5 Tips to help you eat more protein and build mass

Build Mass

Protein is an essential macronutrient for anyone looking to live a healthy lifestyle.

The benefits of protein are too numerous to list but some of these benefits are; weight loss, weight gain (if required), muscle growth, and satiety.

Due to protein’s necessity for muscle protein synthesis (the process by which the muscles are repaired and grow) people who work out require higher protein levels than non gym-goers. In fact, one study found that athletes actually require twice as much protein as sedentary individuals [1].

So here are five tips to help you increase your daily protein intake, so that you can train harder and build some more muscle.

#1: Take a protein shake after each workout

Whilst the concept of the anabolic window has been greatly discussed, with a consensus being that if it does exist then it’s importance has been over-stated.

There are still many benefits to taking a protein shake after a workout. Studies have shown that whey protein (the main ingredient in protein shakes) can lead to fat loss when combined with exercise [2].

So whilst a study found that there was no difference in results from taking a pre or post workout shake so long as the person’s diet had sufficient protein already [3], there is still the issue of getting enough protein into your diet in the first place.

And for many people, getting into the habit of taking the shake immediately after a workout is an easy routine to get into that will help boost daily protein intake.

Also, if you tend to train first thing in the morning (in a fasted state) the post-workout protein shake is essential. This is because your body will immediately require the protein to begin muscle protein synthesis (not an issue if you have had a protein rich meal beforehand) [4].

#2: Replace current snacks with higher protein versions

A great way to increase your daily protein levels is to look at the snacks you are currently eating, and upgrade them to higher protein versions.

For instance, you could trade a low protein yoghurt to a Greek Yoghurt (10g protein per 100g).

You could even mix in some chocolate flavoured protein powder which could increase the protein to around 40g.

Alternatively you could add beef jerky to your snack options, sandwich meat such as turkey or chicken breast, or even purchase some protein bars.

#3: Make sure that each meal is at least 30% protein

Whilst improving the protein content of snacking is important, the main meals of the day are the best place to get that extra protein in.

Studies have shown that it is important to share out daily protein evenly throughout the daily meals, rather than eat the majority of protein at dinner [5]. So for most of you this will require you to increase the protein in your breakfasts and lunches.

Eggs, Greek yoghurt, lean meats, and foods like tuna are all great ways to do this.

#4: Buy better protein shakes

Not all protein powders are created equal, and usually the more expensive version will contain a better protein ratio. This means that a serving will contain more protein, and less carbs and fat.

Changing your protein shake to one with a better protein ratio will help to increase your daily protein intake without you having to change your habits at all. of all the tips on this list, this is the easiest to implement.

#5: Take Protein before you sleep

Another well-known bodybuilding practice is to take a Casein protein shake just before bed, a study in 2012 found that doing so helped improve post-exercise recovery [6].

Now as mentioned earlier, it may not have been the time that it was taken that made the difference, and it was probably due to the total protein for the day being increased. But again, this is a nice simple habit to start which will increase you daily protein intake.

A note on calorie counting

Doing all these tips will definitely help you increase your daily protein, which is fantastic. But unless you know what your protein target is, and where you currently are, you will just be guessing.

Counting your calories using calorie-tracking apps on your phone is essential for anyone who is serious about gaining size.

You cannot grow muscle unless you have a calorie surplus (more calories consumed then you burn in a day).

Tracking calories may seem laborious at first, but you will quickly get into a routine and once you’re used to it you’ll realise that it takes less than five minutes a day to track your foods (especially if you tend to eat similar foods each day).

Many calorie trackers allow you to scan the barcode of your foods to automatically sync up the calories and macronutrients.

You can also use this to ascertain which foods are high in protein, and which foods are low. This will help you to learn for yourself what dietary changes need to be made in the future.

References

[1] Tarnopolsky, M., Atkinson, S., MacDougall, J., Chesley, A., Phillips, S., Schwarcz, H. 1992. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology 73(5): 1986-95
[2] Hulmi, J., Laakso, M., Mero, A., Hakkinen, K., Ahtiainen, J., Peltonen, H. 2015. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 16(12): 48
[3] Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Tranchina, C., Rashti, S., Kang, J., Faigenbaum, A. 2009. Effect of protein-supplement timing on strength, power, and body-composition changes in resistance-trained men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 19: 172-185
[4] Kumar, V., Atherton, P., Smith, K., Rennie, M. 2009. Human Muscle Protein Synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 106(6): 2026-2039
[5] Mamerow, M., Mettler, J., English, K., Casperson, S., Arentson-Lantz, E., Sheffield-Moore, M., Layman, D., Paddon-Jones, D. 2014. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition 144(6): 876-880
[6] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9

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