Protein, the nutrient that (fortunately) has always stayed in favour!
Protein is made up of little building blocks called amino acids. Your body uses these building blocks to build and repair muscles, support your bone strength and to make hormones.
It’s importance for recovery and rebuild is likely why it gets such a focus in the sports and supplement space. However, the majority of us get enough protein in our days without always needing to supplement, so let’s go through the main things to consider when it comes to all things optimising protein – Total, Type & Timing.
The TOTAL amount of protein per day
As we grow, develop and adapt to our ever increasing training load, our muscle turnover increases (more breakdown and rebuild happening). This turnover needs an increased amount of protein (building blocks) to support this, more than recommended for the average population (as someone who is training a lot during the week, you are most certainly not the average!).
If you are a lover of numbers, the total protein to aim for each day is roughly 1.5-2.2g per kilogram of bodyweight.
e.g. if you are 70kg, it would be aiming for 105-160g of protein per day.
However, we prefer to talk about this total in the sense of food – because that is how we live day to day. Below you will see some of your main protein foods to choose from, and the types and variety to choose will be covered in the next section!
What TYPE of protein to choose?
Should I go plant-based? Vegan? Carnivore? These are all questions we get often – and something you may be wondering too!
The building blocks (amino acids) within proteins is actually different depending on the type of protein you are choosing.
Although animal protein options are high in all of our essential amino acids (the building blocks our bodies cannot create so need to be in our food), however the plant based options contain these amino acids, but some at lower amounts than ideal.
As a result, we need to consider how we have these proteins and the need to get a variety of options over the day and weeks – particularly if you are mainly choosing plant-based options. This means, for example, not just relying on tofu for protein – but also adding beans, lentils, nuts and seeds etc.
The type of protein chosen after key sessions for recovery is also important to consider. As one of the building blocks, leucine, is a key trigger to better recovery and rebuild of the muscle.
Choosing proteins high in leucine in the hours after your session for recovery may include things like milk, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, soy milk, eggs, or lean meat proteins. However if accessing foods is logistically tricky, this is where whey protein (batch tested option) can come in for convenience.
What TIMING of protein is best?
As most of us are getting a relatively good amount of total protein per day, a lot of our focus turns to higher quality types and improving the spread and timing of protein over the day. So often we choose foods lower in protein in the morning, then make up for this with a big serve of protein in the evening meal – we refer to this as ‘back-ending’ our protein (yellow bars in the image below), and it isn’t the best way to maximise our benefits and use of protein in the body:
The most effective way to time your protein over the day is to spread at least 20g portions of protein foods over the day at at least 3-4 meals or snacks. Adding to this, timing a protein rich recovery meal or snack within 30-60mins of finishing any key training session.
This maximises your recovery and adaptations to training – sending the trigger to your muscle to continually create and renew protein in your muscles.
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