Protein is a nutrient that fuels muscle growth, making it crucial for anyone who wants to get stronger or build their performance. It’s also a key aspect of weight loss, which makes it attractive to anyone who wants to shed some extra pounds in a healthy manner.
But how much protein should we be including in our diet on a daily basis? What is an effective level of protein-based on our goals and our body type, and how much is too much? Let’s take a look.
How much protein do we need?
Protein intake, just like the intake of anything else, requires balance if it is to be successful. If your diet contains too little protein, your muscles will not have the material they need to grow, and your fitness goals may begin to flounder. If your diet contains too much protein, this is wasteful at best and can make you feel unwell as a worst-case scenario.
So, with this in mind, how much protein do we need? How do we make sure that we are striking this all-important balance, gaining enough nutrition to fire our body towards our energy goals, without jeopardizing our progress with too much protein?
All that’s required is an understanding of our personal situation. We need to be able to identify our fitness and well-being goals. Next, we need to understand and recognize our rate of exercise. Both of these components are very important indeed for those targeting a safe and effective protein intake plan.
What are your goals?
• Gaining muscle bulk
One of the most popular goals for people adding whey protein to their diet is to gain muscle. Through a combination of a high protein diet and a high rate of exercise, we can quickly and effectively add large amounts of muscle mass to our frame, provided that we follow the right plan and are careful and diligent in the way we go about this.
In most cases, a process of “bulking up” will require a higher level of protein intake compared to other fitness goals.
• Muscle shredding or cutting
Shredding, ripping, or cutting refers to the process of growing lean muscle mass and focusing on the development of a positive strength-to-weight ratio. This process generally involves losing weight by reducing stores of fat and increasing muscle mass at the same time.
This is a more nuanced goal than straightforward muscle mass gain, and so a more careful approach is required. We need to choose whey supplements carefully to ensure that they do not contain too many additives that may inhibit weight loss. At the same time, we still need to be ingesting a high level of protein to support muscle growth.
• Injury or fatigue recovery
This is where we need to tread extra carefully. There are many types of injury that can result from exercise, or even simply from daily life, including muscle tears and ruptures to ligaments or tendons, among others. Some of these injuries can be rehabilitated using protein supplements, alongside more traditional treatments. In other cases, protein intake will have no effect.
It’s important to discuss this with a physician, a sports coach, or another professional. We should not fall into the trap of thinking of whey protein as a miracle cure that will help us overcome injury. It does have its place in injury rehab, but only with the right professional guidance.
Whey protein does tend to be effective for recovery after a particularly tough workout or just for generally decreasing the body’s recovery time. Slightly increasing protein intake with dietary supplements that are designed as post-workout supplements is an effective way to achieve this.
• General weight loss
Increasing protein intake for weight loss is an effective strategy, as long as it is handled in the right way. Protein aids weight loss in a number of ways, including controlling appetite and serving as a meal replacement. Remember that meal replacement protein supplements will contain other additives that help the body stay nourished and fuelled. As such, we should make sure that we are using one of these specially designed supplements and not leaving ourselves exposed to mineral and nutritional deficiencies.
Increasing whey protein intake has been shown to be particularly effective, thanks to the leucine amino acid content. This ingredient is useful for reducing fat and increasing muscle mass in the body.
Rates of exercise
The rate of exercise is, of course, crucial if we are to achieve our personal fitness goals. Increasing your intake of protein is not going to be enough to help you hit those targets. It is only through a combination of dietary discipline and exercise that we are going to achieve success.
But this does not mean spending multiple hours every day in the gym. This is simply unnecessary, even for professional athletes. For the majority of us, spending between twenty and thirty minutes carrying out weight training exercises, around two or three times a week, is enough to start noticing results.
For more extreme levels of muscle gain or to lose weight more rapidly, we may need to increase this level of exercise. However, care and consideration are always required. Pushing ourselves too hard in the gym or during general exercise can result in exhaustion and other serious health problems. Losing too much weight too quickly can also be a cause for concern and can even damage our organs in some extreme cases. We need to make sure that we are following the advice of a professional if we are engaging in this kind of process of weight loss or muscle growth.
The important thing is to pay attention to your rate of exercise. As mentioned above, we don’t need to run ourselves into the ground on a treadmill or lift weights until our arms can take no more to achieve our exercise goals. Instead, we can take a careful and considered approach. We must also remember that rest and recovery are crucial and that protein intake can play a part here too.
How many grams of protein should I have?
So, how many grams of protein should we be taking each day? This depends on a great many different factors, including the personal exercise goals we’ve discussed above, as well as the rate of exercise you carry out each week. We also need to consider other aspects, such as our age and gender, body type, and any health conditions or allergies that may affect us.
It is only by considering all of these personal factors that you can gain an accurate picture of how much protein you need to include in your diet on a daily basis.
Differences in Protein for Men and Women
Gender is an important factor when it comes to deciding how much protein to incorporate into your diet. When we consider one man and one woman — both of a healthy weight — side by side, the man is likely to need more protein than the woman to achieve his respective fitness goals. However, this is not an exact science, and body mass certainly plays an important role.
To build muscle?
The general rule is, the more protein you ingest, the easier it is to build muscle. However, you need to make sure that you aren’t ingesting more protein than your body can handle. The following guidelines will help you understand roughly how much protein you should be including as part of a healthy diet
- Underweight males: Around 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
- Males of a healthy weight: Around 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram
- Overweight males: Around 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram
- Obese males: Around 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram
- Underweight females: Around 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
- Females of a healthy weight: Around 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram
- Overweight females: Around 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram
- Obese females: Around 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram
To lose weight?
It is estimated that overweight adults should ingest between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (or between 0.73 and 1 gram per pound) per day to lose weight, on a normal exercise regime.
For those who are exercising more heavily, an intake of between 2.2 and 3.4 grams (or between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound) of protein per kilogram will help with weight loss.
Remember that it is important to consult with your physician or a medical or dietary professional if you have any concerns about protein intake. They will be able to advise you on a specific plan based on a range of different factors. The above figures are provided as a general guideline only.
Learn More About Healthy Protein Intake, and Get the Protein You Need
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