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Right now, the hype surrounds high protein diets and protein supplements, especially around the gym. You'll be overwhelmed with people telling you about their 250g/day of protein supplements and how they used it to bench 600 lbs yesterday. When this happens to you, just nod, agree and walk away. It's simply not the key to success nor is it healthy. Understanding what protein is and how it's used is important to creating your own, personalized eating plan without the need to add protein supplements.
Let's be realistic here and take a normal semi-active individual who works out maybe once a week but has an energy-demanding job. The RDA for these average energy-spending individuals is about 0.8 g/kg of body weight (there're 2.2 lbs per kg). If you divide the two numbers, you can get the common factor of 0.36...
(0.8g/kg) / (2.2lbs/kg) = 0.364g protein/lb body weight
So, multiplying your body weight (in lbs) by 0.364 will give you the total amount of protein you should be getting per day, according to the RDA. So, if you're 175 lbs...
(175 lbs) x (0.364g protein/lb) = 63.7 g protein/day
Research shows that athletes do actually need slightly more protein per day to help repair torn muscle fibers (this is a natural process of muscle-building). Remember, this doesn't necessarily mean they also need muscle building supplements!
The generally accepted value for athletes is between 1.0 and 1.8 g/protein per kg (use the above formula to calculate how much you need). But, which number is better for you? This is directly determined by your fitness goals. Are you an endurance or a strength athlete?
Endurance athletes need less protein than strength athletes, but more than a normal, non-athletic individual. In other words, an endurance athlete should stick to the lower protein intake for an athlete (or between 1.0 and 1.2 g/protein per kg). This is because the maintenance of quick, usable energy in the form of glycogen is more important for their goals in running a 5K or a marathon. They're also making fewer microtears in their muscles since they're not lifting weights or continuously stressing their muscles intensely. These individuals can take protein supplements, but should make sure they're using those with higher carbohydrate contents to help support the maintenance of muscle and liver glycogen.
On the other hand, an avid weight lifter will need some more protein, probably more along the lines of 1.6-1.8 g/protein per kg of body weight. Because they're creating more microtears in their muscles, they'll need more protein to repair and synthesize new muscle tissue. Even at this higher protein intake, the common factor is about 0.82.
Let's say, for example, that you're 225 lbs of rock solid muscle...
(0.82g protein/lb) x (225 lbs) = 184g protein per day
So, even if you're constantly lifting weights, have a huge metabolic demand and are constantly synthesizing new muscle tissue, you won't need any more than 184g of protein per day (that is, if you're a 225 lb bodybuilder). If you're eating enough calories, then you're probably already getting more than enough protein.
The truth is that when you start lifting, you end up eating more calories to keep up with the energy demands. This also means a steady increase in protein intake. Consumption of protein supplements are rarely needed, but often wanted due to media hype and word-of-mouth marketing.
Again this doesn't mean you need protein supplements! The fact is that most of us still take in more protein than we need in our regular diets, including weightlifters and bodybuilders. Yes, it's true.
I personally spent a week counting how many grams of protein per day that I consumed. I averaged around 90g of protein per day when I only need about 70g! I wasn't even using protein supplements at the time - this was just from my normal diet (~2,200 calories/day). Even I was eating more protein than I need, it just shows that we do actually eat more protein than we think!
Once again, the disconnect behind protein supplements surrounds media hype. Marketers want you to think that if you drink their protein shakes, you'll instantly transform into a Chippendale. No. You don't need to take in even more protein to build muscle. It's simply not necessary and, in fact, it can be rather unhealthy. I've written pages about high protein diets (to lose weight) and using protein to build muscle, check them out!You'll notice again that protein supplements are, for the most part, money pits - unless of course they are consumed...
You can find all the information you need right here at Smart Strength Training!
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