Protein: Building Your Best Body
Apr 20, 2022
What is the Function of Protein?
From construction and repair of structures like muscle and connective tissue, to production of important hormones and enzymes that keeps systems running smoothly, protein plays many important roles in the body. While everyone needs protein in their diet, it is especially important in aging populations and in individuals who regularly damage tissues through exercise. Beyond workout recovery, a lesser known yet powerful trait of protein is its ability to aid in weight loss.
Maybe the biggest factor contributing to protein’s role in weight loss is its satiating effect. Satiation is the ability of a food to leave us full and satisfied. Something that many people do not realize is that different foods have a different level of satiation. Added sugars and syrups have an exceptionally low level of satiation while lean proteins and fiber have an exceptionally high level. As a result, a diet high in healthy protein will leave you fuller for longer, reducing the total food you feel you need to eat throughout the day. Protein is so effective in this regard that research shows switching to a very high protein diet can be significantly effective in reducing overall weight and comorbidities.
Can I Eat Too Much Protein?
In recent decades, the fear surrounding a diet high in protein came from a rumor that excess protein could be bad for the filtering organs like the kidneys. Studies have since shown that protein is safe to eat, even in high quantities.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
For normal bodily function in the average individual, the World Health Organization recommends we eat at least .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means that an individual weighing 150 pounds would need to consume 54 grams of protein throughout the day. However, when we consider the impact of training on protein needs, this number increases. It is recommended that an individual exercising regularly consumes between .7 grams and 1.2 grams per pound of body weight based on exercise intensity and calorie restriction.
People who are in a weight loss pattern and simultaneously training at a high intensely will fall in the upper end of this range. This would mean that, when training, the same 150 pound individual would now optimize recovery by consuming between 105 grams and 180 grams of protein throughout the day. These estimates can become skewed when used for overweight individuals. In this case, using a 1 gram of protein per centimeter of height can be a good supplement. To put all these numbers in perspective, one chicken breast has about 43 grams of protein, one serving of whey protein isolate has 15-25 grams, and one cup cooked lentils has about 18 grams.
When Should I Have Protein?
The “metabolic window” is the concept that nutrients like protein must be consumed within a strict period of time immediately after exercise before the “window” closes and the nutrients can no longer be utilized. For many years people have rushed to the nearest post workout protein shake in an effort to maximize their recovery. However, the body of research shows that overall protein intake, not protein intake timing, is by far the most important factor in tissue recovery. As a result, trends revolving around taking in protein at a certain time have become somewhat outdated and redundant.
What Sources Should I Get Protein From?
There are many viable sources of protein you can add to your diet. In recent years, the debate has been between meat and plant based options. Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs will always be a highly effective form of protein because they are all complete proteins. A complete protein is one that has all of the essential amino acid components we cannot make on our own. If you are missing out on one or many of the essential amino acids, bodily function and repair could be inhibited. Animal products are also much more densely packed with protein than their plant based counterparts. You would often need to eat 3-4 times as much plant based proteins by volume to equate the same level of protein from animal products. Plant protein options are also often incomplete proteins meaning that they may only have some of the essential amino acids. As a result, it becomes important to combine plant protein sources in order to acquire all the amino acids you need. All this is to say that it is much harder, but not impossible, to get adequate protein from plant based sources alone.
Protein is an important component of any diet, especially if you are exercising regularly. If you’re having trouble fitting it in or still have questions about an ideal diet, please reach out to your trainers - they’ll gladly point you in the right direction to make sure you’re fueling your active body properly.