Recently while at the gym I happened to overhear a conversation about protein consumption and its not the first time I have heard the debate of how much protein one should eat and when they should eat it. It seems most are under the impression you can eat us much as you like. Many also say you have a window period immediately after a workout in which to eat it to gain maximum benefit. Well I am sorry to squash those ideas, but it’s just is not as simple a it sounds.
Lets first touch on the subject of high protein consumption. Many think you don’t need to watch protein intake however this could not be further from the truth. Let me explain this in simple terms. When protein is consumed the body will of course break it down and utilize it for immediate need which of course is soft tissue repair work, enzyme production, antibody production, hemoglobin transportation, hormone production and of course energy. However protein needs to be processed, first its broken into amino acids and ammonia and once its job is done if there is any excess the leftover carbon compound is converted into glucose. Glucose not used for energy is then converted into fat.
In short over eating protein is not just unhealthy and can cause issues with the body it can of course make you fat.
Excess Protein intake can cause the following issues:
- Kidney Function Problems – Due to having to work overtime to break down excess nitrogen in the body
- Triggers Thirst – The main reason is excess nitrogen requires fluid to help the kidneys flush it so this is a sure message of over consumption
- Weight Gain – Absolutely you will gain weight from over consuming protein, goodbye abs
- Overeating Animal Protein sources have demonstrated a higher likely hood of triggering a lifestyle disease
Interestingly enough some research on this was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Wiles, 1991). Subjects thought the exercise was harder one hour after having a high-protein meal compared with those having only water and doing a fasted training session. Their Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) was higher. This demonstrates the impact of performance.
So the big question is how much protein should you be consuming?
Its quite simple and we need to look at it in two aspects. Firstly the amount of protein you need to eat BUT also the timing of your protein intake.
An endurance athlete should probably look at around 1.1 – 1.7 grams per kg of body weight. I generally look at a 1.4 gram/kg of body weight on lower end to maintain and upper end when going through harder more intense cycles of training. Bodybuilders of course will consume more due to their more muscular physiques and doing more damage than an endurance athlete would.
So in short a 70kg athlete should probably consume anywhere from 80-100 grams of protein per a day. Alright, now we have the amount we need to consume BUT the next fact about protein is the body has a limit as to how much protein it can breakdown and utilize in a certain period of time. I work this around the 20-25 gram mark and 3 hourly eating more than this will give me a rise in blood glucose. Spreading my intake is an easier way to make sure I eat protein and ensure I get the correct amount in to use it and not abuse it.
As a simple example a 100 gram chicken breast will give you around 20-25 grams of protein, a tin of tuna around the same. So now lets put this into perspective. Oh you ate two chicken breast for dinner maybe three. Not a good idea. Rather you spread your protein intake throughout the day. Just as an extreme example if you were only eating chicken breasts daily you can have one at 9am one at 12:00 one at 15:00 and then again at 18:00 then you have clock fed nicely and taken in around 80-100 grams of protein. Of course no one will eat chicken for every meal. So now swap them out for either eggs , nuts and protein shakes or if you are a vegan go with plant based proteins and ensure you try to get the correct amount daily.
I have only mentioned overeating protein, but what about under eating protein. Well that’s a major issue and certainly a major cause of injury or illness as without having the proper nutrients in place to help the body repair, restore and recover you are only asking for trouble. In my opinion protein intake is not crucial at a particular point in time. Its important from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep, don’t over do it, don’t under do it find that balance and ensure the correct amount and spread your intake. Its the one food macro you can actually control quite nicely.
I know the next question will be on carbohydrate and fats, but lets leave that for another day and think about our building blocks for now ;-).
all the best