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How much protein should I consume?

posted by stevewatson77 August 31, 2016 1 Comment

How much protein should I eat?

Protein consumption is essential for cellular rejuvenation and therefore key for maintaining total body health all the way from red blood cell production to maintaining healthy hair & skin. For athletes and recreational gym-goers, protein intake and the process of converting protein into amino acids to aid muscle recovery becomes even more crucial, this is often the determining factor between performing well and not. The quicker a muscle can recover, the sooner you can return to maximal training exertion leading to improved performance. The golden questions surrounding all of this and the questions myself and other personal trainers often get asked are ‘how much protein should I eat?’, ‘what is optimal protein intake for athletes?’ and ‘can you consume too much protein?’


It is important to consider that this isn’t a ‘one size fits all rule’ and the amount of protein you need to consume will differ greatly based on your goals, training type, and current physical state. For example a young, ectomorph male looking to add muscle mass won’t get very far sticking to the government’s guidelines of 70g protein intake per day, however this is an ample amount for an elderly lady trying to maintain healthy weight.


The most straightforward recommended protein allowance belongs to the general population, individuals that have no intention or ambition to enhance physical performance and solely wish to maintain their health. Individuals who fall under this remit should aim to stick to the government recommended daily allowance: 0.8grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Athletes on the other hand must have far more ambitious consumption targets, and rightly so, the additional stress they put their muscles under leads to muscle damage at cellular level requiring additional protein and amino acids to assist with recovery. Failure to meet necessary protein intake requirements will lead to negative nitrogen balance defective muscle recovery.


With training type and intensity having such a varying impact on muscle recruitment and breakdown, this should so be considered. Endurance athletes should aim to consume anywhere between 1g-1.6g each day, with athletes training at higher intensities and extensive periods of time aiming to reach the upper-limit of this range. Strength and power sports are far more demanding on the muscles and therefore athletes performing within this remit of exercise should aim to consume 1.6g-2g/kg in bodyweight each day. Although there is lack of research within the remit of intermittent sports, such as football and hockey, the nature of intermediate sports leaves suggested intake requirements of protein between the two aforementioned exercise types, at 1.4g-1.7g/kg bodyweight per day.


Are there any health risks with consuming too much protein?

You’ll often hear excessive protein intake referred to as ‘expensive urine’, as the body can only process a certain limit, the excess has to be removed. But is over-consumption of protein more than just an expense financially or are you also sacrificing your health?


The media often reports on health damage from excessive protein intake including kidney damage and osteroperosis. It is reported that protein intake above the RDA can elevate glomerular pressure, ultimately leading to renal disease, however no research has yet linked high protein intake with kidney damage (1). Another reported concern is the link between excessive protein intake and calcium wasting leading to osteroperosis. The study that triggered these reports found that calcium – being an alkaline – is extracted from bones in order to neutralize the excess in acidity from such high protein intake (2), however more research is still necessary to prove these claims.


Is timing of protein intake important?

It is common knowledge for most gym-goers that there are obvious benefits of post-workout protein consumption, also referred to as the ‘anabolic window’. This ‘window’ is an opportunity to replenish the muscles with crucial amino acids, which can lead to improved recovery time. Therefore you should aim to consume around 30g of protein post-exercise, ideally from a fast-acting source, such as whey protein. Another important moment to consider the importance of protein intake is just before going to bed, a time in which your body is about to undergo a fairly extensive fasting period. The focus here is to consume a slow-release protein such as casein, which drip feds the muscles protein over the course of around 6 hours (based on elevated leucine levels within the blood).


Different types of protein supplements

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1.Dietary protein intake and renal function. Martin.W.F, Armstrong.L.E & Rodriguez.N.R. 2005. Nutr Metab (Lond). Nutr Metab (Lond). 2. 25.

2.Dietary protein and bone health. Ginty. Proc Nutr Soc 2003, 62(4):867-876.

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1 Comment

6 reasons why you’re not gaining muscle | Ste Watson Fitness April 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm

[…] The first thing people ask me when we’re talking about training is ‘what supplements should I take?’. Supplements have their place in achieving the goal of gaining muscle mass, but you need to remember that they are supplements, and as such should only be used to bridge any dietary deficits created by your existing nutrition plan. In particular I’m talking about protein shakes. Protein shakes are a great way to get additional protein intake that you cannot meet via your diet, however aim to get all your caloric and protein needs via your diet and don’t solely rely on getting all your protein intake via shakes, as you will miss other vital nutrients such as fibre. Find out more about recommended protein intake here. […]


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