Becoming a Protein Intake Pro!
By Mike Brennan – BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Sciences
Protein intake is a subject that has been heavily focused upon within sports and fitness.
The increasing popularity of protein supplementation along with the latest trends in dieting have meant that appropriate protein intake is a topic that needs to be properly addressed and understood.
This three part series will look at various aspects of protein intake and will provide evidence-based information to enable you to optimise your nutrition and training. In this first part, we will look at the current recommendations for daily protein intake.
Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions by gym goers is “how much protein do I really need?” The general attitude towards protein and building muscle adopted by many is that “more is better” with some serious gym-goers eating as much as 500g of protein per day. This is equivalent to roughly 2kg of steak per day! Despite this, research has shown that protein requirements are in fact far lower.
Research has suggested that individuals who lift weights can consume as little as 1.33g/kg/day (Phillips, 2004). This study also suggested that simply consuming enough calories as part of a balanced diet will likely address your daily protein requirements. Therefore, the aforementioned figure should only be used as a loose guideline. Studies have also shown that extremely high (2.4g/kg/day) protein intake does NOT appear to yield any additional benefit when compared with a moderate (1.4g/kg/day) protein intake (Tarnopolsky et al.,1992).
However, if you are in a calorie deficit (to lose weight for example) a higher daily protein intake is recommended of around 1.2-2.3g/kg/day in order to preserve muscle tissue (Churchward-Venne et al., 2013) as losing muscle mass can have some negative consequences. These studies demonstrate that a greater protein intake is necessary for strength athletes, BUT this increase should not be drastic.
MEAT-ing your requirements: Key Points
- Strength athletes should make an effort to consume more protein, BUT very large increases don’t appear to be necessary.
- Protein requirements are lower for sedentary individuals.
- 1.33g/kg/day may be an adequate daily protein intake for strength athletes.
- Protein intake should be increased during a calorie deficit to prevent muscle loss.
- A balanced diet will likely help you reach your protein requirements.
In Part 2 (of 3) we’ll be looking at the idea of protein timing. More specifically we’ll discuss how choosing when you consume your protein can influence the results of your diet and training…..
Churchward‐Venne, T.A., Burd, N.A., Mitchell, C.J., West, D.W., Philp, A., Marcotte, G.R., Baker, S.K., Baar, K. and Phillips, S.M., 2012. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. The Journal of physiology, 590(11), pp.2751-2765.
Phillips, S.M., 2004. Protein requirements and supplementation in strength sports. Nutrition, 20(7), pp.689-695.
Tarnopolsky, M.A., Atkinson, S.A., MacDougall, J.D., Chesley, A., Phillips, S. and Schwarcz, H.P., 1992. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology, 73(5), pp.1986-1995.