Of all the different energy providing macronutrients, protein is tied for the lowest number of calories per gram (4 Kcal/ g). Protein provides the greatest feeling fullness, keeping you fuller for longer with less calories. When you eat quality calories, you don’t have to sacrifice so much to get the body you’ve always wanted. Salad alone is not the way to trim down efficiently, you need substance in your diet regardless of if your goal is to drop those few excess pounds, increase muscle mass, or just increase your overall fitness.
So, the question is…. How much protein is enough?
This really comes down to what your goals are.
- General Fitness or Weight Loss: .3-.5 grams of Protein per pound of body weight
- Endurance Training: .5-.6 grams of Protein per pound of body weight
- Increase Muscle Mass & Gain Strength: .6-.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Say we take an individual that weighs 150 lbs.
- Fitness/ Weight Loss: 45-75 grams of protein per day
- Endurance Training: 75-90 grams of protein per day
- Strength/ Muscle Mass: 90- 120 grams of protein per day
That’s a lot of protein!
If I am not looking to bulk up, why is protein so important for me?
Protein supplies our bodies with all our essential amino acids which are the main building block of our cells. They help with everything from your nerves, brain, blood, to even your hair, and of course, muscles. A huge percentage of all bodily functions hinge on having all the essential amino acids accessible for usage. Don’t skimp on that protein!
Won’t I gain weight if I start increasing my protein intake?
In actuality the opposite is actually more likely to happen, if you aren’t trying to bulk up. As you increase your protein with resistance training, you increase your muscle mass (think more toned, not bulked). More muscle mass means that your body now has a higher resting metabolic rate, or in other words you burn more calories when you are just sitting at your desk than you would have before. This is one of the main reasons that men need to consume more calories than women in order to maintain their weight. The more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body needs at rest. This means when you hit the gym you can do less and burn the same number of calories, which translates to a slimmer, healthier you.
What are the best sources of protein?
Generally speaking the body absorbs protein from animal sources best, this includes meat, eggs, milk, etc. But plant sources can provide all your protein needs without much of the excess fat or cholesterol you may get with meats.
Egg whites are one of the best options for protein because of their high absorbency rate and low fat content. Whole eggs have high cholesterol and fat content, so be wary of consuming too many whole eggs. Whey and soy protein are also great options if you are looking for a supplement to provide for some fraction of your protein needs.
Becca Capell, iFit Head Trainer