One of the first questions usually thrown at Fitness Experts is: “How much protein should I be getting every day?”
That’s a GREAT question, and it lays the foundation for a very good diet plan and mindset.
Protein is one of the most important macronutrients (the others being fat and carbohydrates) that the body requires.
Up to to certain point, the body can go without much healthy or saturated fats or carbohydrates and fiber, but protein is essential for a variety of processes including: individual cell regeneration and repair (the growth and recovery of muscle cells and fibers), energy supply (through a process called gluconeogenesis), and the added benefit of increasing the metabolism when digested.
The calculation of protein required can be done one of two ways. The “medical way” and the “fitness way”…
Unless we have a predisposition to kidney stones or pre-existing injuries or conditions, we can rest assured that taking in “a lot” of protein will NOT affect our kidneys or harm them in any way.
While increased protein intake, “high protein” to the medical experts, will cause an increase in kidney function and output, there is nothing to say that this is a negative effect (unless otherwise noted by an experienced nephrology specialist or health practitioner, of course).
The “medical way” of calculating protein (going by the Recommended Dietary Allowance) would leave us with anywhere from 40-60 grams of protein a day. That’s an average of 6-8oz. of cooked chicken througout the ENTIRE DAY!
Any hardworking gym-goer will tell you that 8oz. will only constitute an average of 1-2 meals out of the 5-6 that should be eaten!
Take this excerpt from LowFatDietPlan.org
How Much Protein Do We Need?
“We require protein at every stage of life, in order for our body to function adequately. Proteins are a significant component of cells, including bone and muscle. It is required for immunity, development, and growth to ward off infection, disease, and defend the body from illness.
The Institute of Health’s Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendations allow for a wide range of protein intake – anywhere from 10% to 35% of total calories – for normal, healthy adults. For example, on an 1,800 calorie diet, you could safely consume anywhere from 45 grams (that’s 10% of calories) to 218 grams (35%) of protein per day.” However, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams a day for women. Most Americans have no problem getting this much, but would struggle to take in enough protein to make up 35% of their calories.
To get the potential weight loss benefit, experts advise aiming for around 120 grams of protein a day. If you want to increase your protein intake, do it slowly over the course of a week.”
Here is the “fitness way” of calculating your protein intake (which we have seen reshape bodies time and time again, a case of laboratory facts vs. working experience):
For those looking to drop bodyfat while maintaining Lean Body Mass (and increasing it slightly):
0.75 – 1 gram of protein per pound of Lean Body Mass (depending on how often and how intensely we weight train)
That allows us to “feed” the muscle we do have enough nutrients in order to maintain its current size while dieting down and trying to strip body fat. The more frequently we weight train and the stronger we are will determine what end of the spectrum we are in regards to 0.75 – 1g per pound of LBM.
For those looking to gain Lean Body Mass while maintaining/reducing body fat slightly, we will employ a more copious amount of protein:
1.25 – 1.5 grams of protein per pound of Lean Body Mass.
That does seem like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, it takes a tremendous amount of food to put on muscle, regardless of gender. It CAN be slightly uncomfortable eating that much protein, in addition to the specific amount of carbohydrates and fat that we may need in order to reach our end goal.
In order to calculate our Lean Body Mass, you would need to calculate how much body fat you have on your person. Body fat can be tested through hydrostatic weighing (universities and clinics), electrical impedance (Tanita scales, hand-held tools, etc.) or caliper testing. The latter two options are the more often used. Your body fat can be checked at 360 Fitness by either option, apart from hydrostatic weighing, by any Customer Service Rep/Manager or Personal Trainer by appointment.
Let’s put the formulas into action…
Let’s say a person is 190lbs. at 20% body fat. That would put his/her LBM at 152lbs.
If he were to try to lose weight through weight training and cardio 4-5 times a week, we would err on the higher end of the spectrum for protein intake. He would take in 152g of protein a day (for this gentleman, in particular).
If the weight training was not as frequent (which it SHOULD be), we would stick to around 115 – 120g of protein a day.
If that same person were trying to put on muscular weight while maintaining/lowering body fat, we would stick to 190 – 230g of protein per day.
It’s as easy as that… Now, that’s just a starting point. You should meet with your Fitness Coach to manipulate the macronutritients to make sure we are not deficient in any area and that we are progressing with the weight loss/gain in a safe and effective fashion.
Now, go forth… Bake chicken, sear tuna, and grill steaks!
Give us your feedback, and let us know how YOUR protein intake has changed after reading this!