Coach’s Corner: Protein 101
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients in our diets (the other two are fats and carbohydrates). Protein is considered the structure, build, and repair macronutrient, as it is the primary component of every cell in the body, including muscle cells. It also provides the building blocks for important hormones and is essential to a healthy immune system.
And when it comes to hunger control, protein is your best friend, keeping you fuller longer (important for anyone, but especially if you are on a weight loss journey).
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) states a daily requirement of .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight (divide your weight by 2.2 to get kilograms). So, a 150 lb person would need a MINIMUM of 54.5 grams of protein per day.
But this is the bare minimum to prevent a protein deficiency, and NOT an optimal level, especially if you are exercising regularly. Equally important is that we need more protein as we age, as protein synthesis decreases (we don’t process it and use it as efficiently as we did in our younger years).
Even though studies show that a slight majority of adults get more than enough protein, this is most definitely not my experience with my clients over the years, with most coming up short of optimal levels. So it’s important to calculate your personal optimal level and track it using a food tracker for a short time to understand and adjust your intake to meet your requirement.
Optimal levels: Both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2-1.7 grams/kilogram/day for adults who regularly strength train, and 1.2-1.4 g/kg/day for adults who regularly practice endurance activities (running, swimming, cycling, etc.).
For the aging population, experts in the field of protein and aging recommend 1.2-2.0 g/kg/day.
These are fairly large ranges and factors such as activity level, health goals (maintain muscle, build muscle, lose weight, etc.), and age can help you dial in what is right for you!
Animal protein sources include poultry, fish, beef, pork, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs. Plant-based proteins include soy, quinoa, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
As I mentioned, many of my clients struggle with hitting an optimal level each day (and honestly, so do I some days). Currently, I have two favorite ways to effortlessly increase my daily protein…
- Grass-fed Collagen Peptides in my morning coffee and/or protein smoothie (I use the unflavored Thrive Market brand: http://thrv.me/Hn5n6n, but I also like the Ancient Nutrition and Primal Kitchen brands).
- Bone Broth sipped throughout the afternoon (I buy it from my local farmer’s market, but also like the Kettle and Fire brand).
When you are on the go, you can choose protein bars, shakes, or powders. Just make sure the ingredients are clean (things you can pronounce) and that added sugar is low or zero.
My favorite protein powder/shake brand is Orgain. My favorite protein bar brand is Dang Bar.
Bonus: Awhile back, I did a video on how to read protein bar labels and choose according to your health goals. The world of protein bars changes by the minute, so there are new products on the market since this video, but it will still help you decipher ingredients of any bar. Plus, you can download a Free Protein Bar Guide! http://www.morethanabody.com/protein-bars-how-to-choose-wisely/
Once you figure your daily protein target (see optimal levels above), you should spread this out evenly throughout the day. Research suggest that we can’t assimilate more than about 30 grams at a time (for purposes of muscle building).
If you are strength training (which you should be 2-3 times/week, all major muscle groups 😀), aim to get a minimum of 20 grams of protein within an hour of your workout, to maximize muscle repair/growth. Although studies vary on the actual timing of this “anabolic window” (some suggesting that the window is larger than one hour), it would still be a good practice.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you purchase using the link, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for your support. I only recommend products that I have personal experience with and would recommend to my family and friends.
I am a health coach, not a doctor; please check with a qualified medical professional before starting any supplement, diet, exercise, or anything similar that I may mention.