How Much Protein Do You Need and What Kind?
Whether you’re trying to build new muscle or burn off some unwanted body fat, adequate protein intake is of paramount importance. Protein provides the building blocks of our muscles, repairing the damage caused during training sessions. But how much protein do you need?
How much protein do I need?
This is one of the most confusing questions surrounding nutrition for a lot of people, as the amounts recommended by different organizations can vary. For example, the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound, while the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, you need to consume between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.)
While ideal protein intake can vary dramatically from person to person, a good starting point for a hard training athlete is to consume .75g-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight each day, spread out over several meals. So, if you weigh 200lbs, you would shoot to consume 200 grams of protein daily. These 200 grams of protein might consist of
5 daily meals containing 40 grams of protein at each meal.
However much protein you decide to consume daily, you should divide the total goal number by the number of meals you intend to eat, and shoot to eat that amount of protein per meal!
What Kind of Proteins should I Eat?
Once you decide how much protein you’re going to eat, the next decision made will be from what sources will you consume your daily protein intake from?
The three largest categories of nutritional proteins are:
• Animal Proteins
• Dairy Proteins
• Plant Proteins
Let’s dive into the pros and cons, as well as, good vs. bad sources below!
Animal proteins are proteins sources such as beef, poultry, and seafood. Not all animal proteins are created equal though! We can categorize animal proteins into two general categories: lean and fatty. Lean sources include chicken breast, lean ground meats, white fish, and others containing low (under 10%) fat content. Fatty animal protein sources include salmon, mackerel, fatty ground meats (greater than 10% fat content), bacon, and steak.
When consuming animal-based proteins, one should be careful to choose primarily lean sources, as most animal fat is unhealthy for you. This is because they are high in saturated fats, which are found in butter, cheese, red meat, and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. The exception to this is oily fish like salmon and mackerel, which are loaded with “healthy Omega 3 fats”. These “healthy fats” provide a host of benefits including a healthier lipid profile, beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, and hormone production.
Dairy proteins are a wide encompassing category that has many great options, as well as, some that should be avoided. Good sources of dairy-based proteins include whey protein, casein protein, low-fat cottage cheese, and low-fat Greek yogurt.
Sources that you should steer clear from, or at least minimize, include whole milk, high fat and/or sugary yogurts, cheese, and sour cream. You should also pay attention to how your body digests dairy-based proteins, and know that if any problems arise it is likely due to the lactose (milk sugar) in the dairy. Don’t eliminate dairy-based protein sources from your diet entirely if this is the case, just stick to ones that are lactose-free, like whey protein isolate and Lean Body RTD’s! The aforementioned dairy-based proteins are some of the best options possible for your pre and post-workout protein source, as they are digested easily and rapidly absorbed.
Most cottage cheese and yogurts are high in casein protein, which is a very slow-digesting protein, and a great choice for a bedtime protein source, or any other time you’ll go an extended period without eating.
The use of plant protein, whether from whole foods or plant protein powder supplementation, has skyrocketed in recent years, and for good reason. In addition to supplying adequate amounts of protein, many plant-based proteins are high in antioxidants, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Good sources of plant-based protein include lentils, beans, quinoa, almonds, and peas. One of the shortfalls of plant-based whole food proteins is their relatively low protein content, meaning you have to consume a relatively large amount to hit your daily and/or meal protein goal.
That’s where plant-based protein powders like Labrada’s (soon to be released) new organic plant protein powder shine. Plant-based protein powder is concentrated and amongst the leanest protein sources available.
Now, that you’ve gotten a refresher on protein, be sure to take a look at what you’re eating day-to-day and see if there is any room for improvement!
If you aren’t getting nearly enough protein like so many others, make a goal for yourself to track and hit your daily protein goal for two weeks straight. By the end of the two weeks, you will look AND feel better, guaranteed!
About the Author
Hunter Labrada is the 2018 NPC Nationals Champion and an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. He is also 2018 NPC Jr. Nationals Champion and was voted 2016 NPC Texas Athlete of the Year. Hunter is a certified personal trainer and fitness expert who has been featured in Bodybuilding.com, and in Flex, Ironman, and Muscular Development magazines. For more on Hunter, follow him on Instagram and visit www.hunterlabrada.com.