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In the world of fitness, nutrition is always a hot topic to talk about.  Any time we think about changing our diet, it is important that we don’t bite off more than we can chew (punny right? #dadjoke). For the month of February, I would like to focus on one macronutrient: Protein. I believe that a solid month of making a change to a macro like this can be great for making more consistent results! This article is a guide to protein broken up depending on your goals.  But every body is different, so this guide is just an approximation to point you in the right direction.

Goal: Weight Loss

As with any weight loss regime, your calories in must be less than your calories out.  Keep in mind that 1 gram of protein is 4 calories. To find out how much protein to eat each day, I recommend that you take your realistic goal weight and consume 90-100% of that in grams of protein. So taking for example a 145lb female who wants to weigh 135lbs, she should consume 120-135g of protein. This is 540 calories of your daily allowance. If she is to consume 1500 calories a day, protein takes up about 1/3 of the overall calories for the day. Why so much? It is very difficult for your body to breakdown protein into carbons to be utilized as energy and therefore the conversion rate is low. This lower conversion not only staves off the storage of extra carbon (fat) it also provides plenty of amino acids for your body to utilize in creating structures and healing and other recovery processes in the body. In layman terms, a high protein diet will discourage fat storage and promote lean muscle building.

Goal: Performance

If you are happy with your current weight and want to focus on performance, your protein intake will likely need to shift a bit.  You should be looking at your current bodyweight, and trying to intake 70-80% of that in grams of protein. Using the same female from above that weighs 145lbs and has a desire to increase Fran times and lift heavier, she should be taking in 100-115g per day of protein. This same person would also be looking at a higher total caloric intake of let’s call it 2000 calories per day. At this rate, protein would account for 460 of the 2000 calories. This is about 25% of the daily caloric allowance, giving the athlete more opportunity to ingest carbs and fat to be used as fuel in workouts.

Goal: Weight Gain

Weight gaining goals are basically an onslaught of eating as much as possible. With this is mind, we would want to eat 100% of the GOAL weight in grams of protein in order to reach the goal. With weight gaining, you really just want to make sure that you have plenty of protein so that recovery is happening quickly and your body is able to focus more energy on the digestion of fat and carbs.  Eating much more protein than this is typically not as useful as one might think because excess amino acids will simply be flushed out when you urinate. Our example female weighing in at 145lbs needs to consume 2500+ calories per day. If she wishes to gain 10lbs she should be consuming 155g of protein per day which is 620 calories. This is also about 25% of the daily caloric intake. 

Commonalities

What do they have in common? 

  1. Well the examples should all be taken with a grain of salt as each individual’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) is different. Because BMR is different the total calories will change per individual. 
  2. That’s a lot of protein!  No matter what the goal, you should probably be trying to eat more protein than you do throughout your day.
  3. Every person, regardless of goal should be looking to get most or ALL of their protein through REAL food. Easy sources are meat products. While supplementing is okay, it is not quite natural. If it isn’t quite natural, you may not be getting MICROnutrients that your body should have in order to better process the food you are eating. Supplements might not give the liver the amino acids it requires to function better along with other organs. If your organs are operating sub-optimally then you might not be as efficient. Even with whole, real foods, getting a good variety of protein is the key to efficiency… so no, you cannot have chicken with EVERY meal!

Conclusion

For the month of February, I challenge everyone to count their protein intake and begin to tweak it little by little. By the time March hits, it will be a new routine and you can shift focus to the next nutrition goal!