“Are you getting enough protein?”
I know a lot of people that work out as hard as you do, aren’t eating enough to build up their muscles.
Well if you are interested, I have some brand X Super Strength Whey protein powder in my car that I can let you have for a pretty good price. Satisfaction Guaranteed.”
“Thanks for the offer but I think I eat enough protein.”
This was a conversation I had with a guy back in 1996 when I first joined the YMCA.
At the time I had no clue if I was eating enough protein, but I did know that I didn’t want to buy any protein powder from a guy that was selling it out the trunk of his car.
The whole situation did bring up a very important question.
“Are you eating enough protein?”
It was time to do so research to find out.
What is protein?
The first thing that I wanted to know is why I even needed protein in the first place. It turns out that protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body. Your muscles, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mostly made up of protein.
Your body’s important chemicals such as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and even your DNA are also partially made up of protein. Your body is constantly using up protein, so it is very important that you are at least eating the minimal required amount.
One reason that protein powder with water is so important is because it is made of amino acids. Your body cannot make the essential amino acids, so you have to get them from the food and the supplements that you eat
How much protein do you need?
How much protein you need depends on your age, size, and activity level. If you went to a nutritionists she may come up with a quick estimate on how much protein you need each day by multiplying your body weight (in pounds) by .37. The number that she gets from this calculation will roughly tell you how many grams of protein that you should be eating daily.
Here is a good example: I weigh 180 lbs. I get my calculator and put in 180 X .37. The calculator shows that I should be eating at least 67 grams of protein each day.
Do people who exercise need more protein?
Before I accept this number at face value I must account for the fact that I exercise strenuously for at least 30 minutes 4 to 5 days per week.
Bodybuilders knew this along time ago, but researchers are now beginning to realize that people that strenuously exercise do need more protein than couch potatoes.
They recommend that you get from .55 to .64 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you do endurance exercises and from 0.78 to 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you lift heavy weights.
I do a mixture of the two, so for my purposes I am going to use the highest value 0.82 grams of protein of per body weight, or 147.6 grams per day, to make sure I get enough.
What happens if you don’t eat enough protein?
Your body does not store protein, so you have to replace it everyday. In fact if you were to stop eating protein for a couple of days, your body would start to break down your muscle tissue to get the protein that it needs.
Personally I think you should eat more protein than the minimum recommendations because as we all know nothing works with 100% efficiency, so some the protein that you eat will not be used by your body.
Lemon, PWR. (1996). “Is increased dietary protein necessary or beneficial for individuals with a physically active lifestyle?” Nutrition Review 54:S169-S175.