In today’s world we are such a carbohydrate (carb) and fat heavy society that protein is often forgotten. 

In my view, we’ve got it all wrong and this is a major contributing factor as to why Victoria was rated one of the most unhealthy states in Australia and why Australia is now rated as the “fatest” country in the world.  We must focus on protein first in our meal plans, then carbs and fat. 

When I’m pulling together a meal plan for a client I use the general principle of 30% of the calories should be made up of protein, 50% carbs and 20% fats.  This makes the meal plan safe, sustainable and guaranteed to work every time.  So why is protein so important?

When consumed, protein turns into amino acids, which form the cornerstone of muscle gain.  Protein also helps you to achieve muscle gain while keeping fat to a minimum.  You need to space out your meals five to seven times during the day to keep your metabolism at its best.  Eating more meals also keeps your body in an anabolic state (meaning your body is building muscle).  To keep from getting bored with your diet, don’t eat the same protein source for two meals in a row.

Types of protein:

  • Lean proteins that are low in fat should be eaten throughout the day. 
  • Good lean protein include eggs whites, chicken breasts, tuna and lean red meat. 
  • Whey protein is a high quality protein from cow’s milk.  In its purest form it contains little to no fat, lactose or cholesterol. 
  • The best time to consume this protein is post workout—because your body absorbs this type of protein faster than any other.

Effects of lack of protein

The obesity epidemic would lessen if people simply started eating more protein.  A loss of muscle tissue is the main problem with lack of protein intake.  Building muscle burns fat and protein is needed to build muscle.

A word of warning

Protein intake significantly above the recommended values can prove harmful because excessive protein breakdown places a strain on liver and kidney functions through the production and elimination of urea and other solutes.  So remember, more is not always better!

How Much Do You Need?

Protein is vital for muscle building, but how much do you need to take?   

  • The recommended daily intakes is for 15—25% of total calories to comprise protein or approx. 0.84 per kg of body weight for men and 0.75 for women (per Nutrient Reference Values for Australia & New Zealand). 
  • Research does indicate that protein intakes as high as 1.5g to 1.8g per kg of body weight may be more effective for bodybuilders and elite athletes.  For those just starting out, I’d suggest adhering to the Australian guidelines.

Protein Intake Timing

The timing of protein intake is just as important as the quantity.  It is difficult for the body to utilise more than about 30g of protein per meal (generally, the heavier the person, the more protein that can be absorbed), so consuming more than this each meal is just wasted. 

The key is to divide up your total daily requirement into 3 to  6 small quantities that can be consumed with throughout the day. For instance, an 80kg male would require approx. 67g of protein per day (80kg x 0.84g).  Intake could comprise 20g for breakfast, 20g for lunch and the balance for dinner / post workout meal. 

For good recovery after a workout it’s also a good idea to add some carbohydrates with your protein to help proteict protect the muscles from protein degradation.  This is why I like to have a banana smoothie after a workout to revitalise myself for the next workout (refer my smoothie recipe on this site in the recipe section).

I trust that you will now think twice before neglecting your protein intake at your next meal!