Protein - no definitive amount

Protein – no definitive amount

One of the questions I get asked most is “how much protein should I eat daily?” Like most things related to training, there is no single answer that applies to everyone. The general recommended amount is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram. For example, if someone weighs 60 kilograms, that’s only 48 grams a day. For someone who lifts weights regularly, that’s simply not enough. I would instead recommend consuming around 2-3 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day.

This range is only a guide, however. There has not yet been enough research undertaken to conclusively prove the exact amount of protein we require. The only thing we know for sure is that when you don’t eat enough protein, your body will start breaking down its own personal protein stores – your muscles. Even the best bodybuilders in the industry are still basically taking a stab in the dark. Rob recently found an old interview with Jay Cutler, which said the following:

Do you need 600 g of protein a day to maintain your muscle mass?

No. Nobody needs that much. But no bodybuilder really knows exactly how much protein he does need to prevent his body from breaking down muscle mass, either. I need a certain amount of calories to keep from losing bodyweight and bodyfat too quickly, and I need a certain amount of protein to keep my muscle mass from breaking down. By taking in so much protein and such a high percent of my calories from protein, I know that I’m emphasizing burning bodyfat while doing everything I can to keep my muscle mass intact.

Most people equate bodybuilders with a high protein, low carb diet. Of course, in order to build and repair muscles, protein is required. More protein = more muscle, right? To a certain extent…

Like anything, too much protein can also cause negative effects in the body, the most obvious being excess amounts will be stored as fat. The kidneys and liver can become overloaded trying to digest excessive amounts of protein, which is another reason why it’s important to drink a large amount of water to replenish that lost during the metabolic processes occurring in these organs. Furthermore, if the main source of this protein comes from meat with high levels of saturated fat, your cardiovascular system can be placed under unwanted pressure.

A myth that has been circulating for a number of decades is that you can’t digest more than 30 grams of protein in a single meal. This theory is flawed as, while it would make things easier, not everyone’s bodies are exactly the same. Again, protein intake is completely individual but ideally should be spread out over several meals per day – and if some happen to contain more than 30 grams of protein, that’s fine.

A personal rule I follow is that the more I drop my carbohydrate intake, the more protein I consume. The inverse relationship ensures fat is lost while maximal muscle is maintained. For example, if my average diet contains 200 grams of carbohydrates and 140 grams of protein, I would need to increase my protein intake to the higher end of my recommended range (around 210 grams) if I reduced my carbs to 100 grams a day.

Knowing all this, you can imagine my surprise while studying for my personal training exam this week that the course recommends people get just 10 per cent of their calories from protein. Apparently, 60 per cent of your calories should come from carbohydrates (way too much!!) and 30 per cent from fat (this, however, is about right).

Should a question on this come up during my exam, I must admit I’m going to have a hard time answering “correctly” – and there is absolutely no way I’m going to be telling my clients to follow those guidelines.

In other news, remember when I told you guys my trainer (who works in a supplement store and therefore has these things lying around!) had reserved a life-sized cut-out of Erin Stern for me? My lovely husband finally went and picked it up for me!

I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do with it, but for now she’s keeping a watchful eye on our living room. I’ll leave you with an image of my crazy cat, who insists on sleeping on his back – in an armchair. I’ve never seen a cat do this – please tell me someone can relate?!

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