Part one we spent time explaining the importance, in relation to achieving results, of protein intake when coupled with athletic and fitness training. During part II I will break down the numbers a bit more by explaining the importance of obtaining your optimal level of protein and Essential Amino Acids (EAA) intake.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein of normal individuals is 0.8 g/kg body weight per day (1). This amount of protein is not a desirable level for active individuals whom are engaged in athletic and fitness training. Strength training individual’s daily protein intake ranges on average from 1.6 to 2.8 g/kg of protein per day (2). This range is vast and excessive. I like to say that it leads to “expensive urine.” In fact, large intakes of protein, 2.8 g/kg per day, have shown to result in high amounts of protein oxidation with little to no anabolic effects (2). For strength athletes creating an anabolic environment within the body is essential in order to make gains within the weight room. For fitness enthusiasts creating an anabolic state within their body can be the difference between 14-16% body fat versus 18-20% body fat. For athletes creating an anabolic environment within the body is necessary in creating vital adaptations. My point is that no matter what activities you are engaged in be sure that your protein levels are not too high but are not too low; optimal protein intake is essential to properly stimulate muscle growth and recovery.
Research has supported daily protein requirements ranging from 1.2 – 1.5 g/kg per. This range was shown successful for more advanced persons. For less advanced individuals research has shown a daily protein value ranging from 1.5 – 1.8 g/kg per day (3). Large quantity of proteins may not be all the most important factor since nearly all research supports that more muscle requires more EAA’s. The interesting fact is that some research has shown EAA’s can double anabolic stimulus (4). Most believe that protein powder does this. Powder can do this as long as it contains a larger amount of the BCAA Leucine around workouts. Choose raw, cold filtered, grass-fed and organic protein as much as possible.
Here is the practical takeaway from all of this information:
1. REAL FOOD IS THE BEST no matter how you cut it, but where your food is sourced is the most important thing.
2. The US RDA for protein is too low, .8g/kg is not nearly enough for active people.
3. I recommend at least 2.0-2.4 g/kg per day for persons who are active, athletes particularly
4. For lean physique athletes I recommend up to 3.0 g/kg, depending on the individual
5. Animal protein has high amounts of EAA (leucine), which is important for protein synthesis.
6. Choose grass fed small farm animal protein that raises their animals humanely, it makes a huge difference.
7. Strength training makes muscles sensitive to Amino Acid building blocks in protein, so resistance training is key to gain lean muscle and burn fat.
8. Post workout shakes I recommend 40-50 grams for older athletes who seriously strength train, while 25-35 grams for younger athletes.
9. If using plant-based protein I suggest increasing quantities a bit since they typically lack EAA and bioavailability when compared to animal protein.
10. Eat healthy fats (veggies can be added too) with high protein meals since it is better for the gut and helps with the digestion / absorption of the protein.
No matter how you move forward it is important that you understand protein is key to life!!
1. Food and Nutrition Board.
Recommended Intakes for Individuals, Macronutrients.
Institute of Medicine: Washington, DC, 2010.
2. Staron RS, Karapondo DL, Kraemer WJ, Fry AC, Gordon SE, Falkel JE, Hagerman FC, and Hikida RS.
Skeletal muscle adaptations during early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women.
Journal of Applied Physiology 76: 1250-52, 1994.
3. Lemon PW.
Dietary protein requirements in athletes.
Journal of Nutrition Biochemistry 8: 55-58, 1997.
4. Campbell WW, Crim MC, Young VR, Joseph LJ, and Evans WJ.
Effects of resistance training and dietary protein intake on protein metabolism in older adults.
American Journal of Physiology 68: E1145 – E1150, 1995.