Recommended Protein Daily Intake For Your Goals
When you first start working out you may lean out faster than usual, owing to the fact that your body is not used to what you are doing. It has to go through an adaptation phase, in which it usually responds by packing on extra muscle, helping you lean out. This is why you will often hear of people dropping 10 pounds or more in their first week of working out. That said, once your body adapts to your workouts you will find yourself stuck in a rut and unable to make anymore progress.
This is known as the dreaded plateau and we have all, at some point, experienced it. When you hit a plateau your muscle gains will come to a sudden halt and your bodily strength will slowly start to taper off. If you were trying to lose weight, the scale will all but stop moving in the right direction. During these situations, no matter what you do your body simply won’t respond. This, of course, is extremely frustrating—the very reason so many aspiring bodybuilders either give up on their dreams or opt to use an illegal substance, such as steroids.
They want results and they want them right now.
The good news is you can get the results you want without doing anything dangerous or illegal. All you need to do is up your protein intake and you will be surprised at how quickly your body starts to change. It may sound rather simple but there is a lot more to it. Not only do you need to up your protein intake, but you also need to take it at the right times and in the right amounts. When you combine proper protein intake with diet and exercise, there is no limit to what you can do with your body.
With this article we are going to dig deep and break down everything you need to know about protein. Once you are done reading it you will know exactly how much protein you need to start taking to build the body of your dreams. But first, let’s start with the simple and most basic question.
What is Protein?
Protein is the building block of your entire body. It is a compound that is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are nothing more than chains of smaller molecules: they are vital to your overall health. In fact, your hormones, hair, organs, muscles, tendons and enzymes are all made from protein. In order for proteins to form it requires twenty one amino acids to combine . And while your body is able to produce twelve on its own, it must get the remaining nine from other sources such as the food you eat or the supplements you take. The nine amino acids your body can’t produce on its own are known as essential amino acids and they are as follows:
When you eat protein you provide your body with the essential amino acids it needs to do its job. Without adequate essential amino acids your body will not be able to build and repair itself. If you are someone who loves to lift weights and workout on a regular basis, your body will need more protein than someone who lives a very sedentary lifestyle. Even still, getting adequate amounts of protein is very important for both individuals.
If a sedentary person doesn’t get enough protein it will result in a loss of muscle. And according to the US National Library of Medicine, low muscle strength can lead to death. When you supplement with protein always remember quality matters. All proteins are not created equal so be very selective with the type of protein you chose to use. More about what does protein do here.
What Happens In Your Body When You Eat Protein
When you drink a protein shake acid and enzymes will immediately break it down into amino acids. Whey protein breaks down quicker than other forms of protein, such as eggs. This is why protein shakes are the go-to form of protein after a workout. Once the protein is broken down the amino acids will make their way into your small intestine. This is where you will find special cells, known as transporter cells. The transporter cells are responsible for transporting amino acids, as well as other nutrients, throughout your body.
The rate at which your body is able to absorb protein is determined by two things:
1. How quickly the protein is able to be broken down
2. How quickly the amino acids are able to be moved out of the small intestine and into your blood stream
According to a study done on the issues of dietary protein intake in humans, the human body can absorb up to 10 grams of whey protein per hour. Compare that to only being able to absorb up to 2.8 grams of protein from a cooked egg per hour and you see why whey protein is such a popular choice. Please know these numbers will be different based on your personal circumstances. They do, however, clearly show the dramatic difference in how different forms of protein are absorbed by your body.
In the next section we are going to dig in a little deeper and discuss how eating protein-rich foods affects the rate at which protein synthesis occurs. Keep reading to find out the truth about protein absorption.
Everything You Need to Know About Protein Absorption
According to multiple studies, 20 to 40 grams of protein is the ideal amount needed to stimulate maximum protein synthesis. This means eating over 40 grams will do little to nothing in terms of muscle growth and repair. Many have taken this information and falsely associated it with the amount of protein your body can absorb. They believe since the optimal amount is between 20 and 40 grams your body can only handle up to 40 grams.
This, however, is completely untrue. The rate of protein synthesis is but one piece of a much bigger puzzle. How long your levels stay elevated is just as important. In some cases it may even be more important. Let’s look at an example so you can better understand how this works.
According to research, 30 grams of whey can cause protein synthesis rates to spike higher than 30 grams of casein. While both are forms of protein, whey is absorbed more rapidly, causing protein synthesis rates to fall back to baseline in a shorter amount of time. Casein on the other hand has a longer increase which inhibits the breakdown of protein for a longer period of time. The very same thing happens when you increase the amount of protein you eat with each meal. You can eat 60 grams of protein per meal and the only thing that will change are the effects. The fundamentals will remain the same.
One other fallacy we need to address with regard to protein absorption is the belief that it takes up to 3 hours for food to move through the small intestine. If this were true, (and its not), it would mean your body could only absorb a certain amount of protein before it exits the small intestine and eventually gets pooped out. The three macronutrients— which are carbohydrates, fats and proteins—don’t move in a uniformed fashion through the digestive tract. They also don’t leave in the same order in which they arrived. When protein is detected by your stomach, a special hormone gets produced that delays the gastric emptying process.
When this hormone is produced it slows down intestinal contractions: this allows your body more time to absorb as much protein as it needs to. As a result your body will process and absorb carbohydrates and fats as quickly as possible. It will then take its sweet time processing and absorbing the protein.
While there are no major studies linking kidney disease and high protein intake, it is very important you know too much protein does cause your kidneys to work overtime. If you already have kidney problems this can lead to even more damage. Talking about figures, women should aim for 46 grams of protein per day and men should aim for 56 grams.
How Much Protein Do You Need To Lose Weight
Anytime you want to lose weight, what you really want to do is lose as much fat as possible while maintaining as much muscle as you can. In order to do that you will need to consume a high protein diet, which is thought to be the best way to preserve muscle and lose fat at the same time. While most people find it very difficult to stick with other diet plans, high protein diets are usually a lot easier to stick to, because a diet high in protein doesn’t lead to fatigue, stress or a feeling of deprivation.
So now the question is how much protein do you need to consume to lose weight? According to research cited on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, you need to consume anywhere between 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight when you are trying to lose weight and lean out. If you are considered obese, consuming this amount of protein is more than adequate. If protein powder is your protein source of choice, be sure to get it as close to pure as possible. If your protein powder is loaded with carbs and fats you will be consuming additional calories that would be better served coming from a different food source.
As a matter of fact, intake of more calories than you need is not the best idea when you are trying to lose fat and lean out. That’s why fitness experts put a huge emphasis on drinking a gallon of water per day. When you drink sodas and fruit juices you are basically drinking a ton of sugar and getting absolutely no nutritional value. That’s why these types of drinks are referred to as “empty calories”. Drinking just one can of soda constitutes 150 calories of your daily caloric intake— that’s a lot of calories for which you will be getting nothing in return.
Instead of drinking your calories sit down and have a 1000 calorie meal that consists of plenty of protein and fiber, which will help you stay full for an extended period of time. Research actually shows people who drink their calories tend to overeat, consume more sugar and ultimately gain weight instead of losing it. So the next time you want to grab for a can of soda, consider the impact it will have on your waste line.
How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle
Anytime you exercise you increase the body’s need for protein. The question is by how much? A study done by scientists at McMaster University found that the ideal amount of protein to maximize protein synthesis is between 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. The study also noted more protein may be needed for those who are on a calorie restricted diet or for someone who frequently engages in high intensity exercise. Another study done by scientists at the University of Western Ontario came to the very same conclusion.
If you are an athlete 0.6 grams of protein is a good place to start. However, things such as exercise intensity, energy balance and the length of time you have been training can all come into play in terms of determining the amount of protein you need. One last study we will mention on this subject is one done by scientists at AUT University. This study concluded that, protein needs for an individual on a resistance training regimen and a calorie restricted diet are around 2.3 to 3.1 grams of fat free mass. The lower your caloric intake, the more protein you will need to consume.
When it boils down to it, all of these studies are in line with the common recommendation of 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for those trying to bulk up. You will, of course, make regular adjustments as your goals and needs change.
Taking protein at the right time is the key to maximizing your results. Taking it at the wrong time will cause your body to use only a portion of the protein while the rest will go to waste. Below are four key times when you need to take protein. They are ranked in order of most importance.
Right After You Workout
Right after you workout is the absolute best time to consume protein. After you workout your body is in need of protein in order to start repairing and rebuilding the muscle you have just broken down during your workout. Consuming protein a few minutes after you workout will give your metabolism a quick boost and put your body in the ideal state to start producing the 3 key muscle building hormones which are insulin, growth hormone and testosterone. This is often referred to as the anabolic window.
The goal is to take a minimum of 20 grams of protein followed by a high glycemic index carbohydrate immediately after you workout. Following this practice will cause your body to drastically change over a short period of time. If you are only able to take one protein shake per day, taking it right after you workout will be your best bet. You must wait one hour after consuming your protein shake before having real food. Aim to get 30 to 40 grams of protein and a low glycemic index carbohydrate during this meal.
In The Morning
The second best time to get some protein is right after you wake up. After 7 or 8 hours of sleep your body is in a fasted state. The best way to break that fast is with a whey protein shake. Because protein powder assimilates at a quicker rate than whole food, it will get to your muscles much faster. An hour after you take your protein shake is the perfect time to have breakfast. Again, aim to get 30 to 40 grams of protein during this meal.
Right Before Bed
Having protein right before bed will give your body the building blocks it needs to continue repairing and rebuilding your muscles while you sleep. To make this happen you will need to use a slow digesting protein such as casein. Taking protein before you go to bed will ensure your muscles stay in an anabolic state during this 7 to 8 hour fasting period. Never consume carbs right before you head off to bed. Doing so will cause your body to store them as fat.
In Between Meals
Consuming protein in between meals is a great way to keep your body in an anabolic state all day long. If you have long periods of time between each of your meals, be sure to take a protein shake as it will help you stay full and avoid indulging in something that will set you back a few days.
The Best Sources of Protein
Some people think if they eat enough broccoli everyday it will provide them with plenty of protein. While broccoli does indeed contain protein, about 13 grams per pound, it doesn’t have nearly enough for someone who lives a physically active lifestyle. One thing to keep in mind is the fact not all protein is created equal. There are different forms of protein and they all have a different amino acid profile. And, they are absorbed by your body in different ways.
Yes, plant proteins are great and are wonderful for your overall health. The only problem, however, is many plant proteins don’t contain the ideal amounts of certain amino acids. Animal products, on the other hand, have large amounts of all essential amino acids. This is why you hear of bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts loading up on lean steak and chicken breasts. You would have to eat 18 cups of broccoli every single day just to get the same amount of essential amino acids as you would from eating 4 ounces of lean steak. This is why fruits and vegetables aren’t considered the best primary source of protein.
In almost all situations your protein needs will be easiest met through a variety of animal sources. If you are a vegan or vegetarian you will need to be more creative and come up with others ways to get the protein your body needs on a daily basis. It really boils down to proper meal planning and ensuring you always have a high quality protein on hand.
The Bottom Line
Its safe to say this article has covered just about everything you need to know about protein. If you never read anything else about protein you would be just fine. Because in all honesty, there isn’t much left to know about proteins that we’ve not covered. Yes, it is advisable and even beneficial to consume protein immediately after a workout. However, it’s not vital. Whey protein is a very convenient source of protein but it is not a necessity. It doesn’t matter if you are getting protein from a piece of chicken or you are getting it in the form of a powder, as long as you are hitting your daily targets you will be good to go.
Please know protein will only work if you work. It’s a supplement and not some magic formula to getting the body you want. If you aren’t eating properly and hitting the gym on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter how many protein shakes you take, you still won’t get the results you are after. Whether you are trying to lean out or build muscle, you have to control your environment and maintain a diet that is conducive to the goals you are trying to accomplish. If your diet and workout regimen are on point, adding in a protein supplement will give you that added push you need to take your workouts and your body to a whole new level.