Let's Talk About Protein!
We've all heard that protein is important for body composition goals, but what is it, what does it do, and what are the exact benefits for YOU? We'll cover all of that, right here! I'll take an excerpt from my eBook (which you get for FREE when you join Arrow's client roster) to start: "Protein is important for thousands of internal processes. In regards to your diet, protein is responsible for building and retaining lean mass. It is also the most satiating macronutrient, so structuring your meals around it can ensure your meal will be satisfying. It is also the most thermogenic macronutrient, which means it costs the most calories to digest." Basically, protein is responsible for everything from our internal processes to building and retaining lean mass, and everything in between, including our appetites. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. Amazing, right? Typically, protein is also the hardest macronutrient for most individuals to consume enough of which can make goals harder to achieve. So what EXACTLY is protein? Y'all know I love me some science, so let's talk about it's structure. Protein is made from building blocks called amino acids. Since we don't store amino acids, our body makes them in two different ways: from scratch or modifying others. There are 9 amino acids that our body cannot make, so we MUST get them from food. These are called Essential Amino Acids and they are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. A question that often arises is how much protein do I need? Speaking from Dietary Guidelines, the recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of bodyweight. I'll use myself as an example. I am currently 145 pounds. To get to kilograms, you divide your body weight by 2.2. I am 65.9 kg, round up to 66 kg. If I consumed 0.8g of protein/kg of bodyweight, that would put me at ~53g of protein/day. That's NOT very much. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is a guideline set to help prevent sickness. Refer back to above- protein is responsible for thousands of processes within the body, including optimal immune system health. If you're reading this, there is a good chance that you are an overall active, healthy individual. You may even have some specific body composition goals you're working towards. Consuming the RDA of protein will not facilitate the goals you're working towards, and instead, you should operate under some other, more specific guidelines. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) states that "an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4-2.0 g of protein/kg of bodyweight/day is sufficient for most exercising individuals." Link to Study Here. With those recommendations, the range that I would fall into is 92-132g of protein per day. Much higher than the RDA recommendation of 53g/day. Follow my instructions above and take some time to figure out where your protein intake should fall based on these recommendations and compare it to where it currently is. It's important to note that all proteins are not created equal. Specifically, they fall into two categories: Complete Proteins and Incomplete Proteins. Complete proteins contain all 20+ amino acids needed to make new proteins in the body. Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids we need to consume from our diet, since our bodies cannot make them from scratch or other amino acids. Animal-based foods are excellent sources of complete proteins while plant-based foods usually lack one or more essential amino acids. It is still possible to get the protein you need from a plant-based diet, as long as you are consuming a variety of different plant-based foods. Protein intake is especially important during caloric deficits and muscle building. You've probably heard the phrase "if you don't use it, you lose it," right? This can be directly applied to your muscle mass. During times of caloric deficits, your body is breaking down tissues within it for energy. This can apply to both your fat tissue and your muscle tissue. Consuming adequate protein while resistance training sends a message that your body is utilizing your muscle tissue and it's important to keep it around. Protein intake also initiates muscle protein syntheses (MPS). To build or retain our muscle mass, we need to spike MPS and in order to do that, we need to eat several protein meals each day. Based on scientific research, 30g of high-quality protein at each meal helps to achieve optimal MPS with an ideal meal range of 3-5 each day. During caloric deficits, protein also plays a role in satiety and hunger. Protein has a substantial effect on hunger hormones, namely ghrelin. It induces a prolonged suppression of ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating appetite. Link to study here. Protein also contributes greatly to the thermic effect of food (the calories burned through digestion). This isn't an extremely significant increase in calorie burn, but when in a calorie deficit, can have an effect on progress. Link to study here. Protein does not have to solely come from animal products, but it is important to note, when you are consuming your protein source, you are also consuming everything that comes with it. This means when going for beans as a protein source, you are also consuming carbohydrates, fiber, and other micronutrients. This week on my Instagram, I did an informative post on protein sources that are meat-free, providing both vegetarian and vegan sources! Here is a direct link to that post. Make sure you hit that follow button and share with your friends. A tip I use to prioritize protein intake with both myself and my clients is to structure your meal around a protein source. Don't make protein your side dish or your snack, make it the main entrée and structure the rest of your meal around it. Hope you enjoyed the brain gainz about protein! -Coach Dev CEO Arrow Nutrition and Training, LLC