I’ve been a personal trainer for over 5 years now and in that time have heard clients numerous times say things like ‘I don’t eat too much protein because I don’t want to bulk up’.
Or at the other extreme, things like ‘yeah I’m trying to put muscle on so I’m eating heaps of protein’.
The biggest mistake people make is thinking they have to up their protein drastically to ‘put on size’. Or on the contrary, eat less protein if they’re trying to lose weight. Protein is needed regardless of whether you’re trying to put on muscle or lose fat. It’s the most important macronutrient for repairing and maintaining all your vital organs including muscle, skin and cells. It has a high satiety effect meaning it keeps us feeling full and it also contains essential amino acids which our bodies need for everyday functioning and can’t produce on its own.
Individuals who negate protein from their diets are discrediting their body’s functioning capabilities. If you’re putting on weight it’s because you’re eating too many calories, period. Protein alone won’t do that. Women and men who are ‘bulky’ or ‘muscly’ or whatever you want to call it, generally train quite hard and eat to fuel their training. Meaning they want to look the way they do and generally eat protein along with a balance of carbohydrates and fats. It’s not as if they just added a protein shake post-workout and woke up the next day looking like Arnie.
On the other end of the scale, there are those who think that their diet need consist only of protein in order to put on lean muscle mass… They could be reaching their goals a lot quicker and saving a lot of money in the process.
Most protein sources are quite expensive, whether it’s from an animal or vegan source. If you’re trying to put on muscle, of course protein is important. It's the body's main building block, it feeds and repairs torn muscles - which is the goal for people who train to put on muscle mass. But your body will only use what it needs. And while exactly how much that is can be argued, most academic research recommends somewhere between 0.5-2g of protein per kg of body weight, depending on your training goals and current lean mass. If you consume more than what your body needs, it’ll usually excrete it.
Protein is the least easily digested macronutrient and your body actually uses a third of the protein you ingest to help break it down. So if you’re trying to build muscle your focus should be on the total calories you’re consuming. While your protein intake should be consistent and slowly increase as your lean muscle develops, if you need extra calories they should be coming from carbohydrates and fats which are both way more readily stored in the body. Whether it’s stored as fat or as muscle depends on your total calories at the end of the day, and possibly nutrient timing but that's a whole separate topic.
As with all topics health and fitness though, these are my views and may not be shared by everyone which is fine. They're based on what I've researched, practised, experimented with and what I abide by and what my products are based on - balance.
I think the biggest thing to take from all things in relation to food is that it should be about balance and doing what works for you and your body. Not what's prescribed in a one-size-fits-all diet plan off Instagram.
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them below or email me directly via the contact page because I clearly love talking about this stuff...
Yours in health,