Quality food provides quality fuel for fitness. After pushing your body, it needs nutrients to recover and prepare for your next round of activity. Popular opinion would tell you protein is the best way to replenish and repair—that you need a lot of it, right away, and that protein supplements are needed to build and bulk. The more protein you take in, the more muscle you gain, right? Not so fast; metabolism tells another story. While protein is an important building block, it is possible to get too much, timing is important, and not all proteins are equal. Read on to get the facts on safe and optimal protein intake to stay healthy while meeting your fitness goals.
When should I eat protein?
Yes, it is important to take in protein soon after a workout; however there are many other aspects to consider. Your body has a limited tolerance for how much protein it can use at one time, so it is important to make sure your body has enough protein when it needs it, but not too much. One mega-dose after a workout will not help your muscles to recover throughout the whole day. Saving up all of your protein for a giant steak at dinner is not recommended either. Spread out your protein in even doses across your meals and snacks (20-30 grams/meal is a general rule of thumb). Your body also needs to take in carbohydrates soon after a workout, so a balanced post-workout snack or meal will be more beneficial for protein uptake and utilization than protein alone.
What kind of protein should I eat?
Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. Most animal products such as milk, eggs, and meat are high quality sources, meaning they contain all nine of the essential amino acids. Many animal protein foods also contain saturated fats and sodium, which can be harmful for your health. Lean proteins get their name from being lower in fat, without compromising protein quality and quantity (see chart below). Contrary to popular belief, you CAN meet your protein needs with plant foods. A well-planned plant-based diet rich with whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and soy foods can support a healthy and active lifestyle.
For delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and to find cooking and nutrition classes, go to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center website. More great info is also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.