This article covers all things relating to protein. For example…
- The importance of protein and how it boosts exercise performance
- How much protein should you be aiming for each day
- Protein-rich foods
- Protein-rich supplements
- Protein meal ideas
And much more.
Why is protein essential?
During daily life and especially during exercise, your muscle fibers break down. Your muscles then need to repair, which is where protein comes into the picture.
This macronutrient is essential for everyday health, and particularly important when it comes to building up muscle mass, which is why you need to make sure you are consuming enough alongside following your workout regime.
FACT: It is especially important to consume protein after a workout, to amplify the impact of the exercise you have done and speed up recovery.
Can You Consume Too Much Protein?
In short, YES, you can consume too much protein. Many people understand that protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. However, there is such a thing as too much protein. Like anything, if you over consume it…it’s not going to be good for you. That goes for all food groups, proteins, fats, and carbs.
Overeating protein can damage both your short and long-term health. If you consume too much protein, you may experience problems such as weight gain, bad breath, calcium loss, diarrhea, constipation, dehydration, and in extreme cases, heart disease and kidney damage.
How much protein should I consume?
If you Google ‘how much protein should I consume’, you will find lots of different answers and opinions. The government may recommend 30-50g per day, but then your local nutritionist recommends 50-80g. Then there will be bodybuilders who recommend eating between 1-2g of protein per pound of body weight.
So, how much protein should I consume?
The first thing to consider is your goal and what you are aiming for?
Is it fat loss, to build muscle, or to maintain a healthy body? When you know your goal, you can then establish what is the right amount of protein for you.
Based on my coaching experience here is what I would recommend:
- Maintain Overall Health = 50-80g of protein per day
- Weight Loss = 80-120g of protein per day
- Muscle Building = 120-200g of protein per day
Of course, there are exceptions. To be a world-class bodybuilder, you would need far more protein. But as a general guideline, the above numbers work for the everyday person. This is where you should reach out and hire a personal trainer or nutritionist to advise you on what is best for you and your goals.
When Should Protein Be Consumed?
Ideally, and providing you have no underlying health conditions, protein can be consumed throughout the day and in many cases with each meal.
Protein will keep you fuller for longer, which will prevent you from snacking on foods. This makes protein an ideal food for weight loss. Apart from keeping you fuller for longer, which means eating less food and ultimately leads to weight loss…
There’s also the thermogenic effect of protein, which means your body burns calories trying to break protein down.
Alongside eating protein meals throughout the day…it’s especially important to consume protein after exercise because it will help your muscles to repair and grow. The more you train, the more protein you should consume, especially if you do resistance training.
Eating high-quality protein is ideal; foods such as organic chicken, steak, and eggs are full of essential nutrients and are nourishing for the body. If you are vegetarian, then you can find alternatives and supplements such as vegan protein powders.
Alongside natural protein-rich foods, there are many sports bars, drinks, and other supplements to consume. For example, you can buy protein powder from Megapump who offer some great deals on protein supplements. I would also recommend trying protein bars (I recommend Grenade Carb Killa’s). Finally, you can get protein Snickers bars (a sweet protein treat) and protein Weetabix which you can have for breakfast.
Where Can Protein Be Found?
Protein is found in animal-based products, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Protein-rich foods include:
- Protein Supplements
Alongside eating enough protein, it’s essential to balance out your intake with protein-rich vegetables, carbohydrates, nuts, and legumes.
What Protein Should You Eat Before Exercise?
Eating the right amount protein before your workout is just as important as the protein you consume afterward. In terms of what you should eat? Again it depends… but here are some effective high protein meals that I use with my one to one personal training clients:
Pre Workout Protein Meals:
- Steak & eggs
- Porridge mixed with protein powder, almond milk, and honey
- Protein bar – Grenade
- Chicken & Rice
With solid meals like the above, I would recommend eating at least 2 (ideally 3 hours) before your workout. You do not want to train on a full stomach.
Alongside protein, make sure to include heart-healthy fats, carbs, and fluids. Carbohydrates are vital for quick energy, which is what your body will require during exercise. Fluids are essential before, during, and after exercise. If you do not consume enough fluids, your body will struggle to perform at its best. You should stick to plain water or a good sports drink.