By Martin Ebner
Protein is so very important and whilst many believe that protein only serves to build and repair muscles, It's role is far more complex. Protein is responsible for red blood cell repair, hair and fingernail growth, hormone secretion regulation, digestion, muscle contraction, controlling the body's water balance and helping protect against disease.
Protein then is clearly not just for body builders!
Protein - how much do we actually need
Now that we've touched on the importance of protein and it's role in our existence, let's take a look at how much we need. While most nutritional organisations recommend a modest 0.8g of protein per kilo of body weight to prevent protein deficiency, studies show that this paltry amount is not sufficient to safeguard good health and body composition.
The truth is, exact protein requirements vary from person to person and depend on several factors such as: age, activity levels, muscle mass, fitness goals and current health condition.
As i say to all of my personal training clients, what's your goal!? Is it to gain muscle, slim down or to simply maintain a healthy body weight? Once you know your goal, you can calculate your protein requirements.
Protein for weight loss
Studies show that high protein diets are extremely effective in aiding weight loss, and there are a number of reasons for this:
1.) Protein has a high thermic effect, 20-30% compared to carbohydrate and fat's 5-15%. The thermic effect of food (TEF) refers to energy expenditure to process food for use and storage. To put in laymen's terms, when you eat 100 calories of protein, your body uses 30 calories digesting, metabolising and preparing it for use.
2.) Protein can boost your metabolic rate (rate at which our body burns calories)
3.) Protein increases levels or the satiety reducing (appetite-reducing) hormones.
HOW MUCH protein for weight loss:
For weight loss in all the right places, keep your levels of protein consumption high. Aim for 1.2 - 2g of protein per kilo of body weight per day.
Protein for muscle gain
Protein is the building block for muscle growth, repair and maintenance, and without adequate high quality protein to fuel your muscles, they don't stand a chance.
Saying that, like anything in life, too much is good for nothing and protein is no exception. The exact amount required for optimum muscle growth is a highly debated topic amongst bodybuilders and while some routinely chow down on as much as 5g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day, it's certainly not recommended for your average Joe looking to build a beach ready physique.
The figures below provide adequate amounts of protein to put you in an anabolic state, allowing you to build new muscle. Any more and you risk putting your kidneys under unwanted strain.
HOW MUCH protein for muscle gain:
Aim for 1.5 - 2.5g of protein per kilo of body weight per day.
Protein for maintenance.
If you do very little in the form of exercise and care little about your body composition, you won't require quite as much protein as a Crossfitter. While most nutritional organisations suggest a moderate intake of 0.8g of protein per kilo of body weight for a sedentary individual, my recommendation would be to aim a little higher to prevent a protein deficiency.
How much protein for maintenance:
Aim for a minimum of 1g of protein per kilo of body weight per day.