What you need to know about Protein
I think It’s safe to say that everyone, whether they know exactly what it is or not has heard of protein. It’s a word we see everywhere nowadays & it’s one that keeps popping up more and more on food packages & drinks bottles. It’s also a word I hear a lot of people throwing around in conversations, that could be on tv or just conversations I overhear when out and about.
I mean is there even a point in going to the gym if you don’t have a protein shake with you? (This is a joke, there is very much a point in going, you don’t ‘NEED’ a protein shake.)
The word ‘protein’ appearing all over the place is mostly being used as a marketing trigger word for companies, but this is not actually a bad thing as now people have become more aware of it. The issue comes down to what people understand by the word protein, there is so much information out currently and a lot of it can be very poor. One day you will see piece of information saying one thing, then the next day see something else saying the opposite and that can be really confusing when trying to learn.
So, throughout this post we hope to clear up this confusion and educate you on what you need to know when it comes to protein.
What is protein?
Protein can simply be referred to as, ‘The building block of muscle’. All proteins are made up of a combination of amino acids, this is what protein will be broken down into within the body to be used. There are 20 different amino acids which are split into 2 categories. The essential amino acids (EAAs) which there are 9 of, these are the ones our bodies cannot synthesise, so we need to get these from our diet. The remaining 11 amino acids are referred to as non-essential amino acids (NEAAs), these are the ones our bodies can synthesise so there is not such a demand for these. NEAAs can become essential for certain individuals due to certain conditions.
Protein has a lot of functions within the body and I could be writing forever talking about all the functions it has but I’m just going to stick with the role’s protein has in regard to training.
Protein is essential for the growth and maintenance of tissue. As we train, we are effectively breaking down our muscles, at this point our body is looking to take in a good amount of protein. This will allow for muscle protein synthesise to kick off and our body will then have enough protein to fuel recovery and repair/build new muscle tissue. You don’t need to be consuming protein straight after a session, as long as you are going to be able to consume some within the following few hours, you’ll be good.
How much Protein do you need?
There are a lot of factors that go into saying how much protein someone should consume each day such as; weight & height, body fat %, your goal (weight maintenance, muscle gain, or fat loss), how active you are etc.
Taking all this into consideration we have a range in which nearly everyone who trains will fall into, this range has come from years of scientific research, so it is a trustworthy range to use.
You should be looking to consume 1.8 – 2.2 grams of protein, per kilogram of body weight each day.
For example, an individual weighing 70kg will be looking at a range of 126g-154g of protein per day.
If you are looking to lose body fat, so are in a calorific deficit, protein consumption should be increased as this will help your body hold onto that hard earned muscle tissue, this is more important the leaner someone is as the body will look to use muscle as energy.
Opposite when someone is in a caloric surplus (Looking to gain muscle mass) then protein consumption can remain at a set number within the range discussed previously. This is due to higher calories & specifically carbohydrates being protein sparing, meaning the body won’t look to protein as a fuel source as much.
Benefits to a high protein diet
Other than the obvious benefits in terms of recovery, muscle growth/maintenance and other performance benefits, there are some other benefits to following a high protein diet.
Protein is great in decreasing ghrelin (the hunger hormone). This makes it the most satiating macronutrient meaning it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. This is extremely beneficial in times when you are in a calorie deficit (Goal of fat loss) as it will make it much easier to be consuming a lower number of calories each day. This is why at GWD we ensure all of our clients have a high protein target, as a result of this, the likelihood of snacking on junk food is reduced as the Individual won’t feel like they need/want to.
Protein also has the highest thermogenic effect above carbs & fats 20–35% compared to 5–15%. The thermogenic effect is basically how much energy (calories) the body uses to digest nutrients; heat is a byproduct of this. It has been shown that a high protein diet can lead to an extra 80-100 calories burned each day just from digestion of protein, every little helps, right?
People who eat more protein tend to have better bone health; this becomes more important the older an individual is. This means the risk of osteoporosis and fractures are reduced. Now I don’t know about you but to me this is a cracking reason to eat more protein.
Protein is also hugely beneficial when it comes to caring for the heart, it’s been shown to help prevent heart related diseases as well as be great for blood pressure issues
Quality Of Protein
Protein can be found in high quality or quite low quality & this is dependent on where you are getting your protein. It’s quality is rated on how well it digests and how good its amino acid profile is.
There are also incomplete & complete protein sources. This basically means are there any of the 9 essential amino acids missing from a certain food. For example, Cow’s milk is a complete protein whereas rice is incomplete. Complete protein sources tend to be the well known as high protein foods also.
Forms of protein we should have little of are processed meats. All meat that has been smoked, salted, cured, dried or canned is considered processed. This includes sausages, hot dogs, salami, ham and cured bacon. Eating too much processed meats raise disease risk a lot, most notably the risk of cancer. These forms of meat are also usually paired with high amounts of fat & carry a lot of calories with them, which without knowing could mean over consuming calories quite easily.
Now we all know about protein powder, whether you have ever used it or not. From brand to brand, powders will have varying qualities, this could be because of what is making up that powder, the quality it was manufactured, form of protein etc.
I’m not going to delve too deep into different forms of protein or different forms of protein supplements as that will be coming in another post soon. What I will say is that when you are looking for good quality protein powders you want to be looking for ones that have little added extra ingredients & have a high % of protein per serving (80+). Again, we will look into how to find a good protein powder and know what to look for when searching in a later post.
Protein can seem quite complicated and if you really want to go into more of the science behind it and learn more than it can be complicated but if that’s not for you then it can be very simple.
First up you need to make sure you are consuming the correct amount, so following the 1.8 – 2.2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. Then secondly you need to look at the actual protein source you are consuming. You want to be staying away from high fat sources. Proteins should be lean and of a complete nature.
So keep protein high, keep smashing your training & you’ll be on the way to achieving your goals.
– Antonio, J., Ellerbroek, A., Silver, T., Orris, S., Scheiner, M., Gonzalez, A., & Peacock, C. A. (2015). A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 39.
– Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
– Bonjour, J. P. (2005). Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(sup6), 526S-536S.