About a month ago, we started discussing the importance of a balanced diet from a macronutrient perspective (proteins, carbs, fats) and why each are important to leverage for different goals. With the majority of our members and readers being adults, I would estimate 75% are after fat loss and muscle/strength gains. Excluding ones with specific athletic goals, we cater our training and nutrition message around the importance of being healthy physically and having great energy. With this being said, we know how important our time outside of the gym is for achieving health and aesthetic based goals- and it’s hard to look past protein intake as a huge factor in getting there.
The current RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein is 0.8g/kg - or 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. I think this number is sometimes mistakenly looked at as “optimal levels” instead of “minimal levels”. There is a huge difference between a number that has us not waste away versus a number that supports the goals we spoke on above. Now that we have found the floor of protein intake, what is the ceiling? According to a recent article by Precision Nutrition, an upper limit for daily intake has not been established, and “eating up to 4.4 g/kg (2 g/lb) body weight didn’t cause any short-term health problems in clinical studies”. Now we have this massive range of 0.36g-2.0g/lb of bodyweight- and as with most things the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Being both realistic as to how much we can consume from food and what we know to be true about protein’s benefits, a good number to shoot for is 0.7g-1.2g/lb of bodyweight. Whether an athlete looking to bulk up, an aging female fighting sarcopenia and bone density issues, or a middle-aged male looking to shed body fat while maintaining muscle mass- a moderate to high protein diet is the easiest thing most are not taking advantage of. Outside of the items I mentioned in part one of this article (higher TEF, staying full longer, ability to maintain lean tissue, etc.) there are added benefits such as regulating glucose, lowering blood pressure, and simply caloric control when choosing lean proteins as the center of each meal.
One thing to keep in mind for plant-based eaters is they still need protein and have fewer selections- but can still get the job done. The big thing to look at here is there aren’t many lean sources. Peanuts and almonds have protein, but are packed with fat (some is good, but shouldn’t eat a jar in a sitting- something I’m nearly guilty of) and many options are soy-based- which the verdict is still out on its effect on hormones in both male and female bodies when consumed frequently. Beans, pea protein, and lentils are all good options as well.
Whether male, female, old, young, athletic, or sedentary- lets take a survey of what's going in our bodies and see if there’s room to up our protein intake! It’s sometimes shocking to track and see what’s really being consumed (or lack thereof). Once there's a grasp of what a quality day of eating looks like, stop tracking and try to maintain those habits. What gets measured gets improved!