The biggest fitness trend back in 2013 was supplements. Every man and his dog was promoting some sort of supplement from protein powders to thermogenics and jumping on brand-wagons. But do you really need to drink 4 protein shakes a day in conjunction with a high protein diet?
Perspectives have shifted since then and, people are more inclined to look up healthy recipes, use food as medicine and tweak their eating plans to enhance metabolism and muscle hypertrophy. The key lies in understanding how the body uses protein, how much it needs and once understood, knowing when to have it to optimise muscle recovery and build those muscular gains that you’ve been chasing.
Strip it back to basic physiology, protein is required to facilitate more processes than just muscle growth. We can get into the many other and more important uses for protein later, today we are talking about how much protein your body needs to do these magical processes and whether you are under or over consuming.
BACK TO BASICS
Let’s go back to basics and understand that the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2017), recommends we eat 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. With the rise of #instafitness and health culture in the last couple of years, not to mention the prevalence and accessibility of protein-laden products, this has increased our protein consumption to over the recommendation. This is neither positive or negative. This is just a result. It is important, however, to work out your base line, providing you take into account your training demands.
‘What about bodybuilders who seem to grow in size while eating mountains of protein? This can’t be a coincidence?’ Valid question, little Johnny.
Keep in mind, you cannot read the minds of these types of athletes, nor do you get all the information they base their nutrition on from one Instagram picture. Let’s myth-bust this question wide open by stating that eating more protein does not mean you will put on more muscle. The body has a protein threshold, in which it will use what it needs from the foods you consume throughout the day. When it reaches it’s limit, it doesn’t need it anymore. If we then refer back to our basic physiology we know that the kidneys act as the bouncers that kick out any excess protein the body can’t fit. So, really, you’ve just created some pretty expensive urine.
TIME(ing) HEALS ALL WOUNDS
The muscle growth doesn’t necessarily come from the amount of protein you stack onto your plate at every meal. Research has suggested the timing of your consumption will ultimately lead to growth and development. Feeding your body at a time it needs nutrients, such as after a fast (like sleep) or after your workout has shown to enhance muscle growth. The body needs this to begin the recovery process. However, more research is required to support this suggestion.
So, let’s review. To understand how much protein you need to eat per day, start with the WHO’s formula. (0.8g per kg of body weight). For athletes or serious trainers it is recommended they consume 1.2-1.5g per kg of body weight (activity dependant). From there, you can assess your daily protein consumption. Does it meet the results? Am I spending too much money on supplements? Am I consuming these at inopportune times?
World Health Organisation. (2017). Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. WHO Technical Report Series 935.