Every cell in the body contains protein. Muscles, connective tissues and mucus transport proteins in the bloodstream. Enzymes, immune antibodies, visual pigments and the support structures inside bones are primarily made of proteins. Excess protein in the diet doesn’t enhance the synthesis of body components, but eating too little protein can prevent it.
Most people take a protein supplement to assist in their quest to gain muscle by some type of bar or shake. But, how much do you need to supplement your diet – if any at all? You may already be consuming more than enough. How do you figure it all out? The following is just a brief guideline.
Take a look at your diet. Protein intake should be within a range of 10-35 percent of your total calorie intake for a healthy diet. Your body weight and activity level should also be considered. For the average person eating simply to maintain a healthy diet, about 0.8 grams of protein per Kg of body weight should be consumed. If a person is 150 pounds, divide 150 by 2.2 to get weight in Kg. (68.2g), then multiply that by 0.8 to get the amount of protein that should be consumed per day (54.5 grams of protein).
If regular strength training is done, increase that to 1-1.2 grams/kg of body weight. If a gain in muscle mass is desired, increase the total even more to 1.5-1.7 grams of protein/kg of body weight. So that same 150 pound person looking to increase muscle mass with weight training, adding 1.7 grams of protein/kg of body weight should be consuming around 116g of protein daily.
Believe it or not, high intensity endurance athletes require just about as much protein (1.6g/Kg of bodyweight) because of the amount of energy they expend during training, to limit muscle loss. Because endurance athletes are usually thin and don’t have the fat stores to maintain the prolonged physical activity, a body turns to protein to get the energy needed.
The protein content in food, in a healthy balanced diet, can add up quickly. For example, three ounces of tuna and three ounces of chicken contain about 21 grams of protein each. One cup of milk about is about eight grams; one egg about five grams; and three ounces of beef about 15 grams. So take a closer look at the amount of protein in a serving size and how many servings you are actually consuming.
There are some problems that may arise if you are taking too much protein. Overly high protein diets may increase calcium loss, but if you maintain adequate calcium intake it should be of little concern. High protein diets may also overburden the kidneys by forcing them to excrete the extra nitrogen as urea. Animal proteins may contribute to kidney stone formation in certain individuals, and high protein diets increase urine output which may lead to dehydration.
If you have questions about your nutrition or fitness goals, contact one of our certified Fitness Professionals.