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Macros Explained – Protein

This is part 2 of 3 in a blog series in which we’ll be discussing each of the main macronutrients. These macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Today, we are taking the deep dive into the world of protein. If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series about the basics of nutrition, performance nutrition, or carbohydrates, do that before you read this!

In the world of bro-science, social media gurus, and your coworker who really, REALLY thinks he knows everything about nutrition, the nutrition world can be quite scary. We talked about how carbohydrates get demonized all the time, but oddly enough, so does protein. I swear it feels like some people out there just want to demonize the act of eating any sort of food. These are garbage people. Stay away from them.

But protein can get a bad wrap from the plant based crowd (love y’all, keep doing your plant based thing), animal rights activists (love y’all, keep saving the animals), and even some doctors and cardiologists (love y’all, but I’m confused why one of y’all will say red meat is great and the other will say it’s bad).

The protein world can be a bit confusing. I’m going to try and keep things very basic and factual here, assuming that you have no other conditions that would keep you from following this advice (your doctors advice based on your bloodwork trumps mine).

First of all, how much protein do you need to eat?

This varies from person to person based on height, weight, gender, goals, and daily activity levels. Here are some rules of thumb(s?) that you can use to determine if you’re getting in the right range of protein.

  • Sedentary Human – .36 grams per pound of body weight
  • Active Human (strength training 3-4 days a week) – .6 – .8 grams per pound of bodyweight
  • Very Active Human (strength training hypertrophy 6 days a week) – 1 – 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight
  • In the realms of macro tracking, we usually like to see 30% of your daily calories come from protein (but this can vary greatly from person to person).

Those are very general guidelines, but if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably an active human, or at least attempting to be an active human (keep it up!). For that reason, we recommend the .6 – .8 grams per pound of body weight. Using myself as an example, I’m 200 pounds, so I shoot for 160 grams of protein per day as a minimum.

There are obviously exceptions to these rules. Using myself again and my experience with nutrition, I know that my body responds really well to higher protein ratios whenever I’m training pretty hard and in a calorie deficit (AKA, trying to lose some weight). So I’ll up my protein to 1g per pound of bodyweight and try to eat 200g of protein each day. It takes a bit of trial and error to figure this out (we can also help you here with our 1 on 1 nutrition coaching).

But what if .6 – .8 grams of protein seems like an insurmountable amount of protein?

That’s such a valid question, and I totally get it. For some of us that are much heavier than we’d like to be, it seems a bit ridiculous to try and consume gargantuan amounts of protein just for the sake of hitting the right ratio. However, protein still serves very valid and important functions, and I would implore you to try and get at least .4 – .6 grams per pound of bodyweight. If you need ideas on that, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’m happy to help.

Alright, so those were the very basics of “how much” protein you might need. Let’s take a look at the “why” we need protein.

Protein Helps You Get Stronger and Build More Muscle

When you’re working out with us at Yellow Rose, your muscles break down from the stretching and contracting under load. The protein that you ingest then runs to the rescue and helps you rebuild these broken down muscles. More specifically, the body breaks down those grams of protein into essential amino acids which will help those muscles rebuild into stronger versions of themselves. This is a process known as muscle protein synthesis.

The rebuilding of these muscles fueled by your protein intake will not only build stronger, more dense, and larger muscles, it will also aid in your recovery. There’s a reason why most post-workout recovery drinks are really just protein drinks in disguise!

Bonus Point: If you build stronger, more dense, and larger muscles, you will actually RAISE your base metabolic rate. With a higher base metabolic rate (2000 calories to 2400 calories for example), you can afford to eat more food and not gain weight. Use that protein to help build your BMR!

Protein Helps Your Immune System

It’s true. Want to know why people who ingest enough protein are usually less sick? Their immune system is functioning at a higher level. Protein intake not only helps you build better muscles, but it also helps fight off viral and bacterial infections. Antibodies rely on protein and the subsequent amino acids to fuel the fight for your well being.

More Protein → better muscles AND less change of getting sick.

Protein Helps You Stay Full For Longer

I assume that at some point in your life, you tried to lose some weight. Maybe you had a beach trip coming up, or maybe you just felt it was necessary. Either way, we’ve all been there.

And the worst part about trying to lose weight? Being HUNGRY. Now, with every calorie deficit there will be an element of hunger. Hunger is your body cueing you to eat so you don’t starve to death. But we know that we actually aren’t going to die of starvation. We can mentally fight that hunger until we lose the weight and our body can adjust.

But being hungry day after day after day? That’s a recipe for an “eff it” episode where you rush-deliver 2 large pizzas to your door.

By strategically incorporating more protein into your daily diet at the right times of day, you can help stave off the hunger pangs for a longer period of time. Think about this: when are you usually the MOST hungry? For a lot of us, it’s that time between lunch and dinner. Assuming you’re eating 3 meals a day, it would be wise to allocate more protein to your lunch so you can get through that period of hunger. Or, use that 3-5PM window to have a protein based snack. This can keep you satisfied until dinner time, and you can stay on your target plan!

Where Do I Find Protein?

Your individual diet is a direct reflection of your taste, and in the realms of protein, your ethics as well. I’m going to do a list here of protein items that I’ve recommended to a myriad of folks. 

Turkey Breast Chicken Breast Pork Tenderloin Egg Whites Deli Meat

Jerky

Tofu or tempeh Whey Protein Canned Tuna Lean ground turkey Lean ground chicken

Steak or beef (high fat content)

Greek Yogurt Salmon Chickpeas Eggs (high fat content) Tilapia

Chicken Thighs

Notice what is NOT in that list? PEANUT BUTTER. For the love of fitness, can we please stop calling peanut butter a protein source? It has 3 times the calories from fat in 1 serving than it does protein. Just because something has protein doesn’t mean it’s a true protein source.

OK I’m back. Sorry for the rant.

Where were we? Oh, right. Protein. I’m wrapping it up here.

Want to build stronger muscles, keep your immune system functioning at the tip top, and fight off the hangries? You need to prioritize your protein intake. Prioritizing protein has a cascading effect of positivity when it comes to your daily diet. Eat the protein. Make better strength gains. Feel amazing!

-Coach Clark

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