Many people have misconceptions about protein. I get the question “How much protein do I need?” all the time. Let’s face it- living in this information age is totally awesome and completely overwhelming. There are so many conflicting theories, I completely understand how people get confused (and why some just give up!).
By the end of this blog, you will have a simple and clear understanding of how much protein you need and when, my go-to protein shake recipes, and some of my preferred brands of protein. For those of you who want to dive into the details, I’ll post some helpful links at the end! This way, everybody wins! Woo hoo- let’s do this!
Why You Need Protein
Protein consumption is vital for your overall health and optimal functioning. It’s made of amino acids, which are responsible for our structure, hormones, enzymes that trigger important chemical reactions, immune chemicals- the list goes on. Some are essential, which means we have to consume them, and if we don’t, certain important processes won’t take place in our bodies.
If you exercise, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that breaks down your muscles. So without getting the protein you need, your muscles are being broken down, but not repaired. Protein and carbs are necessary to repair those muscles and make you strong!
How Much Protein You Need
In general, people should get 10-35% of their calories from protein. If you lift weights, are an endurance athlete, or just overall very active (and yes, picking up and carrying small children all day counts), then get closer to the top of that range. For an active person, 0.6-0.9g per pound of bodyweight is recommended for muscle repair. However, we need those amino acids to do way more than rebuild muscle. For optimal immune function, body composition, and fullness, shoot for 1g of protein for every pound you weigh.
Other important percentages are Carbs: 45-65% (focus on good carbs: more veggies, less breads and pastas!), and Fats: 20-35%. Side note: fats have gotten a bad rap, but your body absolutely needs them to function. Try to get good fat from foods like nuts and avocados!
- Check out The Fit Tutor’s Nutrition Course to learn how to eat healthy without counting calories- and to tweak these protein-carb-fat percentages to really accelerate your weight loss!
Certain conditions require more protein. For example, pregnant women should increase their protein intake by 25-30g a day in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. If you’ve been injured, increasing your protein intake will help the healing process. Those who are injured should use the 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight as a baseline, and shoot for higher than that. A sports injury increases your metabolism 15-20%, so make sure you’re giving your body fuel to heal.
I use the MyFitnessPal app (find me: allisonlora12), and it has a circle graph you can view in your food diary to see your percentages. That’s the easiest way for me. I like that they do the math for me since math and I have never been friends…
When To Consume Protein
It’s recommended that women consume 20-30g and men consume 40-60g at every meal. Your body has an amino acid pool that needs to be consistently refilled to do all those important things we mentioned earlier.
How Much Protein Do I Need Pre-Workout?
If you are resistance training, you want to eat protein and carbs prior to your workout. People serious about gaining muscle should get 20-30 grams of protein prior to exercise, but the average exercising woman should get 7-10 grams along with 30-60g of carbs.
Make sure it’s a snack low in fat and fiber so it’s easy to digest. Some people can’t stomach eating before a workout and that’s OK. Try to eat 3 meals a day with a couple snacks to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low, and you should be fine for your workout! Here are some examples of pre and post workout snacks.
How Much Protein Do I Need Post-Workout?
It’s recommended to get at least 2 hrs and 30 minutes of exercise per week. Any time you exercise, you want to consume protein as soon as possible after your workout. Now yes, there’s conflicting research on this mystical “anabolic window,” but for most people it’s hard to get their protein in at mealtimes. A protein shake (or chocolate milk) can help.
To keep it simple, your body’s working hard to repair your muscles after a workout, so it will readily use the nutrients in your post-workout shake or snack. I would recommend trying one for a while and see if you notice a difference. As long as you’re getting the recommended protein in, you won’t really need a supplement. However, most people who use them stick with them because they have noticed a difference (or enjoy the excuse to have chocolate before dinner).
Shoot for .5-.7g of protein per pound of bodyweight after a workout. I’ve also read 20g for women and 40g for men is a good goal.
Honestly, every body is different. Try to increase your protein if needed and see how you feel. Try a supplement after your workouts and see if it makes a difference. Play around with the amount and find out what works best for you. Record your food intake, how you feel, etc for a long enough time to make an educated decision.
Sources of Protein
Here are some recommended sources of protein:
- Lean meats (chicken, beef, turkey, bison, etc)
- Eggs (opt for organic, free range and/or Omega-3 enriched)
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds (opt for raw or dry roasted- no oils)
- Seafood and shellfish
- Supplements (see below)
- Greek Yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese (Read our guide to buying dairy)
- Quinoa, buckwheat, Ezekiel bread
- Soy (opt for non-GMO verified)
- Nut butters (watch for added oils and sugars! Go Organic if possible)
What would you add to this list?
Simple Protein Shake Recipes
Recipe #1: (Post-sugar fast)
- 2 Scoops Orgain Creamy Chocolate Protein Powder
- 4 oz Unsweetened Silk Almond Milk
- 4oz Dark Chocolate Silk Almond Milk
- 3 Ice cubes
Stats: 215 calories, 22.5g protein, 6.5g fat, 23g carbs, 9.5g sugar
Recipe #2: (Pre-sugar fast)
- 6-8oz of Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk
- 3 ice cubes
- Mercola’s Pure Power Whey Chocolate protein
Stats: 175 calories, 21g protein, 3.75g fat, 26g carbs, and 19.5g sugar. (Stats may vary depending on how many scoops of protein)
Feel free to sneak in spinach, flax, chia seeds, etc! I also just started using this infographic to make some bangarang smoothies! Mine have all been about 300 calories.
There are TONS of brands and kinds of protein, and it can be confusing. Here are a few brands I recommend. Some are pricey, but they should last awhile! Overall, you want organic and non-GMO. If choosing whey protein, make sure it’s whey protein concentrate, not isolate, and choose grass-fed if possible. Oh- and something you think tastes good! This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course. And if it’s a low-quality, crappy protein source, is it even worth supplementing?
I hope this helps. These are the basics. Can you imagine how long this post would be if I included everything?! Woah. If you want to know more, read the links below. For now, let me know if you have any questions, and leave other readers with your fave pre- or post- workout snacks!
(if you have any specific needs or are on a special diet, please see your doctor about protein intake!)
- Mark’s Daily Apple- How much Protein Should I be Eating? (Really thorough, great article)
- IDEA FIT Journal- Protein Today: Are Consumers Getting Too Much of a Good Thing? (another really thorough article!)
- Precision Nutrition: All About Protein & Limit Protein to 20g per Meal?
- Bret Contreras: Why You Don’t Really Need a Post-Workout Protein Shake
- Dr Oz- Protein Fact Sheet
- Fit Sugar- How Much Protein Should I Eat?
- Men’s Health- A Guide to Maximum Muscle (for the men-folk!)
- The Food Babe- The Healthiest Protein Powders on the Market
- The Government’s guidelines and regulations- MyPlate
- And finally, my own Pinterest Healthy Snacks Board :)