It doesn’t matter how much sweat you pour during your training. Results can be disappointing if you don’t complement your training with a proper diet. A balanced diet is a straight way to reach your intended training goal. It’s known, that there should be about 15% of protein in our daily menu. What does this number mean and how much protein does body actually need to be healthy?
It is impossible to briefly describe all the functions of amino acids in the human body. Protein is simply invaluable for our body. Not only for its building abilities, although in this case it’s really important - it’s the basic building block of muscle tissue, but it also determines the condition of our physique, as well as tenseness and look of the skin (and what’s particularly important for women the same applies to hair and nails). Thanks to protein we can keep our physique athletic and thus we maintain youthful appearance. Impact of protein on our physique doesn’t end on muscle building. Protein is a very important part of metabolism occurring in our body. Based on the conducted study, it’s been proven that from all the nutrients, protein has the strongest impact on temporary increase of the intensity of the energy expenses. Protein can boost metabolism by over a dozen percent. As if it wasn’t enough, amino acids build digestive enzymes, hormones, antibodies and support tissue regeneration.
It seems that eating the right amounts of protein is essential for our body to function properly. The consequences of protein deficiency are burdensome and have serious long term effects on the body condition. When we don’t eat enough protein we weaken our body’s immune system. We might feel weaker, and we might often lose some weight. Deficiency lowers tissues’ regeneration rate. Nails and Hair become brittle and skin becomes rough and dry. Shortage of protein can result in swelling of the joints, ulcers, anemia or even depression. It causes increased production of so-called stress hormones (epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol). According to scientific studies reduction of protein intake increases depressive symptoms in 80% (!) of people struggling with it.
On the other hand, what if there’s too much protein in your diet? Because of popularity of slimming down diets and general trend, consumption of protein in developed countries is statistically too big. As in every case, too little is not enough, but too much of a good thing is also not healthy. So called civilization diseases like such as atherosclerosis, heart disease or insomnia can be caused by excessive protein intake. What’s interesting, depression mentioned in previous paragraph may have its cause not only in deficiency, but also in an excessive intake of animal proteins. It happens, because protein is not stored in the body, and its surplus must be transformed, and the side effect of this is production of ammonia. This toxic compound causes changes in the structure of DNA cells (also in nerve cells) what can cause depression. The best way to avoid all these problems is to maintain a proper and healthy diet, which takes into account rational amount of protein – both animal and plant-based.
Everyday our bodies lose 30% of protein, which is just what we should provide with our diet in order to maintain homeostasis of our bodies. A grown-up person needs to consume an average of 1 gram of protein per 1 kilogram of body mass, so for example, someone weighing 75 kg should eat about 75 g of protein. This situation changes when strength training or slim down diet come into play. In this cases the amount of protein intake should be higher. It’s not easy to provide any specific formula concerning the amount of amino acids needed by the body. This amount is dependent on a few important factors – age, gender, bodyweight, build, health, type of physical activity.
Sports training results in micro tears of muscle fibers. They are subsequently ‘repaired’ with a surplus, and that means… they grow. When you’re strength training it’s really important to consume more than the standard amount of protein. Only then will our training be healthy and effective. If you do some gym training you should eat up to 2,4 g of protein for every kilogram of your bodyweight. It’s imperative not to overdo it – too much protein can over-burden kidneys and liver. Such large amounts of protein are healthy only for people that train really hard to build muscle mass. Take notice, that it’s over 100% more protein than standard protein intake in a diet of a sedentary person. If your training is endurance oriented (you run for example), you should be eating around 1,5 g of protein for every kilogram of your bodyweight – that’s a healthy amount, which will allow your body to regenerate, but at the same time it will not be a burden on your body. For example, someone who strength trains 5 times a week and weighs 75 kilos, should eat about 150 g of protein daily, and person of the same weight that trains running 5 times a week will need about 115 g of protein daily.
If you’re on a diet trying to lose some weight, it’s good to increase protein intake. As mentioned earlier, protein boosts metabolism by an average over a dozen percent, what’s really significant when we’re trying to lose weight. To maintain a healthy moderation, but still boost your metabolism, you can increase protein intake up to 1,2 g/kg of bodyweight daily (that’s when you’re not training that hard – when you do, your protein intake should rise accordingly). Important information – when you eat more protein, you should proportionately drink more fluids, preferably water. It’s important, because protein has diuretic effect, and deficiency of water in the body can lead to counterproductive effects – stoppage of weight loss, or even fat gain and other unpleasant consequences.
Remember that protein are built from many different combinations of amino acids. Try to diversify their sources – during the day try to mix animal based protein with plant based. You can find a lot of easy digestible protein in oily fishes (salmon, trout, sardines) and eggs. Go ahead and reach for poultry meat (without skin, steamed, grilled or fried) and beef – the latter contains a lot of exogenous amino acids, which can’t be produced by the body itself, and they are a very significant component of proper diet. Try to eat lean dairy everyday (it’s also a good source of calcium). Cottage cheese for breakfast, since it takes a long time to digest, will provide you satiety for longer and prevent you from snacking between meals. Don’t forget about plants! Eat nuts and pods often. Diversify your meals with soy, which is treated as meat substitute by vegetarians. You can find soy products in many supermarkets and in almost all shops with healthy food. If you have no possibility to provide your body with the right amount of protein with food, you can use diet supplements. Remember that deciding to take this step, it’s a good idea to consult a specialist who will select the protein supplements appropriate to your lifestyle.
Protein equals a healthy body and mind. Try to provide your body with as much as it needs, and it will pay you back with a surplus. As always the road to success is prudence, consistency and moderation. Plan a balanced diet and stick to your resolves. When they become a habit, you’ll start seeing results!