a crucial part of your diet because it helps keep you full longer. You don’t want to drop below 0.45 grams per pound of body weight.
Q: Does it matter how I reach my daily protein intake?
A: To keep it simple, aim to spread your protein intake across a couple meals/snacks throughout the day. You want to avoid jamming your full daily intake of protein into one or two meals, and again this number will be dependent on your goals and daily protein intake. For example, if your goal is to consume 120 grams of protein daily, aim to have about 30 grams per meal for 4 meals spread throughout the day. If you like to have a snack or two somewhere in between those 4 meals, aim for about 25 grams of protein per meal. It’s very simple to calculate, and once you get into a routine, it will almost be second nature when preparing meals and knowing how much protein is in each meal. If you are an avid gym goer, make sure you consume some protein within 20-30 minutes of finishing your workout, as this is a time when your muscles will really need that quick protein replenishment.
Q: Let’s talk the good stuff—food. What would you recommend?
A: Stick to the basics. Eggs, poultry, lean meats, fish, greek yogurt, nuts and even beans such as edamame (which are an excellent source by the way). Try to make sure you’re protein sources are as wholesome as possible, by eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Protein shakes or bars are acceptable if you’re in a hurry, especially after your workout. Just do your research and make sure the protein supplement is made by a trusted company.
Looking for more info on protein? Check out 5 High-Protein Foods that Won’t Break the Bank.