How Much Protein Do I Need?
JDP Top Trainer and Muscle Building King Jackson Hinch answers the question on most gym addicts lips- How much protein do I need?
If you’ve been training for awhile then you’ve obviously heard of Protein. Not just the powder, the actual macronutrient that your body is made up of. Protein is essential to living, moving, performing, and surviving. Much more important than most people give it credit for. In general people’s diets are largely made up of Carbohydrate and Fat rich foods as these taste good and are often easy to prepare and eat on the go, whereas Protein takes a bit more preparation and time to eat. This is backwards of how a diet should be structured if health and progress is your goal. How much protein do I need is a question often asked in fitness circles, here’s the answer.
Protein comes in many shapes and forms, from meat and eggs, to the powdered supplements or vegetarian friendly options like tofu or lentils. Having a variety is important, as Protein is made up of smaller building blocks called Amino Acids, and each protein source has varying levels of each. Some are essential as the body can’t make them itself, and others are not so essential and the body can make do without them, or source them by converting others. Protein sources such as white meat (chicken, fish), red meat (beef), and eggs have relatively complete Amino Acid profiles covering all your bases, other sources such as Nuts, Beans, Grains have incomplete Amino Acid profiles and need to be eaten with another Protein source to ensure you’re getting everything you need.
Regular feedings of Protein are also essential for the body, and even more so if you are looking to maximise recovery and make changes to your body. Depending on the type and amount of Protein you eat at a time will dictate when you need to eat again due to different digestion times. For example, say you have a single scoop Whey Isolate shake then you’ll probably need to eat more Protein about an hour afterwards, whereas if you hammer a 300g Steak then you might not need to have more Protein for another 3 hours or so. Use this to your advantage and time your Protein types around workouts and your daily schedule.
The Recommended Daily Intake nationwide for Protein is extremely low, sitting at a mere 50g. In theory this is ridiculous even for someone who doesn’t lift weights. Bare in mind this is a blanket recommendation which makes it even more ludicrous. A better measure of how much protein you need is a measure relative to your bodyweight. Somewhere from 0.8-1.2g/lb of bodyweight each day is a much better place to be, and makes it applicable to a small woman, or a large male and adjusts accordingly. If you are a female then you’re generally better to start at the lower end of the range and see how you respond, if male then start at the upper end and see how you respond. Everyone is different and training type and intensity will come into play as well, if you train super hard and are relatively muscular you’ll likely even be above the recommended range, take as nothing but a guide and a minimum to hit to begin with.
The amount of Protein you need also varies depending on what you are aiming to do with your body composition at the time. If you are trying to sit in a calorie deficit and lose bodyfat you’ll need more Protein than if you are trying to maintain, or even grow on a calorie surplus. This is due to needing to preserve muscle mass, in a calorie deficit your body needs Protein as much as ever and the first place it will look is your muscle mass. Muscle is “calorically expensive” to keep around (meaning that it burns calories even at rest), whereas bodyfat isn’t. From a survival standpoint your body won’t hold onto muscle due to this, so it will be the first thing to go if you aren’t feeding your body enough Protein. In a calorie deficit it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to Protein if you value muscle preservation.
On the flip side, when you’re in a calorie surplus trying to grow, there is an abundance of nutrients floating around your body so no need for your body to worry about survival and costly muscle mass. Given the increase in Carbohydrates you’ll likely be consuming, you need a little less Protein than you would dieting as your body will have plenty of readily available energy.
Let’s use Matt as an example. If he weighs 80kg (which is 175lbs) his Protein requirements will differ depending what he’s trying to achieve. Let’s say he’s trying to maintain weight and he’s figured out he needs 1g/lb of bodyweight a day, that’s 175g Protein. He decides to try to build some muscle mass and increase his Carbohydrates, Fats, and Calories. So he might only need 0.8g/lb of bodyweight, which is 140g. Now if he decided to diet, his Protein needs would increase, so now he’ll need 1.2g/lb of bodyweight, which is 210g per day.
With a bit of number crunching you can easily figure out your own requirements as a base line and then and just from there. If you start at 1g/lb of bodyweight, but then find you’re sore for extended periods and not recovering in between sessions then you may look to increase this. Equally if this makes you too full, too sluggish, and need more energy then you may look to reduce this and exchange for Carbohydrates in your diet. Protein will always reign king in the gym though, and should be the cornerstone of any diet or eating plan you follow.