Protein is a macronutrient found in food which is very important for building muscle, and recovering from exercise. We almost certainly get at least some amount of protein in our daily diets even if you’re a vegetarian. Protein can still be found in vegetables although the amount may not be enough. This then goes to the question of how much protein do you exactly need to 1. Stay Healthy 2. Build muscle and burn fat. and 3. Recover from your exercise bout?
Recommendations vary from source to source especially these days when it’s so easy to call yourself an expert. However, I still follow the recommendations of ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) who in my opinion is still the foremost organisation in terms of nutrition research. Their recommendations can be found below:
|Activity Level||Grams of Protein per Kg of body weight|
|Sedentary||0.8 (.4 g/lb)|
|Recreational Exerciser||1.0 – 1.4 (0.5-0.7 g/lb)|
|Resistance-Trained (maintenance)||1.2 – 1.4 (0.6-0.7 g/lb)|
|Resistance-Trained (muscle gain)||1.4 – 1.8 (0.7-0.9 g/lb)|
|Endurance Trained||1.2 – 1.4 (0.6-0.7 g/lb)|
|Intermittent, high-intensity training||1.2 – 1.8 (0.6-0.9 g/lb)|
To give a concrete example, I weigh 76kg and I do high intensity training. This means my protein intake should range from 91 grams to 137 grams per day in order for my body to sustain my level of activity.
Some athletes who train heavy might even have to go as high as 2.0 g/kg of body weight. But that’s the minority of the population. Now that we know what the numbers are, we also need to know where to actually get protein.
It’s important to note that protein is made up of different amino acids. Amino acids relate muscle synthesis, meaning we need them to build muscle. There are two kinds: essential amino acids are amino acids which can be found in food, and non-essential amino acids which is naturally synthesised by the body. We need to make sure we get enough essential amino acids in our diet if we want to maintain health and more so if we want to build muscle.
Now let’s look at the sources. For those who are looking to lose weight, it’s important to take note of the grams per calorie column to make sure you’re not getting too much calories to get the protein that you need. Take note also of the amount of fat present.
|Food Source||Protein in 100 grams||Protein in 1 serving size||Total Fat in 1 serving||Protein to Calorie Ratio|
|Whole Milk||3.2 g||1 cup (244 g) – 8 g||8 g||1 g per 19 cal|
|Tofu||8 g||1/2 cup – 10 g||6 g||1 g per 9.4 cal|
|Eggs||13 g||1 large egg – 6 g||5 g||1 g per 12 cal|
|Chicken Breast||21 g||half breast boneless – 30 g||13 g||1 g per 8.3 cal|
|Pork Chops||25 g||5 oz (134g) – 33 g||14 g||1 g per 5.2 cal|
|Cheddar Cheese||25 g||1 slice (28 g) – 7 g||9 g||1 g per 16 cal|
|Tuna||26 g||3 oz (85 g) – 22 g||1 g||1 g per 4.5 cal|
|Nuts||33 g||1 oz (28 g) – 9 g||14 g||1 g per 15.8 cal|
|Lean Beef||36 g||3 oz (85 g) – 31 g||13 g||1 g per 5.3 cal|
|Whey Protein||85 g||1 scoop – 20 – 25 g||0 g||1 g per 5 cal|
Now that you know what’s in your food, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. A friend and colleague of mine just recently said something to me that is very true: “Nutritional knowledge, does not always equate to healthy nutrition habits.” The next time you go out to eat or even when you’re just in the grocery store, I hope that you’ll remember what I wrote here and apply it.