All the Fuss about Protein.

"I don't worry about protein. I don't worry about all that. I'm from old school. I grew up in south Georgia. They didn't worry about cholesterol or protein. They went out and worked and lived a long time, so I don't put a lot of worries in my mind."

-Herschel Walker

Protein, protein, protein...

EVERYBODY keeps talking about protein! What's the big deal anyway?

And how much protein DO you need anyway?

Well I'm no scientist (my chemistry knowledge is mostly from binge watching Breaking Bad) but I can shed some light on this controversial subject.

Protein Basics

Proteins literally are building blocks of muscle. To form muscle, 22 different amino acids must be synthesized. Human adults can synthesize 13 of these, known as non-essential amino acids, through organic processes. The other 9, known as essential amino acids, must come from food.

Many foods such as grains and nuts, however, do not contain all the essential amino acids. Once an essential amino acid runs out, the rest are useless and need to be filtered out of the kidneys.

Here are foods which are great sources of complete proteins:

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy

Role in Muscle Recovery

When you lift weights or perform strenuous exercise, your muscle fibers are broken down. But how much much do you ACTUALLY break down in an hour of weightlifting? Enough to require 200 grams of protein for the day? I highly doubt it.

Some bodybuilders tout the popular "1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight!"

Truth be told, that rule is more like a maximum for natural lifters, NOT a minimum. People who say otherwise probably endorse ripoff supplements.

In fact, stop viewing the protein intake as relevant to your bodyweight. A better benchmark would be your caloric intake. I have friends at my weight who need to eat 4000 calories a day just to gain weight. For them, the 1g/lb rule definitely isn't accurate! Admittedly, they might need 200 grams of protein each day simply due to their accelerated metabolisms.

Bulking & Cutting

People trying to gain muscle would be fine with 20% of their intake coming from protein. For someone consuming 2000 calories a day, this means taking in 100 grams of protein (which, frankly, is still higher than what most people currently ingest).

Now, if you're cutting down, you'll want to keep it close to 30% of your caloric intake. This will help you retain any muscle you might lose from running on less calories. In fact, this is probably where the bodyweight percentage rule came from originally; the grams of protein you intake while bulking should be almost the same as when cutting.

Another huge myth regarding this is how much protein can be absorbed in one sitting. I've seen ludicrous claims that the body can only utilize 30 grams of protein in a meal, leading to the obsessive need of some fitness enthusiasts to space their protein evenly throughout the day.

What a bunch of crap! If this were true, then intermittent fasting wouldn't work for ANYBODY! Yet a quick Internet search will show you tons of success stories of the health benefits of only eating 2 or 3 meals a day under this method.

Wrap Up

Protein is important, but it's not everything.

Eating healthy foods while balancing your fats and carbs will help you build a better physique for yourself.

Now sit back, relax, and stop worrying about having a piece of meat at every meal.