You’ve been told that you need to eat protein and lots of it.
But do you actually know what protein is?
Do you know the best places to find it?
Do you know why it’s important?
Today you’re going to learn everything you need to know about protein, why you should have it and the best sources of protein.
What Is Protein?
Protein is made up of these things called Amino Acids which you may have heard of before if you’ve heard of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAS).
There are 20 Amino acids in total that you need to make protein and you will learn about them later on.
Protein is one of three macronutrients and macronutrients are what makeup food. The three macronutrients are protein, fats and carbohydrates and what these macronutrients do is provide energy for the body (calories).
Each macronutrient contains a different number of calories.
One gram of protein contains four calories.
That means if you have 30g of pure protein that would be 120 calories.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about what it is.
BIG TAKE AWAY = 1g of protein = 4 calories.
What Is Protein Made Of
As I stated earlier there are 20 amino acids that make up protein and you need ALL of them for building and maintaining muscle. If you don’t have all amino acids (especially the 9 essentials) you’re not going to be able to build muscle. Even worse, when you’re trying to lose weight you’re more likely to lose muscle.
There are two types of Amino Acids – Essentials Amino Acids (EAA) and Non-Essential Amino Acids
Essential Amino Acids
Non-Essential Amino Acids
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
What about BCAA’S?
BCAA’S are three Amino Acids (Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine) that come from essential amino acids. Now here’s the thing, you can buy BCAA’S from supplement stores but they don’t work! The reason they don’t work is that you need all EAA’S to help with building muscle and stop muscle breakdown.
You can’t only have three of the 9 amino’s acids and expect to get results. This is like trying to build a house without any carpenters, you can’t do it.
So if you’re someone who takes BCAA’S I’d suggest you stop wasting your money (even if you train fasted) and if you want to take something you should take EAA’S. Even better don’t buy EAA’S and instead eat more protein.
Protein is made up of 20 Amino Acids
Stop wasting money on BCAA’S because you need all 9 essential amino acids.
Why Is It Important?
Protein is the king macronutrient because it helps your body in so many ways. It helps you build lean muscle, it helps keep you full during the day so you don’t overeat. It stops you from losing muscle when you’re dieting and it also helps you maintain muscle when you’re older.
Not only does it help with muscle repair it helps your immune system, grows your hair, nails, promotes healthy skin and a bunch of other things you may not realise.
That’s why protein is emphasised more when you’re lifting weights because gaining muscle is that last thing your body wants to do. The body wants to use protein primarily for growing hair, repairing damaged tissue, immune function and other things before it even wants to build muscle.
It will start to build muscle with the extra protein it has available but the protein is only available if you’re giving it enough.
MAIN TAKEAWAY = Protein is king for building and maintaining muscle.
How Much Do You Need?
Now that you know what protein is and why you need it, it’s time to talk about how much you need.
For regular people, you need to eat 2 x your bodyweight (in kgs).
If you’re a backward American (kidding) who uses pounds then you need 1g per pound of bodyweight.
- 80kg x 2 = 160g of protein
- 170lbs = 170g of protein.
You with me so far?
Cool, let’s keep going…
Now that you know how much protein you need you can split it evenly throughout the day.
If you eat 4 times a day, you divide your protein needs by that number.
Example: 160g of protein over 4 meals = 40g at each meal.
That’s just to help you make sure you reach your target.
If you have 30g at one meal and 50g at another don’t stress too much.
Key Takeaway = Eat 2x your bodyweight in KG of protein
What Are The Best Sources
The best sources of protein are going to come from animals. The reason for this is because animal proteins are complete proteins which mean they have all of the nine ESSENTIAL Amino Acids that your body needs. Some non-animal sources of protein like tempeh, tofu and soy also contain all essential Amino Acids.
- Protein Powder
- Greek yoghurt
- Cottage cheese
- Soy milk
- Vegan protein powder
- Soy milk
Key Takeaway = The best sources of protein come from animals.
When Should You Have Protein?
Don’t worry you’re coming towards the end of this article but you’ve just got to stick with me a little bit longer.
Now that you know how much protein you need, you need to divide it by the number of meals you’re having to try and evenly spread it out during the day.
So if you need 140g of protein and you’re eating 3 times a day, you need roughly 45 – 50g of protein at each meal.
The reason you want to spread out protein is that it activates something called Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and what that does is help you build more muscle. The reason you want to do this a few times a day is that the body is also breaking it down when you’re not eating protein.
That’s why you need to eat protein with every meal to put muscle building/maintaining in your favour instead of the body trying to use the protein and break it down for other things.
Most people will have protein at lunch and dinner but forget about having a good size serving of protein for breakfast. Even if you are a breakfast skipper like me, you still need to make sure your first meal is high in protein just like the rest of your meals.
If you can do that, you’re giving yourself the best chance to help build and maintain muscle.
If You’re Older
The older you get, the more you have to focus on eating more protein. You must try as hard as you can to eat big servings of protein (40g+) at each meal to prevent your muscles from breaking down and getting osteopenia.
Key Takeaways =
- Aim to have 3 + meals with big servings of protein split evenly to make sure you’re increasing your chances of building and maintaining muscle.
- If you’re older, it’s more important to get bigger servings of protein.
Wrapping It Up
Well there you have it, that’s all you need to know about protein and why you need to place such a big focus on it. If you scrolled all the way to the end or you need a quick refresh with the key takeaway points, here’s what you need to know…
- Protein is the king macronutrients
- It’s made up of 20 amino acids
- Contains 4 calories per gram
- You need 2g x your body weight (in kg) every day
- The Best sources are from animals
- Spread it out as evenly as you can over 3+ meals
- The older you get the more important it is.