A Beginner’s Guide to Protein: Protein Basics [Part One]
As we make a transition into fitness, already maintaining a healthy lifestyle, healing from surgery, or looking to bulk up – one of the nutrients we are often asking about is protein! How much protein do I need to increase muscle? Will protein help me lose weight? What foods have the best protein?
Many of us have asked our doctors, trainers, nutritionists and the internet those exact questions. Fact is, we need protein to sustain ourselves and repair ourselves and here is your 411 about it all.
What is Protein?
The simplest way to define protein is a nutrient that maintains, builds and repairs the tissue in your body. When you eat protein based foods, your digestive system starts to break the food down into amino acids, thus enabling your body to take what it needs. A big chunk of protein goes to your organs, immune system, bones, blood, and muscles. So as you can see, protein isn’t something to reduce from your daily diet. We all need it to stay strong and healthy!
We all need it to stay strong and healthy!
How Much Basic Protein Do I Need?
Good news! There is a daily protein amount, for an average, standard, healthy person. However, depending on your dietary goals, workout schedule and personal health gains, protein amounts can affect these basic standards.
For an average 180 lb man – 65 grams of daily protein is the standard
For an average 140 lb woman – 50 grams of daily protein is the standard.
Calculating Your Protein Needs
.36 grams of protein per lb body weight is a standard calculation for an average man or woman who has a basic activity level which might include walking around in their job setting, taking the dog for a short daily walk. Nothing strenuous or overly active. Mostly sedentary.
Keep in mind that protein needs to be part of a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet of 10%-35% of daily calories (depending on your physical goals) should come from protein foods. Which is easy to do with 2-3 servings of protein rich foods. Like everything in your body, we need some other counterpart to get the most out of protein.
Alongside protein, your carbs, fats, fruit and vegetables are all important in maintaining that balance within a healthy diet to keep you strong and energized! And, because protein comes from food, make sure to take caloric values into play especially if you’re amping up your protein intake. You don’t want to self-sabotage yourself as you’re trying to get ahead.
Exercise and Muscle Gains
If you already exercise on a daily basis, maintain a healthy weight, you are aware that it’s pretty safe to increase your nutrient levels slightly to compensate. Your body will happily receive that little boost of nutrition to do your body good. Any extra protein will be processed through your system, used, and burned off.
A good calculation for an average active adult would be .4 to .6 grams of protein per pound. Again, not looking for weight loss or gain.
If you’re looking towards muscle gains, this is where protein intake varies quite a bit. Maybe you’re looking for straight muscle gains, maybe you’re looking to reduce and cut your physique. This is where adequate protein can make or break those results you’re looking for.
A relatively active, fit person who is looking for muscle gain can start consuming a higher amount of protein-rich nutrients at a rate of .8 per pound of body weight. It is shown that greater muscle gains start at 1.0 grams per lb of body weight, but everyone is different – genetics and the rest of your diet play a factor too. If you are serious about muscle gains, protein rich foods will become your best friend during this time. As well, you may start to look towards adding an additional protein supplement along with your whole foods.
Protein Rich Foods
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Protein rich nutrients can come from many different types of food. Most animal sources will be protein rich. Some animal proteins are healthier than others, and our body digests them a little easier, so we recommend a healthier option when possible.
|Food Source||Quantity||Amount of Protein|
|Pork chops, boneless||3 ounces||26 grams|
|Yellow fin tuna||3 ounces||25 grams|
|Chicken/Turket breast||3 ounces||24 grams|
|Greek yogurt||1 cup||23 grams|
|Halibut||3 ounces||23 grams|
|95% lean beef||3 ounces||18 grams|
|Cottage cheese||1/2 cup||14 grams|
|Eggs||1 whole||6 grams|
If you’re vegan or vegetarian you also have some great choices when choosing the right protein for you. Tofu, beans, and lentils are options. As well, nuts and seeds are great choices. So depending on your eating preferences within the following chart, you will be able to find sources to bump up the protein. Keep in mind, there are many more choices out there.
|Food Source||Quantity||Amount of Protein|
|Firm tofu||1/2 block||30 grams|
|Navy beans||1 cup||20 grams|
|Cooked tempeh||3.5 ounces||18 grams|
|Boiled black beans||1 cup||15 grams|
|Dried lentils||1/4 cup||13 grams|
|Soba noodles||3 ounces||12 grams|
|Canned baked beans||1 cup||12 grams|
|Roasted mixed nuts||1/2 cup||12 grams|
Protein and Weight Loss
If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, reducing your fats and increasing your protein can help when exercise is introduced. Since protein takes longer to digest, you stay fuller longer, therefore eating less calories throughout the day. Just remember, you need to set realistic goals. Losing weight long term is a process and takes time. If you decrease your fats and bump your protein, you will be ahead of the game towards reaching your goals.
Protein As a Supplement?
As mentioned earlier, there may come a time when adding a protein supplement to your diet may be medically necessary and/or effective when you are looking for physical muscle gains. The increased amounts of protein supplements may help achieve those goals. Whey and vegan/plant based protein supplements are easily available, and when used correctly, alongside with a healthy balanced diet, your goals can become the new version of yourself.
So there you have it. Protein Basics 101. We need it to sustain, build and repair ourselves. Keep your eyes open to upcoming protein articles (Part 2,3) where we will be going into more depth on protein absorption, protein supplements, the differences between them and how to use them best to achieve your goals.
Tim McComsey is the founding owner of TRYM Fitness: Dallas’s Premier Personal Training and Nutrition Company, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Dietitian. He started TRYM Fitness in 2011 and has been growing successfully ever since! This is his 15th year in the fitness industry and his scope of work has broadened from being ambassador to Sunwarrior, a partner to Vitamin World, and a sponsored athlete to 361usa shoes and apparel. He also contributes to Men’s Fitness Magazine and Human Fit Project with video and content production. Through his years in the industry he has placed 1st in several fitness competitions including the 2013 Dallas Europa Men’s Physique. His passion is to empower both men and women to be the healthiest and most fit they can be using various platforms.