Protein. Protein. Protein. These days it’s allllll about protein. Want to lose weight? Eat protein + buy protein shakes. Want to train for a marathon? Eat even more protein + get those protein shakes in. Want to look shredded? Eat a ridiculous amount of protein + supplement with protein powder. Want to visit your grandma more? Eat protein all day and bring her 3 protein shakes!
Wait, slow your roll, buddy! While protein is very important in your diet, it should be balanced and come from the best nutritious sources: food. Your ticket to the gun show doesn’t need to cost you a fortune in protein supplements. Let me tell you why:
The average person needs about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight. The average endurance athlete needs about 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight. If you are a strength athlete trying to increase skeletal muscle mass, your goal would be around 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight. Not only does this protein level range with specific activities, but it also varies greatly with weight. If you are a female endurance runner weighing 120 lbs, your protein goal will be about 65 g. However, if you are a male football player training for the upcoming season weighing 240 lbs, you may need 185 g of protein.
Let’s convert these gram numbers to real food. In order for our 120 lb runner to get adequate protein for the day, she could eat a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 1 cup Greek yogurt (14 g), and ½ cup of black beans (20) = 66 grams of protein.
Our football player could eat 1 cup of quinoa (24 g), 6 oz chicken (42), a four egg omelet (24 g), 1 cup almonds (20), 1 cup lentils (18 g), a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 3 glasses of milk (24 g), and 2 cups broccoli (6 g) = 190 grams of protein.
The recommended range is 10-35% of calories from protein. It is important to provide your training and healing body with the necessary amount of protein. However, exceeding this range may be detrimental to health. There are few studies done on long-term protein intake and therefore we can only forecast that constant high protein intake could be harmful to your kidneys.
I hope I didn’t distract you with too many numbers and ranges. My main point was to show you that sufficient protein intake can be achieved through food. No supplements required. I don’t think protein supplements are the devil; I just think more often than not, they are unnecessary for the average athlete or individual at the gym.*
When you are determining your protein choices, it is important to choose proteins that are easily digested and rich in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These foods include fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk. Other healthy sources of protein are found in legumes and other plant proteins like spinach, nuts, and seeds.
Remember, your ticket to your very own gun show can be earned by eating some deliciously nutritious plant and animal protein sources. And if it gets you to visit grandma more, maybe you can bring a couple protein shakes to enjoy together.
*Note: Vegetarian, vegan, and extreme intensity athletes may need to supplement. It is best to seek professional attention or a sports dietitian to go over specific dietary needs as well as the added caloric demands of exercising.