Intro to Protein: What Is It, Where Do I Get It, and How Much Do I Need?

 Not that kind of intro...

Not that kind of intro...

You can’t out-train a bad diet. The work you put in when you’re in the gym will either be augmented or stunted by what you eat. So here’s the first order of business when we are looking at our food choices.

Here’s the least you need to know about protein, the first building block of a naturally strong diet.

What is protein? Protein isn’t just the powder we chug after a workout. It’s one of three main types of macronutrients (the others being carbohydrates and fat). The main benefit we associate with adequate protein intake is the repair and building of muscle. Muscle is expensive, energy-wise, so the more muscle we have, the more calories we burn at rest. If we want to make progress in the gym, we need to be eating enough protein.

Where do I get it? Protein comes from foods like meats, eggs, fish, fowl, milk, and some plant sources like beans and nuts. The most effective way to get your protein is by eating animals, but legumes and dense soy products like tofu are the best source of protein if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

How much protein should you eat? About 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is the benchmark we’re looking for. That ensures that we are eating enough to recover from our workouts, build muscle, and keep our energy levels up. Plus, eating enough protein is sometimes physically challenging, as anyone who’s tried to chew through 16oz of plain chicken breasts can attest. That means we’re eating fewer calories from other foods that can hinder progress, and staying fuller for longer.

The best way to start losing weight and make progress in the gym is to eat enough protein.

That exact number is sometimes tough to figure out, so here’s the easiest way: eat 1 to 2 “palm-sized” portions of protein every meal. One to two chicken breasts, a burger patty or two, a healthy-sized steak. For eggs, eat as many as you can hold in one hand (that’s at least two). Your palm is different than my palm, so it’s a good estimator for your meals.

Sample Day of Meals: Mitch

Breakfast:

4 eggs (1 handful), scrambled with

1 chicken breast (another palm)

3 slices bacon

½ cup of broccoli

Lots of hot sauce

Lunch:

2 beef burger patties (2 palms; 12 oz total)

1 sweet potato

½ cup brussels sprouts

Snack:

1 can costco tuna (1 palm)

2 tbsp paleo mayo

½ apple

Dinner:

8oz cod (a little more than 1 palm)

½ cup broccoli

1 sweet potato

Total Protein: 190g

That’s it for our first food article of the Fall! If you have any questions about nutrition, let me know in the comments or talk to me in the gym.