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Protein

Updated: Nov 21, 2022


I recently had the opportunity to present at an event for the National Football League Player's Association (NFLPA). The topic was nutrition and injury repair/recovery. Here is a summary of the portion of my presentation that focused on protein. Enjoy!



Amino Acids (AA) are the building blocks of protein. When I say protein, I mean the many AAs that come together to make protein. For example, collagen, creatine, and branched-chain amino acids are all proteins made up of different amino acids, all playing a role in increasing joint strength and overall muscle mass. That's why protein is such a building block of so many bodily processes and functions like muscle development, wound/injury healing, & even skin, hair, and nail strength. The body can produce its own AAs, however, there are certain AAs that come through food only. These are called essential AAs. It is important to ensure you are eating enough protein so that your body is strong and your muscles can thrive!

 

Protein Needs Depend On:


Level/type of exercise Depending on the sport/activity, protein needs will vary. Someone who requires more physical strength like a wrestler or a defensive lineman will need more protein on average in comparison to a distance/marathon runner or a cyclist. Timing of the season Off-season and mid-season protein needs may differ. It all depends on the goal. If the person's goal during the off-season is to increase muscle mass and strength, then he needs more protein. If the goal is to maintain muscle mass and size midseason, he may need a more moderate amount of protein


State of injury/surgery/inflammation Because muscle protein synthesis is impaired during times of inflammation, protein needs must increase to help slow down muscle protein breakdown and to promote muscle protein synthesis as much as possible. Protein (like collagen) can also help restore bones, tendons, and cartilage that are affected by injury and surgery.


Age As we age, naturally our strength decreases. We experience losses in muscle mass and life just isn't the same anymore. We see more muscle wasting, decreased appetites, and even decreased ability to chew. It is recommended that

adults up to the age of 60 get at least .8-.9 grams of protein/kg body weight daily

adults the age 60 or older get at least 1.0-1.2 g of protein/kg of body weight daily


Chronic Disease Status

Affects protein needs. A person with Stage 1-4 Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) for example, may have a protein recommendation that is much lower than the standard .8-.9 g/kg to protect the kidneys from overworking. On the other hand, a person who has Stage 5 CKD may need a daily protein intake that is triple the standard .8-.9 g/kg to prevent muscle wasting due to protein that is removed from the body during dialysis.

 

How much protein do YOU need?

This is just a guideline. Individual needs may vary.

Type of Individual

Protein recommendation

Normal Adult

0.8-0.9 g/kg

Elderly

1-1.2 g/kg

Team Sports Athlete, varying activity levels

1.2-2 g/kg

Wounds/Injury/Surgery

2.0 + g/kg

Severe wounds/injury/trauma, CKD on HD

​2.2 + g/kg

Okay, you want me to explain how to read this chart, cool. Let's say you are a normal adult who wants to know a good daily amount of protein to get.

  1. Find out how much you weigh in kilograms (kg) by taking your weight in pounds and dividing that by 2.2. For example, a 220 lbs. person / 2.2 = 95.45 kg.

  2. Take that number and multiply it by 0.8-0.9.

  3. This number is the recommended range of protein you should be getting daily.


Something else to mention is that we as men need more protein than women in general. This is due to more muscle mass. Protein intake can help support our unique body composition and muscle mass which also can help us produce more testosterone as well!

 

Protein sources


Here's a handout that can be useful to you!


Vegan/Vegetarian considerations

It is completely possible to get protein from eating a vegan or vegetarian diet. With additional supplementation of Vitamin B12 and an adequate volume of food, someone who has fitness goals can certainly achieve them and be solely plant-based. Not only are animal products more complete sources of protein (all the amino acids), but getting protein from an animal source is a lot easier than getting the same amount of protein from a plant source. I looked at the USDA nutrient database and did some comparisons. For example:

30 grams of animal protein

30 grams of plant protein

3.5 ounces of meat (126 g.)

2.5 cups of beans (410 g.)

DO YOU SEE how much plant-based protein (410 grams in weight) it takes to get the same amount of protein from animal sources (126 grams in weight)? Now, if you want to convince me that eating 2.5 cups of beans is easier than eating a quarter-pound piece of meat, then that's on you. But just like Shakira's hips, these numbers don't lie. Protein Supplements Protein comes in different supplement forms. Here are a few names:

  • collagen,

  • creatine,

  • branched-chain amino acids (BCAA),

  • leucine,

  • HMB,

  • and more.

These support muscle growth and repair. However, the one that gets slept on the most to me is protein powder. We see them all the time: whey/casein and pea protein powder supplements. They can be used to help bolster your protein intake and SUPPLEMENT (the keyword is supplement) your total daily protein intake. You can mix them into soups, smoothies, desserts, in a cup of water, milk, juice, or whatever drink you see fit. There are also different pre-made protein shakes that you can purchase at grocery stores or even gas stations that can contain anywhere between 20-50 grams of protein per shake!

 

Get Some Protein Tips


Balance it out: This allows you to get a diverse intake of foods and prevents you from being solely dependent on animal products for protein intake. You don't have to eat plant-only but always try to incorporate more plant foods in your diet. A more balanced protein intake from both plants and animals can be beneficial for your cardiovascular health, being that plant food is good for your heart. As far as animal products, it's best to go LEAN.


All day long If you are concerned that you are not getting enough protein, try including sources at each meal, including snack times. It is not practical to try to get your daily protein intake all in one meal. The more you space it out, the higher the chance of you reaching your daily recommended needs. Start with 20-40 grams of protein every 3-4 hours. Everyone has different needs but this is a great place to start.


Night-night protein. When we sleep, the body is recovering and also going through muscle protein synthesis. Try incorporating a protein food as your last snack of the day to help promote muscle protein synthesis overnight. The body breaks down casein protein slower than it does whey protein. Some studies show that it is best to consume whey protein sources (like milk or yogurt) right before and after exercise while it is best to consume casein sources (like yogurt or cheese) before bedtime. Regardless of which one you want to do, having any type of protein before bedtime can be beneficial to your muscle gains.


 

Wrap up


If you are interested in learning how to adjust your protein intake, reach out to me, man! Comment below by letting me know what you think about this article and what you would like to hear about next!


Gregory Lafortune, MS, RDN, LD.





JUST FOR FUN


What is your preferred protein?

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)

  • Beef

  • Beans/Legumes

  • Eggs


 

Sources Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/8/2449/htm

Pre- and Post-Surgical Nutrition for Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Functionality Following Orthopedic Surgery https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8156786/

Achieving Optimal Post-Exercise Muscle Protein Remodeling in Physically Active Adults through Whole Food Consumption https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852800/ The Key Role of Nutritional Elements on Sport Rehabilitation and the Effects of Nutrients Intake


Leucine Supplementation and Intense Training https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10418071/



What is Collagen and What is it Good For? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen



Diet and Nutrition for Adults with Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease


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Congratulations!! This is great stuff!! Keep it up!!

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