There have been many debates over protein consumption and differing opinions over how much we really need, causing confusion over the topic: – How much protein should one consume? Does our body only absorb a certain amount? What about individuals seeking to gain muscle?
The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for Australians set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggests (in grams per kilo of bodyweight) 0.84g/kg for adult males and 0.75g/kg for adult females. These amounts provide the daily average dietary intake level to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (98%) healthy individuals.
Whilst this is an average requirement to maintain health, studies have indicated that there may be increased needs for an individual who trains, and an optimal intake for these individuals. As exercise causes muscle damage, additional protein is needed for repairing tissue, but also to support muscle growth, preserve bone integrity, and in certain instances help with weight management by sparing muscle mass whilst in energy deficit.
Research has found that protein intakes in the range of 1.3g-1.8g/kg per day consumed over 3-4 meals will maximize muscle protein synthesis. This amount is dependent on training type, intensity and frequency.
Research also found that 20-30 grams of total protein that contains 10g of essential amino acids (EAAs) including 3.2g of leucine, after training will maximally stimulate protein synthesis needed for recovery, repair and growth of muscle tissue. More than this amount of protein does not further increase protein synthesis. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, promoting hypertrophy. Therefore, the quality of protein consumed is important to provide the right amount of BCAAs and EAAs.
One study found that consuming a high-protein diet above the RDI and optimally at 2x RDI, whilst in a short-term energy deficit diet promoted fat loss and spared fat-free mass. The same study also concluded that there were no additional benefits (i.e. no further fat loss or more muscle mass retained) in consuming more than 2x RDI of protein. This data is particularly important for those undertaking a fat-loss diet whilst aiming to retain muscle mass.
Just remember that whilst protein is vital, excess protein in your diet does not offer any additional benefits, and may not allow for other important macros and nutrients to support training, recovery and growth. The type and intensity of training, duration, frequency, your fitness level and your weight and muscle mass should all be considered when determining your individual protein needs.
Written by Tristen Van Der Kley
Balanced Body Nutrition
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