I have discussed before why it’s important to get enough calories and what types of foods we need to eat for a healthy diet. Today I’m going to discuss why consuming enough protein is so important.
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fat) that provides calories and energy for the body. Protein is NOT a primary energy source for the muscles or for exercise. The main role of protein is to build muscle mass.
It is important that we are consuming enough protein daily but also that we are spreading our protein intake out throughout the day. Consuming 100g of protein in one sitting is not as beneficial for the body as consuming 20-30g every 3-4 hours.
On a typical day, I get roughly 90-100g of protein spread out like so:
- Breakfast: ~30g
- Snack: 10-15g
- Lunch: At least 20g
- Snack: 6-10g
- Dinner: At least 20g
Some days I probably get more and some days less but on average, I would say this is pretty typical. I used to be a cereal and milk for breakfast every morning kind of girl but an hour later I would be hungry again. Now I make sure to start my days off with a quality breakfast that includes protein, carbs, and fat.
When I was in Europe, I was on the verge of hangry (so hungry you’re angry) a LOT because of the lack of protein. In Europe, especially in Italy, the meals are very carbohydrate heavy and I missed having protein. Protein helps you feel full longer and stabilizes the blood sugar levels, so you don’t have mood swings and get hangry as often.
A typical breakfast in Italy was comprised of croissants, rolls, and juice. Carbs, carbs, and more carbs! Any chance I had, I would make sure to at least get a glass of milk to try and get some protein. Once we got to Greece, the meals were much more balanced including protein and fat.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Protein needs are based on body weight and goals. The general recommendation for the MINIMUM amount of protein needed is 0.8g/kg body weight. For example, if someone weights 150 pounds, you divide 150 by 2.2 to get 68kg of body weight. Take 68kg X 0.8g = 54.5g protein needed per day.
For athletes, the needs are a little higher. Endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4g/kg body weight and strength training athletes need 1.4-1.7g/kg body weight with the MAXIMUM being 2.0g/kg body weight. Again, a 150 pound endurance athlete would need 82g-95g and a 150 pound strength athlete would need 95g-116g, with the maximum need of 136g of protein per day.
Food Sources of Protein
Protein comes from a variety of sources. Animal sources include:
Plant sources include:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Soy milk
Protein Needs After Exercise
It is important to consume a combination of carbs and protein post-workout in order to build lean muscle mass. The general rule of thumb is to consume 10-30g of protein within 30 minutes after a workout. Chocolate milk is a great recovery option. Other ideas include making a smoothie including fruit, Greek yogurt or protein powder, and water; or consuming a balanced snack such as cottage cheese and pineapple.
Need help figuring out your protein and nutrition needs? Contact me for a personalized nutrition session.
Have you ever been hangry before?