Q & A

Do I need a protein supplement?

The answer is probably not. Healthy people who eat a variety of foods likely eat plenty of protein. All the protein the body needs can come from food like chicken, beef, beans, eggs, lentils, seeds, nuts, shrimp….I could go on. The point is protein is abundant in the food supply whether you eat animal foods or not.

Supplements like protein powders and bars can be convenient when aiming to sustain a level of protein in the body throughout the day and in timing protein around work, workouts, and sleep. A scoop of whey protein can be a nice addition to a fruit and veggie smoothie too.

A common mistake many people make is not spreading those protein foods out throughout the day. They skimp out on protein at breakfast, lunch, and snacks and backfill with a big portion of protein at dinner. Daily protein intake should be incorporated into a meal pattern that distributes moderate amounts of high-quality protein (20-30 g/meal) across the day and following intense activity sessions.

Each protein is made up of single elements (amino acids) joined together, forming a chain. Amino acids are the “bricks” that allow the construction of new muscle tissue and repair old tissues; they are also the building blocks necessary to build other molecules such as hormones and enzymes, which are very important for a well-functioning body. SO don’t leave your body “wanting” for protein all day. Spread it out!

One major pet peeve of mine is when people tell me protein makes them feel “energized”. The way they ate may have been lighter and they may indeed feel like they have energy but in reality, proteins are not a source of energy. Only 10% of the energy expended during very long physical activity comes from protein and that is only if carbohydrate intake is inadequate

Another thing to note is that eating more protein than your body needs will not give you bigger and stronger muscles. Protein demands are higher for those who practice sports, compared to resting people, because they help repair and grow muscles after a workout but for the most part there is never a need to eat more than 1 gram per pound of body weight.

Following strength training activity, muscle protein breaks down, followed by an increase in muscle protein re- synthesis. Consuming high-quality protein post-activity can speed up and enhance this process, resulting in the growth of skeletal muscle.

Active individuals have higher protein needs than those that are sedentary. Protein helps repair and strengthen muscle tissue, so it is particularly important for individuals involved in both endurance and strength activities. Recommendations for protein intake for active individuals range from 1.2-2.0 g/ kg (0.5 to 0.9 g/lb) of body weight per day. 

Protein in Popular Foods

FoodGrams of Protein
6 oz. canned tuna40
4 oz. chicken breast35
3 oz. salmon23
8 oz. yogurt12
4 oz. tofu10
8 oz. milk10
1 cup beans7
1 oz. nuts6
1 egg6

Eat onward my friends and while you are at it, check out the film Game Changers. I joined my friend Scott Jurek on a portion of his Appalachian Trail quest featured in this film about athletes accomplishing amazing feats without eating animals!

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Nutrition Strategist and Registered Dietitian with twenty years of experience creating nutrition strategies that influence and inspire people to accomplish big things.