Many of us are on a quest to lose weight, increase muscle tone and strength, and be healthier. Whether you are taking on one or all of these goals, I’m often presented with the same question: Do I get enough protein in my diet to reach my goals, and how much do I need?
Unfortunately, today the market is flooded with products that “guarantee” that it will aid in muscle building and weight loss and the real message gets lost in the shuffle. The best recommendation that I can give for anyone striving to be healthier and more fit is this: Eat regular meals that are balanced with protein, carbohydrate and fat and be careful of all portion sizes. Lean proteins are best and I’m not just talking about meat, vegetable based proteins are just as effective as meat in human nutrition.
For the athletes out there, timing of protein consumption is as important as how much you get. Eating protein with or without carbohydrate within two hours after exercise does enhance muscle recovery and growth. A person who works out for fitness or recreation needs 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. An athlete training for their sport needs 1.2-1.5 grams per kilogram. That means the average person needs around 70 grams of protein daily. Athletes need 80-90 per day, higher if intense training has just begun.
While I am a big proponent for people to get all their nutrition from real whole foods, I understand that supplements can play a role for athletes in training. A protein shake after a workout when a meal isn’t possible is a convenient way to take advantage of the body’s ability to process protein. But the average person doesn’t need supplements. Supplements are expensive and won’t offer any benefit over real food. Don’t forget, protein shakes and supplements have a significant amount of carbohydrate, fat and calories as well so must be used as a meal replacement if your goal is weight loss or maintenance.
This week you will see additional information in our Campus Dining Services locations featuring lean proteins. Each day you can learn what cuts of different types of meat are best as well as what sources of vegetable proteins are out there. There is a great variety of excellent protein sources throughout Campus Dining Services and I encourage you to try something new today.
- Kristen Hasan, MPH, RD