You can never have too much protein, right? But how much protein do I actually need for optimal muscle growth & muscle mass maintenance?
The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. If you're less active, the recommendation drops by a bit, but if you do high-intensity exercise like weightlifting, rowing or cycling, you may need up to twice as much protein to maximise muscle growth.
In order to meet your target intake for the day, just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 and that will tell you how many grams of protein per day you need. Now this is just a rough estimate but a great starting point if you are less experienced or knowledgeable for example.
First of all though, it’s really important to understand that everybody responds differently to training and recovery. For example, you could be doing the exact same training plan as someone but your dietary needs to respond to that training stimulus will be completely different. It’s what makes us all unique.
But the best thing is, this is not some mysterious dark art. As we have mentioned already there are some fundamental principles that everyone can follow and then as you do become more experienced, you will gradually learn what works best for you through trial and error and you can adapt your strategy accordingly.
What is protein?
Protein is probably the single most essential nutrient in the body. It’s made up of amino acids, the building blocks upon which all of the body’s structures are made from. They form short and long chains called peptides which the body then links together in different orders and shapes to create structures like muscles and even our bones.
When we exercise we damage our bodies, our muscles, ligaments and tendons, cartilage – in a good way of course. This is because physical activity and exercise creates micro tears in the collagen and protein fibres that make up these structures. And that’s why we need to consume enough of it each day in order to facilitate the repair and growth of everything we have just broken down.
And because the body is darned clever, it always builds back stronger than it was before. It’s adaptation and evolution in action!
When is the best time to take protein?
This is a really common question so you are not alone in wanting the answers. And you’re in luck, because we have the answers and more, right here on the U Perform blog!
When you consume your protein throughout the day can be dependent on what your fitness goals are. For example, you may be looking to optimise your protein intake and timing to help you manage your weight, aid muscle repair, build muscle or even just maintain the muscle mass you already have.
The topic of timings has become quite controversial recently however. Traditionally, the fitness and scientific communities have been fixed on an ‘anabolic window’ of 15 – 60 minutes immediately post exercise as the optimal time to consume your protein.
New research is starting to buck that trend, instead suggesting that this ‘anabolic window’ is actually a lot larger than we all thought!
And so, for the regular user, fitness enthusiasts and even top level athletes really, the exercise you are doing and quite simply just consuming sufficient protein to meet that level of exercise are actually way more important than the timing of it. Who would have thought!
If you are not in a rush, a food first approach is nothing to be sniffed at for everyone, at all levels. However, we recognise that this doesn’t always work for some people so if you are in a rush, never fear. Protein powder supplements like our active whey & collagen are here to stay.
Protein consumption for weight management
What may surprise you is that protein actually plays a really important role in how we are able to manage our weight in line with our fitness or lifestyle goals.
A high protein diet raises the metabolism and is highly satiating which essentially means it reduces your appetite. As a result, you are less likely to eat between meals and even eat on average around 100 less calories in an evening meal according to some studies.
A little and often approach is highly recommended as our body is only able process so much protein in any one sitting. This is why you see body builders eating so often!
Some simple high protein foods include:
But if you are looking for foods that are very filling, you could also try foods high in fibre such as oatmeal, vegetables and even soups!
Protein consumption for muscle growth
This is perhaps the benefit we are all the most familiar with already and for good reason. Protein is the most important nutrient for building muscle.
To build muscle mass or size and indeed strength we need to consume enough protein to make up for the protein that our body naturally breaks down when we exercise. The more exercise you do, the more damage you are doing to your muscles and therefore more protein is required to repair and rebuild ready to go again.
Protein consumption for muscle maintenance
As we get older, our body starts to lose its ability to hold on to muscle mass and research shows that we could lose 3-8% every decade from as early as our 30s!
The consequences of this aren’t just muscle related although this will naturally be a big concern. When we lose muscle mass and function we start to impede our ability to sit, stand and move as our muscles are the key to our skeleton moving – it’s called a musculoskeletal system for a reason!
Spreading out your protein intake across the whole day as we’ve already mentioned is a great way to help support our body hold on to as much muscle mass as possible as we get older. The bonus being we can still continue to be fit, strong and active for as long as we can! Sign me up.
Another question we get asked a lot is: can you or should you take protein before you go to bed?
There has been a lot of research on this subject and much of it is really positive. Why? Well, your body does all its best work when it’s asleep. And it does this specifically during the final stage of sleep called Slow Wave Sleep. SWS for short. If fact, your body produces 95% of its daily supply of growth hormones during SWS.
It’s during this time that your muscles repair and grow so consuming protein before bed is an effective tool in your muscle building tool box. Whilst a good source of protein like casein protein can be effectively digested and absorbed slowly during the night, you may find consuming whole foods or protein supplements close to bedtime might in fact negatively impact the quality of your sleep.
This is because your body is hard at work digesting a high protein meal, distracting from your body’s attempt to settle down for a great night’s sleep. In turn reducing the amount of time we actually spend in SWS which means less opportunity for your muscles to recover and repair.
Thanks for reading! As always, leave us a comment down below if you found this helpful or if you have any questions for us. Make sure to share this with someone who you know will benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other!