Protein seems to be the topic of a lot of discussions lately. Nearly every diet out there has something to say about protein. A low protein diet however, is not one that you hear touted very often (although that is exactly what most plant based diets are). Why is protein such a big deal? What if you aren’t getting enough? Can you get too much? Well, I’m gonna tell you…
Simply put, protein is 1 of the 3 major macro nutrients that make up our food. It is unique in that it is the only macro nutrient whose purpose has nothing to do with providing energy. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on proteins role in repairing the body.
So, if you are working out with weights on a regular basis, you need protein, and quite a bit of it. In order to recover from your workouts (repair muscles), and have the materials to build new muscle tissue, you need about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. This would mean that a person weighing 150 pounds at 20% body fat would need about 120 grams of protein per day. Without it you would eventually start losing muscle, which is the opposite of what we want here.
Now, this is an ongoing topic of debate in the fitness world. There are of course people saying that that is too much protein, or cautioning against eating too much protein but usually the people saying that you need less protein are the people who are not lifting weights, and are only concerned with the amount of protein you need to maintain your health. I will assume if you are reading this article that you are at least partially interested in optimizing your body composition (looking better naked). If protein were as harmful as some people would like you to believe, protein poisoning would be a regular occurrence. Do you know anyone that has died of protein poisoning? Me either.
So now that we know how much you need in a day, how do we split that up? Well, the easiest way to do this is to just divide that number by how many meals you are going to eat. If you eat 3 times a day, that would be 40 grams per meal, done. The problem with that is a lot of females really struggle to get in that amount of protein all at once. That is about 5-6 ounces of chicken at a time. This is where you see why it is valuable to eat more than 3 meals per day.
Many people think that there is something magical about eating a bunch of meals everyday, or that it speeds up your metabolism. The real reason that you see fit people eating multiple meals a day is to make it easier to get in all their nutrition needs. Eating 5 meals a day means you only need 24 grams of protein instead of 40 which is much easier to do.
Another trick would be to use a protein supplement for a couple of your protein meals. Having a shake with your breakfast, right after you train, and/or right before bed, can also help reach your protein requirements. I highly recommend that all females starting out with weight training use a protein supplement until they get the hang of their protein intake.
If you would like some help figuring this out, check out our nutrition program, or if you live too far away our online coaching program. Our coaches can get you dialed in on your nutrition and training, and get you to your goals without all the trial and error.