Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Protein is a Greek word that means “of prime importance”. The Greek Gods saw this macronutrient as being fundamental to our health, strength and recovery, so it's probably something us mortals should include in our diets. However, most of the time I ask new clients to record their protein intake, it comes out lower than the recommended amount.
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that we consume, alongside fats and carbohydrates, to function efficiently. There are many benefits to adequate protein consumption such as building and repairing muscle & cell tissue, keeping you fuller for longer, maintaining bone health as you age, increased metabolism due to the thermal effect of food and many more.
Without having a positive protein balance, it would be impossible for your body to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue. That means all the hard work you put in training your body won’t give you the desired effect of increased muscle. Not only that, studies have shown that higher protein diets lead to greater muscular retention in a calorie deficit (Wycherley 2012) and increased fat loss (Laymen 2003).
How much protein you should eat will depend on your goals and bodyweight. Generally, a good level is between 1.5 - 2 grams per kg of bodyweight. Therefore, an 80kg adult requires 120-160 grams of protein per day. If gaining serious muscle is your goal, consume as close to 2 grams per kg of bodyweight per day. Adhering to this will have a more profound effect than the weight you lift in the gym!
Think about a ‘normal’ days worth of food which may look something along the lines of:
Breakfast: 2 x Weetabix (4g protein) with 100ml skimmed Milk (3.4g protein)
Snack: Banana (1g protein)
Lunch: Bacon sandwich (21g protein)
Snack: Kit kat mini (1.5g protein)
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese (18g protein)
Daily total: 45.5g protein
With some very simple swaps, your protein intake could double, which as we know contributes to a whole host of benefits:
Breakfast: 2 x Protein Weetabix (13g protein) with 100ml Whole Milk (4g protein)
Snack: Protein bar (20g protein)
Lunch: Tuna & cucumber sandwich (27.3g protein)
Snack: Graze Protein Nuts (6g protein)
Dinner: Prawn Stir fry (25g protein)
Daily total: 95.3g protein
If you really struggle achieving your protein targets, as can be the case with vegan and vegetarian diets for example, you could supplement your intake with protein shakes, bars and balls. There are hundreds on the market each with their own pros and cons so do your research before you buy. Just remember that adding a shake to your diet does increase your calories, so make sure it fits with your overall calorie goal.