Protein – What, When and How Much?

Proteins are the building blocks of the body, involved in muscle regulation, metabolic health, hormone production and many more. Protein also cannot be stored as energy or fat easily and is significantly more filling compared to carbohydrates and fats. Sufficient protein will allow you to repair and grow, compared to insufficient protein intake which will promote breakdown and loss of muscle.

How much should we eat?

Generally, athletes or gym goers feel that it is important to eat as much protein as possible, upwards of 3g/kg, however 1.6-2g/kg of protein per day is ideal for this population and equates to 128-160g for an average 80kg man. Sedentary people should eat around 1g/kg.

When should we eat it?

Athletes or weight trainers should look to consume 20-25g of protein pre and post activity (1 serving of meat). As long as you are consuming enough throughout the day in total in conjunction with pre and post activity protein you will be covered. A myth is that you MUST eat every 2 hours, however this is unrealistic and as long as you eat enough throughout the day it won’t make much difference. Sedentary people should aim for 3 portions throughout the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

How to eat it?

Another myth is that we need to drink protein shakes. Yes, these are great if you struggle to eat enough protein or don’t have time and need a quick fix however FOOD SHOULD COME FIRST. Supplements are there to supplement the diet, not replace it. Protein is found in meat, beans, eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts, fish, soya, cheese, lentils, quinoa and finally protein shakes.

Take home message

  • Protein isn’t everything
  • Great for dieting as it is filling and cant be stored as fat
  • Eat 1.6-2g/kg
  • Protein shakes aren’t necessary
  • Pre and post training protein is important
  • There are many more sources other than meat
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