We are all unique. Protein requirements vary based on age, gender, size, body fat percentage, activity levels, and other factors, most people need roughly 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. That’s roughly 80 grams of protein per day for a 180-pound man (81 kilograms x 1 = 81 grams protein). Most Americans eat that much protein easily without modifying their diet.
There is some research suggesting that endurance athletes (like professionals or triatheletes) might need to consume more protein if trying to build muscle. We get a lot of protein just through our meals and snacks, especially if you’re someone who consumes eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, animal meats, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Small amounts of protein combined with carbohydrates, after a long or intense workout, can promote muscle recovery and synthesis. Once more those recommendations are mainly geared toward people who need to maximize recovery before their next workout.
For most people- even those that exercise every day – it is more important to focus on the whole days protein intake coupled with a balance of carbohydrates, fat and fiber. The goal is to fuel your body for sustained energy during the workout.
It’s worth noting that if your fitness goal is weight loss, then eating a post-workout protein supplement could work against you. Excess calories of any type equal weight gain. If your workout does warrant a recovery meal or snack, eat whole foods. There’s nothing in a drink made from a supplement (ultimately a processed food) that is superior to real whole food. Remember that to much protein intake (from food or supplements) places additional stress on the kidneys and liver that can lead to dehydration, calcium loss, and gastrointestinal problems.
Kimberly Young, M.S. is a practicing Nutritionist in Dallas, Texas. Learn more about her integrative and functional approach to diet and nutrition at kyoungnutrition.com.