Everything we eat is made up of a ratio of nutrients, unless you’re eating cardboard, but then I guess there’s probably some fiber in that somewhere…hmmm… Anywho, the nutrients we eat fall into two main categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. I’m sure you’re familiar with the macronutrients, which are proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats; and the micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals.
This post is focused on the macronutrient, Protein. If you’re at all curious about what protein is, and why we need it, or how much you need, read on…
What is protein?
Protein, or proteins, are molecules made up of chains of amino acids (building blocks of protein). Those chains form various structures responsible for many of our body’s functions. Protein is essential to life.
Why do we need it?
There are different forms of protein in the body: essential, conditionally-essential, and non-essential. Our body makes a few proteins on it’s own. Those are the non-essential proteins. The conditionally-essential proteins are proteins our bodies can make but can’t always make enough of in certain situations (immune system attacks, stress, etc..). But, the body cannot make the essential proteins, which is why we need to get those proteins from the foods we eat. Hence their title being ‘essential.’
It’s important to get enough protein in, and regularly, because your body is constantly using up the amino acids it has available, and replenishing them with those we eat (the proteins we eat are broken down into amino acids to be used for various bodily functions). Without enough coming in, our bodies can’t function as they’re meant to. Proteins are needed for creating new molecules (like hormones and enzymes), repairing and replacing cells and rebuilding and repairing torn muscle, and other important functions. It also boosts your metabolism because protein requires energy (calories) to break down/digest. Studies also show protein to boost levels of the hormone glucagon which can aid in fat loss. (Reference)
How much do we need?
The recommended daily intake for protein varies depending on the sources (ex: government food pyramid vs sports nutritionist, etc), but based on the evidence-based, scientifically tested information I’ve read over the years, the general daily recommendation for proper bodily function and repair is between 1.4–2.0g/kg (0.64–0.9 g/lb) per day. (Reference)
Now, this may sound like #fitfam high treason, but hear this:
You won’t lose your gains if you don’t get your precious protein shake down immediately after you put down the weight after your last set. (Reference)
That said, if you’re a serious athlete and who wants to make the most out of your training sessions, build and maintain muscle, and optimize performance, Alan A. Aragon recommends consuming 1/4 of your body weight in grams of protein within two hours of training (for dem ‘gains’). It’s not a ‘window’, it’s just a good idea not to starve your body after you beat it up. ;)
Can I have too much?
I’ve read tons of journals and articles, and textbooks on this and the only known issue with eating “too much” protein, is that once your body has more than it needs, it converts the left overs into sugars or stores it as fat. Neither are much of a concern, because of the elevated energy need required to digest and convert protein in the first place. There is no scientific evidence that too much is in any way harmful to your health, but you can always consume too many calories, which can, in turn, end up becoming harmful to your health no matter where the calories are coming from.
What kinds of protein do you recommend, how do I get it?
I recommend prioritizing real food options, like eggs, fish, lean meats, etc. (See grocery list for #CauseFitnessApproved proteins). However, when time, schedule, or dietary restrictions don’t allow for real food options, there are there are a ton of options available on the market for protein supplements.
There’s the gold medalist: Whey. It’s the most bio-available of the proteins. If you’re a no-whey kinda person, try proteins such as egg, brown rice, hemp, pea, beef, etc.
As for brand, I highly recommend anything Precision Nutrition stands behind. Here’s a list of their ‘approved’ supplements.
Next to that list, I am adamant that any brand or company I recommend meet some serious standards (see ‘Why I Turn Down Sponsorships’ for more info on that), but I have found a few I lovingly deem worthy of my Tag, #CauseFitnessApproved. Those brands include: Gnarly, Bio-Energetix, VegaSport (vegan option) for protein supplement excellence. Gnarly offers Cause Fitness readers/fans 15% off with coupon code ‘CauseFitness’ too, so that’s cool! Get you some seriously clean, bloat-banishing whey protein from them now. (Overshare warning: I used to have terrible gas and bloat babies from my supplements until I cleaned them up and said NO to any artificial ingredient. Now I’m fine and happy as a clam! These brands are all anti-bloat). :)
Lastly, here’s a post-workout smoothie recipe for ya! Enjoy!
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