Thursday, January 19, 2012

How Much Protein Do I Need?

by Kris Pitcher

We've talked about protein before, but it seems to be a topic of interest and ongoing discussion. There is confusion regarding how much we need, when we should eat it and what we should eat. We can get in the weeds on this topic, or we can look at the big picture.

We're going to look at the big picture. Protein is our most muscle sparing macronutrient. All hail protein! We need it. We can consume more of it than previously thought.

In fact, it used to be generally accepted that we could assimilate 20-30 grams per sitting. So, the recommendation was to eat that amount every 2-3 hours. Not a bad idea. However, we are constantly learning new things. And one of those new things is that we can assimilate more than the 20-30 gms previously thought.

But we're going to stay out of the weeds here. The point is we can eat and use a lot of protein. It's not going to tax your system. Your kidneys can process it just fine.

As a general rule, we can take in 1 gram of protein for every pound of our desired weight. Translation - if you're 150 pounds and you would like to be 175, take in 175 grams of protein. There are a number of other more specific recommendations based on lean body mass, and other "in the weeds" methods. But, quite simply, you know what you'd like to weigh.

Our best sources of protein are from whole foods including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes and dairy. You can substitute with protein powders made from whey, casein or egg. Nutrient timing is important, but if we are thinking big picture - get your total in for the day.

You have 24 hours in the day. You need to get your nutrients in during your waking hours. It makes sense to fuel around your work, your exercise etc. It makes sense to portion out your nutrients and spread them out throughout the day. Do what makes sense. What makes sense works.

First thing in the morning you want a fast digesting protein, like a whey. During the day you want variety and for your last meal right before you tuck into bed, you want a slow digesting protein like a casein, or a few egg whites. Yum! Egg whites are my go to bed time meal.

Most avid strength trainers likely take in more than the above recommendation. Nutrients taken in above and beyond what you need and can use will be converted and stored as fat. If you're getting're eating too much. Simple. If you're struggling to make gains, you may need to assess your protein intake and increase it.

That's the big picture answer for when and how much protein you need. I hope that's helpful. It really doesn't need to be any more difficult than that.

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