How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?
Emily R. Pappas, M.S.
Protein is a building block for muscle mass.
The more active muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate (to a certain extent)
But what does that mean?
With more muscle and strength, you can do more “work” in any given task.
Doing more work requires more energy.
As you build muscle, your body will need more energy to sustain its new power output and accompanying physique!
What even is a protein?
We are going to keep the discussion to animal protein today
(because plant based is not assimilated in the body quite as efficiently as animal protein, so it gets a bit more complicated. Keep your eyes out for a separate post:)
Lean Beefs (90% or more)
For other sources that are not quite as lean, we recommend considering the amount of carbohydrates and fat also included in the source
Milk (Fat Free to 2%)
Any Beef (less than 90%)
How much protein should you be eating?
It is important to keep a constant supply of protein in your bloodstream to help ensure your muscles to recover and grow! For most female athletes, we recommend 4-6 meals a day each including 2-4oz of protein (considering your body size, muscle mass, fat mass, activity)
This equates to around 1g per lb of body mass.
Any more than that is really unnecessary! To debunk the common “bro myth”, more protein does not mean more muscle mass.
You can pile as many bricks next to a wall as you like, but those bricks won’t become a wall unless you use ENERGY to build it.
This means in order to RECOVER and put those muscle building blocks in place, you need to eat the preferred energy source, carbohydrates, to fuel the process!
FUN FACT: if you eat too much protein, your body does NOT want to use it as energy. Breaking down protein is HARD. So save yourself some stress, and replace that extra protein with the carbs your body wants 🙂
What does protein actually DO in the body?
Protein in a building block. This means it is a STRUCTURAL component of your muscles, cells, enzymes, and MORE!
Protein allows your muscles to rebuild after a workout, your cells to turn over better (skin cells fully regenerate ~27 days), & your metabolism to run better (enzymes make your body work more efficiently)
If you don’t eat ENOUGH protein, your body needs to get those building blocks from what you already have in your body. The issue with this is you do NOT have a storage site for protein! Unlike carbs and fats which are stored as fat reserves for later use, protein cannot be stored to allow for later use.
Instead, if you are not eating enough, your body has to turn to your MUSCLES and break down the building blocks. Remember, the body wants to do what it can to SURVIVE. When it comes to survival: enzymes, skin regeneration, other functions >>> muscle mass. This means, when protein is lacking, your muscle will be broken down! Not the ideal situation for an athlete considering high performance!
If you eat TOO MUCH protein than needed for your body, the excess is going to be used as energy! When you use protein for energy, it has to go through a long process where certain nitrogen groups are removed so the remaining product can be used used for energy in the AEROBIC SYSTEM. This isn’t the best fuel for an athlete that is working at MODERATE to HIGH intensities that require ANEROBIC energy use.
Simply put, if you are using protein as your energy source, you will not be as explosive, powerful, or fast compared to using carbohydrates as your fuel!
If your body doesn’t require that fuel at the moment, the remaining product will be stored for later energy use (just like excess carbs and fats). When you remove the nitrogen parts of the protein for energy use, they cannot be put back on later to be used for structure. This means excess protein will just be converted into fat stores for later.
Extra protein does not mean extra building blocks for later! Super annoying we know!
When should you be eating protein?
Because your body lacks stores, its a good idea for female athletes to eat 2-4oz of protein every 2-4 hours. This timing will ensure that protein is in your blood stream so your body can USE it when it needs it, rather than breaking down your muscle stores!
Know what’s even more awesome about that? Protein helps keep you satiated! Protein is filling and having enough of it throughout the day will ensure you FEEL fueled throughout the day. But remember, eating protein alone is not enough!
Protein can really only be used to help build your body if it is consumed with carbs or fats to help ENERGIZE the building process!
This way you KNOW your body not only has the building blocks it needs, but it also has the FUEL required to put those blocks into place!
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