Arguably the most important nutrient to focus on for a football player and lifter, protein is often accurately described as the building blocks of muscle growth and recovery. Quite simply, if you’re training regularly and not taking in sufficient protein on a daily basis, you’ll struggle to recover, grow and adapt to any training you do.
Low protein = Limited recovery and adaptation = poor gains, poor performance and increased risk of injury due to muscular fatigue.
Easy enough to understand, here we go.
How much do I need per day?
For the ballers and lifters amongst us, it’s recommended to consume 1.6 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of your bodyweight per day. This rule applies for both men and women.
E.g. as an 80kg person, I should be consuming 128g – 160g per day.
Extra fat mass can skew this slightly, as ideally you should take your lean bodyweight and calculate your 1.6-2.0 from that, however this can get very complex and involves a lot of guess work. If you’re a big unit I’d suggest aiming for the 1.6 end as opposed to the 2.0 end and probably take a few shakes to help get those grams in as 224g of protein through food alone could be a bit tricky if you’re a 140kg beast.
Do I need to split this up? How much can be adsorbed at once?
Another common myth is that your body can only adsorb 20g -30g of protein in one sitting, which would make the life of Ndamukong Suh fairly difficult as following the 30g rule he’d require 7.5 meals per day to hit his protein requirements. The reality of this topic is that the amount of protein a body can utilise is dependent on the person, just as a DB and DT shouldn’t be eating the same amount per day, it doesn’t make sense for them to be eating the same amount of protein at each meal either.
The anabolic effect of a protein rich meal lasts roughly 5-6 hours. Considering we should be getting about 8 hours of sleep per day (article incoming) that leaves 16 hours of time to play with, therefore dividing up your daily requirements across 3-4 evenly spaced meals would be ideal and easy enough for most people to achieve.
E.g. as an 80kg person, I should be consuming 128g – 160g per day, which if you break down into 4 meals at 32g – 40g isn’t that difficult to achieve with a bit of prep.
The anabolic window is not real. It is without doubt better to consume food shortly after your workout, however the benefits from this are considered marginal, so if you can’t eat for a few hours after training it doesn’t mean you’ve just wasted that session and lost all potential gains from it. By all means if you’re taking things seriously then prep food or shakes for instant fueling after a session, but don’t stress if you have to wait till you get home first.
I’m going catabolic m8
“Catabolism” is the process of breaking down larger molecules to release energy. Some rumours amongst gym bros floated around suggesting that your body begins to chew up your muscle for energy if you don’t feed it with protein regularly enough. This is also part of the anabolic window argument above, it’s total bollocks unless you’re trapped on a desert island without food, so you’re ok to go a few hours without eating after exercise without wasting away.
Does protein raise my metabolism?
Yes, but this isn’t a permanent effect. One high protein day could see your daily kcal expenditure raise from 2000 per day to 2400, but the next day it will return to 2000 unless you continue to eat the same amount of protein. This occurs due to the digestive phenomenon known as the “Thermic Effect of Food”, which will see that roughly 25% of the kcals from protein are burnt off (the highest rate amongst all macronutrients). Therefore, for both athletes and the general public, it’d be wise to include a solid amount of protein with every meal if you want to control your body fat levels.
Is protein bad for me?
It was once widely believed that too much protein would damage your organs, which is a total urban myth as far as the average joe is concerned. This notion originally came from a single study back in 1986, that looked into the kidneys of octogenarians (people aged 80-89). The study concluded that the kidneys decreased in size and processing ability as you age, which when combined with kidney disease will increase the chances of total kidney failure. Some research existed at this time suggesting that animals eating a low protein diet were able to combat kidney problems better than those who had a high protein diet, therefore the researchers theorised that a low protein diet could prolong the stages of kidney disease in human patients. That’s literally it, somebody has added 2 and 2 together and equaled total kidney failure. In research, a correlation can be found between almost anything, this doesn’t mean it’s the causation of it for example, you can find a correlation between ice cream sales and frequency of shark attacks on humans. Does this mean Sharks get riled up by people eating flake 99s? Probably not no. Provided you eat a balanced diet and have no existing medical problems you will be fine to eat a high protein diet.