Written by Professor Graeme Close, ASCC, PhD, rSEN, fBASES
I guess in 2017 we all now know that protein is essential for optimal health and athletic performance but what we perhaps don’t know is how much do we need, what type of protein we need and how often we should be eating it. Over the last few years it is becoming increasingly evident that individuals involved in physical exercise need more protein than has been suggested to be sufficient to the general public (Phillips 2011).
Whilst 0.8 g of protein per kg body weight per day (64g for a 80 Kg person) is adequate in inactive people, those engaged in physical exercise need closer to 1.5 g of protein per kg body weight is required (120g for a 80 kg person). This is especially the case for those who engage in some form of resistance training. It is also interesting to note that as we age we probably need more protein than a younger person to get the same response (Moore, Churchward-Venne et al. 2015), despite the fact hat older people tend to, if anything, east less protein than younger people.
A second important fact about protein is that for the maximum benefits, protein should be consumed regularly throughout the day (Moore, Areta et al. 2012). Again, this is not what typically occurs with most people having little protein during the day and the majority coming in one big feed at the evening meal. Think about a typical day. Cereal for breakfast, perhaps a packet sandwich at lunch, fruit as a snack and then a chicken based dinner. Until the dinner there is very little protein here, we tend to back load our day. A much better way would be to have a good source of protein with each of the 3 main meals with further protein taken on board between meals to ensure a regular and consistent intake.
Finally, whilst protein found in foods such as meat, fish and eggs are first class sources and I encourage very much regular consumption of these, whey protein (from milk) has been shown to be an excellent source around training due to the rapid digestion and absorption of its amino acids whey (Phillips, Tang et al. 2009). This is why many athletes take on board a protein shake following training.
So, if I was to give you my 3 top protein tips it would be:
- Eat enough protein throughout the day. Aim for about 1.5 g per kg body weight.
- Eat protein regularly, about every 3-4 hours
- Chose high quality protein such as meats, fish, eggs and dairy but consider whey based proteins around training.
If you want to do the reading yourself a few of the key references are below. Good luck with your training and diet
Moore, D. R., J. Areta, V. G. Coffey, T. Stellingwerff, S. M. Phillips, L. M. Burke, M. Cleroux, J. P. Godin and J. A. Hawley (2012). "Daytime pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body protein turnover in resistance-trained males." Nutr Metab (Lond) 9(1): 91.
Moore, D. R., T. A. Churchward-Venne, O. Witard, L. Breen, N. A. Burd, K. D. Tipton and S. M. Phillips (2015). "Protein ingestion to stimulate myofibrillar protein synthesis requires greater relative protein intakes in healthy older versus younger men." J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 70(1): 57-62.
Phillips, S. M. (2011). "The science of muscle hypertrophy: making dietary protein count." Proc Nutr Soc 70(1): 100-103.
Phillips, S. M., J. E. Tang and D. R. Moore (2009). "The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons." J Am Coll Nutr 28(4): 343-354.