Macronutrients – Protein
The Importance Of Protein
This will be the first in a series of articles covering the three macronutrients. We get more questions about diet than we do about anything else at LiftOff and rightly so, nutrition is a minefield! There is so much conflicting and misleading information out there that it can be scary and confusing, even for those of us who coach it can be confusing at times.
What are Macros?
Macronutrients are the building blocks of your diet. Every foodstuff is made from either protein, carbohydrate or fat. These are the three macros.
What does it do?
Protein is what creates the basic structure of our cells, muscles and organs……Pretty important then! Protein is made up of amino acids, if protein is a brick wall, the individual bricks are Amino acids. The brick wall itself makes up part of a larger building which could be a muscle cell. A very simplified way of thinking of it.
Protein is the important macro in regards to body composition, strength gains and muscle building. So it’s key, no matter what your aim.
There is a fair bit of debate about how much protein to eat. A sedentary person who does no exercise and has a non manual labour job could probably get away with 0.4-0.6g of protein per pound of bodyweight! If you come to LiftOff CrossFit or do any form of exercise more than once or twice a week this DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU!!!!!
If you are someone who has an active lifestyle and trains hard then 0.8g-1g per pound of bodyweight is a good place to start. I would rarely advocate more than this. So for myself as a 195lb – ish guy a good place for me to start would be around 195g of protein.
A side note is that there are plenty of others out there who would recommend more or less protein, I have no interest in a who is right or wrong argument. I have picked this number after reading research and education from other coaches that I trust and believe in. It is also what has worked for me and other clients in the past. So this is my view and opinion, take from it what you will.
Protein is best taken in at regular intervals. This prevents muscle catabolism, essentially muscle being burned for fuel due to a lack of amino acids. So for myself, I would divide my daily intake by however many meals I intended to eat or needed that day. So if I ate seven meals (including post workout shakes), I would get approximately 27.8g per meal. You would round this up to 29g. This is the equivalent of a good sized chicken breast.
The best quality food source for protein can be found in naturally raised meats or whey isolate (protein powder). It is expensive in this day and age to eat good quality protein as meat costs a lot. Truth hurts.
I always try and read the packaging and ensure my chicken is free range and preferably organic. If I am eating red meat I try ensure it is grass fed, although this can be very hard to actually find out via supermarket packaging. Fish is a great source of protein but I would pick fish that haven’t been raised in captivity preferably.
Whole Eggs are another go to source for me, from free range organic hens. Eggs are rammed full of protein and good healthy fats (not all fats are bad?!?) along with vitamins and minerals. Eat the yolk too.
There is also protein in cheese, milk and other dairy products however these are also higher in fats and are less protein dense. Nuts are also a great protein source!
So my recommendation is good quality meat and/or eggs. A whey protein shake, around training is also an excellent source. Whey protein is actually a good source any time of the day and can be a very convenient way of getting in extra protein.
If someone tells you that it’s bad for the body to eat so much meat, I would have to very politely disagree. Yes if you eat 12 steaks and 13 chickens a day you might be overdoing it, but thats not what I’m advocating! We are carnivores, we are designed to hunt and kill animals, and then eat them. If you are someone with pre existing kidney damage then it might be best to get some advice from your GP but for 99.99% of people taking in 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight is very safe!
If you are a vegetarian it will be an extra struggle to meet your protein requirements, lentils, whey powder and meat substitutes will play an important role!
What does this mean for everyone?
I will divide this into different goals and why it is applicable to them:
Body Composition (getting lean) – You want to look leaner and more defined? You best make friends with protein. Muscle is a metabolically active body tissue, whilst you are sat down your body is burning energy to maintain it. This means the calories you take in are more likely to be used for maintaining your musculature than they are to be stored as bodyfat. It is also pretty hard to look ‘defined’ if under your bodyfat you don’t have any muscle and you should realise by now that to build muscle you need adequate protein. So yes protein is highly important if you want to look good naked!
Body Composition (Adding muscle/size) – Want to look stacked? Then you need to build and repair muscle. Building muscle is your primary goal and protein intake will be absolutely the defining factor in your diet as to wether you make those ‘gainz’.
Athlete – You want to be a beast in the gym, sports field or competition floor? Well for that you will need to build and repair muscle. I suggest that if you are serious about your performance in ANY sport (maybe not snooker or darts!) then the first thing you do with your diet is to ensure you are getting 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
So to sum up, protein is really really really important. There is noone who should skimp on it. So have a look at the amount you are eating and make sure it is enough as I am pretty sure that most people under eat it.
* Disclaimer time, I am not a doctor or registered nutritionist!