Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
Why is protein so important?
In simple terms, protein is what your muscles and many other lean tissues of your body are made of. When you exercise, even if you aren’t exercising to specifically build muscle, you do little bits of damage to your muscles and protein is needed to repair this damage. While we’re on that note though, if you are training to build muscle then it would be useful to have plenty of the raw material they’re made of floating around inside you. Also muscle is important for health, most people will never have too much, and it’s expensive to maintain. So if you have weight loss goals and you’re not consuming enough protein (and you’re not strength training) your body can and will lose muscle as well as fat. This isn’t ideal for health or how your body will look once you’ve lost the weight you want to lose (less muscle equals less muscle tone) if you have aesthetic goals.
How much do you need?
This depends a little bit on the goal but research shows somewhere between 1.6g and 2.4g per kilogram of bodyweight. I’m 82kg so that would be between 131g and 196g per day for me. However, in this job I’ve never come across someone that was achieving 100g+ by accident. So initially just getting over 100g a day for most people will be a good place to get to and once they’re doing that they can fine tune. By the math you’ll only need less than 100g a day if you’re extremely petite.
Keep in mind though that you probably can’t just chug five 20g protein shakes on top of your normal diet and call it good. Protein contains calories (four per gram) and those calories will need to fit within your calorie budget or even adding protein could result in weight gain. To that end, and in order to make sure you still have calories left to enjoy some carbs and fats what’re some good protein sources?
Efficient sources of protein
100g of chicken is not equal to 100g of protein (100g of raw chicken contains around 30g of protein). I can’t actually think of any food that is 100% protein. Even protein powder has some other things in it. So that would mean 400g of chicken a day to get over that 100g protein target we just talked about or four 30g portions of protein… one at breakfast, one at lunch, one at dinner and one high protein snack, for example. For this reason there are better and worse sources of protein. Efficient sources include meat, fish, eggs, low fat or “protein” yoghurt, some cheeses (Babybel light), tofu, quorn mince, edamame beans, protein powder… foods that have a high amount of protein per calorie.
Inefficient sources of protein
There are also foods that are protein sources but overall have a relatively low amount of protein per calorie. Beans and nuts come to mind immediately. They’re often held up as a protein source (and they are) but without the understanding that in order to get 30g of protein from beans, for example, you’d need to consume about 400 calories worth (whereas with chicken 30g of protein would come from about 200 calories worth). This is because things like beans are also made up of a lot of carbs and things like nuts are also made up of a lot of fat (Note: you can also make an efficient source less efficient depending on what you do with it. For example if you breadcrumb and deep fry chicken you’re adding carbs and fats to its calorie profile, meaning there is less protein per total calorie). That’s not to say these foods can’t fit within a balanced and healthy diet (they can of course) it’s just really important to consider what the cost in calories is with the less efficient sources.
If you’d like to discuss this more, reach me on Instagram or Facebook @AdamWrightPT and/or if you’re a Kingfisher Club member join me for a workout under live classes on our app. Stay safe. Have a great week!