No, we do not need more. Generally speaking we (Americans) get more protein than we actually need. However, you may be one of the few who don’t get enough.
Don’t get all excited now. I’m not going to tell you that eating more protein will help you build muscle. Nope. In fact, I’ll tell you right now that you could triple the recommendation of protein and it will probably make zero difference as far as muscle is concerned. It will most likely cause you to put on extra pounds though, as that extra protein will likely turn to fat (unless you burn it and use it for calories).
Source: iStock Photo
So, who may need more protein? Well you may need more if you aren’t getting enough currently. But I’d be willing to bet you’re getting plenty of protein, unless of course you fall into one of the following categories;
– Older adults (past age 60)
As we age we slowly begin to lose muscle mass, and at the same time our bodies become less efficient at using the protein we consume. That being said, as we age, we need more protein! According to a recent article in Nutrition Action Healthletter (published by the Center for Science and Public Interest) we should aim for about 20-30 grams of protein per meal (assuming we eat about 3 meals per day). This is especially important for older individuals.
What if you want to consume more than 30 grams? Many people eat a lot of their protein at dinner, and get much more than 30 grams.
Source: iStock Photo
This isn’t the best idea because there is actually an upper limit on how much protein your body can use, in one single meal, for muscle synthesis (J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 109:1582, 2009). So what will happen to that protein? It will turn to fat, most likely. Another problem with high protein meals at night is that protein tends to keep you more alert and focused, therefore it may affect your sleep. Try adding more protein in the morning for breakfast, and slightly less at night.
“Good Morning” Sources of Protein
– Greek yogurt
– Regular yogurt
– Cottage cheese
– Milk (be careful with almond milk, it has very little protein)
– Eggs or egg whites
– Nuts and seeds
Another important point about the timing of protein consumption is that after a workout you’re likely to get the best anabolic (tissue-building) response if you consume some high-quality protein. What about during a workout? Not such a great idea, as the proteins that regulate muscle growth shut down during this time. What if you can’t eat right after a workout? That’s ok, just try to get some high-quality protein within a couple hours of a workout.
What type of protein is best? Apparently leucine, which is an essential amino acid, drives a majority of the protein synthesis response (amino acids build proteins, which build muscle) (J Nutr. 136: 533S, 2006). So after a workout, and especially as you age, focus on consuming some good sources of leucine;
Chicken or turkey breast
Beef (90% lean, if possible)
Yogurt (not Greek!)
Cheddar and swiss cheese
Or you could go the supplement route (my least favorite option, but it does the trick). I do like recommending protein supplements, such as bars and powders, if indeed it’s too difficult to consume enough protein through diet, but I think most people can manage this just fine. I also think some protein bars and drinks can be very convenient sources of protein, but they should only be used if you don’t have the time to make something else. I’ll be creating some videos, relatively soon, talking about my thoughts on protein bars and what I believe to be some better alternatives.
Source: iStock Photo
And how much protein should you get? The RDA is about .36 grams per pound, but if you want to prevent muscle loss as you age, and possibly build muscle, it’s a good idea to consume 25 to 50 percent more than the RDA (or the amount of grams equal to half of your body weight in pounds).
Two things to keep in mind;
1) Research indicates that consuming more than double the RDA for protein will not make you build more muscle.
2) You will not and cannot build muscle without resistance training! Keep it up your entire life.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite source of high-quality protein? My two favorites are eggs and yogurt.
I received a question on my last post from a reader who was wondering about my exercise routine. Quite honestly, I don’t technically have one. There are certain exercises I love and certain exercise equipment I use each and every day, but a “routine” is sort of non-existent. Nonetheless, I will be doing a post on my typical workouts and exercise moves in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!