How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
High protein diets have been trending for many years and have become a popular approach to losing weight. People typically see fast results within the first couple of weeks which is usually due to water weight.
Why You Need Protein:
The main function of protein is to build and repair body tissues and structures. It is also involved in the synthesis of hormones, enzymes, cell repair and helps to form blood cells. It can also be used for energy if calories and carbohydrates are insufficient in the diet.
Protein recommendations depend on the individual. Depending on age, sex and activity levels, an individual may need more or less. Typically protein should range between 10% to 35% of total daily caloric intake.
Recommended Protein Intakes:
Sedentary: 0.4 g/lb
Strength Athletes: 0.5-0.8 g/lb
Endurance Athletes: 0.5-0.6 g/lb
Complete Protein vs. Incomplete Protein
Complete Protein: Contains all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids our bodies cannot produce on their own).
Incomplete Protein: A protein source lacking in one of the essential amino acids. Most plant protein sources do not contain all essential amino acids except for quinoa. You can attain a complete protein source from plants by combining a legume and grain (oats and peanut butter or rice and beans for example).
Sources of Complete Protein
Meat and poultry
Rice and beans
Nut butter and whole grain bread
Risks of a High Protein Diet
Typically because so much of the diet is focused on protein intake, it crowds out essential nutrients we obtain from carbohydrates. It also causes a higher consumption of saturated fat (typically found in dairy and meat) and lower fibre intake. People with kidney issues should also be wary of consuming too much protein as the metabolic waste, urea, cannot be properly eliminated.Your body's preferred source of energy comes from carbohydrates so fatigue is a common side effect of a high protein diet. It can also effect hormones and mood.
Protein and Gaining Muscle
So, do you need to chug protein shakes after your workout in order to get all the gains and build muscle? Not necessarily. It is more about your total daily intake of protein and calories that is going to get you the results, whether that is weight loss or gaining muscle mass.
Look to include quality sources of protein in your diet. I typically recommend clients to consume protein at each meal and snack. This helps you to feel more satiated as well as keep blood sugar levels balanced. Try to get your protein from whole food sources and if you need extra supplementation, look for good quality protein powders that are minimally processed and have clean ingredients.
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