Protein Crash Course

by Aimee Wojtowecz

First things first: protein amounts, timing, and distribution can get into intermediate and advanced nutrition coaching! The thing that will benefit the vast majority of us the most is focusing on the basics. But let’s say you’ve got that down and are looking to fine tune a little. Maybe you’ve got questions about how important it is to reach your daily protein consumption? Or how much protein you should consume? Or the best ways to distribute protein among your meals, and how often you should eat it? If that’s the case, then let’s dive in!

What Is The Optimal Daily Protein Intake

The truth is, most people don’t meet their daily protein needs. Why? We’re miseducated on the topic of nutrition. No one is teaching us how to eat healthy and balanced. Sure, somebody out there may tell us that it’s essential, but no one explains why. Some people may even be unaware of the fact that protein is one of the three macronutrients. In fact, protein is the most satiating one (keeps you fuller for longer, #winning!).

But how much do you REALLY need?

If you are an active individual, which we assume you are if you are reading this blog, a good benchmark is 1.8 – 2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight to achieve your best results. If you are not as active or not doing regular strength training, your body will not require as much protein consumption, so keeping track of it might be unnecessary. However, make sure to consume around 1.2g/kg for maintaining good health.

If you don’t like tracking your nutrition and macros, just aim for 2-3 high-protein meals every day that have quality lean protein sources, such as meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, soy, etc. But how much protein should you consume with every meal? 

Let’s find out. 

Protein Timing and Distribution

Multiple studies on the subject have been conducted over the years. Researchers have tried to find the optimal protein distribution among athletes. One study from 2013 where three different groups took place sheds some light on the subject. The researchers wanted to test the optimal distribution of protein intake 12 hours after resistance training. Every group consisted of 8 males. The first one consumed 8x10g of whey protein every 1.5 hours. The second group consumed 4x20g of whey protein every 3 hours. The last sample took 2x40g every 6 hours.

The result was that the second group, which distributed the protein intake equally, produced maximum anabolic stimulus compared to the other two groups. But just in case you now think that you need to consume 200g of protein a day and eat ten times to spread it out evenly, let’s just pump the brakes a little.

We know that most of you are busy individuals and working out is just a part of your life, not the core of it. Distributing 200 g of protein across 4 meals would also work (200g is just an example, your personal needs will vary). By eating every 3 – 3.5 hours, you will feel satiated throughout the day, and you’ll have plenty of time to do everything else you need to do other than eating. 

Pro Tip: Wait 1 – 1.5 hours after your meal before hitting the gym. You don’t want to feel that snack sloshing around during training! 

Now, let’s talk about protein shakes.

Post Workout Protein Shake – Myth or a Must?

If you are a regular at the gym, you have most certainly seen someone drinking protein shakes immediately after they finished their training session. Since the dawn of the fitness industry, the protein shake has become a must for many athletes. However, what is the logic behind it?

During a heavy workout, our body’s muscle fibers get micro-tears (a.k.a microdamage).. To rebuild those fibers, muscle protein synthesis must take place. The easiest way to get some protein into your digestive system and trigger muscle protein synthesis is a protein shake! Whey protein is in fact one of the protein sources that has the highest biological value (meaning it gets digested quickly, easily and to the biggest extent)

However, there is a big myth among athletes that if they don’t take their post-workout shake in time, they might lose muscle, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The anabolic window is some bro-science, which isn’t backed up by real science. You can miss your post-workout shake and instead eat a balanced meal when you get home, even if it is 1 hour or 1.5 hours after you finished with the workout.

To sum up, it is up to you whether to drink a protein shake or not. They’re easy, portable and quick but also not something that couldn’t be replaced with a regular meal. 

Takeaway Message

  • Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and the one directly responsible for muscle growth.
  • An optimal amount for active individuals would be 1.8 – 2.2g/kg of bodyweight. Here’s a calculator to make that conversion a little easier!
  • Distributing your daily protein intake equally every 3 – 3.5 hours should work best for most people.

As always, if you have other questions, just click here and we can set up a free nutrition consult to get into particulars!