Physique Wise Dieting Priorities Part II; Macronutrients

Part I of this series looked at the first dieting priority which is Energy Balance and Adherence. If you missed this then take a look here before reading on.

In the coming weeks we tackle the second priority when it comes to dieting, and that is the macronutrients and more specifically, what amounts should be ingesting for optimal results?

This week, we are looking specifically at the importance of protein

Protein: Protein is the first macronutrient we are looking at because it is widely recognised as the most important of the 3 macronutrients. Indeed the word ‘protein’ comes from the Greek word ‘proteos’ meaning ‘primary’ or ‘taking first place’. Around 40% of protein in the body made up of muscle tissue, around 25% made up of organs, with the rest found mostly in skin and blood (Gropper & Smith, 2012).

How Much Protein Do I Need?

  • Recommended Intakes for strength training individuals is 1.6-1.8g per kg of bodyweight. Therefore for an 80kg person this relates to a daily intake of between 128g-144g of protein per day. There is no research to suggest more muscle can be built with intakes higher than 1.8g/kg. For example, Hoffman et al (2006) found no support for protein intakes greater than 1.6-1.8g/kg in collegiate strength & power athletes for altering body composition.
  • Instances where it can be argued that a slightly higher intake may be optimal is in the case of beginner trainees embarking on strength training. In this scenario you could bring intakes up to 2.0g/kg of bodyweight. This is because beginners can expect to build large amounts of muscle mass when embarking on a strength training program.
  • Vegetarians will generally need an intake of 2.4g/kg of protein per day. This is due to the lower quality of pant-based protein which means less of the protein is absorbed by the body.
  • For the average gym goer who isn't looking to maximise muscle mass and just wants to lose a little weight, intakes of 1.2g/kg-1.4g/kg will be more than sufficient in maintain lean mass whilst losing body fat.
Meat is one of the best sources protein

Meat is one of the best sources protein

Benefits of Higher Protein Intakes: -

To the general population, these intakes are often higher than they are accustomed to. However, the reason why we at the Clean Health Fitness Institute use these levels are for the following reasons: -

  • Enhanced Muscle Building: An insufficient protein intake will impair someone’s ability to build muscle. This is bad news whether your goals are to build muscle or lose fat because having more lean muscle mass is important to both processes.
  • Higher Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The thermic effect of food relates to the amount of energy required to digest and absorb food. Of the 3 macronutrients, protein has the highest TEF. In practical terms this means that your body will expend more energy digesting and absorbing a high protein diet than a low protein diet, aiding in fat loss.
  • Satiety: Protein is also the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients. This is excellent news for anyone wanting to lose fat, as having a high protein diet will keep them feeling fuller for longer, reducing the chance of snacking and over-eating.
  • Reduced Chance of Sarcopenia: Sarcopenia is the involuntary loss of muscle mass with age, and affects up to 25% of older adults (Gregorio, et al, 2014). Women in this study who protein intakes below 1.1g/kg had higher body fat and fat-to-lean ratios than those who consumed a higher protein intake. Higher protein intakes can offset the loss of muscle mass with ageing, which is vital to health and well-being in the older populations.

Protein Distribution: -

Now we know how much protein we should be consuming, it is important to consider how the protein should be distributed across the day. Traditional dietary patterns generally has protein intakes skewed towards the end of the day, with a small intake at breakfast (which is usually more carb-heavy), a moderate amount at lunch, and a larger, bolus dose of protein with the evening meal. However, for the stimulation of muscle growth, a more even distribution across all meals is more effective (Mamerow, et al, 2014). This is because the body has a limited capacity to store excess protein from a single meal and acutely stimulate muscle growth at a later time, it is better to take more of an even distribution across meals throughout the day. For example, a 90g serving of protein has no greater effect on muscle protein synthesis than a more modest 30g serving.

In Summary: -

  • Protein intake may vary slightly, but generally speaking, for most strength trainees, an intake of 1.6-1.8g/kg is the recommended daily intake
  • Higher protein diets are are beneficial for increasing muscle mass, increasing the TEF and increasing satiety, all of which aid in fat loss
  • Protein intakes should be evenly distributed across all meals of the day

Next week we will take a closer look at carbohydrates.