Health MATTERS: the skinny on PROTEIN

 A crash courseprotein1Believe me there’s far too much information so I broke it down as best I could (even though it’s a lot bit longer than my usual posts) from researching a few articles. I think we all know that keeping a balanced diet is really key.

What do I immediately do after a run or workout using weights at the gym?  Go home to make a smoothie with a BIG scoop of *protein powder.  Of course the smoothie is more of a thick milkshake-like consistency with other good stuff like banana, yogurt, frozen wild blueberries (I like it cold), wild green powder or juice, coconut water, flax & chia seeds and a good quality matcha green tea powder (from Japan).  This to me is the Ultimate workout recovery.  I try to drink it as quickly as possible so that the protein will adhere to my muscles ASAP!  Who knows but it feels really healthy, works for most athletes as I am a major athlete (of which I am not) but why not do as they do?

 Because WITHOUT PROTEIN, life as we know it would not be possible.

They’re used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin.  Proteins are also used to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve important functions.

Bottom Line: Protein is a structural molecule assembled out of amino acids, many of which the body can’t produce on its own. Animal foods are usually high in protein, with all the essential amino acids that we need.

If we don’t get enough from the diet, our health and body composition suffers.

However, there are vastly different opinions on how much protein we actually need.     Most official nutrition organizations recommend a fairly modest protein intake.

  • 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
  • 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

Although this meager amount may be enough to prevent downright deficiency, studies show that it is far from sufficient to ensure optimal health and body composition.

It turns out that the “right” amount of protein for any one individual depends on many factors… including activity levels, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.

The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. They have all the essential amino acids that your body needs.  There are also some plants that are fairly high in protein, like quinoa, legumes and nuts.

All of this being said, I don’t think there is any need for most people to actually track their protein intake.

If you’re just a healthy person trying to stay healthy, then simply eating quality protein with most of your meals (along with nutritious plant foods) should bring your intake into an optimal range.

If you have a physically demanding job, you walk a lot, run, swim or do any sort of exercise, then you need more protein. Endurance athletes also need quite a bit of protein, about 0.5 – 0.65 grams per pound, or 1.2 – 1.4 grams per kg.

Elderly people also need significantly more protein, up to 50% higher than the DRI, or about 0.45 to 0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight.

What “Grams of Protein” Really Means

This is a very common misunderstanding

When I say “grams of protein” – I mean grams of the macronutrient protein, not grams of a protein containing food like meat or eggs.

An 8 ounce serving of beef weighs 226 grams, but it only contains 61 grams of actual protein. A large egg weighs 46 grams, but it only contains 6 grams of protein.

What About The Average Person (of course we all think we’re all above average)?

If you’re at a healthy weight, you don’t lift weights and you don’t exercise much, then aiming for 0.36 to 0.6 grams per pound (or 0.8 to 1.3 gram per kg) is a reasonable estimate.

This amounts to:

  • 56-91 grams per day for the average male.
  • 46-75 grams per day for the average female.

But given that there is no evidence of harm and significant evidence of benefit, I think it is better for most people to err on the side of more protein rather than less.

Protein and THE ATHLETE – How Much Do You Need?weights1

By **Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD

Whether running sprints, long-distance swimming or lifting weights, athletes expend more energy than the average person and their bodies need additional nutrients to recover from intense physical activity. Protein plays an important role in an athlete’s diet as the nutrient helps repair and strengthen muscle tissue. Recently, high protein diets have become popular among athletes — especially those seeking a leaner, more defined physique. But how much protein is really necessary?

OVERALL DIET

While protein is critical in building muscle mass, more is not necessarily better. Eating large amounts of lean protein will not equate with a toned body.

When determining protein requirements for athletes, it’s important to look at the athlete’s overall diet. During periods of both rest and activity, protein contributes about 10 percent of the total fuel an athlete’s body uses. The remaining fuel used is made up of carbohydrates and fat. Athletes who consume diets adequate in both these nutrients end up using less protein for energy than those who consume a higher protein diet. This means that protein can go toward preserving lean body mass (i.e. that lean physique). So in order to retain muscle, athletes need to ensure they are also meeting needs for carbs and fat, not just protein.

ACTIVITY

Muscle growth happens only when exercise and diet are combined.

For example, research has shown that *timing of protein intake plays a significant role. Eating high-quality protein (such as eggs, dairy or soy) immediately after exercise — either by itself or with a carbohydrate — enhances muscle creation.

Duration and intensity of the activity is also a factor when it comes to protein needs.

Endurance athletes (such as runners, bikers and swimmers) tend to synthesize more protein for fuel while power (or strength) athletes (such as sprinters, weightlifters and CrossFitters) tend to synthesize less protein for fuel but retain more for muscle development.

Because they are building muscle, power athletes require a higher level of protein consumption than endurance athletes. “[Power] athletes’ protein needs are highest during the initial training phases, when muscle gain is largest,” says sports dietitian Kelly Rossi, MS, RD, CSSD. “As any athlete trains more, their body’s efficiency in using protein increases so they may not need as much.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

While protein needs of both endurance and power athletes are greater than that of non-athletes, they’re not as high as commonly perceived.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend the following for power and endurance athletes, based on body weight:

  • Power athletes (strength or speed): 1.2 to 1.7 grams/kilogram a day
  • Endurance athletes: 1.2 to 1.4 grams/kilogram a day

For an adult male athlete, that’s about 84 to 119 grams of protein a day; for adult females about 66 to 94 grams.

By comparison, a sedentary adult male needs about 56 grams of protein a day; for females it’s about 46 grams.

Are POWDERS and SUPPLEMENTS Needed?

*Protein powders and protein supplements are great for convenience, but not to be solely relied on. Whole foods are always best, but with a busy athlete trying to juggle a million things, it is more realistic to provide them with the convenient shake.  It is for added reassurance.

*For the Ultimate protein, greens and fiber in powder form I use and recommend: http://www.ultimatevegan.com/products/

Source of info: http://authoritynutrition.com and http://www.eatright.org

**Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, is owner of Delicious Knowledge in Sacramento, Calif. She specializes in plant-based diets, sports nutrition, food intolerance and weight management.

How about you?  What form of exercise do you regularly do and do you make a shake the minute you get home from your workout?

 

 

 

 

 

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