If you want to lose weight you have to eat protein. If you want to gain muscle you have to eat protein. If you want to get stronger you have to eat protein. Every other commercial on tv will tell you that in order to meet your fitness goals you have to eat a whole lot of protein. Now almost every prepackaged food in the grocery store has a label showing how much protein each serving has on the front of the label. But how much protein do you really need? Well, we’ll tell you.
First up, lets explain what macro nutrients are. Macro nutrients are simply Fats, Carbs, Protein. Fats are used by the body as lubricant and for hormones. Carbs are used as an energy source so you can go on about your daily routine. And protein is used by the body to repair and grow muscle fibers. Well, at least this is the simplified version. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories, while each gram of Carbs and Protein contains 4 calories. A well balanced diet will have an appropriate ratio of fats, carbs, and protein to promote proper bodily functions.
Chances are you have also heard the proper rule of thumb that if you want to gain muscle you should consume one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. Well this is both true and false. For new or novice lifters the real number is .8 grams per pound, but as personal trainers we like to tell clients to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound just so that we’re certain you’re getting that .8 gram. But like we just said, getting .8 to 1 gram of protein pre pound is ideal for new or novice lifters.
The amount of protein a person should be eating can also change with their experience level and goals. If you've been lifting for a few months consistently and you want to continue to gain muscle and get stronger you should be taking in a little more protein than you normally would. Somewhere between 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re trying to lose weight but want to hold on to as much lean muscle as you can you should also be taking in a little more protein than your average person. Somewhere between 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Since losing weight means being in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time you will need enough protein in your diet to help minimize muscle lose.
So heres a quick example, Jimmy Lifts-a-lot weighs 180 pounds. He has been lifting for 2 years and works out 5 times a week. He trains with a push pull leg training schedule and wants to continue to get gain muscle. His caloric maintenance is 2500 calories per day. How many grams of protein should he consume a day so that he can gain muscle and get continue to get stronger? In this example we’re going to give Jimmy Lifts-a-lot a goal of 1.5 grams of protein per pound. So we simply multiply 1.5 by 180 which gives you 270 grams of protein per day. We then multiply 270 by 4 because we want to see how many calories he’ll be getting from just protein. Which is 1,080 calories from protein per day. Since Jimmy Lifts-a-lot’s caloric maintenance is 2500 calories per day we then need to subtract 1,080 from 2500 so that we can see how much room we’ve got to play with for fats and carbs. In this case we have a remaining 1,420 calories to play with. Since we need fats in any diet we’ll throw in 50 grams of fat per day which are worth 450 calories. Which leave us with 970 calories for carbs. Divide 970 by 4 and we get 242.5 grams of carbs per day. So Jimmy Lifts-a-lot should be getting 270 grams of protein, 242 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fats per day to meet his fitness goals. Just keep in mind people react differently to certain sets of macros, this isn't set in stone and people should adjust to meet their own specific demands as they go on.
Keep in mind consuming 270 grams of protein per day can be a little hard and expensive if you try to do so by only eating chicken breast. This is why we recommend you ease some of your protein intake by using a whey protein supplement. We’ve reviewed multiple whey protein brands and two of our favorites is linked below.
But be aware, eating too much protein does have some side affects. First, if you’re eating a high amount of protein but don't keep your over all calorie intake in check YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT. And that weight will be fat, its not going to magically turn into muscle. Also eating a high protein low carb diet will result in a passing A LOT of gas and going number 2 will be hard due to lack of fiber in your diet. Also eating strictly protein and not consuming carbs will not result in faster or more weight loss. Whether you’re getting your calories from fats, carbs, or protein, if you’re not in a caloric deficit you will not lose weight.
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