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Diet & Nutrition

Are you getting enough protein in your diet?

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

Protein is probably the most important macronutrient! Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Putting the desire of a toned physique aside, protein is essential for repair and growth.
 
Consuming a range of protein sources, (specifically amino acids), plays a key role in our diets. It’s important for general health and functionality (1). Sometimes, a closer look is needed to make sure our intake is adequate, if not optimal!

What does protein actually do?

Protein is made up of amino acids. Our body produces some amino acids but the rest is needed from our dietary intake.

Dietary amino acids play an important role in maintaining health. They help stimulate muscle growth and energy production in the body. They also help regulate digestion, sleep-wake cycles and absorption of vitamins and minerals.
 
As well as having a role in fat metabolism, immune function and hormone production. They also provide tissue growth and boost collagen in the skin.
how much protein

Carbohydrates & Fats

A lot of people focus on fat and carbohydrate intake to make a change to their body composition but as long as minimum requirements are met, carbs and fats are actually interchangable and don’t matter that much when it comes to weight loss (2).

I know a lot of people think that keto is king when it comes to weight loss, but it’s difficult to adhere to and tends to be a short-term fix. Personalised nutritional programming has a far greater affect on weight loss than ketogenic dieting, even if it shows initial results (3).

So if you think carbs are the devil or that fat makes you fat, think again!

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What's the recommended intake?

The recommended minimum dietary intake is 0.8g protein per kilo of body weight or lean body mass. Yet, this amount is widely considered to be too little for optimal benefits (4). And that’s not just for gym-goers either!
 
Studies show that an increased protein intake is important to retain muscle mass (5). It begs the question as to why there isn’t more of an emphasis on protein intake. It is not the key focus on a lot of diets, even though it benefits overall health, recovery and muscle growth.
 
We need to put the focus on protein and stop focusing on carbs and fats as the be-all and end-all of a healthy diet.

What's the optimal intake?

So, now for the good stuff! What you’ve been looking for…
 
An optimal intake of protein for all the benefits mentioned is at least 1.4g per kilo of body weight or lean body mass.
 
You can even go as high as around 3g per kilo, though this might be quite difficult to achieve. 
 
A good number to aim for is 1.6-2g and this is both for dieting and muscle gain/toning. 
 
This is because protein is satiating (it will keep you full). We’ve already touched upon all the benefits of protein in terms of muscle growth and repair.
 
But, don’t worry, an increase in protein does not automatically mean big muscles! That’s not how it works. 
am I eating enough protein?

How to implement this!

For muscle definition or toning, consume a meal or snack containing 20-40g protein every 3-4 hours. This could be supplemented with a shake if you’re finding it difficult!

For weight loss, I’d suggest a similar approach but you don’t have to worry too much about the frequency of protein consumption, particularly if you’re doing intermittent fasting.

But, I would still focus on getting enough protein in when you do eat, and it is easier when you spread it out throughout the day.

Key Takeaways

  • Protein should be your key focus when it comes to macronutrients.
  • Increased intake is beneficial for weight loss and muscle gain.
  • More protein does not mean more muscle – you have to train a lot for that!

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References

1 – Wu G. Amino acids: metabolism, functions, and nutrition. Amino Acids. 2009 May

2 – Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018 Feb

3 – Vranceanu M, Pickering C, Filip L, Pralea IE, Sundaram S, Al-Saleh A, Popa DS, Grimaldi KA. A comparison of a ketogenic diet with a LowGI/nutrigenetic diet over 6 months for weight loss and 18-month follow-up. BMC Nutr. 2020 Sep

4 – Deer RR, Volpi E. Protein intake and muscle function in older adults. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 May

5 – Wolfe RR. The role of dietary protein in optimizing muscle mass, function and health outcomes in older individuals. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug

By Kim

Hi, I'm Kim! I'm a Fitness & Nutrition Coach from the UK and owner of Barefaced Fitness.

I help women achieve their goals through effective training methods and creating healthy balanced diets. I offer a strong focus on strength, movement and simplified nutrition for a healthier lifestyle.