Protein 101: How Much Do You Need?

Protein 101

by Jennifer Krohn

 

In less than ten years, Google searches for protein have increased over seven hundred percent! With the popularity of high protein diets like the Paleo and the Atkins diet, protein seems all the rage. Our trainers always remind us to get our protein after a workout, but why, and just how much is enough? With all the mixed information out there, it is no wonder that people find themselves lost on this topic. This is a basic guide to understanding protein.

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

Protein is comprised of amino acids and is found in a variety of foods. Protein is found in most animal products, from meats, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs as well as vegetarian sources such as tofu, legumes (beans and lentils), and in small quantities in whole grains.

WHY DO WE NEED PROTEIN?

Protein is necessary for tissue repair and growth as well as hormone and enzyme synthesis. Just to clear up a little misnomer; eating protein will not build muscles for you, however it will provide the amino acids needed for the building and repair of muscle tissue, as well as the support for muscle growth. Research shows that weight training, in combination with small amounts of protein intake, enhances muscle growth more than weight training alone.

HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

Here is how you calculate how much protein you need. The recommended amount of protein for the general population is 0.36 g protein/lb of your body weight daily. If you are someone who exercises at Barry’s Bootcamp three to four times each week, this will be adequate protein to meet your needs. However, if you are involved in endurance exercise or weight lifting, you’ll need more protein for increased repair. For an athlete, 0.54-0.77 grams protein/lb body weight is recommended; with strength athletes requiring about 0.63-0.77 grams protein/lb body weight.

For example:
If you are a 200 lb strength athlete:
200 lbs(x 0.63-0.77) = 126-154 grams protein daily.

WHAT IS THE BEST SOURCE OF PROTEIN FOR ME?

Research states that most people, including athletes, can obtain adequate protein through food alone. In fact, most Americans consume protein in excess of the recommendations! For those engaged in more intense weight training, a supplement may be helpful; though the proteins found in supplements do not have a more or less beneficial effect than the protein from whole foods. While most research does not support one type of supplemental protein, some evidence points to whey protein, while others suggest a blend of whey and soy proteins. Remember, supplements are not regulated by any governmental body and therefore, you don’t always know what you are getting. It is important to consume protein within 3 hours post-exercise with immediate consumption possibly resulting in the most muscle growth. One of the best protein drinks post-workout is actually low fat chocolate milk. It provides the perfect proportion of carbohydrates and protein and offers the needed electrolytes. A great excuse to drink our favorite childhood beverage!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jennifer Krohn, MS RD, is a registered dietitian and NASM certified personal trainer. Jennifer earned her Masters degree of nutritional science from New York University. She has been working at the Veteran’s hospital for the past 6 years helping veteran’s achieve their health goals through improved nutrition. Jennifer specializes in weight management, diabetes counseling, as well as nutritional management of various chronic conditions. As a prior marathon runner, she has a passion for sports nutrition and has led workshops for athletes and coaches through Team In Training. She practices dietetics full time and spends the rest of her free time working out at Barry’s Bootcamp and cooking up new recipes.

Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferKrohnRD and connect with her at LinkedIn.