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    Nutrition • 7 min read

    Protein: Why Do I Need It And How Much?




    Protein – such an interesting topic (at least I think so – LOL). I get so many questions to our website and on social media about protein. Questions like “should I eat a high protein diet” and “will protein build more muscle” seem to be top of mind for the person who is exercising and being bombarded with nutritional information.


    Protein Facts.

    A quick summary on protein. It is important in the diet of an active person and protein is found in both plant and animal sources. There are 21 different amino acids.  Essential amino acids are those that you must get from your diet daily and they are found in foods like wheat, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, beef, fish, eggs, pork, poultry, dairy, potatoes, quinoa and brown rice. Nonessential amino acids are those that the body can produce on its own.  The body breaks down these amino acids and uses then to provide energy, maintain, and repair muscles, bones, tissues, and cells.  Amino acids also play an important part in the production of different hormones and enzymes in the body.  And eating protein when you are exercising a fair amount and when you are of menopausal age is important. 


    However, we also do need carbohydrates and fats.  Carbs are a major component to having energy to maintain physical activity.  Carbs ignite your fat burning furnaces and give you readily available energy.  Fats are also important for bodily processes and overall satiation. And if you want to hear about how all these fit together, go over to my live video post about Macronutrients in the diet and check it out. I talked all about the ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins on a daily basis. 


    Bottom line-protein doesn’t make muscle – strength training does. Protein helps to repair the muscles after you work out. Protein, made up of amino acids, helps your muscles to repair and recover once you’ve done the physical work of breaking down the muscle fibers, aka. Strength training. 


    Regarding how much protein you need...your activity level and your body weight dictate how many grams of protein you need.


    What Is The Recommended Protein Intake Per Day For Someone Working Out?

    Protein requirements do vary between athletes and less active adults but not as much as you think.  There seems to be a focus on overloading on protein for the very active population but according to the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association, an upper limit of 1.7 g/kg/day will meet the needs of even the most intense athlete.  Using this formula, a 63 kg (140lb) high-end female athlete would need no more than 107 grams of protein a day.  


    A better formula for the fairly active adult is to think about ingesting .5g of protein per pound of body weight to build and maintain muscle.  Therefore, for the 140 lb active female, that equates to 70 grams of protein a day.  For an extremely active adult, then up to 1g of protein per pound of body weight is acceptable.  So for a 140 lb female, that would be at most 140g of protein a day.  I personally fall in the middle, closer to around 90-100 g a day. 


    Protein Broken Down.

    Protein, made up of amino acids, is used by the muscles for growth, maintenance and repair of the muscle tissue.  Once you’ve met the needs of your body, excess amino acids are treated like any excess calories and can be stored as fat.  


    Both plant and animals provide good sources of protein, including eggs, lean poultry, lean meat, dairy, nuts, legumes, and soy.  I tend to get my protein from real food, but I’m also a big protein shake gal – mixed with fruit, healthy fats, and it satisfies my sweet tooth!  Eating a little protein with each meal will make it easier to reach your daily requirements. 


    Timing Of Protein.

    Eat protein when you want but an important time to ingest protein is post workout.  Before your workout, a small snack of quality carbohydrates is your best choice. And after your workout, you need to feed your muscles protein-most experts suggest within two hours after exercise.  According to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, “It‘s important for athletes to consume both protein and carbohydrate following training, exercise, or competition.  A small amount of protein will facilitate repair and resynthesis of muscle proteins.  Sufficient carbohydrate helps stimulate amino acid uptake into muscle and is essential for rapid glycogen resynthesis."  So after your workout,  remember to rehydrate and replenish you’re your body with a little carbohydrate but a good amount of protein also.  Throw in a little healthy fat to keep you satisfied and you'll be ready for that next workout in no time.  Some snacking ideas include nuts, seeds, a piece of fruit with hard boiled eggs, veggies and hummus, half  a turkey sandwich or a protein shake.  If you are about to eat a meal, then no need to snack, just eat that balanced meal within two hours of your workout to refuel your muscles and your glucose tank!