All Things Protein
by Taylor Gerlach
You’ve probably seen the targeted Instagram and Facebook ads. Or the viral videos of gym bros downing as much protein powder as possible in one gulp. If you’re wondering what all this talk of protein means for you, welcome to our protein guide. We’ll take a look at this macronutrient, how to determine if your body is getting the amount it needs, and some tips if you’re falling short on your newfound protein goals.
What is protein and why do we need it?
Protein is one of the essential building blocks of your body, so it does a lot. With the right amount of protein, it can strengthen your bones, improve your immune system, and carry oxygen throughout your body through your blood. Protein is also important for maintaining your organs, muscles, skin, and hair, among other life essentials. Consuming the correct amount of protein also helps you feel full and satisfied with your meals.
Chemically, protein is composed of amino acids, so you’ve probably heard that buzzword a lot. Complete proteins provide your body with all nine amino acids that cannot be organically made by your body.
How much protein do you need?
The recommended range of protein intake is based on bodyweight and lifestyle. Sara Sheridan, CFL’s on-staff Registered Dietitian, recommends 1.5g protein/kg body weight per day to 2.2g protein/kg for people who actively work out and do not lead sedentary lives. When thinking about your protein intake goals, it’s important to consider how changing your protein intake would impact your current dietary habits and food enjoyment and weigh those impacts against your goals.
How do your goals fit into this?
If you’re looking to build strength and muscle, Sara recommends aiming for the higher end of that intake range, so shoot for 1.8 – 2.2g protein/kg body weight per day. If your goals include reducing fat mass, you should also be looking at that higher range of 1.8 – 2.2 g/kg. This is because a higher protein intake is necessary to retain as much muscle mass as possible while trying to reduce fat mass. If you’re just trying to maintain general activity and fitness, 1.5g/kg is a good starting point to ensure good muscle recovery.
Where should your protein come from?
Sara recommends focusing on foods before supplements. Aim for having the bulk of your protein intake coming from foods like animal meat, eggs, soy, dairy milk, yogurt, tofu, legumes, and seitan, which are all good sources of protein. There are lots of protein-fortified food options available like pancake mixes, nut milks, breads, pastas, and bars.
Should I use supplements? Which ones?
If you’re thinking about investing in protein supplements, look at your protein goals and your current protein intake. If you have trouble getting all of your protein from food alone, protein powder can be a helpful addition for you to meet those goals without completely disrupting your current habits around food.
When you’re shopping around for protein powder, you’ll see plant and animal based products. We have both options for sale at the gym if you want to check them out and ask around for recommendations or reviews. Whey and casein, both milk proteins, are the most widely available animal-based protein supplements. Pea, hemp, and brown rice protein are common plant-based or vegan protein supplements.
Protein supplements are also sold as concentrate or isolate. When you’re choosing what type of protein powder to try, the most important consideration is GI comfort. Protein powders made from protein concentrates have a higher ratio of fat/carb to protein, which may cause GI discomfort like gas and bloating. This is particularly true for whey protein concentrate, which can contain higher levels of lactose. Protein powders made from protein isolate are more expensive, but are 90-95% protein. This typically means they are easier on your GI and don’t come with those side effects.
Is timing important?
Sara recommends that protein intake should ideally be spread over the course of the day. Overall protein intake over a 24 hour period is more important than the exact timing of your protein intake. This means that you don’t have to immediately gulp down a protein shake right after working out to recover and build muscle. Instead, your body will use what you’ve fueled it with throughout the day, and there isn’t a specific window you need to capitalize on.
2021 04 24