When trying to meet fitness goals, one of the biggest question marks tends to be about protein. How much should I take per day? Can I take too much? Should I divide this out evenly in 6 small meals? What's the best type of protein?
In the fitness world, there are so many misconceptions that lead to confusion and doubt which do more harm than good.
In this article, I'm going to keep it simple and broad in hopes of clearing up some protein myths.
1. You should be trying to intake around 1g of protein per day per pound of bodyweight you carry. (Example: a 180 pound person should try to eat around 180g of protein per day.)
- While this isn't exact, this will get you pretty close to the minimum of what you want to intake every day. This number will increase if you are trying to add on muscle mass and/or increase your daily total calories, but this is a great starting point.
2. You DON'T have to try to spread this out over your day.
- One of the biggest and most frustrating misconceptions in fitness and dieting is the idea that you have to break your meals up into 5-6 small meals a day to achieve results. There is simply no valid research that supports this - just eat your meals (and protein) as convenient for you.
- This also includes the so-called "metabolic window" after your workouts. While some people rave about this window of time after your workouts that you need to take protein, this also has limited research to prove this is true. If it's convenient, go for it! But don't sweat it too much if you don't have access to a protein shake right after that workout. Just make sure you get it in at some point and meet that total protein goal.
3. Protein intake is unimportant if the rest of your diet sucks.
- If you're meeting your protein goal per day but are WAY off your daily calorie goal (whether you're trying to lose weight, gain weight or maintain), your protein intake isn't going to make a big impact.
- Make sure that you have a good balance of proteins, fats and carbs. There is no definitive balance here that works for everyone - you have to find what works for you. Some people feel and perform better at lower fats, higher carbs, and there are just as many people that feel and perform better on just the opposite. Find a balance that works for you and fits your lifestyle.
- For me (200lb male), I like to have my diet at 40% carbs, 30% fats and 30% protein. That's a good starting point for most people.
4. There's no magic protein powder that is going to be THAT much better.
- Many supplement companies market that their protein is superior than the rest, but in almost every case that is not true. At the end of the day, protein is protein. Some are absorbed by your body faster and some come from different sources, but it doesn't make enough of a difference to worry about. Find a protein that tastes good and mixes well and that's your winner.
Next time someone tries to spill some crazy facts about protein to you, ask them to show you some real research. Protein isn't that complicated - just make sure you're getting enough per day to maximize the work you put into your fitness.
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