The recommended amount of protein per day is a hot topic, especially among strength training athletes, that is steadily revived by confusing recommendations in so-called professional journals and other media.
Meanwhile, there are studies, one I will look at here in detail, that support my personal experience in terms of training, nutrition and muscle-building. But before that, let me clarify a few terms and issues around the subject of protein.
Ei. Image credit by mac.black
What is Protein?
Proteins are usually denoted as the building blocks of life. They are composed of amino acids, which in turn are the basic building block of all cells in the body. In addition to the structure building tasks, amino acids are responsible for a variety of other bodily functions such as oxygen and iron transport in the blood, the formation of antibodies and the secretion of hormones. In short, no life without proteins.
The continuous cell degradation and recovery processes in the body demand the daily intake of a certain amount of protein through diet. Even physically inactive people have to cover a basic need for protein.
The Daily Requirement
As the level of physical activity increases, through an intense strength or endurance training for example, the demand for protein is growing equally, since the related metabolic processes of regeneration and adaptation of the body to the higher level of physical activity ask for more amino acids. But the disproportionately large amounts of protein, which are particularly recommended by many athletes, professional journals and the nutritional supplement industry, cannot be justified by that.
The "How much protein should I eat per day" table:
|Type of Physical Activity||Daily Amount of Protein per Pound Body Weight|
|Endurance Training||0,75 gram|
|Strength Training||1 gram|
These numbers cover the daily need. The significant and deliberate exaggeration of the recommended amounts of protein for the particular activity level as well the amount of protein served per meal offer, according to a study mentioned on www.medicalnewstoday.com the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, no significant benefits and even generate some unwanted side effects. “Most of the excess is oxidized and could end up as glucose or fat.”
The Right Timing and the Right Amount
Tests during this study have shown that the intake about 30 grams of protein per meal provides an ideal supply with amino acids to make sure the muscle synthesis. Among the volunteers who have taken up to 90 grams of protein per meal, no further increase in muscle protein could be demonstrated. Consequently the daily amount of protein has to be distributed fairly evenly among several meals throughout the day.
Again, the researchers from Texas offer some interesting insights. Thus, the recommendation is to take in the first 30 grams of protein as early as breakfast and to cut the amount somewhat in the evening, as the synthesis of muscles functions most effectively during the day, while at night no significant amounts of protein can be processed.
Therefore the uncontrolled intake of large amounts of protein, especially in the field of strength training and bodybuilding, is just a curiosity. Replaced it by an intelligent handling of the own food and potential supplements. My own experiences has shown that an intensive weight training, which primarily targets developing strength and muscle density and not large muscular volume, is agreeable with a long-term protein intake on the level of an endurance athlete, that is below the mentioned 1 gram per pound body weight.
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„You Are What You Eat.“
A sensible diet along with regular exercise is the key to a healthy life. The following 10 diet tips primarily aim at athletic or physically active people. But everyone else can also benefit from this. Maybe the increased level of energy, as result of a healthy diet, sooner or later leads to an interest in (strength)training.
Nutrition Rule 1: Eat Regularly
The intake of several small meals throughout the day has the following advantages:
- Less Hunger: The stomach is elastic. Large meals stretch it, which ultimately leads to a delayed feeling of fullness. After switching to several small meals in regular intervals, they very soon saturate as effectively as the previous large portions.
- No Cravings: People who avoid to eat for a long period time over the day, increases the chance of binge-eating in the evening, which is in most cases satisfied with candy instead with healthy foods.
- Nutrient Supply: Regular meals give a steady supply of energy an nutrients to the body, which results in steady performance and good muscular development.
- Fat Loss: The body rather tends to cut excess fat, if it recognizes it as superfluous due to a regular energy supply .
A certain timing of the daily meals is of great advantage. Have a meal or at least a snack every 3-4 hours between waking up in the morning and going to bed in the evening.
Nutrition Rule 2: Eat Consciously
This is a very important point, which is very often neglected in the course of a stressful day. Concentrate on what you eat. Make yourself aware of it and maybe write what you eat down in the beginning of a dietary change. Once you consciously deal with the issue, you´ll recognize bad habits, which makes it easier to control them.
Nutrition Rule 3: Eat Slowly
"We don´t live by what we eat, but only by what we digest." (Hufeland)
. The prerequisite for an ideal digestion of the food taken in is an adequate preparation in the mouth. To do that, you have to chew long and calmly. Every single bite swallowed in a hurry is a challenge for your stomach, at the cost of your own life energy and health. Also, eating too fast is always a breach of Nutrition Rule 2.
Nutrition Rule 4: Have a Breakfast
Breakfast is often declared as the most important meal of the day. That's true, but there a few things to be considered:
- Drink a Lot: Besides the often obligatory coffee, a large quantity of water or tea belongs to good breakfast. Why? During nighttime the body is quite busy regenerating and detoxifying the body. These processes need to be supported with lots of extra fluid in the morning.
- Don´t Fill up Completely: This advice may sound a little strange, but we all certainly made the following experience before. After a large, heavy and energy-rich breakfast, instead of a having a dynamic start to the day, a sudden tiredness and lethargy, caused by the enormous work of digestion the stomach has to do in this a case, makes us want to return to bed again. Eat a light breakfast, avoid the intake of large amounts of indigestible foods such as whole grains and cereals. Instead eat fruits and vegetables (bonus: they contain a lot of water), low-fat dairy products other light sources of protein and carbohydrates.
Nutrition Rule 5: The Right Proteins
People who follow a routine of strength training have an increased need for protein. The limited digestive capacity of the stomach makes it necessary to take in a little portion of protein with each meal to eat the recommended daily amount. Basically, it is recommended to take in 1.5 - 2 times the body weight in kilograms in grams of protein per day, e.g. people with a bodyweight of about 80 kg need a daily protein intake of 120-160 g, provided a regular strength training. There are publications speaking of much higher amounts, but these numbers can be classified as unhealthy, especially because with the consumption of animal protein many by-products such as bad fats, purines, and the accumulated toxins from the individual animal are also being taken in. A significant part of the daily amount of protein should be of plant origin.
Low-Fat Protein Sources (selected):
|Animal Origin||Protein per 100 g||Plant Origin||Protein per 100 g|
|Chicken breast||23 g||Noodles||12 g|
|Turkey breast||24 g||Potatoes||2 g|
|Beef||22 g||Soybeans||37 g|
|Alaska Pollock||19 g||Lentils||24 g|
|Tuna||25 g||Peas||20 g|
|Trout||20 g||Beans (white)||21 g|
|Mountain Cheese||29 g||Oat flakes||12 g|
|Cottage Cheese||29 g||Spelt||13 g|
|Low fat quark||14 g||Millet||11 g|
|Eggs||13 g||Buckwheat||12 g|
|Egg-white||11 g||Mushrooms (dried)||17 g|
Nutrition Rule 6: The Right Carbohydrates
As during the "low fat" hysteria of the past many foods were labeled correspondingly and to taste at all were fortified with carbohydrates, with the still growing fatty degeneration of the population we came to the realization that the increased carbohydrate intake must be responsible, leading to a "low carb" hysteria.
A little education about the different types of carbohydrates and their purpose and effects takes away much of the fear of his excellent source of energy. Basically there are two types of carbohydrates:
- simple carbs, that are digested very quickly and rapidly release their energy, and
- complex carbs, are digested slowly and therefore their energy is provided uniformly over a longer period of time.
The intake of simple carbohydrates leads to a very rapid rise of blood glucose levels. Now the body is seeking for a normalization of these values. If this excess energy is not burned inside the muscles by physical activity, the body stores them as fat. Complex carbohydrates release their energy uniformly during the digestion process, which increases the possibility of burning it by muscular or mental activity and reduces the risk of storage of body fat.
Examples of simple and complex carbs (selected):
|Simple Carbs||Complex Carbs|
|all simple sugars||all whole grain products|
|white flour products||rice (whole grain)|
|marmalade||noodles (whole grain)|
|honey||muesli & cereals|
* Fruits occupy a special position here. Fructose or fruit sugar is indeed a simple sugar, but is slower digested than white sugar.
Nutrition Rule 7: Healthy Fats
They are one major supplier of energy, they support fat loss, they are slowly digested and they are part of many vital functions of the body. A daily intake of 60-80 grams of fat is recommended. When doing a regular strength training, one can also take in a little more, people wanting to loose weight should take in less. More important than the quantity is the type of fat. An increased intake of animal fats should be avoided. But even in the league of vegetable fats, there are "good" and "bad", depending on the relation of fatty acids. Here´s a selected overview:
|Sources of "good" Fats of Plant Origin||Sources of "bad" Fats of Plant Origin|
|Linseed oil||Sunflower oil|
|Olive oil||Thistle oil|
|Salmon oil||Wheatgerm oil|
|Sources of "good" Fats of Animal Origin||Sources of "bad" Fats of Animal Origin|
|Fish||Meat and Sausage|
Nutrition Rule 8: Fruit and Vegetables
These two foods are one of the most fundamental basics for a healthy diet. They provide vitamins and minerals and can be eaten fresh and in large amounts. Fruits, due to the high content of fructose, should not or only in small doses be taken in the evening.
Nutrition Rule 9: Natural Food
Processed foods should be avoided. Their ingredients are often difficult to understand and in most cases they contain an excessive amount of sugar, salt, flavor enhancers and preservatives. There is a very simple rule: the more colorful the packaging, the unhealthier the content. Foods should be eaten or form the basis of self-prepared foods the way nature provides them to us.
Nutrition Rule 10: Drink a Lot
To supply the body with oxygen and nutrients and to ensure a proper detoxification, the blood needs to be as fluid as possible and to circulate freely. Therefore be aware to drink about 2-3 liters of fluid per day. The following table shows the kind of drinks to be considered or not.
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|"Good" Drinks||"Bad" Drinks|
|Water (without gas)||Milk|
|Tea (non flavoured, unsweetened)|| Coffee|
|Juice-water mixed drinks||Juices|