How much protein do I need each day to see results? How much protein is too much? And how many grams of protein can my body assimilate in each meal?
“The only way you’re going to build muscle is by eating enough complete protein every day. Just getting calories isn’t enough. If you don’t eat a high-protein meal within 60-90 minutes after training, you’re in essence wasting that time you spent taxing your muscles in the gym. Personally, I try to get at least 350-400 grams of protein per day in the off-season, at bodyweight of around 235 pounds.” – Jason Arntz, IFBB pro bodybuilder.
“One must stay with a high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. A good rule of thumb would be to get around 50% of your calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate and 10% from fat. This will allow you to gain quality muscle while staying fairly lean.” – Chad Nicholls, a Professional Sports Nutritionist.
This is just a template; everyone’s genetic make-up and metabolism is different. You have to tailor these percentages to fit your specific needs. For example, if you put on fat easily, you may have to lower the carbohydrate intake; if you stay very lean, you may have to raise carbohydrate intake.
“The guidelines we generally use are 0.67-1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight per day. That amount doesn’t guarantee results; it guarantees that you’re meeting your protein requirement. The results are based on your genetics and your training programme.” – Kritin Reimers, Ph.D., R.D., is director of nutrition and health at Conagra Brands.
More than just how much protein, an important consideration is the quality of the protein in your foods. The higher-quality protein is found in animal sources like eggs, beef and milk. That recommendation above assumes two-thirds is from a high-quality protein. If you get a lot of your protein from breads and pastas, you’ll probably require more than 1 gram per pound each day.
To answer the second question, some believe that high-protein intake stresses the kidneys, makes the body lose calcium and dehydrates you. Let’s address each of those concerns. Frist, the kidney stress applies to people who have a history of kidney disease; for healthy people, it likely isn’t a problem. Second, increased protein intake does increase calcium excretion in urine, but the body adapts by increasing its absorption of calcium in your food. Third, there’s some obligatory urine loss, but most healthy athletes are going to drink enough fluids.
Keep in mind that focusing solely on one nutrient in a diet isn’t healthy. If you’re on an almost all-protein diet, you can bet you’re missing out on key nutrients. If you keep a balance between carbs, protein and fat, and don’t overeat as far as total calories go, your protein intake won’t be excessive.
To address the third question, I don’t buy the notion that your body can assimilate only so many protein grams per meal, whether it be 30 or whatever. That notion assumes it doesn’t matter if I weigh 300 pounds or 120 pounds, and it doesn’t matter if I just got up from watching TV. There’s no sacrifice basis for those limits.
What happens is this: your body has a pool of aminos it continually replenishes; as the proteins you take in are broken down, some will go to that pool while others may be used for energy. If you’re getting enough protein, the body will assimilate what it can and burn the rest for energy or store it as fat. Of course, not consuming all your protein in one shot makes sense; instead, split it up into 3-4 meals per day. This should happen normally unless you’re taking extreme measures not to do so.