Why You Need Protein In Your Diet

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Why You Need Protein In Your Diet

No matter how good you are at planning, the pressure never goes away. So I don’t fight it. I feed off it. I turn pressure into motivation to do my best.
— Ben Carson

Protein is one of three macronutrients that you need in your diet.

It provides energy to the body in the form of calories, giving you 4 calories for every gram.

Your body uses these calories to assist with the breaking down and rebuilding of the cells in your body, through a process called muscle protein synthesis.

Muscle protein synthesis is essentially the technical way of saying your body is breaking down existing proteins (as a response to training) and then rebuilding proteins (using protein from your diet).

It is vital to the maintenance and growth of your body, without it you wouldn’t build muscle.

When your protein intake is too low and muscle protein synthesis is high you’re in a negative balance. This means you’re breaking down muscle faster than you can you rebuild it.

The end result is muscle loss.

However, when your protein intake is sufficient and muscle protein synthesis is high you’ll be in a positive balance. This means you’ll rebuilding the muscle at a faster rate than it’s being broken down.

The end result is muscle growth.

How Is Protein Processed By The Body?

When you eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids by your digestive system in order to be used for muscle protein synthesis amongst other things.

In total there are 20 amino acids, split into 2 categories;

  • Essential

  • Non-essential

There are 8 essential amino acids that are not naturally produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from your diet.

On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body and as a result, do not need to be obtained in your diet.

The 8 essential amino acids are;

  • Leucine

  • Isoleucine

  • Valine

  • Threonine

  • Methionine

  • Phenylalanine

  • Tryptophan

  • Lysine

Different foods contain varying amounts of the essential amino acids which means meat eaters meet their needs from meat sources only. Vegetarians, on the other hand, need to eat a combination of foods to ensure they get all 8 of the essential amino acids.

In addition to playing an important role in building, repairing and regenerating your body’s tissues and cells.

Protein also helps;

  • Preserve muscle mass in a calorie deficit

  • Support immune function

  • Aid in the production of essential hormones and enzymes

But how much do you need?

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The topic of how much protein you need daily to build or preserve muscle mass is the subject of great debate in the fitness industry.

Depending on where you look the amounts can vary greatly and it can be difficult to know what to do.

The general consensus is that your intake should be slightly higher when eating in a calorie deficit to help preserve muscle mass and slightly lower for maintenance or muscle building.

What Is This Amount?

Research (1) shows that a protein intake between 0.6 – 0.9 g per lb of bodyweight is adequate for maximising protein synthesis. This same study also recommends that eating closer the 0.9 g per lb mark may be advantageous for those eating in a calorie deficit to help preserve muscle mass.

Another study (2) found that 0.8g per lb of bodyweight is the optimal daily intake to promote muscle growth in those who perform regular strength training.

The researchers of this study also noted that those who perform endurance as opposed to strength can get away with as little as 0.5 – 0.6 g per lb of bodyweight.

Finally, one study (3) concluded that their results were;

“unable to show any significant evidence indicating that protein intakes above 2.0 g per kg per day for enhancing strength and body composition changes in college strength/power athletes.”

This final study in particular, highlights the fact protein intake above 1g per lb of bodyweight is not necessary for the recreational to semi-serious weightlifter, given that even under the physical demands of their training college strength and power athletes gained no additional benefits from a protein intake over 2g per kg which is the equivalent to 0.9g per lb.

Where Can You Get Protein From?

Protein can be found in a huge amount of different food items including but not limited to;

  • Meat – chicken, turkey and beef

  • Seafood – Tuna, prawns and scallops

  • Legumes – Soybeans, flaxseed and kidney beans

  • Meat alternatives – seitan, tofu and quorn

  • Protein supplements – whey, soy and casein protein powder

For a more complete list, including protein amounts per gram check out the blog below.

 

How To Calculate Your Protein Intake

Using a 170lb male as an example let’s look at how you’d work out your daily protein intake for both fat loss and muscle building.

Fat Loss

170lbs X 1g = 170g of protein per day

To work out what this in calories we multiply it by 4, which is the number of calories per gram of protein.

170 x 4 = 680 calories

This works out to be 680 calories of your 2,040 daily total, leaving you with 1,360 calories for fats and carbs.

Muscle Building

Your protein needs are not as high when it comes to muscle building so the calculations are a little different.

170lbs X 0.8g = 136g of protein per day

To work out what this in calories we multiply it by 4, which is the number of calories per gram of protein.

136 x 4 = 544

This works out to be 544 calories of your 2,720 daily total calories, leaving you with 2,176 calories for fats and carbs.

For a full guide on how to calculate your daily calories and all macronutrients to lose fat or build muscle, download my FREE diet eGuide here.

Takeaway Point

Protein is one of 3 macronutrients along with fat and carbohydrate.

It provides 4 calories per gram and is a vital part of a balanced diet, particularly when training to build or maintain muscle.

It helps the body;

  • Preserve muscle mass in a calorie deficit

  • Build muscle in a calorie surplus

  • Support immune function

  • Aid in the production of essential hormones and enzymes

The research backed recommended for daily intake when strength training is;

  • Fat loss = 1g per lb of bodyweight

  • Muscle building = 0.6 – 0.9 per lb of bodyweight


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