Protein intake seems to be one of the most misunderstood areas of nutrition to the general public. Pick up any bodybuilding magazine and you will find at least one article saying you need to take in 2 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight. I have lost count of how many adverts I have seen promoting high protein meal replacement drinks.
The first thing people need to understand is that the bodybuilding magazines and the det companies such as Slim Fast are not really interested in your health. Their job is to sell you their products. Pick up any bodybuilding or fitness magazine and you will find an advert for a protein supplement on every other page. The important word in the last sentence is supplement. The purpose is not to replace real food, the purpose of them is to add an extra boost after an intense workout to kickstart the recovery process. Simply drinking a protein drink will not help you build a muscular body if the rest of your nutrition intake is bad and you fail to exercise with enough intensity to cause the body to grow bigger stronger muscles.
How much protein do we really need?
The claim of the bodybuilding magazines that you should take in 2 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight is not true. An inactive individual only requires 0.75 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight, which they could easily get from a balanced diet. An athlete on the other hand would require more. Endurance athletes would need to average 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein for each kilogram of bodyweight. Strength athletes such as Olympic weightlifters or body builders would need 1.4 grams to 1.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of bodyweight. McMaster University in Ontario Canada performed a study on strength athletes. Half of the group took in 1.4 grams of protein for each kilogram of bodyweight and the second half took in 2.3 grams of protein for each kilogram. The study found no significant difference in the amount of muscle mass built by the group taking in the higher amount of protein. Once your body has taken in its optimal amount of protein needed for your training goals, any extra protein will not be used for muscle building.
I currently weigh 87kg and I am currently taking part in a ten- week Olympic weightlifting programme. That means I need to take between 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of bodyweight. On my rest days I would need to take in 122 grams of protein. 1.4 x 87= 121.8. On my training days I would need to take in 157 grams of protein. 1.8 x87= 156.6. I do use protein drinks as part of my routine. I have one in the morning after a workout and I have a second in the evening.
Once you know how much protein you need the next stage is to work out how to ensure you get it. The easiest way to do this is to simply increase the amount of food you take in each day. Instead of simply making your breakfast, lunch and dinner bigger a more effective strategy would be to add extra meals which most of already do through snacking. Instead of snacking on a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate have a bag of mixed nuts or some natural yoghurt. A 125-gram tin of tuna has 25 grams of protein, a 112-gram carton of cottage cheese has 15 grams of protein. If you follow a vegan diet 50 grams of Cashew nuts contain 10 grams of protein, 120 grams of kidney beans contains 10 grams of protein.
The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition by Anita Bean
The Complete Guide to Strength Training by Anita Bean
World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int
Department of Health and Social Care, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-health-and-social-care