The Scoop on Protein
By Judi Samuels
Protein is the nutrient that is most commonly associated with weight training, yet it's also one of the most misunderstood. How much protein do you really need? What type of protein is best and when should it be consumed?
At its simplest, your body has a baseline protein requirement that depends on two main factors: lean body mass (muscle) and activity (type and amount) – and can also be influenced by other factors such as genetics, digestibility efficiency, and protein sources. Generally speaking - more muscle as well as more activity will equate to more protein requirements.
Most healthy adults require 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a 200-pound male needs 73 grams of protein per day. However, endurance athletes who train more than 10 hours per week and those who regularly perform strength training activities may require more protein, as much as 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight. These upper thresholds should be monitored to ensure there are no health concerns.
It’s safe to assume that if you exercise regularly, your daily needs will fall between 0.8 and 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.
It is possible to take in more protein than your body can handle, and studies show that additional protein may not be absorbed or utilized. In fact, it cannot be stored, so it’s important to be aware of your protein intake and not go overboard thinking more is better. It just might lead to weight gain!
Food sources can be adequate for daily protein requirements, however, you may supplement with protein if you're not able to get enough quality protein in your diet when your body needs it, for example, after an intense exercise session. Not all supplements are created equally – so a bit of research is recommended to find a quality product that meets your needs and dietary preferences.
Research indicates that ingesting more than 30 grams of protein in a single meal may not enhance muscle protein synthesis...so the best amount to consume is between 20-30 grams in one meal. This information suggests that in order to meet your protein needs, you should spread your total protein throughout the day and have some in each meal or snack.
As with all dietary recommendations – there are many factors to consider. There is no perfect diet to meet every person’s needs. Please consult with your physician if you want to learn more about your specific needs to maximize your health benefits.
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PROTIEN SMOOTHIE:
Smoothies are the ultimate fast food. They act as a meal replacement or snack and are especially useful as a post workout boost of protein. They are best when prepared with a high powered blender, such as a NutriBullet or VitaMix. Smoothies are best when consumed fresh, but can be easily refrigerated in a glass container for a few hours or overnight.
A basic smoothie or shake has three essential ingredients: a liquid, a base of fruits or vegetables, and a chill factor such as frozen fruits or ice, usually added last to pull the ingredients down in to the blades. To take your blends to the next level, you’ll need to add some “wow.”
The first “wow” would be a boost in the form of protein powder or other superfoods, such as chia, hemp or flax, which all are complete proteins. Next would be a cream, such as avocado, banana, nut butter or silken tofu. Cream could also be raw nuts or goat’s milk yogurt! Finally, sprinkle in some magic such as cinnamon, lemon, stevia or other flavorings.
Here’s an example of an Everyday Smoothie that’s creamy and delicious and totally customizable to your taste.
Just another note or two on protein sources. Goat milk yogurt has one of the highest protein bioavailability factors. It is extremely high in BCAA and is 100% lactose free. Ricotta cheese contains the most whey of any whole food because it is made from whey protein. Hemp hearts are a complete protein containing all amino acids necessary to build protein in the body and are only 27% carbohydrates as fiber.
To make an alternative post workout protein shake that does not require protein powder, and for those exercise enthusiasts who don’t require large amounts of protein at one sitting, follow this recipe:
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Add more liquid if too thick. Enjoy!