You automatically reach for greek yogurt at the store and keep energy bars at your desk for times when lunch is not an option. You know that besides being delicious, peanut butter will keep you full and milk does a body good.
Food labels, magazine articles, and experts have trained us to focus on protein and for good reason. Protein is awesome at keeping us full and helping to build muscle when we’re hitting the gym. Everything from our skin and hair to the blood running through us is made of protein. It even affects the way our brain communicates and the natural chemicals being produced. Go protein!
But if you already have so much protein in your body… how much do you need to intake to stay healthy, energized and fit?
Most people get enough protein in their daily diets, and determining how much you need in a day is way more complicated than it seems, because of different factors like age, weight and activity level. The recommended amount of protein in general for women is 46 grams and for men is 56 grams, according to WebMD.
You might need more protein if: you are doing anything strength related or high intensity interval training (HIIT) like Tabata. While we mostly use carbs during a workout for energy, protein eaten before and after a workout help repair and build more muscle. Workouts that involve heavy weights and anything that emphasizes strength and conditioning focus on helping build more muscle to make you stronger.
The amount of time spent on strength training and the intensity is also important. You don’t need to overdo it on eating more protein if you are doing a few strength training intervals during a UFC class but an hour or more of weights at Body Pump or pushing yourself all out during Tabata? Help those muscles out with some extra protein.
You might not need more protein if: you are doing lower intensity classes like yoga or Restore Lab or activities that really benefit more from carbs for energy, like Spin. This is not to say that a Spin class won’t absolutely have you screaming for mercy, but that it may be more beneficial to drink lots of water to flush out toxins than to add extra protein.
While protein is essential in our diets, it takes longer for our bodies to breakdown protein than carbs to use for fuel. So even though you may need protein in general, sometimes it’s better for example to just have a banana or some toast before sweating it out.
The bottom line is we need protein for its super powers and what it does for our bodies. All workouts can benefit from it to keep muscles looking lean and mean, but only certain ones require you to really fuel up and add a lot of extra protein to your plate.
So before you grab that protein smoothie or add an extra helping of chicken, think about how much protein you’ve already had. There is such a thing as too much protein. After all, calories, even when nutrient dense can add up.