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It’s a well known fact that protein is an essential nutrient to have in your diet. No matter who you talk to in the fitness or nutrition industry, they are going to tell you that you need protein in your diet if you want to train your body to tone or bulk up.
You will be advised to have a diet that is high in protein, and that you can also take advantage of some of the thousands of protein supplements available on the market such as powders, drinks, and energy bars.
Why is protein so important?
Protein forms about 16% of the human body. It is essentially the material that your hair, skin and muscles are made from. Your muscle tissue is made up of fibres formed from interlinked protein filaments.
Every time you participate in intensive training that challenges your muscles and leaves them feeling sore, you have actually stressed and torn the muscle fibres.
The body then sets about rebuilding and repairing them to be stronger and more durable than before. To do this, you need to be fuelling your body with a diet that is high in protein.
How much protein do you need?
The average adult needs to consume enough protein to make up about 25-35% of their calorie intake. An adult woman would need about 45 grams whereas an adult male needs about 10 grams more per day.
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts will need a higher calorie intake, to provide them with the energy to keep going and the fuel to keep building, so their protein intake will also need to be increased.
If you are training hard to build muscle mass, then you need to be consuming about 1-1.25 grams of protein to each pound of body weight.
Can you take too much protein?
Consuming too much protein, without balancing it with exercise, can cause weight gain because the calories are not being used.
Excessive protein consumption has also been linked to damaging the kidneys. This can happen if you are on a high protein, low carb diet and consume an excessive amount of protein, as it can cause a build up of toxic ketones in the body.
This happens when the body resorts to using its own fat cells as fuel due to a lack of carbohydrates available. These ketones can stress the kidneys as they work overtime trying to rid the body of this toxic substance.
Quality over quantity
It’s not just about the amount of protein you consume, it is also about the quality of the protein you have in your diet.
Making sure that your diet is high in complete proteins, or combinations of incomplete proteins, so that you are getting all 9 of the essential amino acids, is vital to a healthy body.
Opting for low fat dairy and lean meats will allow you to get the complete proteins you need, while minimising fat intake.
If you are a fitness enthusiast, then protein supplements are a great way to ensure that you are getting enough protein in your diet.
If you have just started working out, or have recently increased your workout routine, then the extra protein from supplements will provide you with the fuel to adjust.
Protein supplements also provide a beneficial boost of protein for recovery after a workout and to assist the body to heal after a sports injury.
When considering how much protein to have in your diet, aim for about 35% of your calorie intake.
If you train hard you need to increase your calorie intake, so adjust your protein intake accordingly and utilise protein supplements to gain that extra boost when you need it.
For more advice on what to eat when attempting to build muscle check out our bulking guide.